Driving home from church on Sunday Night was eerie, it was a huge contrast to the heavy traffic we normally see as people drive home from restaurants, shopping and work. But on Sunday night, there was hardly any traffic on the road at all.
Where was everyone?
The rows of cars parked outside of houses, the smell of grilling in the air (the first thing people noticed on leaving the church was the heavy barbecue smell) and the glow of big screen TVs told the story. Most of America had gathered to watch the Superbowl, far more in fact than had bothered to attend church that morning.
After we got home, my son Graham and I took the dogs for a walk around our neighborhood, which was also filled with Superbowl parties. Normally, I’m struck by the separateness of our existence – even though we all live in the same small area, we all live very different, and very private lives. This evening, however, the neighborhood became as one body, and every few minutes every house in the neighborhood would audibly erupt in cheers or groans. We were literally watching America’s most important Holy Day from the outside.
To tell the truth, I wasn’t talking much, but Graham kept going on about how he couldn’t understand why people would be so devoted to watching a game he didn’t think was interesting at all, especially on the Lord’s Day, “They aren’t even playing it themselves!”
I stopped and explained to Graham that if I was a football fan and spent my evenings passionately watching it and explaining it to them, he and Victor would think it was important too. He seemed unconvinced, and I tried to explain to him that for the most part boys learn their enthusiasms from their fathers, they even inherit their favorite sports teams in much the same way that Christians pass on a denominational affiliation. I then explained to him how at one time I had been a fan of Premier League soccer, and in particular Arsenal FC. I also explained that I’d given it up because I realized that it was interfering with my Lord’s Day and becoming a form of idolatry. He still seemed unconvinced, so I asked him, “Which is a better game, Soccer, Basketball, or American Football?” “SOCCER!”, he replied, as if there was no question about the answer. I said to him, “Graham, you got that opinion from Mommy and I, and we could have oriented your lives so your Saturdays and Sundays were spent watching Premier League games and then watching the FA cup with all the same devotion these people are showing for the Superbowl. In England the only place you’ll find thousands of people singing a hymn together is when they’re fans in a stadium watching a home game.”
I finished by saying, “Graham, we pass on theology to you and the other kids because that is what we are most passionate about, that’s our treasure, our gift to you. Other people pass on football knowledge because that is what they are most passionate about. That’s their treasure.”
Graham was incredulous, “THAT’S their treasure??”
That is America’s treasure, the stats are undeniable. That’s where our hearts are, just as the Greeks were also mad about athletics and sports in their own age. What saddens me most is how thoroughly Christians have been sucked into the sports vortex. We teach them the lore, openly display our devotion, take our kids to Sunday games and encourage them to play on that day themselves. How many Presbyterian kids out there know “Gig ’em Aggies” or “Hook ’em Horns” or “Roll Tide” (depending upon the affiliation of their parents) but have never heard that, “The Chief End of Man is to Glorify God and Enjoy Him Forever?”