The decidedly secularist Sports Illustrated – evidenced by the busty swimsuit models it teasingly features on the home page of its web site (alongside the latest sports news, which is what “SI” is supposed to be about) – thought the occasion of the Super Bowl would be the perfect time to weigh in on the subject of Christianity and football.
The cover of its February 4 issue, still available on newsstands, has a picture of Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, under the headline: “Does God Care Who Wins the Super Bowl?”
In the cover shot, Lewis is up to his shoulders in water, hands folded as in prayer. It seems obvious the image is meant to suggest the baptism of Christ; as if Lewis, who was at least indirectly involved in the murders of two people the last time his NFL team made the Super Bowl, is some sort of Messianic figure.
SI’s cover story asserts, “The sport with the biggest Christian presence, most famous Christian athletes and most religious leaders affiliated with teams features a culture that seemingly goes against the values of Christianity.”
So whom did SI assign to write about “the values of Christianity” as they relate to “big-time football?” Mark Oppenheimer – yes, he’s Jewish – religion columnist for The New York Times.
Is it any wonder that a writer who disbelieves the divinity of Christ, who thinks he knows better than the 80 percent of us who identify ourselves as Christ followers, would sneer at footballers who publicly profess their Christ followers?
In his cover story, Oppenheimer mocks what he says has become customary for many NFL players: They point to heaven, pray on their knees and thank Jesus in post-game interviews.
The SI writer’s sarcastic prediction for today’s Super Bowl: Ray Lewis will wear his customary black T-shirt under his uniform that says PSALMS 91 and 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, if successful on a big play, will kiss either his tattoo of the words GOD TO GLORY or the one that reads FAITH.
Well, as a Christ follower who is also a football fan, I see absolutely nothing wrong with NFL players honoring God, giving glory to their Lord and Savior.
In fact, I root for those who are not ashamed to publicly profess their Christian faith – be it Lewis or Kaepernick, one of which will win the Super Bowl, or such past Super Bowl MVPs as Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Kurt Warner.
As to whether God cares whether the Ravens or 49ers win today’s Super Bowl, I think not.
But I do believe He delights in athletes who make full use of the talent with which He has blessed them; who pursue their craft as unto the Lord and not to men; who glorify Him when they achieve success; and who evince His peace, which surpasses all understanding, even when they fall short of victory.