Monday, October 26, 2009

Religion in Sports (Continued)

We ended last week talking about the growth of religion in sports, with a particular emphasis on what role the media play. What got the conversation stared was an op-ed piece by Tom Krattenmaker that appeared in USA Today.

After my blog post on Friday, Mr. Krattenmaker graciously contacted me to correct a point I had made. I stated that like so many others he seemed to be advocating a separation of 'church and sport.' But Tom wrote back to say that his writings typically defend the freedom of religious expression. To set the record straight, I've attached more of Tom's positions here and here. At the risk of another misinterpretation (anathema to a journalist), Tom's postion is, "I’m not against religion in sports, and that I’m not against religion. I do have a passion for interfaith understanding and cooperation, so from that standpoint I question the use of sports to advance an exclusive and potentially divisive agenda that asserts the superiority of one particular religion."

But I will make one final point. Tom's position is commendable, but in a very real sense impossible. I'm not an expert on religion, but almost every major world religion (including Christianity and Islam) believes that it is the only path to eternal salvation and those who don't share its views are doomed to damnation. Thus, it would seem that almost by definition religious faith is "exclusive and potentially divisive" (as the Christians, Jews and Muslims fighting in the Middle East for hundreds of years can attest).

Perhaps we're arguing here over the difference between "acceptance" and "belief." Is it possible to have a strong faith and still "accept" other religions? In response the faithful Christian would say, "I accept the fact that you have a different faith, but from my perspective that faith is misplaced. Anyone who does not believe in Jesus Christ as a personal savior is spiritually lost." (Obviously, a Muslim could say much the same in regards to belief in Allah). Thus, is it truly possible to "accept" other faiths? The Christian would say "no." Any faith beyond Christianity is misplaced and those who do not share the faith need to be led to an understanding an acceptance. There is no "tolerance" in this sense; either you believe in Christ and are saved or you do not and are not. (And again, the same can be said for other beliefs).

Thus, if you are for freedom of religious expression you must be willing to hear messages that are potentially divisive and exclusive. Freedom of expression only for inclusive religious messages misses the point of what true faith is all about.


Blogger Unknown said...

Hi Brad. Tom Krattenmaker here. Thanks for this latest post. I think you'll find that many, many Christians and Muslims do not believe that they have a monopoly on truth, and that other-believers will miss out on salvation. As I say in that latest USA Today column, respectable polling data finds that 65 percent of American *Christians* believe there are multiple paths to salvation. So the situation is not as stark as how you describe it. Thanks again. --tom

12:01 PM  

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