Athletes Praising the Christian God February 11, 2010

Athletes Praising the Christian God

I’ve mentioned before about how Tim Tebow would never have been allowed to go onto the football field if his eye black read “There Is” “No God” instead of “John” “3:16.”

The same standard that allows him to promote his faith on the field seems to apply to New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, too.

After winning the Super Bowl, he said “God is great!” They aired it on TV. All was well and good with the world…

But think about the reaction if he had said, “Allah is great!”

Jonathan Zimmerman asks this in the Christian Science Monitor:

While some of us might not see anything wrong with that, would network television announcers have applauded Brees as a “man of faith,” as he is frequently called?

Would newspapers have published glowing profiles of the other devout members of the Saints, who played up their religious belief during the buildup to the Super Bowl -– and thanked God after it?

You already know the answer. The problem here isn’t the players’ “faith”. It’s the not-so-subtle assumption that every person of faith adheres to the Christian faith -– and to a highly traditional version of it, at that.

Very few athletes come to mind who would openly thank a non-Christian god or no god at all.

More importantly, I wonder how the networks would televise it if anyone did. No doubt there would be a couple awkward, stammering commentators struggling to say something intelligent afterwards…

It’s even harder to proclaim your minority faith when your teammates are almost all Evangelical Christians. Sometimes, not participating in team prayers can cut you from the team:

Consider the fate of three Muslim football players at New Mexico State University, where a new coach instituted the Lord’s Prayer after practices in 2005. When the Muslims chose to pray on their own, the coach repeatedly asked one of them what he thought of Al Qaeda. He eventually dismissed all three Muslims from the team, calling them “troublemakers.”

But the real trouble was the prayer, of course, not the players. They sued the university, which settled with them out of court.

This isn’t a hard problem to fix. It’s smart policy and good for team morale to let religion be a personal thing. Officials should not let players wear their faith on their sleeves (or under their eyes) and coaches should never assume the whole team feels the way that they do.

As for Drew Brees’ comment, I don’t really mind it. That’s a personal expression of his faith.

But it would’ve been nicer to see him thank his coaches and teammates first. They’re the ones who actually helped him win.

(Thanks to Lauren for the link!)

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Reagan Hawkins

    No need to imagine this. Just see any nimber of clips of reporters squirming during an interview with Muhammad Ali…

  • I think people don’t notice when athletes thank their teammates and coaches, and put emphasis on the hard work they’ve put into winning whatever it is they’ve won, but never mention any sort of god. I agree; those are they ones who should be thanked.

    The religious will probably assume the athlete is their brand of religious.

  • littlejohn

    If only Peyton Manning had left the field grumbling, “I used to believe in god, but he let the throw that interception. I’ve lost my faith.”

  • Elzigzag

    And what if the rival were caught on camera saying “I shit on god!” (oh that would be much interesting, imagine media coverage, preachers exorcising….)

  • Carlie

    I kind of wish a reporter would follow up on one of those “God helped us win/God’s great” comments with something like “So, what is wrong with your opponents that made God turn his back on them?”

  • Matto the Hun

    If only Peyton Manning had left the field grumbling, “I used to believe in god, but he let the throw that interception. I’ve lost my faith.”

    well said littlejohn, if these guys where honest about thanking god for their wins, you’d think at least 50% of the football league would have lost their faith.

    But this only points what I found to be truly vile about religion and belief. If you win, god gets the credit, and if you loose it’s all your fault.

    Nothing degrades humanity like religion does.

  • Drew Brees wasn’t actually that bad, certainly not as bad as Tebow is, or Colt McCoy from Texas. His comment just seemed like a weird non-sequitur; he may as well have said “The moon was in retrograde in Virgo, and I have great teammates and coaches…”

    Not a player, but Phil Jackson (coach of the LA Lakers) said something funny and sort of indirectly critical of religion, at least the super-loony kind. When asked if he thought Kobe Bryant should skip the all-star game, he said:

    “It’s a big deal [The NBA] wants to draw 150,000 [fans]. It’s a revival meeting.

