"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

Nike Ain't No Shoe: The Superbowl and the Worship of Sports, Sex, and Stardom

This post needs a one paragraph disclaimer to be properly understood by readers, so here goes. One of the complaints leveled against me as a pastor and writer is that I'm too free. My grace theology, say some, possesses too much liberty and too little law. I plead guilty. Whether it is loving homosexuals to Christ rather than lambasting them at church, or leading wine collectors to Christ over a glass of wine in their homes, or strongly advocating that institutional churches must change methodologies or die a slow death of traditional irrelevancy, my message is one of Christ's grace and love toward sinners and a repudiation of institutional church authority, control and extra-biblical laws. This Sunday our church will participate in our annual Souper Sunday emphasis where we will share in a fellowship meal after our morning services and take a collection for a new food ministry in our community called Loaves and Fishes.  Several of our small groups will be meeting on Sunday night for Super Bowl parties. We respect churches who have Sunday night corporate worship services, but we do not. The title of this post might make you think that I am about to write something condemning of those who watch the Super Bowl, those who cancel Sunday night services for Super Bowl parties, or those who purchase Nike goods. I am not. The fact is, one of my favorite cousin's wife is a high level executive of Nike, and the charitable work they do is fantastic. I like the Super Bowl as much as anyone else. This post is simply a caution to all Americans, not just Christians, that not all that glitters around the Super Bowl is gold.

This Sunday is the second annual Pray for the Johns Day.  A "john" is a one who pays for sex. In recent years, those involved in putting a stop to human trafficking have reported that use of children and teenagers prostituted for paid sex has been on the upsurge during athletic contests in America, particularly the Super Bowl. Did you ever think we would come to the place in America where people are encouraged to pray for "johns" on Super Bowl Sunday? Probably not. Yet, there is an axiom about our world that the ancient Romans used: Historia non facet saltum - History makes no leaps. America has not arrived overnight at the place where young girls and boys are being taken to the city which hosts the Super Bowl so that "johns" can pay to have sex with them. The problems in New Orleans this weekend during the Super Bowl are outgrowths of America's decades long fascination with sports, sex, and stardom.

The closest event to compare our modern day Super Bowl with is the ancient Greek Olympics. When most Americans hear the word Olympics, they think of a world-wide athletic competition that the modern Olympics represent. But the modern Olympics didn't begin until 1896. The ancient Olympics began in 776 BC and ended in AD 393.  For centuries, the Olympics were Grecian games, open only to free-born Greeks athletes. Much like the American Super Bowl, the rest of the world paid scant attention to the ancient Olympics. However, Roman Emperor Theodosius the Great  decreed in AD 393 that the Olympics should end. Rome had conquered Greece in the second century BC and had adopted Greek culture and language. Yet
Emperor Theodosius, most likely a genuine believer in Jesus Christ and not just a politically expedient Christian like Constantine,  thought the Olympics had become a detriment to Greco/Roman culture and civilization. The athletes at the Olympics had become professionals. Those who won their events were granted free food and lodging for life and were admired by all. Theodosius opined that young people knew more about Olympic athletes than they did Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato. Even worse, Theodosius felt that the Olympics had become a playground for sex and worship of the human form. Olympia, the only site where the ancient Olympics were held during their 1170 year existence, was a city dedicated to the gods. The ancient Greek aphorisms "Know thyself" and "Everything in moderation," had been lost in the collective consciousness of society. People were indulging themselves in all kinds of excess and immorality, and the Olympics had become almost a celebration of that indulgence.

From the start of the Olympic Games until the beginning of the 5th century BC, there were just a few buildings in Olympia, including the Temple of Hera (wife of Zeus) and a crude athletic stadium. However, the Temple of Zeus was built between the years 472-457 BC, and this magnificent structure stood as the centerpiece of Olympia for the remainder of Olympic history. The Temple of Zeus was designed to accommodate the 13-meter-high gold and ivory statue of Zeus, dedicated and placed in the Temple in 435 BC. The Statue of Zeus in Olympia was considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It remains to this day one of the largest statues ever raised within an enclosed room. The figure depicted Zeus, seated on a throne, with a scepter in his left hand and Nike (winged victory) in his right hand. Grecians who visited Olympia considered their pilgrimage to Zeus's most sacred locale as a highlight of their year. As time went by, the people would walk out of their religious worship of the philandering and mythical Zeus and live out their sexual fantasies in Olympia as they cheered their athletes to victory.

Sport, sex and stardom. Olympia, Zeus, and Nike. History makes no leaps. This Sunday the Super Bowl is in the Super Dome in New Orleans. Mardi Gras begins the next week in New Orleans. After this Sunday, we will have a new team of American athletic heroes. Our country is very similar to ancient Greece. Our gods just have different names. Before anybody gets too excited about the Super Bowl, remember that in the grand scheme of human existence, measured in millenia (776 BC to AD 2013) or eternity, this weekend's big game amounts to very little. What counts is that we do our a small part to put an end to the exploitation of children and young people in America. Pray for the johns this Sunday, and pray for those in authority who will be arresting those johns.

And keep your eye on the big picture.  Our civilization and our culture, including the Super Bowl, will one day be gone. Only Christ and His Kingdom never end.



16 comments:

Johnny D. said...

Amen, Wade.

Eric Fry said...

Brother Wade, you have my utmost respect for the thoughts and attitudes you express here.

Though we might differ on some theological points, the heart that you express here and in your sermons and other writing demonstrate the true love of our fellow man that our Lord desires from us.

