The Religion of The NFL

Related imageThe word religion comes from a root word that means “to bind together.” Thus, the word actually refers to a sense of unity, oneness wholeness (Butterworth 2001). In this sense, the NFL has become a religion to millions of people around the world. Maybe it is right to say that sports in general have become a sort of religious practice. In my opinion, it is a religion based on consumerism and capitalist greed and the adherents of this religious practice are those who seek to escape the reality of daily living in the ecstasy of entertainment based on worship of the human body.

The average official liturgy of the NFL, better known as game time, is approximately three hours during which the ball is actually in motion only about 11 minutes.  The NFL does not release its annual financial data, but one NFL team is a public entity: the Green Bay Packers. The Packers are the best barometer for team-by-team revenue because their financial reports must be made public. In 2013 the Packers earned $187.7 million in national revenue, which consists of its portion of NFL national television contracts, sponsorships and a portion of jersey and ticket sales—split between all the NFL teams. (The Packers had total revenue of $324 million in 2013, including local revenue sources, like increased seating and ticket sales at Lambeau Field.) If you multiply the Packers’ national revenue by 32 (the total number of teams in the NFL), it comes out to a little more than $6 billion (Ejiochi 2014). This is hardly an offering to be ignored.

In 2013, about one-third of NFL players were white, and two-thirds were African-American.chalabi-sports-diversity-nfl

Recently the NFL Bishops, or owners, has ruled that it’s clergy, I mean players, cannot kneel in protest of police brutality of Black and Brown bodies, but can stay in the locker room until after the opening hymn, better known as the National Anthem. Many would say that this is white policing of Black and Brown bodies in the grand tradition of the American experiment. Some would even offer that the religion of the NFL is nothing more than a celebration of white gaze and the objectification of Blackness.

I would submit that the NFL is a corrupt authoritarian religion. It is so because it is based on the recognition on the part of its adherents of some higher unseen power (owners) as having control of the destiny of clergy and laity (players and fans), and as being entitled to obedience, reverence, and worship. In fact, one can always see the degree to which a religion is corrupt and its rituals irrational by the degree of fear produced by its violation in any manner (Fromm 1950).

It is my theological assessment that the NFL is performing in the world as an inhumane religion, not just because its rituals require the sacrifice of the bodies of its clergy, but because it is diametrically opposed to humanism and human flourishing.  By humanism I refer to a global philosophy which emphasizes the oneness of the human race, the capacity of man to develop his own powers and to arrive at inner harmony and the establishment of a better world (E. Fromm 1966). This is a humanism rooted in the Christian concept of Imago Dei, or the understanding that humankind is made in the image of the Divine. For me the NFL seems to be a religion rooted in evil. Evil such as racism is carried partly through the violence and evil of individuals. But it is possible as an institutional and historical reality because it is mediated by language, culture, economic, and social policies: by a thousand almost invisible structures and powers that perpetuate prejudice and its debilitating effects (Farley 1990).

All marginal groups in this society who suffer grave injustices, who are victimized by institutionalized systems of domination (race, class, gender, etc.) are faced with the peculiar dilemma of developing strategies that draw attention to one’s plight in such a way that will merit regard and consideration without reinscribing a paradigm of victimization (hooks 1995). The NFL clergy (players) were and are a voice to draw attention to the plight of those on the underside of power, what does it say about the Bishops (owners) of the NFL that they would refuse to stand in solidarity with those who attempt to do good in world?

Consider this week what your religious expression is doing to stand with those on the underside of power?  How are you personally complicit in systemic evil? How will you engage the NFL in light of its moral choices?

Feel free to comment below.

Peace is Possible,

+Donalson

Rt. Rev. Edward Donalson III, DMin | Director of Liturgy and Worship | Assistant Clinical Professor 

SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY AND MINISTRY | SEATTLE UNIVERSITY

 

Works Cited

Butterworth, Eric. 2001. Spiritual Economics. Unity Villege: Unity Books .

Ejiochi, Ike. 2014. cnbc.com. September 4th. Accessed May 29th, 2018. http://www.cnbc.com/2014/09/04/how-the-nfl-makes-the-most-money-of-any-pro-sport.html.

