Sports and Religion in America - Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion
Christianity and how this has impacted the relationship between sport and religion in twenty first century Britain and North America. Key words: Sport, religion. Over the past 30–40 years there has been a steady growth in the academic literature concerning the relationship between sport and religion, particularly. Religion and sport are two major institutions that compose the social landscapes in newest revolution in sport, the growing relationship of religion and sport.
The rest of the class felt that it was either secularization or displacement. Secularization is that sports has taken over religion in society while displacement is that sports and religion are competing against each other for the same position in society. The Universal Baseball Association and Friday Night Lights both show direct correlations between religion and sports, which can relate to me when I played sports in high school.
The Universal Baseball Association took a strange twist on religion involved in sports. The main character, Henry, created his own game of fantasy baseball where he created the players and the chances of how well they could play in the game.
He ended up making a whole separate world in his own mind. The thought of Henry being the god of all of these players starts to come to mind. He imagines these players having backstories, emotions, and conversations between each other.Religion of Sports - Season 1 - Keepers of the Faith - Full Episode
In a way, Henry represents a theistic god, who is independent from the people. During the season of this fantasy baseball game, Henry would roll dice to see what would happen to the players in the game. It seemed that he had hundreds of different events that could happen to the players.
Throughout the book, he continues this until he changes the rules of his game by changing the dice to a certain number that he wanted. Towards the end of the book, it seemed that the players developed into more complex people. They even made comments about someone controlling them as if they knew Henry was their god.
Of course, they did know because Henry made them and he knew that he was like a creator. The relationship between football and religion in Friday Night Lights can be seen in many different ways, depending on the character you are looking at.
For example, a player like Brain Williams has a more sacralization relationship between the two. One Cherokee myth tells of a prehuman contest between the birds and animals. In this account, a field mouse and squirrel are picked over for the animal team, as they were deemed too small. So they request to join the bird team. Taking pity, the birds fix wings to the rodents, who become valuable contributors. In addition to offering an origin story for the bat and flying squirrel, this myth highlights tribal values of compassion, cooperation, and grit.
Tribes have also used lacrosse in myths about social order. One legend tells of a lacrosse player so impatient to win that he used his hand, rather than the stick, to pick up the ball.
The defiled ball, itself a sacred object, soared upward into the sky and became the moon. When the moon wanes, this myth is recounted as an allegory for following the rules in lacrosse and life.
From relay races to kickball, athletic contests were a ritualized means of pleasing the gods, securing fertility, conjuring rain, prolonging life, expelling demons, and curing illnesses. They also debated the place of play within their own communities. Among first-generation Puritans, children were generally permitted to swim in summer, skate in winter, and play bat-and-ball games.
By the second generation, sports became a means for maintaining military readiness among young men. Military training days were communal festivals, highlighted by foot races, wrestling matches, and shooting contests. The fit bodies of young men reinforced aspirations for a strong, healthy, and secure community.
While the laws had minimal influence in curtailing these pastimes, they did produce a narrative that lived on into the 19th century: Media accounts made the race not simply about a rivalry between horses, but also a rivalry between regions.
Until this time, the North had minimal interest in the turf. The South, meanwhile, had a reputation for breeding and racing the top horses. Sir Henry was their standard-bearer. Young and unpredictable, Sir Henry also claimed the finest lineage and training.
Animated by their regional pride, roughly twenty thousand southerners traveled north to help build a crowd of sixty thousand at the contest. Divided into three, four-mile heats, the horses traded victories before Eclipse took the final race and the crown.
Horseracing did the work of defining North and South in a curious prelude to the Civil War. It also acted as a focusing lens for separating the reputable from disreputable sectors of society—those perceived to strengthen character, and those who devalued it. By the end of the 19th century, the evangelical establishment would begin co-opting and reshaping the enthusiasm and interest attached to athletics. Other religious groups would follow suit. Along the way, athletic bodies in motion fueled conversations about faith, morality, and meaning.
Religion and health go hand in hand. He proposed instead a new theology that conjoined the toned spirit with a toned body. Men and women alike, Higginson averred, should know that physical exertion elevates individual and social happiness. Most still followed the ponderings of people like Theodore Cuyler. But he advocated calm, quiet, and contemplative activities such as reading. Athletics was a core curricular element of the Episcopalian preparatory school, as Peabody had absorbed the muscular Christian ethos during his schooling in Great Britain.
