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Football fandom is kind of a substitute for community, writes historian Eric Miller in this month's cover story in Christianity Today. I read through it hoping to find something a bit more original. There wasn't, unless you count this paragraph:
"So we must ask of the NFL what we must ask of any entity with the ability to touch our souls and shape our lives: Does it have our best -- and our children's best -- interests at heart? Is there good evidence that it even knows our best interests? More particularly, to what lengths will it go to create a wholly faithful, devoted congregation, er … 'fan base'?"
Good questions. Subversive ones, too. What if Miller's readers took them seriously enough to ask them of their own church and religion? Christopher Hitchens did effectively that in God Is Not Great (page 212) and the result wasn't anything CT would ever publish:
Pascal's famous wager, Hitchens writes, "reminds me of the hypocrites and frauds who abound in Talmudic Jewish rationalization. Don't do any work on the Sabbath yourself, but pay someone else to do it. You obeyed the letter of the law: who's counting? The Dalai Lama tells us that you can visit a prostitute as long as someone else pays her. Shia Muslims offer 'temporary marriage,' selling men the permission to take a wife for an hour or two with the usual vows and then divorce her when they are done. Half of the splendid buildings in Rome would never have been raised if the sale of indulgences had not been so profitable. . .
"This pathetic moral spectacle would not be necessary if the original rules were ones that it would be possible to obey. But to the totalitarian edicts that begin with revelation from absolute authority, and that are enforced by fear, and based on a sin that had been committed long ago, are added regulations that are often immoral and impossible at the same time" -- such as the commandment forbidding people from thinking about coveting, or Jesus's saying that for a man looking at a woman the wrong way is the same thing as his committing adultery with her. "The essential principle of totalitarianism is to make laws that are impossible to obey."
It's enough to make the NFL look harmless.