Monday, August 06, 2012

Criticism for God-Honoring Athletes

First, it was the outrage expressed at Chick-fil-A for trying to run a God-honoring business. Now, we're hearing criticism for Olympians who try to honor God with their athletic performance.

Salon columnist Mary Elizabeth Williams is uncomfortable with the faith expressed by U.S. gymnast Gabby Douglas. She writes:
As a Christian myself (albeit one of those really freaky papist kinds), I've often wondered what it is about Christians like Douglas that unnerves me so. The closest I've been able to figure it is that Douglas and her ilk seem to espouse a faith based on what is commonly referred to as "The God of Parking Spaces." It's the deity that grants wishes to those who ask nicely. Douglas is a girl who has described God as the figure who's "waking me up every morning and keeping me safe in the gym every day." She told People Thursday, "I was on the bus and it was raining and I thought, 'It's going to be a great day.' My mom used to tell me when I was little, 'When it rains, it's God's manifestation, a big day's waiting to happen.' I texted my mom, 'It's raining. You know what that means.'" It means that Russian girl is going down, I guess.
Her reaction isn't all that surprising. Tune in to any football game and you're sure to see a player drop to one knee or point to the sky after a touchdown. You don't usually see that kind of behavior after a fumble or an interception.

But perhaps Ms. Williams is being unfair. I happen to think Gabby Douglas is sincere. By giving the glory to God, she wants to turn the attention away form herself and onto the One who gave her athletic talent in the first place. I also think that had Douglas not won a medal at all, she would still have given God the glory. The only difference is that, since the media is easily distracted by shiny objects, she would have been doing it off-camera, and Ms. Williams would have had to come up with another topic for her column.

1 Corinthians 10:31 says, "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." Williams and her ilk may be uncomfortable with that, but many Christians take it to heart, and that includes Christian athletes as well.

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