The New Religious Pantheon
When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in their local dialect, “These men are gods in human form!”... We are merely human beings—just like you! We have come to bring you the Good News that you should turn from these worthless things and turn to the living God...
I like the stories of the ancient Greek pantheon of gods. The Greeks developed elaborate stories, created temples, paid homage, and sacrificed to these gods who were usually all too human with their problems of lust, envy, jealousy, and revenge.
Today we don’t put much stock in ancient myths. Instead, we have created a pantheon of gods and goddesses built around real people who did impressive things. We lift up our politicians, socialites, entertainers, explorers, and tycoons. Recently, the greatest of these gods within this new pantheon have become athletes who serve as our Titan-like warriors, conquering their foes on the playing field.
We are often reminded, much like the Greek pantheon, that our gods are all too human. We scrutinize their actions, celebrate winners, and deride failure, as though they are fictional people without real feelings, damaged hearts, and wounded families. It serves as our entertainment and our delight.
The one big difference between the ancient Greeks and us, I believe, is that the average Greek probably didn't believe they could become a god. We, on the other hand, are encouraged from an early age to believe that with just the right break we can join the pantheon someday.
We can move from worshippers to the worshipped. We can become a god.
We willingly invest hundreds of dollars a year and hours of driving our children from soccer, to band, to baseball, to dance, to whatever else because—though we may not admit or even recognize it—we worship the activity and hope for our children to go pro, and one day become part of the pantheon.
If we don't believe our children will go pro, we certainly believe they can at least say they participated in the games the gods play. We yell at them in their stadiums, and we shout the ways we could do it better or coach it better if only given a shot.
I don't know if this pantheon of athletes, entertainers, and other gods is the primary reason we have a hard time seeing the Kingdom of God as Jesus taught it. It certainly serves as a barrier.
Our worship of anything other than God is an idol. But to believe we are not worshipping these things is to lie to ourselves.
We may not have mythical heroes of ancient tradition, but we certainly have a growing pantheon full of temples and gods all across this country.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Have you ever dreamed of being part of this “new pantheon"? What was so appealing about that dream? What is the difference between fandom and worship? What is our responsibility to ensure proper perspective to sport?
PRAYER: Jesus, we choose you over everything else. Forgive us for placing anything ahead of you as an idol. Teach us to place entertainment and sport in its proper perspective so we can worship you alone. Amen.
Sports for the Glory of God
If God has created humanity with bodies that are “fearfully and wonderfully made,” we need to develop a Christian way of living that incorporates play and recreation, leisure and competition, sports and athletics. Faith in the Creator and Redeemer should lead us to identify the way sports and athletics are meant to be, discern when something is wrong with sports in our broken and sinful culture, and imagine ways to be instruments of redemption in this sphere. In this series, Sports for the Glory of God, we engage with stories of people who are working through these issues on a daily basis.
Image courtesy of Laity Lodge Youth Camp, one of our sister programs in The H. E. Butt Family Foundation.