Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Fandom and Philosophy of Religion

The other reason that I am not much of a sports fan, (my enjoyment of arguing the greatness of my teams not withstanding) is that I am pretty suspicious of fandom. Fanatics are scary. From a Philosophy of Religion perspective, fans are fascinating. There is very little in modern culture that better illustrates the nature and danger of religion. It is the contemporary expression of regional, animistic, tribal religion.

Some find it strange that a follower of Jesus and Bible believing spiritual person would criticize religion. However, Jesus was a great critic of religion. Religion is the universal human attempt to regain or replace the relational need we have for God. If you don’t consider what Jesus taught a religion (and you could argue He wouldn’t) then every religion is man-made and fraught with problems and dangers.

The reason sports-fandom is one of the best current examples of religion is because it perfectly embodies the behavioral aspects of religion. Humans are wired to worship. In the absence of the Creator, they find other things to worship and sports teams easily fit the bill. We iconize them, we follow their exploits, we admire and venerate them, we superstitiously think our actions, devotion, and prayers will affect their success.

And, most importantly, we symbolically (and sometimes literally) war against devotees of other denominations. In my home town of Dresden, the fans of the local soccer team embody this religious devotion. The team doesn’t do so well, but the fans attend every game and try to get into fights with the visiting fans. Hundreds of police are brought into town every game day to control the crowd.

In my days as a minister in Texas, the most exciting and vibrant worship services never occurred in church on Sunday. The true religion was High School Football and the entire town worshiped them every Friday afternoon in a pre-game worship service at the school. That is not metaphor or hyperbole. And, it goes without saying that the whole town attended every game. If you wanted to rob anyone in Texas, Friday night of any home game was a safe time to try.

So, I try to temper my fandom. I know all too well that it is far too easy to fall into idol worship when it comes to sports. I have enough energy and time devoted into strengthening my relationship with my Creator. And, regarding Him I like to see myself as more of a son than a fan.

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