Farley, Wendy. 1990. Tragic Vision and Divine Compassion A Contemporary Theodicy. Louisville : Westminster John Knox Press.

Fromm, Eric. 1966. You Shall Be As Gods: A RAdical Interpretation of the Old Testament and its Tradition. New York: Fawcett Primier .

Fromm, Erich. 1950. Psychoanalysis & Religion. New Haven & London: Yale University Press.

hooks, bell. 1995. Killing Rage:Ending Racism. New York : Henry Holt and Company.

Faculty Reflections Worship & Liturgy Announcements

A Call to Action

together

“Religion is at its best when man [sic] is asked to develop his [sic] power of reason in order to understand himself and his position in the Universe” (Fromm 1978).

All religions that have contributed value to the larger society are in some way rooted in the ethic of neighbor Love. This ethic is deeply embedded in the Christian tradition; the New Testament explicitly claims the very essence of God is Love, and that Love is humanity’s highest expression of Godliness (1 John 4:7&8). We cannot claim to be truly religious, Christian or otherwise, if we are not functioning manifestations of Love!  If God is Love then Love is God. Volumes of books have been written in an attempt to define Love, and it is an endeavor for which people have given both their careers and lives. bell hooks, echoing Erich Fromm and M. Scott Peck, gives an interesting working definition. She claims Love is the will to extend oneself for the purpose of nurturing one’s or another’s spiritual growth. Love is an act of will: both an intention and an action (hooks 2000).

Our nation has been plunged into a crisis of Love.  Executive orders that completely fly in the face of the neighbor Love ethic have caused some  to be diametrically opposed to everything good and right about religion. The preference of one religion over another in the public square amounts to nothing less than xenophobia. People of honest religious fervor cannot be so aligned to nationalism that they fail to offer a prophetic critique of its dangers. If internationalism based in the ethic of neighbor Love had become more powerful in the later part of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the twentieth century would have been less barbaric, less fascistic, and less chauvinistic (Buschendorf 2014).  When nationalism gets in the way of the ethic of neighbor Love, it becomes the most insidious form of idolatry.  White supremacist capitalist patriarchy cannot be allowed to become normalized for people of faith. There must be in every congregation, mosque, temple, and synagogue a radical call for resistance to bigotry, dominance, exclusion, and marginalization of any kind.  If we fail to de-center hate, we have failed to engage society in the best that religion has to offer.

Viable religion is one that has a working reciprocity with the culture that produces it, or with which it interacts (Townes 1995). It is the unique task and privilege of our religious communities in this epoch to bring to the attention of the masses, an ethic of neighbor Love that will redefine humanity and how we relate to one another in our shared global realities.  As I think about my own religious tradition, I have to echo the words of Dr. King that if today’s Church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning (Jr. 2015). We can by no means afford to sit silently sequestered in our houses of worship content with pious emotionalism nor austere intellectualism. Love opens the whole creation up to life and calls things into being. Love deepens relationships and simultaneously expands our humanity. The more we Love we discover that life is interdependent, interconnected, and indivisible (Spong 1998).  The time has come for people of faith to by word and deed speak truth to power. Any religion that professes to be concerned about people’s souls and is not concerned about the slums that cripple those souls—the economic conditions that stagnate the soul, and the governments that may damn the soul—is a dry, dead, do-nothing religion that should immediately be abandoned (Warnock 2014).  It is incumbent upon each faith community to live into a radical hospitality and an ethic of neighbor Love that turns the world upside down.

 

 

+Donalson

 

Bishop Edward Donalson, III | Director of Liturgy and Worship

SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY AND MINISTRY | SEATTLE UNIVERSITY

Works Cited

Buschendorf, Cornel West with Christa. 2014. Black Prophetic Fire. Boston: Beacon Press.

Fromm, Erich. 1978. Psychoanalysis & Religion. New Haven: YAle University Press.

hooks, bell. 2000. All About Love: New Visions. New York: HarperCollins.

Jr., Martin Luther King. 2015. The Radical King. Edited by Cornel West. Boston: Beacon Press.

Spong, John Shelby. 1998. Why Christianity Must Change or Die. New York: HarperSanFrancisco.

