Early Christians spurned the gladiatorial games, largely because of the murder and idolatry associated with the games, not to mention that many Christians were sentenced to death by participation in these games. This was an incredibly countercultural movement because this organized combat served as a main source of entertainment in ancient Rome.
Lately, I've been wondering whether Christians ought to consume football. First, there is a significant amount of idolatry, both in terms of financial profit and of personality cults. And while there isn't capital punishment or intentional murder within the NFL, though it is an incredibly violent event.
This violence has spilled off the field lately in a number of domestic violence incidents. Now, I am not saying that these men chose to hit spouses and children because of their participation in football. But as our culture continues to encourage big hits on the field, it becomes more difficult to separate which sorts of violence are acceptable and which are reprehensible.
As I said before, I am currently watching the Browns play the Titans. I'm accusing myself as much as anyone else at this point. As I watch, I rationalize with myself that it is entirely easy to differentiate between contact sports and criminal assault. Yet, only a few minutes ago, a fight broke out on the field where one player choked another and was ejected from the game. Last night, I watched an apparently clean hit lead to a gruesome break a college player's leg.
There isn't a conclusion here. Just a sharing that I wonder what we ought to do as people of faith. Football has enabled incredible charitable acts in the world. It has helped a number of families break out of poverty. There is good done.
But as I see idolatry and violence both on the field and in the world, I struggle whether that good outweighs. What do you think?