May God bless you, your family, and your congregation always.

Eric

Ed Wilkins said...

Excellent A+! I haven't learned this much about Greek & Roman culture since my 1971 7:00 am Humanities class at UCO where I learned the benefits of strong coffee.What I appreciate most about Burleson theology is that it always is reduced to 'Christ Alone'!

Wade Burleson said...

Now that's funny, Ed! :)

Steve Martin said...

Good stuff!

Nikeo - to conquer. Used over and over in the Book of Revelation.

Yes, bad stuff will happen. But Christ nikeo...Christ will conquer. Has conquered...on the Cross.

Wade Burleson said...

Steve,

Great point.

Anonymous said...

I *loved* the story of the wine collectors coming to Christ when I found it elsewhere on the web and read it. Could you please fix your link so it would show up properly in the post?

Thanks,
Brindusa

Nicholas said...

Wade, are you an advocate of the seeker-driven church methodology? I note that in the article you link to you repeat the myth that the Wesley brothers used "bar music."

http://www.gbod.org/site/apps/nlnet/content3.aspx?c=nhLRJ2PMKsG&b=5594997&ct=3842051

http://archives.umc.org/interior.asp?mid=705

Wade Burleson said...

Nicholas,

Hard to be an advocate of "seeker church" mentality when you are of the opinion, as I am, "that nobody seeks God, not one" (Romans 3:11).

I happen to think that secular music is far superior in many ways than the music you hear in the typical church. :)

Sallie @ A Quiet Simple Life said...

Wade,

I have a comment about the alcohol post you linked to, but the post is from so long ago I was afraid my comment would get lost. (As way of background, I grew up non-SBC Baptist and don't drink although I have been thinking a great deal about the topic and why I don't in recent years.)

The thing that hit me about the story was that the woman had her wine cellar but no longer enjoyed the wine after she confessed Christ. I felt so sad after I read that.

The way I read it (although this might not be how she viewed it) was that she had been able to enjoy a good thing before coming to Christ but lost (gave up?) that freedom after coming to Christ.

Maybe there were other circumstances that contributed to that decision. But I was surprised how it came across to me. That someone coming into freedom in Christ gave up something she obviously enjoyed. Maybe she gladly did it. But I guess after thinking through so many of the Baptist restrictions I grew up with, I think about it differently now.

Sallie

Wade Burleson said...

Sallie,

I am not sure what it is you read in the article, but I can assure you, the lady who was converted (and her husband), continue to this day to be leaders in our church, missional (both local and global), and wine collectors. In other words, they still enjoy wine.

Sallie @ A Quiet Simple Life said...

Well, apparently I should not read theology late at night at the end of a long week. I completely misread that.

Please delete my comment.

(Slinking back into my corner...) :-)

Wade Burleson said...

Sallie,

No need to slink into the corner! Thanks for taking the time to comment. The point you were making is an important one, and with your permission, I would like to leave the comment up so others can benefit from an understanding of the principle which you so rightly grasp.

Wade

Anonymous said...

Pastor Wade,

Thanks for fixing up the link about the 'wine story'.

I wanted to really thank you for even mentioning the story. It was shared with both my husband and my 10-year old son and it truly blessed us. There was a time in our lives when we were heavily influenced by a fundamentalist mindset... God has helped us grow out of it gradually and now we can see life has so many more nuances and options than we were taught years ago. It is more complicated but more fulfilling too. There is no godliness in trying to make the way more narrow than God Himself makes it in the Bible.

My husband and I do choose to be abstinent but we can now see that it is wonderful to allow others the freedom to make their own choices about things that the Bible doesn't dictate on. We were very encouraged by the story and by how God used you, and it gave us the opportunity for a very good discussion with our son. :-)

Brindusa

Rocky2 said...

(Saw "Super Bowl Gay-la?" on Google. BTW, how come Culliver, accidentally speaking for 97%, needs "re-education," but Ayanbadejo, purposely angering the 97%, doesn't?)

Super Bowl Gay-la?

Jesus stated in Luke 17 that just before His return to earth as Judge, two big "crazes" will happen worldwide at the same time: (1) insane violence ("days of Noah"), and (2) outrageous sexual perversion ("days of Lot" - see Gen. 19). Aren't beheadings, cannibalism, and school shootings violent? And what's more perverted than a mob trying to rape LITERAL angels (see Gen. 19 again)?! So, America, keep spitting on God but you'd better duck when He spits back!! (PS - For a bigger enchilada, Google "when DIVERSITY becomes PERVERSITY.")

/ All of the preceding is seen on the net./

Rocky2 said...

(Saw "Super Bowl Gay-la?" on Google. BTW, how come Culliver, accidentally speaking for 97%, needs "re-education," but Ayanbadejo, purposely angering the 97%, doesn't?)

Super Bowl Gay-la?

Jesus stated in Luke 17 that just before His return to earth as Judge, two big "crazes" will happen worldwide at the same time: (1) insane violence ("days of Noah"), and (2) outrageous sexual perversion ("days of Lot" - see Gen. 19). Aren't beheadings, cannibalism, and school shootings violent? And what's more perverted than a mob trying to rape LITERAL angels (see Gen. 19 again)?! So, America, keep spitting on God but you'd better duck when He spits back!! (PS - For a bigger enchilada, Google "when DIVERSITY becomes PERVERSITY.")

/ All of the preceding is seen on the net./