NFL 2023: Early Christians would not have watched


The National Football League (NFL) season is upon us as the 2022 NFL season is set to kick off on Thursday, September 7th.

Should Christians support this?

Early Christians would not have watched sports like it.

What kind of sport is NFL football?

A violent and damaging one. One that will hurt people this season.

September 6, 2022

According to a History article and a recent Gallup poll, American football is the number one sport in the United States and has been since the mid 1960s.  …

A League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis” is a documentary that came out in 2013 about how the NFL tried to conceal any trace of correlation between playing football and the impact of head trauma on athletes’ brain health. 

Throughout the length of this documentary, viewers are shown multiple interviews with retired players, coaches, agents and other big names in the American football industry who share their own opinions on the severity of the concussion crisis within the NFL. 

There are also interviews with experts in neuroscience and accredited neuropathologists who had first-hand experience in discovering and diagnosing former NFL players with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). 

Most notably though, there is an interview with Dr. Bennet Omalu, who was the first to publish his findings on CTE after performing an autopsy on Pittsburgh Steeler center Mike Webster. This is significant considering how ostracized and denounced Omalu was after his efforts to make NFL players aware of the adverse effects of repeated concussions and brain trauma. 

The documentary emphasizes that despite the incriminating evidence on the prevalence of CTE in these athletes, many people with powerful positions in the NFL completely refute these claims in the interest of continuing to capitalize on football. 

The entire piece highlights how this massive corporation still willfully puts people in harm’s way by manipulating information being released to the public because they hold fear that this knowledge will cause severe financial losses for them or bring down the sport altogether. This documentary is available to watch on or on YouTube.

A reader sent me the following from columnist George Will:

Autumn, which is bearing down upon us like a menacing linebacker, is, as John Keats said, a season of mists and mellow fruitfulness and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Actually, Keats, a romantic, did not mention that last part. He died before the birth of the subject of a waning American romance, football. This sport will never die but it will never again be, as it was until recently, the subject of uncomplicated national enthusiasm.

CTE is a degenerative brain disease confirmable only after death, and often caused by repeated blows to the head that knock the brain against the skull. The cumulative impacts of hundreds of supposedly minor blows can have the cumulative effect of many concussions. The New York Times recently reported Stanford researchers’ data showing “that one college offensive lineman sustained 62 of these hits in a single game. Each one came with an average force on the player’s head equivalent to what you would see if he had driven his car into a brick wall at 30 mph.”

Boston University researchers found CTE in 110 of 111 brains of deceased NFL players. In 53 other brains from college players, 48 had CTE. There was significant selection bias: Many of the brains came from families who had noticed CTE symptoms, including mood disorders and dementia. A BU researcher says, however, that a 10-year NFL linebacker could receive more than 15,000 sub-concussive blows.

Football’s kinetic energy — a function of the masses and velocities of the hurtling bodies — has increased dramatically in 50 years.09/02/17

Many non-Philadelphian Christians do not wish to seriously consider that American tackle football is harmful, despite the facts, and would prefer that I not post about it.

The Bible suggests otherwise:

1 Cry aloud, spare not;
Lift up your voice like a trumpet;
Tell My people their transgression,
And the house of Jacob their sins. (Isaiah 58:1)

The reality is that American tackle football is evil–the players get harmed. This really is not debatable as it is an established fact.

ABC reported the following:

“Football is not a contact sport, it’s a collision sport.”

These words, spoken by legendary football coach Vince Lombardi, have taken on new meaning in the last decade after several recent studies have revealed a link between the repeated collisions for which the game is known and a progressive brain disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.

Now, a new report from researchers at Boston University suggests that this often devastating neurological disease may be even more common to the sport than previously thought.

In the largest study of its kind to date, researchers examined the brains of 202 deceased football players –- ranging from high school to professional levels –- to look for tell-tale signs of CTE, a diagnosis that can only be made after an autopsy. A full 87 percent of these ex-players had evidence of CTE. The proportion was highest in professional players; of the 111 former NFL pros included in the study, 110 met the criteria for a CTE diagnosis.

