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I love it when the other side is winning and there are only moments left; I love it when it would be reasonable to be reconciled to defeat, but one will not, cannot; I love it when a last set of calculated, reckless, free and impassioned efforts is crowned with success. When I see others play that way, I am full of admiration, of gratitude. That is the way I believe the human race should live. When human beings actually accomplish it, it is for me as if the intentions of the Creator were suddenly limpid before our eyes: as though into the fiery heart of the Creator we had momentary insight.

My guest, theologian Joe Price, is describing his lifelong conviction that sports have a spiritual quality for fans as well as athletes. PRICE: When Michael Jordan, for instance, would get into the flow of a game and let the game come to him, he would seem to be so at one with the game that there was a kind of spiritual fusion between himself and the game.

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I think that that happens not only in basketball; I think it happens when a quarterback completes 23 out of 25 passes in a game or when a pitcher pitches a no-hitter. There seems to be some kind of just intense spiritual experience that is not necessarily connected to God. It is instead connected to that kind of spirit of the game and a feeling of that oneness with the game.

So what does that have to do with the way we treat sports religiously in our culture?

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In part, our Puritan heritage for many Americans identifies a kind of monotheistic obsession that there can be the worship of only one deity, that there can be the full allegiance to only one kind of faith. During the NBA finals, I watch it religiously. I am a devout believer in the Yankees. So much of the religious character of sports is identified with the way that fans regard and respond to sports.

Power Of Psalms Pdf By Joseph Paterson

I think that sports play a major role for many Americans because the rituals that are enacted somehow reveal something about their identity and their aspirations. PRICE: And that would be approximately the same number who would indicate that they would pray on various occasions. I know things. For instance, there are beads in a Catholic rosary, and there are stitches in a baseball. When I learned that, I gave Jesus a chance. The Lord laid too much guilt on me. I prefer metaphysics to theology. I mean, there are many layers of that and some of them are not pretty and not virtuous.

PRICE: And neither are a number of the elements in religious traditions that are identified as religions. So that the abuses that we see that might take place either with the collaboration of the owners in a sport to lock out players, or the use of drugs by players to enhance their playing experience or to dull the pain that has been caused by their playing experience, those are what we would call abuses, yet they also are not distinct from the kinds of abuses that might be also taking place in communities of faith.

PRICE: I recall that in my childhood, the church softball league was not allowed to practice on Sunday afternoons, and Sunday church attendance at some kind of service, either a Sunday school service or a worship service, was required in order for a person to play in the game that week.

Does that bother you? Does that worry you? PRICE: The thing that bothers me the most about the accommodation of religious traditions in communities of worship to sports rhythms is turning away from interacting with the community with a prophetic voice. If instead it is a turning back on basically just an opportunity for extension of the pursuit of justice, then I really get worried at that point.

Is that a trend?

That original sin is the only empirically verifiable dogma. All right, let me ask you about something else. Your writing, especially the chapters in this book, From Season to Season: Sports as American Religion, is full of examples that are funny. And, I mean, how much do you see that as a problem or a challenge to this good that you see being embodied in sports? And play is an exercise basically of the spirit. Watch children in a playground at a park, their spirits soar.

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Perhaps maybe we need elements of play in worship, in sport. And that the humor that Jerry Falwell and…. If you take the good book and you take a good look, you will find the first baseball game.

It says Eve stole first and Adam second. Solomon umpired the game. Rebecca went to the well with the pitcher, and Ruth in the field made a name. After a short break, more conversation with theologian and sports fan Joe Price. Brother Noah gave checks out for rain. Now, Ole St. Pete was checking errors, also had charge of the gate. Salome sacrificed Big John the Baptist, who wound up ahead on the plate.

This week, listen to Joan Chandler, author of Sport Is Not a Religion , discussing the virtue of amateur sports and the role of religion in the contemporary arena. Stay with us.

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Power Of Psalms Pdf By Joseph Paterson

Speaking of Faith comes to you from American Public Media. The history of American cinema, of course, is full of classic films that treat sports with a reverence otherwise reserved for God. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again. I asked Joe Price about this.


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What would you say to someone who said that watching a quarterback pray after a touchdown for them discredited the very idea of prayer or the very idea of a God who would be on one side — the side of one team or another. How would you respond to that? It can also be an expression of thanksgiving. Instead, he is expressing his thankfulness for having been focused and for having executed plays to the best of his ability. And you have a particular love of baseball, I believe, or you had a particular epiphany also?

And we were seated in the fifth deck in Dodger Stadium behind home plate as we watched then the Philadelphia Phillies, his favorite team, play the Dodgers. As we talked about the course that I was teaching and about the kinds of rules and rituals that were at work on the field, we started identifying the foul poles as basically heavenly bodies with the spears at the top of them, and that the outfield fence was the edge of the world.

And one of my mentors, Mercea Eliade, had written about the cosmic mountain as the center of the earth. And lo and behold, there at the center of the infield was this cosmic mountain. It was higher than any other point, it seemed to revolve, and the pitcher had to be in touch with it almost as though it was like an altar. So Glenn Yocum and I started talking about this incredible layout of the field and the way that the rules and rituals of baseball might resemble the ancient Greek omphalos myth. The fans around us thought that we were not in our right senses, but we had a wonderful time, and then I wrote about it.

So it created a stir and created a lot of fun, but it primarily gave people a way of seeing how the playing out of a sport might reflect a story in addition to basically just trying to….


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