I grew up the old-fashioned way which meant every Sunday was the Lord’s Day. We got to church at 8:45am and didn’t leave until 5pm. When we called it All Day For God we weren’t exaggerating.
Back then, when I heard about the dangers of contact sports, it was more about imperiling our immortal souls than it was about bodily injury. Skipping church to watch football (or participate in sports ourselves) robbed God of the worship we owed Him. We made a big deal about the Scottish runner, Eric Liddell, whose famous refusal to compete on a Sunday was portrayed in the movie, “Chariots of Fire.” That was true Christian character, we said.
I’m still very uncomfortable with American football–although not so much because I believe playing sports on Sunday dishonors the Sabbath (I think it’s possible to play sports and honor the Sabbath). My current distaste for football stems from a belief that football glorifies violence and shows little regard for the permanent, life-altering effects of brain injury.
Furthermore, I can no longer watch the Super Bowl because by doing so I give silent approval to sickening, sexist advertising. Matthew Vos, a sociology professor, wrote:
I contend that the way we consume iconic national events like the Super Bowl better depicts what we really believe about women and their so-called roles than do our formal theological statements, denominational position papers, teachings about the spiritual disciplines, and admonitions toward modesty and fidelity. For in the invisibility of normality, there we find our idolatry. And in my experience, theology can’t touch the Super Bowl. Churches near where I live cancel evening services for it, and some even project the festivities on sanctuary screens….women are depicted in the Super Bowl and other televised mega-sports in ways that proclaim, “This world is for men, about men, and because of men. You women may participate, but only in forms that are pleasing to men.”
This year, I’ve decided to boycott the Super Bowl because I want to embody a better story. Like Matthew Vos pointed out in his article, “the story we tell outside of church is so much more important than the story we tell inside of church.” In other words, by sitting down to watch and celebrate this iconic American event, what story am I telling my children?
I’m increasingly convinced that by watching the Super Bowl I tell my children it’s good and acceptable to sacrifice their bodies for sport–especially if there’s enough money involved. And by watching the Super Bowl I tell my children it’s good and acceptable to reduce women to mere objects as portrayed in the commercial advertisements.
I really don’t even think it’s enough to mute the TV or change channels during the commercials. I’ve heard some parents say they watch the commercials with their children as an object lesson. But I grew up without a TV and had no problem spotting the sexist advertising once I did get a TV. I don’t need to expose my children to harmful images and ideas in order to teach them why it’s morally reprehensible.
Besides, the most effective form of parenting is modeling healthy, moral behavior. Children might hear what we say, but they do what we do.
I can sit here all day and talk about why a commercial is sexist and sickening–but I’m still watching it. I believe a more powerful story means simply abstaining altogether.
I am a conscientious objector to the Super Bowl.
Update: thanks to my readers for bringing my awareness to this related tragedy: “The Super Bowl is the single largest human trafficking event in the United States” –Texas Atty. General Greg Abbott