'Chriiiiist Bart, who cares? Just get some players.'
But like everyone else I felt Bart is Bart, a winner from the glory years.
Over the last 15 years roughly as right wing Christians have taken aim at America's military, an authoritarian and evangelical strain of Christianity has taken aim at professional sports, in its own exclusionary and often wacky dogmatic way.
Muslim? They're spiritually dead. Jewish? Dead. Free-thinking agnostics? Dead. Oakland Raiders who played during the 1970s-80s? Beyond dead and not even Christ can save those guys.
Today, sportsfans notice say Notre Dame's receiver Golden Tate [looks like a future NFL Hall of Famer] often pointing to the sky and acclaiming that Christ is number one (though ND opponents Southern Cal and Pittsburgh don't respect this metaphysical ranking apparently) but the question arises why are players in sports evangelizing so much?
Tom Krattenmaker's new Onward Christian Athletes: Turning Ballparks into Pulpits and Players into Preachers (Rowman & Littlefield, October 2009) is a brilliant and much-needed investigative analysis for those viewing post-game, on-field prayer meetings as foolish displays of exclusionary, only-through-Christ silliness.
There's much more behind these displays and it's not divine intervention. The religious right is behind it and Christian athletes are eating it up [about 20 percent of them] as Krattenmaker demonstrates in his exhaustive exposé that should be sitting atop the Times nonfiction best seller list.
Writes Krattenmaker about the religious-political "Justice Sunday":
Seated around [former NFL player Herbert] Lusk at the altar of his packed Church, having already spoken or waiting to take their turn at the microphone, were some of the biggest names in Christan conservative politics—Rick Santorum, the junior U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania; Jerry Falwell, the founder of the Moral majority; James Dobson, the founder and leader of Focus on the Family; and Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council. The latter was the chief organizer of this, the third rendition of Justice Sunday, an event billed as a stand of resistance by people of faith agings the supposed tyranny of a liberal judiciary bent on leading America from its Christian heritage. ... On that given Sunday in north Philadelphia in 2006, pro sports, Evangelical religion , and conservative politics cam together in a particularly stark framing of a powerful current in American public life.The religious right is organized and often with professional teams' administrative support are pounding away to create a Christian America only for the saved, and the Republican Party.
Krattenmaker is sympathetic to the religious right in a sense and is not mean-spirited in his tone. But there is no doubt after reading his analysis that Krattenmaker prefers a pluralistic and tolerant America where people are free to choose their way to happiness and fulfillment.
This is a book that many Americans, and many sportsfans, have been waiting for and Krattenmaker has performed a public service in his rigorous and often funny investigation of something everyone sees in sports and then lets go by like a Miller Lite commercial.
It's about holiday season, so grab a few copies of Onward Christian Athletes: Turning Ballparks into Pulpits and Players into Preachers. You will not be disappointed. Thank you Tom Krattenmaker!