Football, forgiveness and a fallacy

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As Christians and evangelical Christianity get more and more mention in the press, we need to be smarter about testing what is properly represented, misrepresented, or what might have been compromised in the process.

For instance, I read a newspaper article recently about a certain Christian University that is eager to up their football program to a higher level. They want to be to evangelicals what Notre Dame is to Catholics and Brigham Young is to Mormons. They want to be a major national football power.

To help them achieve this goal, they have hired a new high-profile football coach and athletic director who both have experience building national programs out of more humble beginnings. The notable thing about these hirings was that both men were available because they walked away from their former jobs under the cloud of suspicion over sexual assault charges, hiring escort services and using sex to lure prospective players to their programs. This, of course, would make their hiring by any university somewhat suspect. What followed was an article that basically defended the university’s position by stressing aspects of evangelical Christianity such as confession, forgiveness, grace, and second, third and fourth chances. It all sounded so good — even a lot of the things we stress here at the Catch — but it troubled me nonetheless, and I couldn’t figure out why.

I spent a good deal of the day thinking about this and talking with Marti and others until I began to realize that the article was using the gospel and aspects of the gospel message not to spread the message or to set people free, but to justify a football program. Not only that, the university was using the gospel to go ahead of itself to remove potential controversy before it happened. It was really an excellent piece of public relations anticipating criticism and answering questions before they were asked. But in the process, it reduced the gospel, making it a means to a questionable end. They were not spreading the good news of the grace of God here, as much as trying to head off criticism of the school at the pass.

Ultimately, I think it was all about too much talk too soon. When you defend something that strongly, and even make the gospel accessory to a football program, you are revealing the fact that you’re not too sure this is a good idea either. If the school is solidly behind these men, then explanations are not necessary, you simply move ahead and let your life and your decisions speak for themselves.

Are we running a public relations campaign here, or are we walking every day in the living, breathing truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ? That story gets told as it unfolds through the reality of our lives, day by day. You can spin it all you want up front, but the reality of the truth will be known as the lives of these leaders and their students unfold. This is where this story applies to all of us. Let people say what they want to say;  questions will be answered through the real lives and stories of the people involved. Then the gospel will be the reason, and God will be glorified.

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4 Responses to Football, forgiveness and a fallacy

  1. Thanks for your insight and thought provoking piece. May God continue to use you. Thanks again for your continued prayers for our 17 year son Mason, who is struggling with issues related to his adoption as an infant.

    Thanks!

  2. drewdsnider says:

    There are times when I think football was invented to give us analogies for the walk with Christ, but this isn’t one of them. What’s missing from the article, as you’ve summarized it, is the essential condition for redemption and grace, which is repentance. If these gentlemen have repented and asked forgiveness of the people they hurt *before they were considered for the job*, then one could have a case for talking about demonstrating God’s grace — for the school to state humbly that they believe these chaps have repented and deserve a second chance. Otherwise, the only term that applies for this school, in my opinion, is “sellout”. As Jesus Followers, we play in a completely different stadium and by a completely different set of rules from the rest of the world.

  3. John A Fagliano says:

    Talk about a misguided attempt to “follow God”. When did Jesus ever say he wants His followers to build a strong a successful football team in His name? Why is that even necessary? Is it because Evangelicals have to compete with the Catholic and Mormon schools because those institutions are so full of “heresies”? If you want heresies, look in the mirror people! The true Gospel is for all football players of Notre Dame, Brigham Young, Christian Colleges and all secular ones. How did we miss that obvious truth while defending only our own questionable actions? Again, when did Jesus say to always defend your own actions through His Gospel?

    Now I don’t know if these two men are guilty or not of the sins which they have been accused of, but I can think of no greater heresy than to believe that being hired by a Christian College will somehow be enough to sanctify them.

  4. jwfisch says:

    It’s all about money and prestige. Notre Dame is almost solely supported by it’s football team. It’s one more example of Christians trying to influence the culture and ending up being influenced more by it. I can’t think of one major college that would have given either one of these guys a chance.

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