Wonder what jersey God is wearing this week? And if he hasn’t made up his mind yet, wonder how we might nudge him toward our side?

Sound silly? Unworthy of the high holiness of God? We’re getting just that silly. Here with some silly signs of the growing union of Spirit and sports that some are calling “muscular Christianity”:

  • Deion Sanders claims Jesus has miraculously healed his big toe. He has a special “Holy Ghost end-zone dance” to celebrate.
  • Mike DuBose is the embattled coach of Alabama, due both to losing games and marital infidelity – neither of which please alumni. After a recent victory over Florida, he credited God. The implication was more than athletic; it was good (him) triumphing over evil (his alumni enemies).
  • Notwithstanding legal rulings prohibiting such, some coaches and communities still pray before games over public address system. They see a biblical allusion to “obeying God rather than men.”
  • College alumni gatherings reveal that school identity is tied more to athletic than to scholarly achievement.
  • End-zone prayers by Emmitt Smith and others make display of thanks for power to score.
  • Green Bay Packers’ Reggie White thanks God for victory in 1997 Super Bowl but does not blame God for loss in 1998. Can you have it both ways?

We are regressing to tribal times when the shaman was called in before the braves went to war. He would conjure ancestral spirits and assure divine blessing on the campaign. I’ve been in many locker rooms that felt like that. Even led pre-game prayers. They can match revival fervor for intensity.

Sometimes the Lord’s Prayer is said, since that is hardly objectionable (unless you pay attention to the words, which are quite revolutionary). Never mind that some are not Christians in the group – this is a team spirit thing, and sometimes you have to sacrifice for the team.

Really? Where is it written that sports come before spiritual conscience and respect for neighbor? Sports dominate our culture in ungodly ways today. When people learn that I was a quarterback for the University of Miami (more than 20 years ago!), they suddenly pay more attention to me. They may even listen more intently when I preach. This is likely why Billy Graham Crusades often feature testimonies by high-profile athletes.

This is spiritual nonsense. If the Bible tips us off to God choosing sides, it is usually the weak and vulnerable, not the strong and mighty. And if God chooses both sides as we might think – if we were to think about it – then what point are all the religious rituals and public pieties? Let’s enjoy sports as play without trying to suit God up for the games. Something tells me that there are no scoreboards in heaven anyway.