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Monday, September 10, 2012  

What does Lambeau have to do with Jerusalem?

My article on football and the patristic critique of the Roman games is up at the Christian Century site:

Even so, NFL football has arguably become the central liturgical act of American civic religion. The Super Bowl, its winter festival, commands more participation than a presidential inauguration, a midterm election or an Oscar broadcast. It opens with at least one sung anthem to the nation. Prime-time broadcasts are introduced with military images, and games often include recognition of the state’s military personnel and the sport’s emeritus legends. Football is not adorned with the statues of officiating divinities, but it is adorned with the symbols of commerce and power. It draws people together into groups of loyalty that cross boundaries of race, religion, class and even region, and it binds these competing groups into a common sabbath observance with its own distinctive rituals. (Who makes or eats nachos apart from football viewing?) The spectacle even re-creates the hierarchy of American life, from the skybox seats of magnates and politicians (now even at the blue-collar temple of Lambeau Field), to the equestrian ranks in the all-inclusive scout seats, to the relatively privileged ticketholders elsewhere in the arena, all the way down to the groundlings watching on television.

The spectacle of football has a useful and perhaps necessary role in American life, so Christians should critique it with some care. There are few enough public events and spaces at which a diverse nation can gather to participate in a comparatively low-stakes communal ritual—low stakes, that is, for everyone who is not playing the game.

Read the whole thing!

posted by Benjamin Dueholm | 4:19 PM
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