Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Good Game: Christianity and the Culture of Sports by Shirl J Hoffman

Like most Americans, Christians love sports. They love team rivalries, the sports analogy/ sermon illustration, the thrill of playing, Christian celebrity athletes and even the church-hosted Super Bowl party complete with a five-minute half-time devotional. These are sacred institutions in Christian life; their prominence is seldom questioned. Yet, since 77 percent of evangelicals believe that the mass media is “hostile to their moral and spiritual values,” one wonders why evangelicals haven’t also sensed that hostility in media-bloated competitive sport contests. Christians frequently voice criticism about violence in video games, but violence in sports such as football and hockey, which involves their children more intimately and dangerously, is rarely examined.

Author Shirl Hoffman, Ed. D, believes it’s time for Christians to ask the hard questions. “The institution of sport has been so intricately woven into the fabric of our culture, and thus into the Christian culture, that criticism of sport or suggestions that sports be given a closer look often are viewed as cranky complaints by prigs who don’t know good fun when they see it,” Hoffman says. “The person who dares to ask whether the competitive ethic as celebrated in modern sports might conflict in important ways with the Christian worldview risks being labeled a ‘sport hater’.” In his new book, Good Game: Christianity and the Culture of Sports, Hoffman draws attention to both the pitfalls and the spiritual opportunities missed by the carte blanche acceptance of current sports culture by Christians, particularly evangelicals.

This is NOT an anti-sports book. The author does address very well the issues of sports and the church and their effect on each other. I am a bit biased against sports, with good reason, but do feel the author did a great job on getting his points across without slamming sports and saying that Christians should have nothing to do with it. In fact, he says the opposite, but that the church does need to give sports their proper place, and the way Christians play sports should be different than non-Christians. It seems too many Christians leave their Christianity outside of the game, and even in sports, we should be Christ-like.

It has been said that sports is the god of America, and that may be true, though anything that is before God in our life can be a god. Reading this book would be helpful to anyone who is serving God and loves sports. Again, the book is not an attack on sports, but instead shows where sports needs to be in our lives as Christians.

About the author:

Shirl J. Hoffman, Ed.D is Professor Emeritus of Kinesiology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro where he served as head of the department for 10 years. He has served at all levels of education, beginning his career as a physical education teacher in White Plains, New York, before moving on to positions as head basketball coach at Westchester Community College (NY). After completing his graduate work at Teachers College, Columbia University, he served successively as professor at The King’s College (NY) and at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. He taught at the University of Pittsburgh for 13 years where he was director of graduate studies in physical education, moving to University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 1985. He has an extraordinarily broad background in the field spanning motor learning and performance, sociology of sports and sport philosophy

Good Game: Christianity and the Culture of Sports is available from Baylor University Press.

Thanks to B&B Media for the review copy.


Steve-n-Deb said...

I'd like to read that sometime. We debate the subject periodically in the context of the high school, and I would enjoy a reasoned point of view from a different perspective.