Today, on the hallowed American holiday of Super Bowl Sunday, pastors are preaching sermons about the Super Bowl in churches all across America. Pastors preach about Jesus and the Super Bowl. They call their congregations to be “champions” for Jesus (well, champions of the capitalist society).
Pastors use Jesus and the Super Bowl to compare the Christian life to a cosmic football game, full of adoring Jesus fans filling rah-rah stadiums. This is not necessarily a bad picture. But these Jesus fans should not be cheering on just some game, they should be cheering on the poor and the oppressed, Jesus’ brothers and sisters. The Super Bowl for super souls.
Pastors publicly pray for their favorite team to win the Super Bowl. This I do not agree with. These pastors presume that, in a world full of suffering and pain, a callous world where children die of hunger and poverty, a violent world where adults die of human hatred and war, God somehow cares about the outcome of an American football game.
Jesus and Super Bowl Violence
American football is a game that glorifies war and violence. Yet churches uplift the game. Some churches even broadcast the Super Bowl in their sanctuaries, areas that are supposedly sanctified to holiness. The Super Bowl is far from holy.
I have also heard Christians say that if Jesus was alive today, he would certainly attend the Super Bowl.
But would he? The Roman society, which Jesus inhabited, oppressed and impoverished his people, the Jews. Roman society was violent and divided by class status, not too different from American society today. Yes, we are a little more civilized. Rome put their protestors on a cross; we put our protestors in jail. Rome killed their gladiators in Colosseum games; we give our players concussions and broken bones in football games. WWJD? What would Jesus do? Would he celebrate the violence?
Not too long after Jesus’ death, Rome decimated the Jews and destroyed the temple in 70 AD. Rome took the temple spoils and enslaved the Jews to build the Colosseum, opened in 80 AD. They used the Colosseum to murder early Christians, followers of Jesus. The Romans set wild animals lose to create human blood baths, believers perishing as entertainment for the people in the stadium.
Yet today’s American Christians cry that they are “persecuted” when somebody says happy holidays to them, or when they are not allowed to lead Christian prayers in public schools. How far removed they are from the agonies of the cross!
I do not believe that Jesus would celebrate the spirit of the Super Bowl, a game that glorifies war strategy and violence, winners and losers, haves and have-nots. In history, rich and the poor spectators sat in separate Colosseum seats. Today, rich spectators buy Super Bowl tickets for thousands of dollars, the tickets a status symbol of wealth. Gladiator glory and multi-million dollar football player contracts are not too different.
Jesus, a Champion for the Poor
Jesus is alive today, but you won’t find him in the Super Bowl stadium or the Super Bowl pulpit. You will find him in the streets, sharing chips and dip with the hungry. You will find him in the charity hospital of sickness, healing the people and paying their bills. You will find him in the prison of hopelessness, giving a party to the lonely.
If Jesus did preach a Super Bowl Sunday message, he would tell us to give up our lives and worldly glories and become champions for social justice. He would explain the game strategy of lifting people out of poverty, freeing the wrongfully imprisoned, bringing peace and justice to a warring world. He would tell us how he resisted the political wars and violent games of his day. He would remind us what true persecution looks like, and to stay strong when society tries to destroy you.
Jesus and the Super Bowl: A Prayer for Peace
I pray for peace today on Super Bowl Sunday. I pray for the kingdom of the Father to come to earth, and the American football stadiums to be full of intercessors for the poor and least of these. I pray that you will humble our hearts and make us champions against the powers of darkness that seek to destroy the human soul. l pray that we will stop destroying each other and playing soul-crushing games of winners and losers.
Jesus, please change hearts on Super Bowl Sunday. Help us learn to give our millions of dollars to change society, not just to win a big game.