You Knew This Was Coming

Super Bowl parties at church. Church-sponsored Super Bowl parties. You knew this was coming. Let’s go ahead and throw it all out there.

Let’s not avoid this. Let’s actually embrace this discussion and see where it leads us.

The larger issue I see is with a Christian church celebrating and glorifying the sex, violence, and greed symbolized by this American free-enterprise entertainment extravaganza in the same room where we glorify and worship our God and on the same screen where we post the holy words of Scripture and sacred songs of praise. I see a tremendous disconnect and mixed-message. If you watch NFL football — and I do — you know a lot of what those broadcasts stand for, including but not limited to the PG-13 pregame, postgame, and halftime shows, directly opposes our Christian message. It contradicts the very things for which the Church of God stands. At the very least I believe it’s questionable to invite our family and friends and little kids to the church building and project those images on a huge screen in our worship center.

I don’t see a difference between doing that and holding American Idol or Dancing With The Stars or Survivor parties at church. Fans of those TV shows are just as passionate and follow it just as closely as fans of the football TV shows.

I know the building is just a building. I’m fully aware that the church is the people, not the space. But what the church does together as a collected community of God’s people in the space that community has designated for Christian activities such as worshiping our Father and encouraging each other is important. It does matter. At the very least, it demands careful thought.

And it’s not easy. I do struggle with my thoughts and my feelings and my convictions on this. (Please see the three-day blog from August: The Question of Sacred Space, Sacred Space Part Two, and Sacred Space Last Part.) Again, God is no more present with me in a beautiful cathedral with a thousand other disciples than he is with me alone in my closet. I get that. And I believe that.

Also, I don’t think it’s hypocritical to object to the idea that if watching the Super Bowl at home in my living room is OK, then it’s OK to watch the Super Bowl in the worship center at church. I would answer that we would probably all agree that there’s nothing wrong or sinful with you drinking a glass of wine  in your kitchen. But we wouldn’t want to wheel in a dozen barrels of it for a Fifth Sunday Fellowship at the building. For many reasons.

I understand a lot of this makes me look and sound like a prude. And I generally try to avoid that as much as possible.

I’m curious as to your reflections and thoughts on this matter.

Peace,

Allan

P.S. Please don’t cancel your Small Groups Church meetings this Sunday. Schedule your dinner and times of worship and application of the Word around the TV show if you must. Watch the TV show together. Bond around the TV show. But please don’t cancel.

11 Comments

  1. Rob's Dad

    It’s great to see the return of the hot topic. Your recent post have been very insightful but nothing to really get someone hot under the sports collar.

    Those were some great discussions back in August. They will pale somewhat now that the timeline for moving out of the holy gymatorium is more tangible.

    A more vexing question is when we are drinking beer in your kitchen, will it be your beer or do I need to bring my own?

  2. Allan

    A much more vexing question, to me personally, is whether I can still maintain my integrity while editing your comment or deleting it altogether.

    I don’t drink beer, sir. And I respectfully and lovingly would advise all my Christian brothers and sisters to abstain, as well.

    But let’s stay on topic……..

  3. Rob's Dad

    I appreciate your embracing the web for discussion. As to deleting postings, it is absolutely your choice since it’s your blog and I fully understand that fact – your call.

    To the topic, doesn’t it go away with the completion of the bldg? If you want to hold a Super Bowl party, then hold it in a seperate part of the bldg. There is something a little unsettling about the combination of the words of praise with the Go Daddy ads.

  4. Mel

    Where exactly in the bible is any form of example of any building aside from the temple having any other quality than any other building?

    My grandfather use to teach that an image based on not doing in public what you are willing to do privately is a false one.

    Aside from all that, my biggest question is this…

    In light of the desire to perpetuate community in the Church today, why is it we insist on discouraging global community?

    We seem bent on coming up with as many excuses as possible for discouraging large gatherings.

    “What would they think?”

    “They” who?

    I find it very hard to believe someone outside the church would even come close to drawing the conclusion that a large group gathered in a church building are all sitting watching the “beer babes” instead of being impressed that a group of Christian sports enthusiasts would rather meet in a clean enviroment.