But the study’s lead author, Dr. Ann C. McKee, said that one of the most alarming findings is that nearly one quarter of the 14 high school players in the study had CTE. July 25, 2017

So, nearly everyone who plays tackle football long enough ends up with brain injury.

Notice something about those injuries and tackle football (bolding by me):

A concussion is a brain injury caused by an impact to the head that shakes the brain inside the skull, and side effects can be significant. … violent collisions happen play after play in a football game, and players suffer concussions regularly.

Confusion, headache and loss of memory are common symptoms and can last for days, weeks or longer. Also concerning is that symptoms can be subtle or not immediately apparent. If undiagnosed, this can lead to continued play and worsening of the condition.

Among other signs and symptoms are:

• Feeling dazed

• Slurred speech

• Nausea or vomiting

• Clumsiness, dizziness or balance issues

• Sensitivity to light and/or noise

• Blurred vision

• Difficulty concentrating

• Changes in behavior or personality

Symptoms are usually made worse by physical or mental activity.

In adults, concussions can have a negative impact on ability to focus on professional and personal responsibilities. In children, that can translate into difficulty performing in school and participating in extracurricular and social activities.

Repeated concussion or brain trauma of any type can lead to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease that can begin months, years, or even decades after the last brain injury or retirement from sports.

CTE has been known to affect boxers since the 1920s, but only in more recent years have studies confirmed the disease in deceased football players and other athletes with a history of repeated brain injury. Associated symptoms are memory loss, impaired judgement, confusion, aggression, poor impulse control and, in later stages, progressive dementia.

In some former athletes, it’s even been linked to high levels of depression and thoughts of self-harm. 09/03/21

Clearly, with any who have eyes to see, the fruits of this ‘sport’ are evil.

Over the years, I have seemingly stood alone among Church of God leaders in the 21st century warning against American tackle football. I first spoke against it at the old Spokesman’s Club in the Worldwide Church of God last century. And, when I brought the subject up in the Living Church of God, it made many uncomfortable enough to take steps leading to my departure from that group.

There is no doubt that American tackle football is dangerous to health. While some in the world consider watching it to be an ‘ethical uncertainty,’ true Philadelphia Christians (as well as many who are not) realize that something about this sport is physically harmful and should not be encouraged.

Many people do not want to believe the truth about American tackle football. Consider also the following:

The famed forensic pathologist who discovered a deadly brain disease impacting several former National Football League players inspired Tyler leaders on Tuesday.

Dr. Bennet Omalu, portrayed by Will Smith in the film “Concussion,” was the keynote speaker at the Leadership Live 2016 event at Green Acres Baptist Church’s Crosswalk Conference Center.

He spoke about 40 minutes on the importance of self-love, truth and embracing everyone’s humanity.

“Dr. Omalu is an exceptional example of leadership in the face of adversity,” Smittee Root, executive director of Leadership Tyler, said. “His story has the ability to inspire not only the fresh faces of Tyler, but the seasoned leaders of our community.”

In recent years, he’s faced rejection and was condemned by some doctors and the NFL due to his findings about chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. Despite the turmoil, he kept fighting for the truth, he said.

“No university, no research organization would open doors to me,” Omalu said.

“I lost it all. I lost everything I had. I lost my job. I was unemployed for six months.”

I still held onto the light of the truth.”

Omalu attributes the backlash to what he calls conformational intelligence. He said in society, people tend to accept what has been known as fact, even when new evidence is produced.

The TRUTH is that the fruits of American tackle football are not good. But many do not care.

Let me state that there is a human tendency to try to justify sin. Many think if something feels right to them, it must be. According to the Bible, that is a wrong attitude:

9 “The heart is deceitful above all things,
And desperately wicked;
Who can know it?
10 I, the Lord, search the heart,
I test the mind,
Even to give every man according to his ways,
According to the fruit of his doings. (Jeremiah 17:9-10)

Those who claim that encouraging American tackle football is fine are NOT Philadelphian Christians–they are deceiving themselves since American tackle football causes real damage. Damage that should not be encouraged.

