Football, Faith and Freedom

We LOVE football in our house.

Everybody has a different favorite team they’re passionate about which makes holiday shopping easy.

Football player kneeling in prayer
Former Buffalo Bills player George Wilson kneels on the field to pray.

My family has even been sponsoring a weekly pick-up flag football game in our neighborhood for a decade now.

During the season we watch a lot of games. On any given Sunday, it’s very common to see players and coaches down on one knee, bowing their head during an on-field injury. Post-victory interviews routinely include thanks to higher powers for either their individual God-given abilities or just the opportunity to be a part of such a great team sport.

For many, football and faith seem truly intertwined. I could speculate on why that is, but the fact of it is indisputable.

The whole purpose was to protect expressions of our spiritual beliefs, not abridge them.

Which is why this recent story about a high school football coach suspended for praying on the field after games caught my attention.

My first thought was: “Who complained about THAT?!” It takes some serious mental gymnastics, in my opinion, to get offended by someone else silently exercising their own religious beliefs.

Turns out, it was not even a complaint at the root of it. It was a compliment! Someone’s appreciation of the gesture seems to have reminded some school administrator that they read in a textbook somewhere something about “church” and “state” and decided the praying needed to be banned.

So the justification for removing faith from football was freedom?

That’s an irony I don’t know the framers of our Constitution would particularly appreciate, especially not Thomas Jefferson who first coined the phrase “building a wall of separation between church and state” as an illustration of the First Amendment.

The whole purpose was to protect expressions of our spiritual beliefs, not abridge them.

Here is the freedom it specifically grants: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

How, from that freedom, are we now trying to separate faith from football? Or from any aspect of life in which it does not impede the rights of others?

Maybe the systematic rise of materialism (which denies the existence of the spirit) is to blame. Maybe declining education standards—people don’t know or understand our history anymore. Or perhaps fear of civil repercussions, hyper-sensitivity or efforts not to offend.

I don’t know the answer. What I do know is I like having a dose of faith with my football and the freedom to enjoy both.

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