May 20, 2022


Through Education Matters

Column: Football and prayer? They just don’t mix | Commentary

My father was neither a constitutional scholar nor a theologian. In point, with his superior college training, he sent letters for the article business office for 44 several years in our compact south Texas hometown.

But he was also a lay preacher, and his deep awareness of the Bible, merged with his homespun, nation-boy widespread feeling, furnished him with the insight to take note the irony of community prayer just before every superior school soccer recreation. The prayers invariably involved a plea to the Almighty for the security of the gamers, appropriate ahead of they took the field below the fervent directive to conquer the hell out of the other staff.

I imagined about this very last week as I listened to the oral argument prior to the Supreme Court in the situation of Kennedy v. Bremerton College District. Higher faculty soccer coach Joseph Kennedy had been fired by the district soon after he insisted on leading postgame prayers at midfield. Kennedy is suing to get his job again.

It is a complex scenario: The court docket has to choose how to stability Kennedy’s proper to spiritual expression from the district’s responsibility to comply with its constitutional obligation as a state entity to stay away from endorsement of any certain faith.

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It took our nation a very long time to enjoy this element of the Constitution. Again in the 1960s, when my father produced his wry observation, a public prayer above a loudspeaker was a function of every single football activity. It was invariably a Christian prayer, and there were couple scruples about mentioning the name of Jesus.

The inhabitants of Victoria, Texas, in the 1960s most likely included really few Muslims or Hindus. But B’Nai Israel was started in Victoria in 1872 and still represented a distinguished Jewish community a hundred decades later. I do not know if anyone at any time questioned the community Jews what they assumed about applying the voice and the services of the condition to pray to God in the identify of Jesus.

Luckily, we have realized to understand the Constitution much better, as perfectly as to value our multicultural culture. But at the coronary heart of my father’s objection was the vital conflict amongst a violent activity these kinds of as football and a putatively peaceful religion this kind of as Christianity.

My father’s outdated-time faith didn’t totally get with me. These days I see the within of a church only for weddings and funerals. But I know adequate about Christianity to comprehend that it’s a religion that values humility, peace and compassion. Jesus mentioned, “Blessed are the meek” and “Love your enemies.” He said that if someone smites you on a single cheek, allow him smite the other, as properly.

These are not the values of soccer. The match is about violence, aggression, machismo, arrogance and profitable at all expenditures, even at the cost of the bodily overall health of your opponent. In fact, in my prolonged-long gone football-playing times, hurting your opponent was a highly valued section of the system.

You are possibly imagining, nicely, soccer is only a game. True, but football usually touts by itself as a character-constructing expertise that teaches boys lessons that will condition the relaxation of their lives. 1 miracles what Jesus would imagine of the values that these classes are primarily based on.

The arguments in Kennedy v. Bremerton aren’t crystal clear about what Coach Kennedy is praying for. If it’s for the health and fitness and basic safety of his players, the Almighty is permitting him down. A further theory of Christianity is the price of individuals. Modern soccer is a hierarchy that sends a comparatively couple favored players to the Nationwide Football League while consuming hundreds who are physically and mentally harmed by the method. How does that mesh with Christianity?

Christians are fantastic at ignoring Bible verses they don’t like. Coach Kennedy may take into account what Jesus mentioned about praying in general public: “Do not be like the hypocrites, for they enjoy to pray standing in the synagogues and on the avenue corners to be witnessed by others.” Stay away from the 50-garden line. Instead, go into your closet and shut the door.

Or else your prayer may look arrogant, self-righteous and coercive. I’m betting that Jesus would not approve of that, either.