If you want to know what it was like living under King Manasseh, consider the following: evangelical Protestants are more worried about football’s effects on breaking bones than they are about football players breaking God’s law.
One of the amazing accounts of Israel’s sorry history is the reform effort of King Josiah. Don’t get me wrong, oh you sons of the obedient boys. Josiah’s reforms were terrific. What’s amazing is how far God’s people had descended:
And the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest and the priests of the second order and the keepers of the threshold to bring out of the temple of the LORD all the vessels made for Baal, for Asherah, and for all the host of heaven. He burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of the Kidron and carried their ashes to Bethel. And he deposed the priests whom the kings of Judah had ordained to make offerings in the high places at the cities of Judah and around Jerusalem; those also who burned incense to Baal, to the sun and the moon and the constellations and all the host of the heavens. And he brought out the Asherah from the house of the LORD, outside Jerusalem, to the brook Kidron, and burned it at the brook Kidron and beat it to dust and cast the dust of it upon the graves of the common people. And he broke down the houses of the male cult prostitutes who were in the house of the LORD, where the women wove hangings for the Asherah. (2 Kings 23:4-7 ESV)
That’s just for starters.
But how different is the state of U.S. evangelical Protestantism when you consider the priorities included in this piece about the dangers of football?
The inherent dangers of the sport should not and cannot be taken lightly—but all athletic endeavors come with risk, and thankfully every level from the NFL to peewee football leagues are taking large strides toward improving safety. They are developing better equipment, technology, and practices. They are ushering a better, safer football game onto fields across the country.
And yet, American kids are more likely to be watching the game on the couch or playing Madden on the Xbox than running around playing pickup games. With many schools reducing physical education requirements, only one in four young teenagers (between ages 12 and 15) get the recommended one hour of exercise a day, according to federal health statistics. In a culture that is rapidly becoming more sedentary, we can be grateful for athletic heroes who encourage kids to get out there and play. The NFL’s Play 60 program promotes daily physical activity to young fans. Such campaigns are immensely valuable and something we as Christians should consider promoting as well.
All parents—Christians or not—have to figure out if we’ll encourage our own children to play football, and we know that each year more of us hesitate to put our kids in youth leagues. It makes sense to proceed with caution. But especially given how few kids will end up going pro, we can weigh the decision with the positive impacts of playing team sports: learning how to win and lose with grace, respecting coaches, teamwork, good sportsmanship, and the benefits of exercise. We can also take practical steps, such as ensuring that our kids know the warning signs of injury, and that their coaches are certified through USA Football’s Heads Up program.
I have hope in the experts shaping the next generation of players for an even better football experience for them and for the fans. I believe in the power of this sport, and I believe that it has a valuable place in our culture. We can see its impact pulsing through American stadiums, sports bars, and living rooms.
I can’t think of another institution that provides the instant camaraderie (or fierce rivalry) as football loyalties. I also just enjoy watching it—it’s fun! The pageantry, tradition, and on-field drama give us unique entertainment in a way that only unscripted and live sports can.
I’m sorry, but if evangelicals are going to fret publicly and select officials on the basis of their concerns about upholding the sixth commandment (the sanctity of human life), or the seventh commandment (marriage), or the second great commandment — love of neighbor (immigration reform) and not worry about the fourth commandment (worship and rest from secular activities), why in heaven or on earth should I take them seriously?