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A Modern Idol

This article was published in the Presbyterian Standard, Issue No. 16, October-December 1999.

O UR generation must surely have lost its way when a mere recreation or amusement takes on all the trappings of a religion. So it is with 'sport'. This 'idol' now has millions of disciples in our land, meeting at many sites to take part in elaborate rituals which are like a secular parody of religious worship.

The participants are divided into a sort of 'clergy' and 'laity'. The latter gather in congregations at least once a week, often in large stadia, leaving their (costly) offerings at the entrance. For a time they are absorbed as the rite unfolds. Carefully chosen 'priests' perform the sacrifice on a stage set before the faithful, who offer their praise appropriately. For this service the celebrants are treated almost as though they were gods - and in some cases the very well-being of the worshippers seems to hang on how they perform.

Perhaps it is not all so new. In ancient Greece the plain of Olympia was the scene of the famous Games, revived last century. Mount Olympus in mythology was the abode of the twelve principal Greek gods. Have history and myth got mixed up somehow, one wonders?

What surely is new is the willingness of today's professing Christians not only to follow sport but also to consider it as a suitable career, a profession, a calling to rank alongside teaching, medicine, politics or industry as something that might be done to the glory of God and which is worthy of remuneration.

We have lost count of the prominent sportsmen and women who are claimed by gullible souls as examples of faith to admire, even to emulate. What sort of fruit do we often see in them however?

We see a readiness to accept the status of a false hero or 'star', with fame, fortune and the devotion of one's fellow-creatures. But is this in harmony with a truly self-effacing, humble lifestyle? Is this to follow Him who is "meek and lowly in heart" (Matt. 11:29)?

We find little or no conscience regarding the Sabbath, of which Christ is Lord (Mark 2:28). It is not a day to be shared between the Redeemer and recreations. Shame on all those who wilfully profane His holy day with their 'sport'!

We witness an unhealthy fellowship with the world and its ways to which we are in danger of being conformed again. It is obvious that "evil communications corrupt good manners" (1 Cor. 15:33).

A better testimony to our generation would not be to the virtue of professional sport but rather to its utter vanity.