Today is known as “Super Bowl Sunday” in the USA. Most years, the American football (which is not the same as the sport called soccer in the USA) contest known as the Super Bowl is the most watched television program in the USA. Between 100,000,000-200,000,000 are expected to intentionally (as opposed to perhaps seeing a news item about it) watch at least some of it today according to various reports.
Since many people in the USA have, at one time or another, made some hint of professing following Jesus, a relevant question may be:
Should Christians watch the Super Bowl?
Jesus Himself, of course, taught “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39), while the Apostle Paul wrote “no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it” (Ephesians 5:29).
After seeing the injuries that some of my high school football-playing colleagues suffered, I could not reconcile the scriptures with American tackle football. There are better ways for Christians to learn principles like teamwork from other sports or activities than watching actual violence such occurs in American tackle football.
Also, notice what John the Baptist taught soldiers:
14 And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages. (Luke 3:14, KJV)
I could not reconcile loving my neighbor as myself and cherishing my flesh and not doing violence to any man by watching others do it in a football game. Nor the following:
9…You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Romans 13:9-10, NKJV)
The Super Bowl will do harm to participants in it. Even if played according to all of its rules, American tackle football is evil because it actually physically harms many its participants:
The most popular sport in America causes irreparable harm to many of its participants, some of whom will stammer through sentences after they retire, lose their memories and have their dinners served to them through intravenous needles…If they’re modern-day gladiators, we’re little more than howling, new-millennium Romans — with better-stitched togas and viewing angles. Now armed with more information than ever about football and brain injuries, we think long and hard whether our kids should strap on a helmet and pads. (Wise M. Super Bowl: NFL confronts the highest stakes. Washington Post, January 28, 2013. http://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/redskins/super-bowl-nfl-confronts-the-highest-stakes/2013/01/28/b92e1fd8-69a0-11e2-95b3-272d604a10a3_story.html)
The grim headlines just keep coming. This week it’s former NFL kicker Tom Dempsey. Age 66, Dempsey suffers from dementia. During his football career he endured three diagnosed concussions and, almost certainly, several undiagnosed ones. As The New York Times notes, his neurologist was “astonished by the amount of damage” visible on Dempsey’s brain scans.
Earlier this month researchers announced that the brain of Junior Seau, the former NFL linebacker who committed suicide last spring, showed signs of the kind of neurodegenerative disease associated with repetitive head trauma. A causal link between the type of skull-jarring hits that professional football players experience and long-term degenerative brain disease, including dementia, is no longer in serious question (see this technical report from the scientific journal Brain and this blog post about traumatic brain injury in women).
As NPR reports, more than 3,800 football players have by now sued the NFL over their head injuries. That’s a staggering number. (King B. Stop Ignoring Head Trauma: Turn Off The Super Bowl. NPR, January 31, 2013. http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2013/01/31/170474149/stop-ignoring-head-trauma-turn-off-the-super-bowl)
The New Testament also warns Christians against being violent or approving of those that are (Romans 1:28-32), while history records that early Christians would not watch violent sports. Notice one such report from Theophilus of Antioch perhaps written about 180 A.D.:
Consider, therefore, whether those who teach such things can possibly live indifferently, and be commingled in unlawful intercourse, or, most impious of all, eat human flesh, especially when we are forbidden so much as to witness shows of gladiators, lest we become partakers and abettors of murders. But neither may we see the other spectacles, lest our eyes and ears be defiled, participating in the utterances there sung. (Theophilus of Antioch. To Autolycus, Book III, Chapter XV. Translated by Marcus Dods, A.M. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition)
So, Christians did not believe that they were to watch the violent sports so popular in the second century.
In the 20th century, the late Herbert W. Armstrong wrote:
Truly , COMPETITION, not cooperation is the attitude Satan inoculates into human minds…To HARM the other fellow, and to gain by so doing for SELF, is a kind of competition that is wrong. Hostility toward the other is sin…
Behind my back when I was away from Pasadena all but about 60 days in a year , others without my knowledge or consent got Ambassador into intercollegiate competition. THE RESULTS WERE BAD! That is OFFICIALLY
BANNED from now on…
Boxing is definitely BANNED. God did not design and create the human brain and head to be pummeled and knocked senseless by an antagonist.
Wherever a game in sports involves ANTAGONISTS–in HOSTILE ATTITUDE to harm the other and/or to “GET” from the other–to get the best of the other–then a harmful, Satanic and evil attitude enters in , and the sport is EVIL, not good…
football , (American football)…because football is such a violent body contact sport , it TOO OFTEN is played in an ATTITUDE OF HOSTILITY, and is too DANGEROUS and fraught with PHYSICAL INJURY . Therefore it must be BANNED so far as participation by God’s Church or people is concerned…This is sufficient to illustrate the application of the PRINCIPLE of God’s Law to sports. That participated in with an attitude of HOSTILITY toward the opponent is evil. That which HARMS mentally or physically an opponent is evil.
Satan is the author of COMPETITION based on hostility, harm to the opponent, GETTING by taking FROM an opponent–to his harm or loss. God’s way is LOVE TOWARD neighbor equal to love of self. (Armstrong HW. Not all sports are banned. Pastor General’s Report, Volume 2, Issue 36, September 5, 1980)
I once gave a speech at the old WCG Spokesman’s Club opposing football and watching the then upcoming Super Bowl game. Sadly, it was not well received. While some who claim to be Christians try to justify watching American football, they should realize that the 1980 comments by Herbert Armstrong were made mainly in response to how he saw supposed Christians playing and viewing sports that, of themselves, he did not oppose. He then took his criticisms of competitive sports to the next level, and did not just condemn the improper competitive attitudes of sports participants/fans, but the violent sports themselves.