After a post I made before about American football (see Should Christians watch American football?), a reader sent me an email, that in part stated:

Hello Dr. Thiel,
It took a while, but your recent article “Should Americans Watch Football?” finally convinced me the answer is “NO”. I can see why I stubbornly held out. I think it is ADDICTION that causes football lovers to cover their eyes from the truth. Who can deny the thrill and ectasy of cheering on our super talented sports heroes and winning teams. Who can give up the hamburgers, hot dogs , potato chips, soda and beer along with it? I admit I have been a big sports addict especially to American football!
Well, what turned me off the most was the Super Bowl ads on TV years ago. I started refusing to watch the Super Bowl with my family (it was too embarrassing) or with church friends.

From the violence on the field, to the under-clothed cheerleaders, to some of the half-time antics, there is a lot wrong with American football.

Jesus taught not to intentionally hurt others:

39… ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Matthew 22:39, NKJV)

The Apostle Paul also wrote:

29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it (Ephesians 5:29, NKJV)

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. Consider also 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)

Jesus also said:

20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God. (John 3:20-21, NKJV).

Is watching American football a deed that would be pleasing to God?

The Apostle Paul wrote:

12… they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.(2 Thessalonians 2:12)

29 … they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, 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, NKJV)

Is not football violent and often unmerciful?

So, if playing football is evil, should Christians approve of it?

Additionally, twice the New Testament refers to the good news message as “the gospel of peace”:

15 “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!” (Romans 10:15)

14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; (Ephesians 6:14-15)

Is not taking a stand against encouraging sports violence consistent with the gospel of peace and love? Or should ministers tell people that violent sports like American tackle football are not “inherently evil” as at least one minister from LCG has done?

While “love does no harm to a neighbor” (Romans 13:9), what do sports like American football and boxing do? Should Bible believers encourage this?

Unlike stories of violence in books or movies, American football involves actual violence and often physical injury–including brain damaging ones that are often not obvious for years.

The Bible forbids harming others or encouraging sin. Early professors of Christ would not watch violent games as they felt that watching was encouraging and participating in sin.

While we do not seem to have many direct references from those in the Church of God, we do have some written records of those who were at least somewhat familiar with the teachings of Jesus and the practices of the earliest Christians.

Now, here is something from Theophilus of Antioch (who likely was part of the Church of God) 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, true Christians did not believe that they were to watch the violent sports so popular in the second century.

Tatian, a professing Christian apologist, wrote around 170 A.D.:

And for these the witnesses take their seats, and the boxers meet in single combat, for no reason whatever, nor does any one come down into the arena to succour. Do such exhibitions as these redound to your credit? He who is chief among you collects a legion of blood-stained murderers, engaging to maintain them; and these ruffians are sent forth by him, and you assemble at the spectacle to be judges, partly of the wickedness of the adjudicator, and partly of that of the men who engage in the combat. And he who misses the murderous exhibition is grieved, because he was not doomed to be a spectator of wicked and impious and abominable deeds (Tatian. Translated by J.E. Ryland. Tatian’s Address to the Greeks, Chapter XXIII . Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

Athenagoras, a professing Christian apologist, wrote around 170 A.D.:

What man of sound mind, therefore, will affirm, while such is our character, that we are murderers?…

Who does not reckon among the things of greatest interest the contests of gladiators and wild beasts, especially those which are given by you? But we, deeming that to see a man put to death is much the same as killing him, have abjured such spectacles (Athenagoras. A Plea for the Christians, Chapter XXXV. Translated by B.P. Pratten. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

Even today, many Christians realize that watching brutal events intent on causing physical harm, such as real boxing, is inappropriate.