Townes, Emilie M. 1995. In A Blaze of Glory: Womanist Spirituality As Social Witness. Nashville: Abingdon.

Warnock, Raphael G. 2014. The Divided Mind of the Black Church:Theology, Piety, and Public Witness. New York: New York University Press.

 

 

 

Faculty Reflections Worship & Liturgy Announcements

Liturgical Theology as Public Theology

The best of religion calls us, as humans,  to develop our power of reason in order to understand ourselves, our relationship to others, and our position in the universe (Fromm 1978). The best of theistic religion also calls upon humanity to be in right relationship with the Divine. It is from that relationship we are to engage the world around us. Christianity at its best is tasked with engaging the world by living out the principles embodied in the person and work of Jesus.  As a prophetic religion, Christianity seeks to transform the world in God’s name (Volf 2011). From the gathering to the sending of our corporate worship experiences the Church seeks to be the place where justice is elucidated, while injustice is interrogated so that upon leaving worship we are agents of the Divine in bringing Light where there is darkness.  The Church in its liturgy, and praxis, is where religion and culture come together.  Religion is never incidental to a culture, and every theological formulation, no matter how primitive, no matter how sophisticated, must ultimately be seen against it in conversation with the culture that produced it (Lincoln 1974). The Gospel message makes Christianity and the Church different from the culture and yet essential to the culture at the same time.

With this in mind we consider that liturgical theology is in some ways always public theology. Liturgical theology inquires into the meaning of the liturgy and asks whether our signs and words say something authentic and reliable about God (Lathrup 1993). Public theology engages the broader society in gospel values, much the way the public intellectual embraces the opportunity to participate in public affairs to make academic ideas accessible to a broader public audience (West 2006).   A common problem with prophetic messages and messengers is that they sometimes overwhelm their audiences with the magnitude of injustice in the world, leaving individuals feeling that nothing can be done to make a difference (J. A. Jr. 2006). The project then of the church, in our corporate worship, must be to make accessible to the faithful worshipper, and the welcomed guest, the truth about the character and nature of God. Those tasked with leading worship within the Christian tradition, must lean into the responsibility to be reliable communicators of the principles of the gospel as revealed in the person and work of Jesus. Those outside the Christian tradition, who may lead liturgical moments, must also lean into the responsibility to be reliable communicators of the best of that particular religious heritage. Public worship experiences are neither the project of individual enterprise nor of collective enterprise, but rather a synthesis that regards both.

This week let us be invigorated by the prophetic call to engage gathering worshippers in the prophetic call and witness of the church through the life of the liturgy of our congregations. One of the gifts that liturgy brings is the opportunity to let suffering speak, let victims be visible, and let social misery be put on the agenda of those in power. As Dr. King once pointed out we may have been prone to judge our success by the index of our salaries or by the size of our automobiles, rather than by the quality of our service and relationships to humanity, but we can offer a picture of a preferable future through the beauty of worship (Jr. 2015). We design our worship experiences knowing that moral action is based on a broad, robust prophetism that highlights systemic social analysis of circumstances under which tragic persons struggle (Buschendorf 2014).

Peace Is Possible,

+Donalson

 

Bishop Edward Donalson, III | Director of Liturgy and Worship | Assistant Clinical Professor

Works Cited

Buschendorf, Cornel West with Christa. 2014. Black Prophetic Fire. Boston: Beacon Press.

Fromm, Erich. 1978. Psychoanalysis & Religion. New Haven: YAle University Press.

Jr., J. Alfred Smith. 2006. Speak Until Justice Wakes. Edited by Jini M. Kilgore. Valley Forge: Judson Press.

Jr., Martin Luther King. 2015. The Radical King. Edited by Cornel West. Boston: Beacon Press.

Lathrup, Gordon W. 1993. Holy Things. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.

Lincoln, C. Eric. 1974. The Black Church Since Franklin. New York: Shocken Books.

Volf, Miroslav. 2011. A Pulic Faith: How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good . Grand Rapids: Brazos Press.

West, Traci C. 2006. Disruptive Christian Ethics: When Racism and Woman’s Lives Matter. Louisville: Westminister John Knox Press.

