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The Liturgy of Sports

Written by Gary North on September 10, 2016

Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway (I Cor. 9:24-27).

This is an Olympics year. To be held in Atlanta. More than any other event. the Olympics games are a world event. Around the world, men’s attention will soon turn to television screens broadcasting events watched by a billion people. This happens for no other regularly scheduled event, although the world soccer championship, also held every fourth year, comes close, and for similar reasons.

I don’t like the Olympics. I know too much about their origin. The Olympic games of classical Greece were political events. which is to say religious events. Men competed nude before exclusively male crowds, running races in the name of their cities and their cities’ gods. The greatest performers achieved the status of heroes. A hero in Greece was a religious figure: a man who was said to become a god after his death. Winning at the Olympics was important. Winning big was eternally important. Classical Greece was perverse in many ways, but the suggestion that a man could become a god because of his sports ability was not just perverse; it was silly. Men have always wanted to believe that man can earn his eternal salvation, but to think that a man can run his way into divine status is right up there with the Big Bang as a truly stupid idea.

When the Olympic games were revived in 1896, the West had already begun to move back toward paganism. The revival of the Olympics was part of this transformation. The coming of organized sports as a widespread cultural phenomenon has been an aspect of the secularization of culture. In the United States, for example, collegiate sports had been introduced by desperate college administrators in the 1870’s. They used sports competition between college teams as a way to shift student enthusiasm away from campus rioting. We think of the late 1960’s as the era of campus rioting. but almost a century earlier, it had been a major problem. Rioting was an assault of students against the boredom and irrelevance of classical education and the incompetence of those who taught it. Such boredom and incompetence had been a complaint by students for many centuries, but now it had become violent. Harvard and the other colleges introduced collegiate sports in the same era that they introduced the elective system. Educated men were rapidly losing faith in the integrating power of classical education. They wanted to cut their ties with the past. A new, evolutionary, progressive, technological, better organized era was dawning. Organized sports were seen as part of this development: men’s ability to beat existing records in the name of their communities.

The Doctrine of Representation

The biblical doctrine of representation says that every man is represented judicially before God by one of two men: Adam or Christ. Either Adam’s sin is imputed judicially by God to a person or else Christ’s perfect humanity is imputed. There is no third choice. To use the analogy of a race, life on earth is a two-man race. Each of us is represented by one of two runners. Your representative finishes either first or last. So do you. There are no second-place or third-place medals.

(For the rest of my article, click the link.)

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