Prophet Pierre de Coubertin
The sports enthusiast Baron Pierre de Coubertin, who in 1890 revived the Olympics, said, “Sports are a kind of religion, with its own church, dogmas and ritual.” Prophetic were those words. Today, thousands of fans crowd into stadium-churches, while hundreds of thousands more at home watch religious services of college ball games on Saturday television and professional games on Sunday. With that reality, let’s examine Coubertin’s statement.
Its churches: The giant stadiums and coliseums that are larger than Gothic cathedrals to which come thousands of the faithful liturgically vested in the colors of their team.
Its dogmas: The infallibility of the decisions of the umpires and referees. The dogmatically rigid rules for how many players may be on the playing field or court at the same time and what happens when a game ends in a tied score.
Its rituals: The elaborate ceremonies to begin the games with flags and the national anthem, as well as the colorful halftime ceremonies. But the central sacramental ritual of every game is the Holy Competition that binds countless thousands together as one in a zealous desire that their team wins.
The church prohibition by Amish Mennonite Christians that forbids their children from playing competitive sports because they are contrary to their religious beliefs may seem bizarre, yet the Olympics ended in 393 AD by order of the Christian Roman Emperor Theodosius I who banned all pagan cults and rituals!
But how can our obsessive competitive nature be converted? Coach Jesus (a more appropriate title than Lord) urged his followers to compete with themselves, not others! Coach Jesus challenges his followers to Olympian heights of being Godlike in the way they love, forgive and care of others, saying, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is superlative, the best, the champion!” (Matthew 5:48)