In recent years the United States has seen an influx of Christian athletes and coaches into big-time sports, as well as a heightened importance placed on sports in church programs and enormous platforms for intercollegiate sports at Christian schools and colleges. However, as Shirl Hoffman critiques, a Christian vision of sport remains merely superficial--replete with prayers before free throws and praises after touchdowns but offering little if any alternative vision from the secular sports culture. Far from being the kind of life-affirming, faith-affirming events that they could be, games played in Christian college gymnasiums, for example, too often end up as mockeries of the faith statements given prominence in their mission statements.
Here, in this thoughtful, narrative-driven exploration, Hoffman retells numerous fascinating stories from the world of ancient and contemporary sports and draws on the history of the Christian tradition as he seeks to answer the question "What would it mean to think Christianly about sport?"
1. Sports and the Early Church
2. Controlling and Proscribing Sport
3. Bowling, Bicycles, and Other Snares of the Devil
4. The Church Heads for the Playground
5. The Rise of Sports Evangelism
6. Christians and the Killer Instinct
7. Building and Sacking the Temple
8. Sport and the Sub-Christian Values
9. Touchdowns and Slam Dunks for Jesus
10. Prayer Out of Bounds
11. Notes Toward a Well-Played Game
Shirl James Hoffman is Professor Emeritus of Exercise and Sport Science at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. The Executive Director of the American Kinesiology Association, he is the author of Sport and Religion and the editor of Introduction to Kinesiology: Studying Physical Activity, now in its third edition.
Wonderful! This is an amazing achievement, blending sociological expertise, theological savvy, and profound spiritual sensitivities.
~Richard J. Mouw, President and Professor of Christian Philosophy, Fuller Theological Seminary
This should be required reading for every thoughtful Christian.
~Robert K. Johnston, author of The Christian at Play
Tom Krattenmaker’s recent Onward Christian Athletes (2009) explored the efforts of the Christian Right to join evangelical Christianity with professional sports. Here Hoffman takes a slightly different approach to what is essentially the same subject, tackling the relationship between faith and sports from a more ideological perspective. He suggests that while evangelical Christian groups are forging connections with sports (because sports is a high-profile platform), they really don’t understand the nature of sports. He explores the fundamental paradox of joining sports (which encourages and celebrates success) to religion (which "consistently stresses the importance of losing"). The essential problem, he says, is that, in harnessing itself to sports, the Christian community doesn’t really have a clear sense of its goal or a coherent plan to achieve it. As a result, sport is becoming, in many ways, a mockery of Christianity, a superficial set of rites and behaviors with no spiritual or philosophical foundation. Many readers may disagree with the author’s thesis, but even they will agree that he supports it abundantly and argues it well.
The breadth of [Hoffman's] knowledge of the history of sport, especially in its relationship to religion, and his keen insights into what it might mean to think Christianly about sports contribute to a readable and impassioned plea for more careful and more spiritual reflection about what sports have come to mean for us and our world.
~Journal for the Sociological Integration of Religion and Society
[ Good Game] will open your eyes to ideas and knowledge that may have never crossed your mind.
~Hard Music Magazine
Remarkable in its scope, ranging from early Roman Imperial games to contemporary athletic contests of every kind, this volume provides a powerful examination of the relationship between sport and Christianity.
~Bryan Stone, E. Stanley Jones Professor of Evangelicalism, Boston University School of Theology