    Of course its an easy target, but a lot of people wouldn’t be willing to say something like that to the press, because of its religious nature. (Jackson is a Buddhist; I’m not sure if he believes in a god or not.)

  • Corey

    Hemant, you wrote: “Officials should not let players wear their faith on their sleeves (or under their eyes)”

    Most of the rest of your post I agree with. Coaches should not be able to railroad people of other faiths out of their teams. However, I completely disagree with the idea that the sports announcers, athletes, or ‘officials’ of the NFL have any responsibility whatsoever to censor this kind of thing.

    The NFL is a private corporation. The television announcers showing the games and doing the interviews are also private companies. They can spew whatever propaganda they want through their free speech channels. Furthermore, they can have whatever rules for personal expression of faith they want. The players, who are the performers they’ve hired to put on their spectacle, can be organized by whatever code of conduct the league wants. If the code says they can make religious expressions, then we can’t say much about it. We can change the channel. It’s their ballgame, they paid for it, and it’s their choice.

    However, I expect that it is only a matter of time before a Muslim athlete experiences serious discrimination at the hands of the NFL. At that point it is no longer a free speech thing but an equal protection thing, and some of this will end. Allowing religious expression on screen is probably strictly legal. Having a culture where any other religion is verboten, discriminated against, or the like, is not.

    Most large Fortune 500 companies have this figured out already. (Look at the furor over “Happy Holidays” for a recent reminder.) Just because highly visible football players and sportscasters remain a bastion of evangelical Christianity doesn’t automatically make it illegal. It’s just bad business.

    I wrote this post just to point out that it is up to us to be cautious that we don’t lash out at institutions that have every right to be as religious as they want. Just because they are highly visible doesn’t mean they are arms of our government. (Even if we seem to be the ones that pay for all the stadiums.) We can’t be lax and say things that are not not strictly true. It’s important to clearly define the battle lines where we are completely in the right.

    Anything less makes it too easy for our opponents to attack.

  • Josh

    Who can forget the media firestorm when Mike Tyson ended his lunatic rambling with “Praise be to Allah!”? The Muslim comment was mostly ignored because the rest of what he said was so insane “I want to eat your children, etc”, but it would be an interesting case study.

  • Tim Carroll

    I recently underwent an emergency 9 hour heart surgery. Several people tried to tell me that my survival was a miracle, and I should thank god. I reminded them that the surgeon had a much more immediate and real impact, and I would save my praises for him and the team he worked with.

  • Religion is best when it’s in private, with individuals and at it’s worst in public and in organized groups.

  • Ron in Houston

    It’s interesting – Hakeem Olajuwon is a very big Muslim – however, whenever he was interviewed he always used the word “God” rather than “Allah.”

    I wonder if he was coached to do that or if it was just a language issue.

  • It never ceases to amaze me when the religious thank their god after winning some competition. It doesn’t seem to matter if it is an elementary spelling bee, beauty pageant, sports function, etc., etc. To be honest, it gets old with increasing speed. If there really is an all powerful deity that is spending its time picking someone to win in arbitrary competitions, well, that deity needs to get a life. Not to mention the obvious fact that god obviously thought that everyone else sucked. Nice, huh?

  • There was a prop bet on the Superbowl: Who will the Superbowl MVP thank first?

    #1 Choice: God

    Because coaches and players are less likely to affect the outcome than something probably made up.

  • On this topic; when the actor who portrayed Dirth Pan (sp) in The Killing Fields won an Oscar, he openly praised Buddha.

    Mohamed Ali always praised Allah after his wins.

  • Casimir

    “Allahu akbar” in Arabic translates to “God is the greatest”, so he was pretty close.

  • Maybe he was thanking himself. We do call him “Drew Breesus” down here in the Who Dat Nation. 🙂

  • noah

    another good example is mahmoud abdul-rauf, who was persecuted during his nba career because of his muslim faith.

