Throughout human history, sport and faith have often intertwined and influenced each other. Sometimes sport served the purpose of religious dissemination and was imbued with morals and philosophy that supported the concept of spirituality. However, it was rejected for his worldly, carnal accent and ability to distract people from worshiping God. The sport was used as a means of evangelization and conversion of skeptics, but it also posed a threat to the social and moral order. Thus, religion has had a significant impact on modern sports.
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The Debate about Whether the Sport is a Religion according to the Article
The first question described in the article is whether sport can be considered a religion. In general, it is believed that religion includes such components as a community of people, rules, rituals, and explanations of morality. Accordingly, the paper argues that sport may have the characteristics of religion because it involves an organized association, rules, and even customs (Blazer, 2012). That is, in terms of content, sport and religion have common elements.
Regarding the functional understanding of religion and sports, the article provides an opinion that although the sport has general features with religion, it lacks a supernatural component. The highlight of this debate is that proponents of admitting sport as a religion argue that sport is an expected event that affects a large number of people. Moreover, such religious traits as passivity are also interpreted in favor of sport, although it is active. That is, according to the paper, during their activity, athletes passively submit to a higher force that moves their bodies (Blazer, 2012). Thus, the supporters of the article present the arguments that sport has common features with religion.
The Description Muscular Christianity in the Context of the Article
Muscular Christianity is an area of philosophy that originated in nineteenth-century England. The main characteristics were belief in patriotic duty, discipline, self-sacrifice, courage, and athletics’ moral and physical beauty. At the same time, it was preached that excellent physical training positively affects the human soul (Blazer, 2012). Another important influence that religion had on the formation of sports was the invention of basketball. The preconditions for this were that people spent their free time playing sports, so they did not have the opportunity to commit sinful acts. The paper emphasizes that when non-professional players prayed before the game, they showed high results (Blazer, 2012). Generally, not only preaching in the church enriched a person’s faith, but also physical activity.
Thus, the trainers of sports teams who were believing people improved not only the body of athletes but also raised their spirit and faith. Although later, sports became commercialized, and the religious factor receded into the background. That is, players and stadium owners wanted to make more profit and practice less prayer (Blazer, 2012). Despite the diminishing effectiveness of this method, the religion still tried to promote Protestant values based on exercise and coaches’ authority.
The article also states that Theodore Roosevelt professed muscular Christianity, but in a different way. He insisted that sport could help develop patriotism but did not rule out the value of religion. Thus, evangelical Christians understood religion and patriotism through courage, which explained military violence and sacrifice (Blazer, 2012). The paper also notes that muscular Christianity performed an important role in giving sport moral significance in the twentieth century. Comprehensive religious groups were still trying to attract sport to achieve holy values and identification. For example, sport for Jews was a way to overcome stereotypes that their men were not courageous and weak (Blazer, 2012). At the same time, the sport was an opportunity for migrants to present a sense of respect and belonging to the United States.
My Reaction to the Article
In my opinion, the flourishing of muscular Christianity had both positive and negative effects. In this concept, great value is provided to the courage and faith of men. New sports were created for men to develop the desire to profess religious principles. Most men tried to follow Christian principles and obey the rules. In this context, the sport has performed an essential role in organizing men’s spirits and improving their physical health. However, there is a negative aspect, this concept was popular in the war years and encouraged militarism (Moss, 2016). Additionally, it seems to me that there was a crisis for women in American Protestant churches. All attention was paid only to encouraging the faith of men because it was believed that women are by nature more inclined to religion.
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Therefore, women were not encouraged in various sports and did not feel the need to pay attention to their moral and physical health (Eder, 2020). Thus, even today, there is an opinion that some sports such as boxing and football are intended for men. Therefore, it is complicated for a woman to receive a decent coach and compete for a position in a team. Considering, there are far fewer women’s organizations. This sport in small towns can only be practiced by men.
Thus, the connection between sports and religion was influenced by different ideas about the body, the importance of sports practices in increased levels of spirituality. Muscular Christianity created a new model of understanding of sports and religion. The popularity of sports and the devotion of enthusiasts to their teams have led some to believe that sport is a current religion that is more essential to their followers than traditional beliefs. In reality, however, the sport was practiced only to strengthen the body and spirit, which served to spread religious views to men.
Blazer, A. (2012). Religion and sports in America. Religion Compass, 6(5), 287–297.
Eder, J. (2020). Manhood and Mary Baker Eddy: Muscular Christianity and Christian Science. Church History, 89(4), 875-896.
Moss, M. (2016). Manliness and Militarism. University of Toronto Press.