 

faces

Faculty Reflections Worship & Liturgy Announcements

WEEK OF PRAYER REFLECTION January 25, 2016

wheat

DAY EIGHT: WEEK OF PRAYER FOR
CHRISTIAN UNITY

Reflection by Mark Lloyd Taylor, Ph.D. (Faculty, Seattle University School of Theology and Ministry)

“…unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies…” (John 12:24)

A transformative moment of self awareness came for me when I realized my greatest gifts as a person and my most impactful limitations do not lie separated from each other, on opposite ends of some spectrum, but in closest proximity, like two sides of the same coin. My ability to keep calm and look out for the needs of others in times of crisis, for example, born out of the experience of caring for younger siblings when I was eight and our little baby brother was so gravely ill and in the hospital, that ability comes at a high price, for I sometimes find it difficult to feel my own feelings deeply as I squelch what’s inside to deal with the chaos outside.

Something similar can be said, I believe, of the gifts and limitations of our various ecclesial communities – they lie in close proximity. I am an Episcopalian. Public, corporate worship represents the center of gravity for my ecclesial community. Important gifts flow from this center: the Episcopal way of being Christian is highly communal, fiercely embodied, elemental, dramatic, beautiful, tolerant of ambiguity, and adverse to doctrinal rigidity. But limitations lie close at hand as well: we Episcopalians can devolve into liturgical fundamentalists, or worse, we can fail to connect our worship to the transformative work of justice and peace in the world to which we are called by our baptism. I wonder how you would describe the gifts and limitations of your Roman Catholic or Presbyterian or American Baptist or ______________ ecclesial community and whether you experience them as two sides of the same coin?

“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies,” Jesus says in John’s gospel, “it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

My almost twenty years of association with Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry have taught me that ecumenism, Christian unity, requires all of us – Episcopalian and Roman Catholic and Presbyterian and American Baptist and ________________ – to undergo a kind of death. Like Jesus’ grain of wheat, we must die to our “singleness,” the illusion that my way of being Christian is the only way, or the best way; the illusion that I can be a healthy Episcopal Christian without the distinctly different ways of worship and witness represented by my Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, and American Baptist sisters and brothers. But also like Jesus’ grain of wheat, which does not cease to exist, does not cease being wheat, when it falls into the earth and dies, so Christian unity does not ask us to negate the particular gifts of our ecclesial communities; to the contrary, they contain the germ of new life. For like Jesus’ grain of wheat, much fruit is borne when our greatest gifts are liberated from the prisons of our singleness, our most impactful limitations. Then they truly become gifts offered to all, instead private possessions to be hidden and hoarded.

Faculty Reflections Week of Prayer 2016

WEEK OF PRAYER REFLECTION January 24, 2016

HPIM1336.JPG

DAY SEVEN: WEEK OF PRAYER FOR
CHRISTIAN UNITY

Reflection by Mark Lloyd Taylor, Ph.D. (Faculty, Seattle University School of Theology and Ministry)

For today’s reflection on Christian unity, I invite you to read, maybe sing, and meditate on Delores Duffner, OSB’s strong words in her hymn, “Sing a New Church into Being.”

Sing a New Church into Being

song

“Sing a New Church into Being.” Text: Delores Duffner, OSB. © 1991, St. Joseph: The Sisters of St. Benedict. Music: Tune: Nettleton. Published by OCP Publications. In Sing a New Church. Portland: OCP Publications, ©1994. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission, OCP License # U-15592.

Faculty Reflections Week of Prayer 2016

FRIDAY IN INTERFAITH HARMONY WEEK — January 6, 2015

Meditation and Prayer

by Mark Lloyd Taylor, Ph.D.

 

My brothers and sisters, may God be with you! The sacred scriptures of the Hindu and Buddhist religions all tell stories or pass along sayings about hospitality. I invite us to muse on those sacred writings this week.