BTW, the COG that has come out since HWA’s comments with the clearest statements condemning American tackle football is the Continuing Church of God. Most others, with a USA presence, either directly or indirectly endorse it or will not condemn it (could cost them supporters and donors). But should not Philadelphian Christians condemn truly violent acts against others?
Notice comments from two ministers about leisure activities:
If our leisure is spent watching, reading about, or “playing” fighting, war or murder, then are we focused on “turning the other cheek”? If our pleasure is to dwell on bloodshed or violence, if we want to “get inside the mind of the killer” as one popular television show promotes, then are we aligning our minds with God, or with Satan who was a “murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44)?
No Christian can deny the Bible’s condemnation of hatred, which is the spirit of murder. Those who immerse themselves in media violence are being flooded with that ungodly spirit.
Some will attempt to justify violent entertainment as simply an enjoyable pastime. Do they consider the sobering warning of Isaiah 33:15, where God describes the person He will protect in times of danger: “He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly, he who despises the gain of oppressions, who gestures with his hands, refusing bribes, who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed, and shuts his eyes from seeing evil.” (Ciesielka W. Violence. LCG Commentary. http://www.tomorrowsworld.org/commentary/violence)
One unique aspect of our modern society is its proliferation of violent entertainment. Of course, other societies have reveled in violent amusements, as did the ancient Romans in their Coliseum. However, such entertainment is now widely available, in many more forms, than ever before.
Sociologists have estimated that by the time the average U.S. child starts elementary school, he or she will have seen 8,000 murders and 100,000 acts of violence on television…As long as people fail to control their selfish desires, violence will continue. Anyone can break this pattern, but first there must be a change on the inside. (Sena P. Break the Pattern of Violence! Tomorrow’s World magazine. Mar-Apr 2008)
While many do not interpret those writings and scriptures as we in the Continuing Church of God do, perhaps they should consider the realities of the sport of American football?
CNN (01/29/2012) had a report that the average American high school football player received 650 sub-concussion hits per season which increased risk for brain damage of various types.
Since I do not actually watch American football, I do not know how many violent acts are likely at today’s Super Bowl, but the number is likely to be very high, and maybe even a lot more if thoughts of violence are included (cf. Matthew 5:21-22).
In my view, the tackle version of the sport of American football is evil (touch football I would not consider to be inherently evil–though attitude is still a possible factor there). Also, no Christian can really defend how professional football cheerleading females are often publicly dressed and displayed–and presumably some of how they will be displayed at today’s Super Bowl game.
The Bible teaches:
15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17)
How many who are in the COGs love the worldly sport of American tackle football and really do not care that it causes irreparable harm to its participants? Is not another reason that some they watch the Super Bowl is because of their lust for violence and/or for social acceptance? This is not of God.
The rules of the game, as well as how it actually is played, result in violating one of the “seven laws of radiant health,” which is “Avoid Bodily Injury” (Meredith R.C. Seven Laws of Radiant Health. @1955, 1973 Ambassador College). Christians should not encourage others to put themselves in harm’s way.
As far as violence goes, the Bible shows that God is against violence:
23 ‘Make a chain,
For the land is filled with crimes of blood,
And the city is full of violence.
24 Therefore I will bring the worst of the Gentiles,
And they will possess their houses;
I will cause the pomp of the strong to cease,
And their holy places shall be defiled. (Ezekiel 7:23-24)
28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality…30…violent, proud, boasters,…31…unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them. (Romans 1:28-32)
Do you approve those who practice violence?
Since American football games, like the Super Bowl, intentionally inflict various hurts, the following scripture supports the idea that American football will not be allowed in the Millennium:
9 They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,
For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord
As the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:9, NKJV)
While “love does no harm to a neighbor” (Romans 13:9), what do sports like American football do?
Would Jesus watch the Super Bowl? Should Christians watch the Super Bowl?
Perhaps, some might say. And some may ridicule and/or dismiss what I have written or overlook the hypocrisy associated with watching it.
Yet if Jesus did watch the Super Bowl, would He watch it and hope that one team would tackle and crash into members of the other team? Or might He watch it, if He did, so He could make social commentary against the violence and/or distorted priorities of the land?
This is something that Christians, and others, should think about. If you would like to watch more about this, please click on Should Christians watch American football?
For more scriptures, as well as the position of early Christians and others on watching violent sports or participating in other violent pursuits, please see the following:
Is American Football Evil? Is the most popular spectator sport in the USA something that Christians should watch? What do the Bible and early writings show? This is the first time I have announced this article on this new page and it contains not only my views, but many quotes that Christians, as well as people who claim to be, should think about. Do you really want to know the answer to the question the title asks? If not, why not?
Military Service and the Churches of God: Do Real Christians Participate in Carnal Warfare? Here are current and historical perspectives on a matter which show the beliefs of the true church on military participation. Is war proper for Christians?
Continuing Church of God The group striving to be most faithful amongst all real Christian groups to the word of God.