Notice that this was also the position of the third century Roman Catholic theologian and bishop Hippolytus, who also adds various occupations to those that reject one from being a follower of Christ:

16:6 A charioteer, likewise, or one who takes part in the games, or one who goes to the games, he shall cease or he shall be rejected. 7 If someone is a gladiator, or one who teaches those among the gladiators how to fight, or a hunter who is in the wild beast shows in the arena, or a public official who is concerned with gladiator shows, either he shall cease, or he shall be rejected. 8 If someone is a priest of idols, or an attendant of idols, he shall cease or he shall be rejected. 9 A military man in authority must not execute men. If he is ordered, he must not carry it out. Nor must he take military oath. If he refuses, he shall be rejected. 10 If someone is a military governor, or the ruler of a city who wears the purple, he shall cease or he shall be rejected. 11 The catechumen or faithful who wants to become a soldier is to be rejected, for he has despised God. (Hippolytus. The Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus of Rome. From the work of Bernard Botte (La Tradition Apostolique. Sources Chretiennes, 11 bis. Paris, Editions du Cerf, 1984) and of Gregory Dix (The Treatise on the Apostolic Tradition of St. Hippolytus of Rome, Bishop and Martyr. London: Alban Press, 1992) as translated by Kevin P. Edgecomb viewed 08/06/09)

The late WCG Pastor-General Herbert W. Armstrong categorized American tackle football as evil.

You may be telling yourself, well since my church does not (presuming you do not support a group like the Continuing Church of God which does) condemn football and/or possibly encourages it, the Bible really does not apply here. If so, be careful about accepting that type of tradition. Jesus Himself taught:

7 Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying:

8 “These people draw near to Me with their mouth,
And honor Me with their lips,
But their heart is far from Me.
9 And in vain they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men. (Matthew 15:7-9)

14 “And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write,

‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: 15 “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. 17 Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’ — and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked — 18 I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. 19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. (Revelation 3:14-19)

I do not watch American football. I consider that it is evil (also, no Christian can really defend how professional football cheerleading females are often publicly dressed and displayed). Others want to falsely act like there is nothing wrong with watching it.

Some may not wish to hear about any of the evils of violent sports, and instead prefer smooth things, but hopefully I have tried to follow the Apostle Paul who declared:

26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. 27 For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God. (Acts 20:26-27)

The bodies and blood of those who engage in violent sports is important. It does not show Philadelphia love.

Regarding American football, do you believe that Jesus or the Apostle Paul would endorse it? This is something that Christians, and those that claim to be, should think and pray about.

Those Laodicean Christians who are fans of American tackle football are NOT Philadelphians and will be subject to violence themselves as they will have to go through the Great Tribulation if they do not repent (Revelation 3:14-22).

Encouraging violence in sports does not show brotherly/Philadelphian love.

Philadelphian Christians do not watch American tackle football–whether the USA or Canadian version of it.

For more scriptures, as well as the position of early Christians and others, 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? There is also a YouTube video available titled Should Christians watch American football?
Military Service and the Churches of God: Do Real Christians Participate in Carnal Warfare or Encourage Violence? 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? A related sermon would be: Christians, Violence, and Military Service.
Pornography: A scourge on society Is pornography harmless fun? Does the Bible teach anything about it? What are the views of some involved with it? Here is a link to a YouTube video Pornography: Harmless Fun or a Scourge on Society?
5. The Sardis Church Era was predominant circa 1600 A.D. to circa 1933 A.D. Discusses some early history of the Seventh Day Baptists, Seventh-day Adventists, CG7-Salem, Jerusalem 7DCG, and COG-7th Day-Denver. Here are two historical sermons: Sardis Church Era: Beginnings, Doctrines, and Leaders and Sardis: SDBs, SDAs, & CG7s.
6. The Philadelphia Church Era was predominant circa 1933 A.D. to 1986 A.D. The old Radio Church of God and old Worldwide Church of God, now the remnant of that era is basically the most faithful in the Church of God, like who hold to the beliefs and practices of the Continuing Church of God.
7. The Laodicean Church Era has been predominant circa 1986 A.D. to present. The Laodiceans are non-Philadelphians who mainly descended from the old WCG or its offshoots.  They do not properly understand the work or biblical prophecies and will face the Great Tribulation if they do not repent. One video of related interest is 50+ Laodicean Prophetic Errors. See also Do You Hold to Any of These Laodicean Prophetic Errors?

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