In Buddhism, hospitality (sakkāra) is the act of being welcoming and helpful to guests (atithi or pāhunaka), strangers (āgantuka) and travellers (addhika).  For the Buddha, hospitality should be shown to all, whatever their caste, religious affiliation or status. The Tipiṭaka often says that the Buddha was “welcoming, friendly, polite and genial” towards everyone who came to see him (D.I,116).  The Milindapañha said that, if a guest turned up at a person’s house after all the food had been eaten, more rice should be cooked in order to feed him and allay his hunger (Mil.107). The Buddha considered failure to reciprocate hospitality to be very bad form. He said: “Whoever goes to another’s house and is fed but does not feed them when they come to his house, consider him an outcaste.” (Sn.128). The Jātaka says: “If for even one night one stops in another’s house and receives food and drink, have no evil thought, for to do so would be to burn an extended hand and betray a good friend.” (Ja.VI,310).

Sisters and brothers, these words from our holy books encourage me and challenge me this week. Guided by the stories of the Eastern religions, let us pray:

Blessed are you, O God, ruler of the universe and our maker.

You bestow upon us from your bounty the gifts of food and fellowship.

Surprise us this week with the birth of new and unexpected beginnings.

Open our eyes this week to all that is holy, hidden right in front of us.

Call us back this week from our wasteful ways;

send us out in compassion to those brothers and sisters

whom we have deprived of food and conversation.

O Holy One of Blessing, teach us all, Hindus and Buddhists,

Jews, Christians, and Muslims,

that eating and talking together can create harmony among our peoples.

Grant this, most merciful God, for the sake of your righteous name.

Amen.

School of Theology and Ministry Prayer Cycle: We pray today for Joanna Owen, staff; Maureen McLaughlin-Crawford and Norma Melo, students.

Faculty Reflections Interfaith Harmony Week 2015 Morning Prayer Meditations SU STM Daily Prayers

THURSDAY IN INTERFAITH HARMONY WEEK — February 5, 2015

Meditation and Prayer

by Mark Lloyd Taylor, Ph.D.

 

My brothers and sisters, may God be with you! The sacred scriptures of the Hindu and Buddhist religions all tell stories or pass along sayings about hospitality. I invite us to muse on those sacred writings this week.  Swami Tyagananda tells a story from Hindu mythology which highlights the dual role of God as guest and teacher.

Disguised as a wandering mendicant, Krishna visits a wealthy family, who welcome him warmly and offer him hospitality that matches both their devotion and prosperity. When it is time to leave, he blesses his host profusely, promising him even more wealth and glory. Krishna’s next visit is to a poor widow, whose only possession is a cow. She too welcomes him with great devotion but all that she can offer him is a glass of milk. When it is time to leave, Krishna blesses her and tells her that her cow will die soon.

Arjuna, who has accompanied Krishna to both the places, is horrified. He asks Krishna, “Your wealthy hosts lacked nothing and yet you blessed them with even more wealth. Whereas your blessing to the poor devotee accompanied the ominous news that she will lose her cow. This is unfair and unacceptable.”

Krishna smiles and tells Arjuna, “My wealthy host is insanely attached to his wealth and his reputation; he has a long way to go before he becomes spiritually awakened. On the other hand, this poor devotee is already far advanced on the spiritual path. The only thing that is separating her from the highest freedom is her attachment to her cow. I removed the hurdle from her path.”

The insights that this story provides are obvious. God can enter our lives in any form and at any time, often in most unexpected circumstances. The blessing that the divine guest bestows upon us can be difficult to decipher at first glance.

Sisters and brothers, these words from our holy books encourage me and challenge me this week. Guided by the stories of the Eastern religions, let us pray:

Blessed are you, O God, ruler of the universe and our maker.

You bestow upon us from your bounty the gifts of food and fellowship.

Surprise us this week with the birth of new and unexpected beginnings.

Open our eyes this week to all that is holy, hidden right in front of us.

Call us back this week from our wasteful ways;

send us out in compassion to those brothers and sisters

whom we have deprived of food and conversation.

O Holy One of Blessing, teach us all, Hindus and Buddhists,

Jews, Christians, and Muslims,

that eating and talking together can create harmony among our peoples.

Grant this, most merciful God, for the sake of your righteous name.

Amen.

 

School of Theology and Ministry Prayer Cycle: We pray today for the Integration Clinical II class taught by Christie Eppler; Lizzie Young, staff; Ann Mayer and Andrea McCabe, students.

Faculty Reflections Interfaith Harmony Week 2015 Morning Prayer Meditations SU STM Daily Prayers