Is the Future of Church in Fantasy Faith Leagues?

Football diagram, Prixel Creative /

Football diagram, Prixel Creative /

I used to be in a fantasy league, but the fanaticism of the whole thing wore me out. The guys would gather online for an evening-long draft event, debate rules ad nauseam, and haggle over trades through the wee hours. I considered myself to be a fan, but these guys had practically made, well, a religion out of fantasy sports.

I was reading a piece today by Bruce Reyes Chow about what we Christians might learn from fantasy sports, and it got me thinking. One of the most interesting things being in the fantasy league did for me was that it totally changed how I watched the games. I would turn on games I never would have had interest in before, just to see how my selected running back performed. I even found myself rooting against my own favorite teams once in a blue moon when it served my fantasy team and didn’t affect the outcome of the actual game.

The whole experience drove my wife crazy, partly because of all the time it took, but also because the way I engaged sports was so different that, even if we were watching the same game, it was as if we saw two completely different things.

We’re in the middle of a similar kind of shift in the west with respect to organized religion. While folks within the walls of church may be intent primarily on keeping the institutions placed under their care alive, a growing majority of people outside the doors don’t really care about the denominational logo over the entryway, the name inscribed on the stone sign by the street or the long, rich history of all the congregation has meant to the community.

Texas Cheerleaders Clamor for G-O-D at Football Games

Cheerleaders at an East Texas high school are fighting their school district’s orders to stop using Bible quotes on their signs at football games.

In August, cheerleaders at Kountze High School, a school with fewer than 500 students 30 miles north of Beaumont, Texas, began painting Bible verses on large paper signs football players burst through at the beginning of games.

But this week, Kountze Independent School District Superintendent Kevin Weldon called for an end to the banners after consulting with a legal adviser at the Texas Association of School Boards.

“It is not a personal opinion of mine,” Weldon told KHOU, a Houston television station. “My personal convictions are that I am a Christian as well. But I’m also a state employee and Kountze ISD representative. And I was advised that such a practice would be in direct violation of United States Supreme Court decisions.”

That prompted the cheerleaders and their supporters to launch a Facebook page, “Support Kountze Kids Faith,” which attracted 34,000 members in its first 24 hours — more than 10 times the population of Kountze.

Parents of at least three cheerleaders have hired an attorney and are considering suing the school district.

First Official Sojourners Fantasy Football Guide

Washington's new quarterback: Robert Griffin III

DC's new QB: Robert Griffin III. Image via Wikimedia Commons:

You know it is football season when the office starts grumbling about the offensive name of the local football team, or when co-workers start asking, "What ever happened to Tim Tebow?" Still others, "What is fantasy football?"

Politics aside, I went ahead and compiled a little fantasy team for Sojourners, featuring both prominent and less-prominent Christians thriving in the NFL. So if you own a fantasy football team, or are starting one for the first time, here are some picks to help inject some strong faith in your team. (I don’t get paid to do football analysis so take this for what it’s worth).

Community Builder and Footballer: Amani Matabaro

Amani Matabaro

Amani Matabaro

“Ultimately, we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it toward others. And the more peace there is in us, the more peace there will also be in our troubled world.” –  Etty Hillesum, Dutch diarist who died at Auschwitz

The social fabric that wove together Amani’s moral values and passion for peace is the target of rebel groups that destabilize and destroy communities. Amani grew up playing football and attending school and church in an area that has been chronically unstable for the past 16 years.

Despite the threat, Amani learned within his local structures the power of community in overcoming insecurity—the hub for gaining moral and intellectual values “to make every effort to come together and live as a community.”

Congo is still suffering from the overspill of the Rwandan genocide, the aftermath of which took the lives of both of Amani’s parents. Rebel groups roam the Kivu provinces of eastern Congo and seek to unravel the very social fabric of Amani’s community.

Taking heart from the moral lessons he gained from playing football with his school and through his education, Amani decided to overcome the insecurity caused but he rebels by bringing people together by providing a peace market—a community nucleus for women, children, and men to gather in a safe, empowered, and peaceful environment to care for one another.

Suffer the Little Children: Crime and Punishment at Penn State

The disciplinary actions announced this week by the NCAA against the Penn State University football program were severe.

They included a $60 million fine (equivalent to their football proceeds of one year), a four-year ban on playing in post-season bowl games, a four-year reduction in the school’s number of football scholarships from 25 to 15, vacating all of the wins of Penn State’s football wins from 1998-2011 from official records (including vitiating the numbers that made their famous coach Joe Paterno the “winningest” big-school college football coach in history), giving all returning football players the right to transfer to another school, a five-year probationary period for the football program, and reserving the right to do further investigations and impose additional sanctions on individuals for their behavior.

That will end Penn State’s dominant national football program for the foreseeable future and is a much more serious punishment than simply banning the university from playing football for a year  — aka a “death sentence”—  might have been.

I agree with the NCAA’s disciplinary decisions and would have supported even harsher penalties against Penn State.

Tim Tebow Brings a Little Goodness to Gotham

Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Quarterback Tim Tebow addresses the media as he is introduced as a New York Jet March 26. Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

NEWARK, N.J. —Tim Tebow is Howdy Doody in a helmet. No, he is Opie Taylor running for touchdowns — while reciting Bible verses, stopping to find a lost dog, visiting sick children in a hospital and helping a little old lady across the street, all before he reaches the end zone.

Now that Tebow has been traded to the Jets, New Jersey is about to experience a dose of wholesomeness it hasn't seen since milk trucks stopped delivering to your door.

Tebow is the God-fearing, All-American evangelical hero — born to missionaries and delivered during a miraculous birth — who pledged his life to Jesus at 6 years old.

His priorities? "Faith, family, football." He has overcome obstacle after obstacle to become the most popular athlete in the nation's most popular sport, all while waging a personal battle against sin, temptation and the American way.

NFL Salary Increase Ten Times the Poverty Line

Two things to consider:

1) On Sunday, the NFL announced that it had increased the salary cap for athletes by $225,000. Last year, players could make $120.375 million dollars per year; this year they can make $120.6 million.

2) The income requirements for an American family of four to be above the poverty limit is $23,050 – a figure nearly one tenth the amount of the .2 percent increase awarded to athletes.

Football: Our Finest Christian Witness

"Jesus is My Coach" figurine via

"Jesus is My Coach" figurine via

When God chose Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow to be His witness to a hurting world, it might not have been clear that this was only a temporary calling. To be sure, during the regular season God was appreciative of Tebow’s on-field witness of kneeling in prayer and pointing skyward after every touchdown. After all, what better way to show the power of divine love than in front of millions of people drinking beer on the Sabbath.

Links (and Videos) of Awesomeness: Monday, Dec. 19, 2011

Senior citizen flash mob performs Glee's "Last Christmas" at Target, Sir David Attenborough narrates "What a Wonderful World" to clips of nature, Christmas decorations seen as tributes to the Pagan Sun-God, Banksy's latest satrical sculpture on the church, Jesus visits the Denver Broncos, a bread nativity scene, year in review lists, and Teddy the talking porcupine wishes you all a very "Merry Christmas."