Salvation and the Super Bowl | Connecting with Culture
Last Sunday, people around the world gathered. They shared food, sang songs, and maybe offered up prayers, as disciples trusting their saviour to bring them victory.
I refer, of course, to the Superbowl, which took place in Miami. This sporting fixture has taken on unparalleled cultural fame. With over 100 million people tuning in to watch in the US alone, and a further million making the pilgrimage to the host city, no wonder this is called America’s ‘greatest religious holiday’. For devout sports fans, this is Christmas 2.0.
The elevation of such events to sacred status is not new. Ancient Greeks saw no division between culture and religion.
And so-called ‘civil religion’ has re-emerged more recently. As traditional religion declines within our secularised world, people instead find an experience of something sacred, something larger than themselves, elsewhere. We were created to worship; our longing to encounter the divine demands expression.
So, sports stadiums, music venues, and shopping malls become places of worship. Players on a pitch, bands on a stage, and the clothing brands on a model become our gods. But these idols cannot bring ultimate fulfilment.
Teams will lose. Bands will break up. Another season’s fashion will come in. Human heroes raised to demi-god status hit professional and personal scandal. And we, when we look for satisfaction in what they can offer, are never satisfied for long.
In Matthew 22, Jesus is asked about paying taxes to Caesar. He responds with a question: whose image is on the coin? And, by extension, whose image do we bear?
When we forget whose image we bear, we forget who we were made to be, and who we were created to worship. We give ourselves away in service of hollow gods and temporary highs.
But the answer isn’t to withdraw entirely. Where truth and beauty in culture reflect the glory of God’s creation, they should be celebrated. Civil religion flourishes where culture is drained of Christian influence. Idolatry only occurs when what’s good becomes God. So maybe the solution is instead to reinfuse culture with the true fulfilment the gospel brings.
Last Sunday, I watched the Superbowl, and enjoyed the feast of sporting and musical prowess it offered. But I did so knowing that my craving to worship something couldn’t be satisfied by what was on the screen. There is only one worthy of taking that place of ultimate adoration. To him be the glory.
Research Assistant, LICC