By the end of the century, however, nearly all of the YMCAs had gymnasiums. Luther Gulick emerged as a leading spokesperson for the Y, writing extensively about the values of physical exercise and competition.
The Connections Between Sports and Religion
InGulick encouraged James Naismith to invent the game that would eventually become basketball. Ordained a Presbyterian minister, Naismith spent his life spreading the game with a missionary zeal, convinced that it was a suitable physical expression of Christianity. She introduced basketball to the women of Smith College one year after Naismith had invented it. But the prevailing opinion was that competition would make women too manly and could threaten their reproductive capabilities.
Accordingly, Berenson negotiated a place for women in competitive sports. Concerned about the potential roughness of basketball, she devised rules aimed at mitigating possible injuries. The court divided into three regions, with players restricted to each zone.
Women could only dribble the ball three times, and hold it for three seconds. Stealing the ball was also prohibited. During her career as a physical educator, she made an expressed point of bringing the game to her coreligionists. While often struggling for gym space, uniforms, and simple recognition, young Jewish women eagerly joined teams and played games against a host of non-Jewish opponents. In these gymnasiums, this minority population used their bodily movements to participate in an American game, and to produce a muscular female Jewish identity.
Alongside basketball, though, boxing held a prized place in Jewish communities. From totwenty-seven boxing world champions were Jewish. Benny Leonard was among the most well-known, having held the lightweight championship from to Novelist Budd Schulberg recalled watching the boxer in his prime, climbing into the ring with the Star of David on his trunks, giving a sense of pride to the beleaguered Jews of the city.
For his Jewish admirers, Leonard not only knocked out opponents, he also pummeled anti-Semitism. At times, however, this minority group had a sympathetic audience from fellow outsiders. On first base for the Pirates was Hank Greenberg, an aging veteran who played most of his career for the Detroit Tigers.
But on that day, anti-black racism showered the field. In one at bat, Robinson laid down a bunt, rushed toward first base, and collided with Greenberg. Greenberg then offered some words of encouragement, assuring Robinson that it would get better. It sticks all over Mr. Also, their relationship was emblematic of that between blacks and Jews, especially after World War II. During the late s, Jews became involved in the business of black baseball, acting as promoters, booking agents, and silent partners.
To be sure, some promoters incorporated comedy acts into the game, which perpetuated unflattering stereotypes of African Americans. For them, bodily fitness was a necessary condition for both personal piety and national strength.
Sport and religion: culture, history and ideology | Movement & Sport Sciences - Science & Motricité
The concerns and scope of this movement, though, circled around the ideas and ideals of its white Protestant founders. Accordingly, the playing fields of muscular Christians served to produce and enforce their understandings of race, class, gender, and nationalism. But the 20th century witnessed a growth in religious, ethnic, and racial diversity. And with this development came a broader and more complicated American ethos that prized the muscular endeavors of sports. So Catholics, Jews, African Americans, and women would use sports to muscle into the mainstream, to translate their bodily movements in civil religious terms.
This ritual tie has now been completely severed; sport has become profane, "unholy" in every way and has no organic connection whatever with the structure of society, least of all when prescribed by the government. The ability of modern social techniques to stage mass demonstrations with the maximum of outward show in the field of athletics does not alter the fact that neither the Olympiads nor the organized sports of American Universities nor the loudly trumpeted international contests have, in the smallest degree, raised sport to the level of a culture-creating activity.
However important it may be for the players or spectators, it remains sterile. The old play-factor has undergone almost complete atrophy. Nevertheless popular feeling is wrong" p.
Although Guttmann agrees with Huizinga in general, he acknowledges that even modern sport sometimes has its moments of transcendence: Those who bemoan the secularization of sport do not express similar criticisms of other aspects of human social life.
Modern sports, which are largely the product of western Europe, have undergone secularization at the same time as other institutions. European governments became secularized as monarchs broke away from the authority of the Roman Catholic Church. The United States was founded on the ideal of separation of church and state.