  • Joffan

    I am surprised that Christians aren’t offended by players that do & say things like these. What do they think God is anyway, and why would it be more interested in one sports team than another? At the end of the game, one team wins, the other team loases, some people are happy, some people are not, and this is true no matter which team wins.

  • marco

    “As for Drew Brees’ comment, I don’t really mind it. That’s a personal expression of his faith. But it would’ve been nicer to see him thank his coaches and teammates first. They’re the ones who actually helped him win.”

    Especially, since most of the Colts probably all prayed equally hard and lost.

    But ‘He’ is only credited for the good stuff as always.

  • noah

    “I am surprised that Christians aren’t offended by players that do & say things like these. What do they think God is anyway, and why would it be more interested in one sports team than another?”

    I’m not fan of players thanking god, but this is a straw man. The players (typically) don’t thank god for winning the game for them. They thank god for “giving” them the skills to do what they do on the field. Those who do thank god for winning the game for them, subscribe to the theory that everything that happens is part of god’s plan – i.e., all is preordained. It’s not about “favoritism” — it’s about execution of god’s plan. I’m not a subscriber to this view, but it’s not like players are actually saying, “God likes the saints but not the colts.” Well, maybe god has a special place in his heart for the “saints…” 🙂

  • fritzy

    That these atheletes have basically turned their invisible sky-monster into the almighty cheer-leader is not only comical, but a statement about their psychology; clearly a great many of these atheletes are very self-important, believing their rushing prowess has found them favor with THE Cloud Boss. How very egotistical.

    As far as Tebow is concerned–he’s a clown–let him wear his make-up. The last thing this world needs is another dime-store martyr for the white-trash evangelical set.

  • Sheridan

    If I were a star player in a game whose team had just won big time. and if I was asked a comment, I would say that I am thankful to the secular gods – all of them!

    I am sure that I would see a few jaws drop!

  • Edmond

    This is what I love about Kathy Griffin. ALL those deities can go SUCK IT!

  • Derek

    “I am surprised that Christians aren’t offended by players that do & say things like these.”

    I’d have to agree with noah’s assessment of this statement. But I also just thought I’d point out that not all Christians are easily offended. There are at least some out there like myself. I don’t really find much use in feeling offended.

    Cheers and Excelsior!

  • Wayne Dunlap

    See that, the Saints won because God had forgiven them for allowing gays to live. Manning was probably a godless atheist, and that was most likely the reason his team lost. 🙂

  • Demonhype

    I think I agree with Joffan on this. How you think God helped them win is irrelevant and nothing more than an exercise in semantics. Whether he bent the rules of time and space to make you win or just “gave” you abilities to help you win, you’re still left with the claim that God was primarily responsible for the win.

    The main point is that one would think God to be so intensely interested in a DAMN GAME when there are so many more important needs that go unfilled. I find it amazing that something that trivializes God so much would be so well-regarded by the religious as a powerful testment of faith.

    Then, of course, there is the abject arrogance that God is personally interested in you–YOU!–and you alone winning this game, to the detriment of the other guy. Telling me about how God “gave” you your abilities doesn’t change a thing, because then you have the dilemma of why God decided to give you the abilities and neglect the other guy–who may even be just as religious as you.

  • Demonhype, you don’t seem to understand here. Saying God gave them the ability to win isn’t the same as saying God manipulated the game itself. What it means is that God gave the player the skill needed to be a quality athlete, and the player executed from there.

    Your neglect dilemma is a false one. I’m sure Drew Brees thinks that Peyton Manning is also a talented QB gifted by God.

    At any rate, if I remember this interview correctly, Brees did thank his coaches and teammates first. I remember “God is great” being the last thing he said.

  • Athletes_4_God

    you guys are missing the point. they are thanking god not for them winning and the other team losing, but for giving them strength for perseverance. Thanking God for the strength to train hard in the offseason, to be injury free during the season, and for the strength throughout the grueling season. God won’t influence a ballgame. Not important in his book. But athletes such as myself will draw to him for strength. instead of playing for our personal glory, to glorify OUR name, we play to glorify his

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