Is God picking sides? Concerning His hand in the outcomes of games


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Neumann baseball

Back in January, as the Seahawks were celebrating their miraculous (yes, pun certainly intended) comeback victory over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game, Russell Wilson credited the emotional victory to God. Now, months removed from an infamously devastating Super Bowl loss to the most wicked of foes in the New England Patriots and just days removed from a stinging loss to that very Packer team that God was seemingly against, Aaron Rodgers goes and says that God was a Packer fan that day!

And down the slippery slope of theological speculation we go.

Almost two-thirds of Catholics believe that God favors faithful followers in their sporting endeavors. Additionally, a quarter of Americans believe that God indeed has a hand in the outcome of games. And the hypotheticals – these can be made ad nauseam. If all this is so true, it’s either Notre Dame has lost its way pretty badly or God might simply like the Baptists of the SEC just a little bit more. And Tebow? The guy should be the starting QB, head coach and GM for the Eagles with this train of thought.

To be honest, all this talk about God’s intervention in the outcomes of games reminds me more of the deus ex machina references of Homer’s epics or the crown-adorned behemoth that appeared in the sky to tell Arthur he needed to find the Holy Grail in Monty Python. It’s just too anthropomorphic and way too results-oriented. We are making that which is infinite goodness the subject of whims and thoughts that we are simply projecting into our lives – and onto the playing fields.

Indeed, multitudes of references in Scripture and Church Tradition refer to the demise of the wicked and the triumphs of the just. But to ask whether God has a ‘hand’ or ‘cares’ about who wins is far from the question to ask. In fact, there is no question to ask – there is just relationship that needs to be experienced.

The all-knowing, all-powerful, presence of inexplicably unconditional love that we commonly refer to in our human language as “God” and that the Scriptures allude to as YHWH and I AM, is too often placed in our simple way of things. We talk about “God” so lightly that we give him hands like our own and opinions and speculations that are as fickle and frivolous as the players we pick up on our Fantasy Football Draft Boards.

Instead of speaking about the Father as some flippant monolith, we must see God in the best means that He is experienced – through loving relationship. It is only through the charitable relationship with others that we experience the presence of God becoming manifest in our lives. Literally, this manifestation is the hallmark of the faith in Christ. Additionally, it is through the divinely relational lens that we see clarity in the mystery of the Trinity.

In short, we must embrace this relational foundation and allow that to permeate all aspects of our being. For athletes, enabling this drive for true community to lead them into their athletic exploits renders certain things in the context of sport as ultimately meaningful and some things as simply temporarily meaningful. Contrary to many beliefs, outcomes of the sport fall into the latter circumstance. Lasting truth and meaning is found only in the generative act of love that can be experienced in playing the game and being with and for all involved. Everything else becomes just a by-product. So even though we thank God when we win, we must also thank Him for the losses and everything in between because it is just simply another time in which we can grow in Him through each other.

So to answer the question, no. He doesn’t care if we win or not.

Just if we honestly serve each other with love or not.

 

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About Eric Kindler, M.S. // Coordinator, Institute Programming

Eric is an alumnus of Saint Joseph’s University, earning his bachelor’s in Theology and currently on the verge of completing his master’s in Education. While attending SJU he was a member of the men’s basketball team and served as the main student organizer for the Developing Everyday Champions Program. Playing basketball and sports in general while studying the faith truly enabled Eric to see the immense value within each medium, and searching means by which the two can be joined has become an endeavor of great importance and worth in his life.

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