This was an attempt to avoid the religious rivalries and persecution that drove a number of groups to leave their European homes and settle in the land that became the United States.
The French achieved their ideal of separation of church and state only in the early twentieth century, a hard-won accomplishment that in led the French government to ban religious apparel in the public schools. Modern science emerged as such thinkers as Nicolaus Copernicus — and Galileo Galilei — supplanted religious dogma with empirically derived data.
At the time of the Enlightenment in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, writers such as Voltaire — rejected the domination of ecclesiastical authority. In the process, theater, the visual arts, literature, and music became secularized. Scholars generally regard the secularization of government, education, science, and the arts as positive, since it liberates these institutions from the constraints of dogma and subjugation to religious hierarchies.
SPORTS AND RELIGION
Why then, do Guttmann and some other scholars bemoan the secularization of sport? In their view, sport alone seems to call for an alliance with an institutionalized moral and religious order. In Sport as Symbol: Images of the Athlete in Art, Literature and Song, Mari Womack argues that the secularization of sport is commonly viewed as degradation rather than liberation precisely because sport has retained its close symbolic ties to religion, whereas the other institutional forms have drifted further away.
Athletes may no longer be viewed as gods, but they retain their role as heroes. Athletes are held to higher standards than musicians, actors, artists, or writers.
Only government officials, educators, and religious leaders excite similar degrees of outrage in the wake of scandal. American sportswriters often lament the behavior of athletes who violate cultural norms, but in fact the failures of heroes in all domains often educate us as much as their successes.
Could any sermon teach the perils of arrogance and hubris better than the fictional baseball hero in Ernest Lawrence Thayer's poem, "Casey at the Bat"? In a similar situation, the real-life baseball hero Babe Ruth — succeeded where Casey failed. The Sultan of Swat called his shot during the fifth inning of the third game of the World Series, in what has been called "the most magnificent gesture ever made on a baseball diamond. The score was tied at four runs each when Babe Ruth came up to bat for the Yankees.
He was greeted by a barrage of abuse from the Chicago bench. He took a strike and then defiantly pointed to the centerfield bleachers. He took another strike and again indicated his target as Cubs players jeered from the bench. On the next pitch, he hammered the ball to the deepest part of the centerfield bleachers, the exact spot he had indicated. Unlike Casey, the mighty Babe Ruth did not strike out. Womack writes, "The same existential conflict that lies at the heart of religion also gave rise to the sporting contest"p.
Often, it is clear that the 'game' is life itself, played out in a hazardous universe"p. In a pluralistic society, sport makes mythological themes accessible to people from many different backgrounds. It is a fact of modern life that no one religion has a secure hold on the imagination of its adherents. No matter how strongly one believes, one knows that others do not believe.
This challenges the absoluteness of one's faith. The various competing religions do not provide an overarching symbolic system that explains ultimate reality, including right and wrong, for all members of the group.
Precisely because it is secularized, sport provides a symbolic system that unifies rather than divides. It addresses overarching symbolic themes, not specific theological issues. It deals not with the nature of God, but with the nature of human beings. Bibliography Bowen, John R. An Approach to the Anthropology of Religion. Rather than attempting to develop a unitary definition of religion, Bowen surveys consistencies and variations in the practice of religion in a variety of contexts.
Durant, John, and Otto Bettman. Pictorial History of American Sports. The authors do not deal specifically with the relationship between sport and religion, but their richly illustrated book eloquently demonstrates the historical role of sport in American life.
From Ritual to Record: The Nature of Modern Sports. New York Guttmann notes that sport in what he calls primitive societies was integral to other activities, whereas modern sport, with its rules and regulations, is antithetical to spontaneous play.
Greek Athletes and Athletics. Harris provides a comprehensive overview of the four Greek athletic games—the Olympic, the Pythian, the Isthmian, and the Nemean—with particular emphasis on the events held at each. He also links the athletic contests to the esteem in which athletes were held, as well as the celebration of athletic victors in the poetry of Pindar. Hoffman has compiled essays dealing with various aspects of the relationship of religion to sports, including ethics, sport as ritual, the use of rituals by professional athletes, and such experiential aspects of sport as runner's high.
Christianity is the only religion considered in any depth.