December 11, 2017

Is it Time for Christians to Step Back from Professional Sports?

Don Johnson

My enjoyment of professional sports goes back a long way – close to fifty years. My American friends might find it amusing that my interest was first piqued by a really forgettable era in my local Canadian Football League team, but I can remember daily scanning our local paper for every bit of news about the fortunes (or rather, the misfortunes) of the Edmonton Eskimos of the late 1960s and early 1970s. As media penetration of North America increased over those years, I became much more aware of the professional leagues of the USA and beyond. When I moved to America to go to school, I enjoyed the camaraderie of fellow sports fans in a new environment.

Certain aspects of professional sports have always seemed uncertain for Christians. There is the milieu of gambling, formerly illegal for the most part, but always present. There is the non-productive use of time, the indulgence of sensate experience in amusement (non-thinking activity), the glorying in man and worship of the modern hero, bordering on idolatry — all of these give some hesitation to Christian involvement.

In our time, however, a new element intrudes the world of sport and we would do well to think it over.

That intruding element is the pro-homosexual lobby and the massive cave-in of seemingly the entire sports world from the demand for politically correct speech to outright promotion and endorsement of perverted lifestyles. World magazine comments on the topic: “Professional sports, especially baseball, jump on the LGBT bandwagon.”

Among things to ponder from the article:

“Every major league now has a partnership with an activist group to preach to their players…”

“Rookie seminars range from encouraging simple trust and respect needed in the vulnerability of a locker room to more subtle messages. A 2012 NBA video for rookies featured GLAAD and Athlete Ally representatives on ‘the importance of being an ally.’”

One wonders about those who profess to be believers who are professional athletes. If the new mantra is not merely ‘tolerance’ (whatever that is) but ‘alliance’ – how can a Christian maintain his testimony in professional sports? How can a Christian “preach the truth in love” in professional sports?

So far we have seen that any athlete who speaks negatively in any way about homosexuality is subject to massive pressure to apologize, take sensitivity training and is beaten into submission if he wishes to continue to play his game.

Players aside (most of us could never even remotely have hoped to be players), fans are also subject to the withering criticism of the pro-homosexual environment. I am still hopelessly interested in the sporting teams of Edmonton, Alberta, the place of my birth. On certain fan forums that I read fairly regularly, no one is allowed to utter a word against homosexuality. Any such commenters will be shouted down. Are these fora so unique? I am sure this is true for the fans of other teams in other places. I am sure you have observed the regular endorsements of the homosexual lobby among sports commentators of all kinds.

Where is this going to take us as Christians? We are taught by our Lord to keep ourselves unspotted from the world, to ‘love not the world’, to ‘touch not the unclean thing’… at what point are we going to have to give up our love affair with sports if we are going to keep up our love affair with Christ?

I don’t know the answers to these questions, but our days are troubling days and these questions will no doubt only become more pressing as time goes on. There is a day coming when I think we will have to give up any connection with these amusements — perhaps that will be a good thing, something we should have done long ago.


Don Johnson is the pastor of Grace Baptist Church of Victoria, Victoria, BC, Canada.


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