Focusing on today's headlines through a Reformed lens is the way Calvin thought leaders fearlessly engage with and boldly impact culture. Kinesiology professor Brian Bolt, one of the thought leaders behind the "Declaration on Sport and the Christian Life" examines the role sports should play in the Christian life.
What role should sports play in the life of a Christian?
Sport is a wonderful option for those who enjoy participating as a player or fan. Derived from the God-given impulse to play, people play sports primarily for the love of the game, the thrill of competition and the joy of participating with others. Not everyone enjoys sports, and that’s okay. For those that do, the passion of sport can lead to a meaningful and enriching experience when one participates with gratitude to God and genuine humility.
What are the main benefits for someone engaging in sports competition?
The primary purpose of sport is not hard to see among the competitors; people love to play. We desire to be excellent, to belong, and yes, to win, or at least we invest enough to have a chance. Of course, there are other potential benefits to sport, but they are conditional. Sport can develop certain character traits, produce benefits like scholarships or endorsements, foster social relationships or even enhance or develop faith. But when other secondary benefits are emphasized beyond the joy of play, sport is reduced to a tool, and often an inefficient one.
With kids getting involved in sports at such a young age, how does one create the right boundaries so that sports don't become all-consuming?
Most kids participating in sport will not ultimately compete at the highest levels, and those that do lead fairly balanced sport lives as young children. Youth sports have a way of being all consuming. Whole families are often intoxicated by sport success or opportunity afforded through sport. When youth sport decisions compromise deeply held family values, require lengthy rationalizations, or are derived from a fear of falling behind, these are warning signs that sport has moved from appropriate affection to idol.
What affect, if any, should the increased risk for head/neck injury in sports have on a Christian athlete’s decision to play or keep playing a particular sport?
Our whole selves, including body, mind, and soul, are important to God and part of His creation. Head and neck injury is possible in nearly every sport with contact, but the risk increases with certain sports like American football. Christians are not charged with eliminating all risk of injury, and voluntarily entering a sport that contains risk does not necessarily make one morally culpable and require withdrawal. However, where risk is involved, Christians are called to contemplate the consequences of participation, whether physical, emotional or psychological. There is a threshold where non-participation in a sport is the wise choice, and Christians need to reflect on this individually and in community.