Unless you have been on cloistered retreat (and if you have - more power to you because you've got it right) you realize the hype is upon us and this Sunday most of America will be glued to their televisions watching the Super Bowl. Mind control rules. One thing most robotic Americans may not realize is that they are learning all that they need to know about salvation, the New Order, and Ecumenism amid the cheering, the plays, and the trophy presentation at the end.
We have all seen athletes praying on the field, giving themselves the sign of the cross, thanking God Almighty for their success, and pointing upwards when scoring. We have heard of people like quarterback Kurt Warner and coaches Joe Gibbs and Jack McKeon express their religious beliefs when discussing their sporting achievements. Yet the media often criticizes these people for "dragging their religion" into their job and exposing teammates and fans to their personal beliefs, but this criticism only reflects the current distaste, mockery, and disrespect for religion in general. The more I have thought about it, however, the clearer it has become that sports have much to say about both religion and the popular conversion of all religions called ecumenism.
Sports as a Religion Itself
There is no doubt that, for better or for worse, sports have become a form of religion for many. In a society where the spiritual often takes a backseat to the temporal, sports seem to fill a need in people seeking to believe, to yearn, to hope, to aspire, to become passionate about something. Even religious people enjoy sporting events, of course. This is probably because sports offer many valuable life lessons, provide simple entertainment and excitement, offer a respite from real problems, and represent a link to traditions and past memories. Religious terms such as Hail Mary, Holy Roller, and Sacrifice have made their way into the every day vernacular of sports. Teams such as the Angels, Padres, and Saints bring religious terms into the athletic arenas as well. In fact, several years ago the Padres' advertising campaign centered around the theme "Keep the Faith."
Stadiums and arenas have been described as "cathedrals" of sport. Writers have noted that empty stadiums ring with the prayers of past glory and past suffering. These scribes have also referred to fans as "congregations" who come together once in a while to lift their spirits to another level in hope, belief, passion, and fanatical joy. Finally, the lessons of sportsmanship, respect, loyalty, hard work, unselfishness, sacrifice for a cause, and seeking a greater good are often invoked in the world of sports. Just as families used to, and still should, go to mass together, they often go to sporting events together. Though considering the conduct of drunken, rowdy and bawdy fans - not to mention the cost of tickets - taking the family is fast becoming a thing of the past.
Just as a parent might teach a child to pray, he or she might teach that child to throw a ball, make a jump shot, or slap a puck. Just as the battle between sin and virtue is waged by religion, so too we see the good and the bad in sports as shown by wonderful moments and scandals, racism, corruption, and other unsavory things. Just as religion tells us to enhance our soul's performance through prayer and good works, so too athletes should seek to improve their performance through training and hard work. The Apostle Saint Paul used this analogy in 1 Corinthians 9: 24-27.
Just as religion warns that performance cannot be validly improved by temporal, temporary, trivial, or earthly treasures, so too sports frown upon artificial enhancements through drugs, performance enhancement creams, and corked bats. Just as sports honors past superstars and icons for their example and achievements, so too religion looks upon saints, prophets, and past leaders with respect and admiration. The next time someone criticizes Catholicism for having statues of Jesus, Mary, and saints, point them in the direction of the shrines in Cooperstown or Canton or Mt. Rushmore or Washington D.C. Just as sports thrive on history, tradition, and rules, so too religion focuses on the past and moral structure. It is in this context and bond between sports and religion that I wish to focus on three key points.
Point 1: You must respect and learn from the past
It is clear that sports, and in particular baseball, thrive on records, history, past icons, and achievements recorded in the minds of fans. It is also clear that there is much to learn from past failures such as The Black Sox Scandal, racism, Pete Rose, and labor strikes. The past stands as both something to be honored and remembered and a blackboard from which to learn lessons for the present and future. As has often been said, those who fail to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. Likewise, we can learn from past heroes, achievements, sacrifices, issues, controversies, and obstacles in the religious sphere as well.
Despite our arrogance, we did not invent many of the problems which plague our faith today. Many of these issues have been around for a while, perhaps in different forms, but ever-present because they are rooted in human nature. Just as it is human nature to want to win and to cheer victory or curse defeat, it is human nature to seek salvation, happiness, and also to sin. We are infused, because of Original Sin, with the seven passions that we must curb. Those seven passions are of course the Seven Deadly Sins and if we do not rein them in, they will overcome us just as if an athlete is not in condition he will be prone for severe injuries. Just as losing is a lesson leading to a hope for a better season next year, so too we must learn from our human weakness and never give up, getting up to play another day.
The New Order wants to mock, ridicule, ignore, and eradicate the past. We can no more do that than forget the records in baseball or stop counting ( contrary to my wishes ) Yankee championships. Just as sports and the past are inherently tied together, so too our faith and the past are one and the same to be respected, honored, obeyed, and learned from.
Point 2: You must respect and follow the rules
Imagine what would happen if suddenly we decided that everyone could play a sport any way they wished. Teams could decide to use different size balls, play longer or shorter games, play varying season lengths, and determine championships any way they wanted. Obviously, all hell would break lose! Is this not what is happening today in the spiritual and moral realm? Are not people just making the rules up as they go along, only thinking about their feelings or desires? Are we not obsessed with not offending each other to the point of only offending Our Creator?
I guess that I will not catch that ball because my opponent might get "offended" if I beat him! I guess that I should not cheer my team because to do so might imply that my team is "better" than the other! Sports tell us that we must have structure while honestly striving to be the best, to rise to the top, to make our mark. It is about competition and being the best we can be. When I win a championship I often "offend" the entire city of the losing team, but that is their problem not mine. Sports are about structure and rules and dealing with it if you lose or are proven not to be the best. Did not Christ tell us to follow His rules, to play His game, and to prove that our faith is the best? What's the problem?
