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The Times
  • Fox: Where does the love of God go when my team loses?

  • I get the delicious tension of sports. Thrill of victory. All that stuff.

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  • I get the delicious tension of sports. Thrill of victory. All that stuff.
    But I have never prayed for a field goal or a free throw. Some things are over the line, and trivializing prayer is one of them.
    Sure, there are times when the fate of the world -- at least a world worth living in -- rests on some 24-year-old prima donna’s ability to catch a football and find the right end zone. Life has a extra glow when your team vanquishes all foes. The sky is a little darker when it loses. But that’s it, folks. Move on. Back to real life.
    I know it’s Super Bowl week. What I didn’t need to know -- probably somehow knew deep down but didn’t want to think about -- is that a new poll shows that more than one-quarter of Americans say they believe God plays a role in determining which team wins a given game.
    OK, big picture, I know, I know, get a grip. Seventy-three percent of people in the Public Religion Research Institute survey said, "Uh, no, I think God has other things on His plate." I’d like to think a few of them said, "Is this supposed to be a serious question?"
    But still 27 percent -- that works out to 85 million Americans -- agreed with that proposition, which implies that God has a preference for Team A over Team B. An even larger number, 53 percent, say God rewards faithful athletes with good health and success despite endless examples of devout and faithful people who enjoy neither of those earthly treasures. What does this say about what we believe God to be?
    An observation about history: Each society believes itself enlightened and evolved, unlike every lesser society that had the misfortune to precede it. We don’t cling to false idols as the ancients did.
    Baloney. An idol is anything other than God around which you organize your life at the expense of all else. That can be work. It can be golf. In our society, I’d say the two most prominent idols are money -- OK, hardly an original observation -- and the me-centered, immediate-gratification leisure lifestyle. The worship of almightly football is Exhibit A.
    An observation about humans: We tend to make God in our image, and that’s dangerous. Just because we invest all our hope, time, money and emotion -- all of our identity -- in the local football team, that doesn’t mean God does, even though it just feels as if He must, He just must.
    How exactly would God decide the Chiefs should beat the Raiders? Does He love one group of several dozen players and coaches and their millions of fans more than another? Is one out of favor? And under what criteria? By the way, the Royals and Chiefs are chronically bad. How far do we want to push that toward its illogical and frightening conclusion?
    Page 2 of 2 - Sometimes we call the other team and its fans the enemy. We use wholly inappropriate war metaphors. Sometimes we seem to forget that they’re just that -- metaphors. I don’t think God forgets. It’s a game -- no matter how out of proportion it might be in our minds -- and He has bigger concerns.
    Follow Jeff Fox on Twitter at @Jeff_Fox or @FoxEJC.

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