    We don’t live in sterility and to fabricate an image as if we did opens us up for vulnerablity and ridicule.

  5. Allan

    I see it more as a church issue, I guess, than a space issue. Maybe “space” is a more tangible, but less correct, way of saying it. If we’re unsettled by the incongruence of the praise of God in the same context with the GoDaddy.com ads, then wouldn’t it be just as unsettling in the church’s fellowship hall as it is in the church’s sanctuary? Either way, the church is promoting it and using it to foster “Christian community.” To me, it just doesn’t make sense.

    There is a big difference between living in an unholy culture and actually actively promoting that culture as part of what the Church is all about.

    Shechem. Bethel. Mt. Sinai. The tabernacle. The temple. All set apart as holy by God’s people for the worship of God. See the previous comments in the August posts.

    It doesn’t have anything to do with public or private. It has everything to do with what the Church of God is about, what God’s Church stands for. What the Church does as a group, as a community, should all be done in the context of the Gospel.

    I find it as equally hard to believe, I suppose, that someone outside the Church could see a group of disciples of Jesus inside the Church building watching the commercials and halftime shows and not think it’s a little weird, not sense the mixed message.

    Confession: I never saw Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction. We were watching the Super Bowl that year in the privacy of our own home and changed the channel about 45 seconds into the halftime show because it was so vulgar and disturbing. I didn’t know anything about it until about 11:00 that night. I know the Pleasant Ridge Church of Christ, and many, many others were showing the game and Jackson’s malfunction on their big screens that night to all their families and friends. Where’s the Gospel context in that?

  6. Mel

    I’m more concerned what message an empty parking lot on Sunday night sends.

    I can see the arguement from your side and the validity of it but for it to hold true then it should make you equally unsettled to have it in your living room after having “church” there.

    Maybe the proper thing to do is not be a part of it at all instead of attempting to “filter” it through location or time or any sort of editing.

    After all…the halftime show only exists due to the “acceptable part” as do the commercials.

    But nobody wants to go there so we play these games of identifying levels of acceptance.

  7. andie

    For me or anyone else to believe that how the community views our church will be decided on the basis of where we watch the super bowl seems over the top.

    I think what we do as a church body and how it is to be viewed likely will not be decided by us ourselves and is in someways out of our control…more likely decided by our acts of kindness and service. If my children were aware of some of the feelings expressed in the comments today i think they would say…if its okay, its okay no matter where we are and if its bad, its just bad no matter what.

    I would rather like for us to look for ways to say yes rather than a blanket no. We could watch together and turn off halftime if need be depending on what is happening or going to happen. I don’t know the agenda. At best have my son watch with other men who have similar goals and upbringings and let him hear your disgust or belly laughs where necessary. Teach him how to decipher and react in ways that influence others and help him more define who he is or how he should act. I think it is a given that men/women are going to watch football and I would much rather watch with my brothers and sisters fellowshipping, sharing and encouraging, even expressing disgust where necessary than at home making a statement that I haven’t made(or my church body) so loudly previously about other issues that influence my family and church body much more than a 4 hour game.

  8. Allan

    Mel, I’ll agree wholeheartedly with your last point: it is the game and the league that exist to provide the conduit for the worldly images and messages that bombard us during halftime and the commercials. Yes.

    And, yes, we probably wouldn’t have to dig too far at all, maybe just open our eyes a little, and see that football—the game itself, the way it’s coached and the way it’s played—does stand opposed to a message of love and mercy and grace. And I don’t want to go there because I love it so much.

    Wait, only one confession per blog topic. Strike that last comment.

  9. Bob

    Not to mention that the NFL holds that such a showing on a large screen is a copyright infraction. So add the potential of a church performing an illegal act.

  10. Mel

    sighhhh…

    NFL doesn’t write law..it’s just interprets it and just because it has never been challenged doesn’t make it so.

    The current stance is you can’t charge for it, you can’t use the words “Super Bowl” or”New England Patriots” or “New York Giants” and it can not be shown on a screen larger that 55″ with more than 6 loud speakers.

    Other than that the NFL has no problem.

    Let’s just hope no body looks into the possible infringement of reproducing and displaying other “works” on our big screen.

  11. Allan

    True that!!

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