Farewell to Football
THE SOURCE: “Unnecessary Roughness: The Moral Hazards of Football” by Benjamin J. Dueholm, in The Christian Century, Sept. 19, 2012.
Football is the new gladiatorial combat, and players bear the wounds to prove it. Sixty-three percent of National Football League players sustained an injury of some sort during the 2010 season. One in 20 suffered at least one concussion, an injury which, if incurred repeatedly, is linked to cognitive and emotional problems that appear years after players hang up their cleats. Benjamin J. Dueholm, a Lutheran pastor in Wauconda, Illinois, and a die-hard Green Bay Packers fan, loves the gridiron. But he argues that it’s time for American Christians to take a long look at the damage done by the game.
It wouldn’t be the first time Christians have cried foul on popular sport, Dueholm notes. Church fathers objected to violent spectacles in ancient Rome, not least the bouts between gladiators. “The man who when he sees a quarrel on the streets coming to blows will try to quiet it,” wrote the early Christian theologian Tertullian, “will in the stadium applaud fights far more dangerous.” Tertullian mourned the fate of the bloodied gladiators, many of whom were criminals serving out sentences. Like Augustine, another Church Father, Tertullian worried that the deadly games desensitized eager onlookers and stripped them of compassion.
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