Point 3: There is One Winner!
At the end of every football, baseball, basketball or soccer season there is always one winner. There is supposed to be one gold medal winner in each Olympic event. Someone always proves that their effort, their cause, was the best one and therefore became the ultimate champion. While winning is not everything and participating is important in and of itself, the fact remains that we admire, praise, and seek to be winners. A classic example of The New Order's "solution" applied to sports is the "double gold" medals awarded to the Canadian and Russian pairs figure skaters a few years back. After clear evidence demonstrating corruption was shown, the medal should have been taken away from the Russian pair and simply awarded to the Canadian pair. However, since the goal was to not "offend", "divide", or be "intolerant", it was decided that gold medals should be awarded to both pairs. While this may seem a fair and effective solution to the problem, it flies in the face of common sense, justice, and reality. In short, it was deemed a better out to simply award two golds than risk offending or dividing people by doing what was right. Imagine if we did this every time there was a controversy or close decision in sports!
The politically and ecumenically correct New Order or Novus Ordo church tells us that everyone is the same, that we cannot claim to be the best, and that we must avoid offending people. It tells us that all religions are equal, that salvation is possible by millions of means, to the only thing which is important is wanting to be good and doing the best you can or having a good reason for doing what you are doing.
Applied to sports, the New Order formula would have us play a season and then go home. We would not even keep track of wins and losses because that might offend someone. Please do not record errors or fumbles or interceptions because to do so is to possibly dismantle someone's self-worth. Please do not hand out trophies unless you do so to everyone so nobody will get hurt. Now I am the first to agree and argue that children should get trophies and medals for their efforts regardless of results since this only fosters good sportsmanship and spurs them to greater heights, However, sooner or later and at the professional or adult levels, winning and losing, success and failure, awards and failures, better or worse, are part of life and we have to deal with this reality.
Ecumenism, clearly an offshoot of The New Order, tells us that all religions are equal and lead to the same place, that it is wrong to argue that one's religion is best or the only path to salvation, and that it is offensive and even a crime to do so. It argues that to argue that one's faith is the best is divisive, intolerant, destructive, arrogant, and dangerous. Never mind the dogma of the Catholic Church that outside of her there is no salvation. That might offend non-Catholics.
The New Order church of Vatican II argues that we should all just hold hands, look up, chant, dance, and sway to the music because we are all going to win the championship ring of salvation. It does not matter how many moral victories or failures (sins) we have. It does not matter how much we have trained or practiced or played fair. It does not matter if we have followed the rules or not. It does not matter if we deserve salvation or not. We are all going to win the Super Bowl of Eternity and then we are all going to that great Disney World in the sky (appropriately in view of Disney's moral bent) no matter what. To the New Order I therefore ask, Why play the season if a championship is guaranteed? If everyone wins no matter what, are not all of the games, the rules, the lessons, the tears, the smiles, useless? If everyone is going to Heaven, why even be Catholic? Isn't it easier being a liberal Episcopalian who is politically correct?
If that were the case, why would Jesus have even bothered with the whole crucifixion thing? Why would He have bothered with appointing Peter as the visible head of His Church on earth of which Our Lord told the Apostles all must belong for salvation if we are to believe Matthew 28: 21 and Mark 16: 15-16? No, my friends, all of these things are very important because there is only one winner, one champion, one faith, and that is the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church under Jesus Christ!
The New Order and its pet Ecumenism will tell us that all religions, no matter where they come from, what they do, or where they are going, are equal and should be respected. They will tell us that we will all be saved no matter what we believe, do, or think as long as we are hugging, loving, trying, and justifying our way. They will place all emphasis on the 'unity of community' goals rather than striving for salvation of each soul. They do this by telling us that it is wrong to offend or hurt anyone and that claiming to be the only path to salvation offends and hurts those playing for another religious team. They tell us to follow our own rules and to forget the past because rules and the past have nothing to do with our inner feelings and personal uniqueness. This dribble plays no better in the moral and spiritual arena than it would in the arena of sports. While we must teach our children to enjoy and participate in sports free of obsession with winning, it is a fact of life and salvation that there are winners and losers. Just as a tie in the Super Bowl or World Series or even a baseball All Star game would not do, God Almighty is not going to say on Judgment Day, "Hey guys, those to My left and My right, regardless of whether or not you fed, clothed, cared, or cured Me, you are all going to Heaven!"
Just as a tie in the championship game Sunday would tarnish and contradict the integrity of the sport, so too such a fiasco on Judgment Day would imply that God is not just, all knowing, and all perfect, which is the highest sacrilege and blasphemy possible. On the contrary, God Almighty does not need a referee's review, a conference in the center of the field, an instant replay or a subsequent discussion. His decision is final, perfect, just, complete, and indisputable. His rules and example have been made known since before the start of the season, and we have all had a chance to play by those rules and examples.
He has called on us to play for one team and one team alone, to cheer on that team through thick and thin, and that is the true Catholic faith. He has given us free will to choose to play for another faith team, but there will only be one winner in the race for salvation, and that is a result already written in the record book called the Holy Bible. The fix is in, if you will. God's team does not have a salary cap, nor a limit on the number of players allowed. It only demands loyalty, hard work, dedication, courage, trust, and consistency. It does matter what team you play for, and it is our duty to help others play for the right team. We will be judged by what team we played on, how well we played, how well we followed the rules, and how hard we tried to help others join our team. That's true teamwork!
As you sit down to watch The Super Bowl or any other sporting event, please recall that despite the pathetic claims of Ecumenism, there are no ties in Heaven.