Posted by on Dec 1, 2012 in Beliefs, Blog, Media | 0 comments

“Lord, where were you? When did we see you…?”

“I’m telling you that whatever you did to even the least of my brothers, you did it to me.” [Paraphrased from Matthew 25:35-40]

Since the days of the ancient Greeks and Romans, sports and competition have been a major part of Western culture. In Europe and the Americas, competitive teams of athletes in dozens of sports can be found in every country. Individual athletes also compete at very high levels, especially in track and field as well as combat sports such as boxing and wrestling. There are international competitions such as the quadrennial Olympic games that allow these finely tuned athletes to compete at the highest levels.

Some successful athletes are idolized by their fans and a few become national heroes. To some degree, this has created a subculture of glorified individuals who produce nothing that advances the culture while gaining wealth and fame beyond what their personal accomplishments might warrant.

While some of us may be disgusted by the excessive focus placed on competitive sports (especially at the professional levels), we also recognize that athletic games and friendly competitions are excellent ways for youth and young adults to stay active, grow in strength, and improve their health. Like the proverbial “coin,” sports and athletics have both winning and losing sides.

One of the positive aspects of sports is the sense of accomplishment that it brings to the competitors and the sense of community felt by the spectators. We all like to cheer on our favorites, friends, or family members who are participating in the sporting event. Sometimes our involvement goes far beyond  our expectations and takes us to a new level of “community.”

An example of this community effect sometimes found in sports can be seen in the following video. As of the date of this article’s publication, there have been nearly 1.45 Million YouTube.com views of young boy doing his very best to complete a race.

Please note that he wanted to complete a race – not win a race.

Whatever creed anyone may have claimed that day (including any that might have been atheists or agnostics), one thing is clear to me – everyone on that field who encouraged and cheered that young man showed their love “for even the least among them.” Jesus may not have been thinking about sports when he spoke those words, but I’m sure that if he had been watching this young man doing his best – Jesus would have probably been cheering along with the rest of the crowd.

That support and encouragement flowed  into that young man, giving him the strength and will to reach his goal. Those parents, coaches and friends supported that young man.

Do you think there were any Jehovah’s Witnesses on the field that day? There might have been – but probably not. Let me explain why I think that it’s very unlikely that any of those children belonged to JW families.

Sports Make Jehovah Sad

The Watchtower has a long, but somewhat inconsistent history of bias against school and team sports. While the organization recognizes that physical exercise is good for the body and mind, The Watchtower has generally opposed participation or support of organized youth sports such as Little League, Pop Warner football, or school teams.

It’s true that all sports and games involve some elements of competition, but friendly competition adds to our quality and enjoyment of life. A reasonable amount of team sports (baseball, football, tennis, basketball and running) helps to develop physical coördination, strength, endurance and motor skills in young bodies. Youth sports also teach valuable lessons in taking responsibility, leadership, team work, and organization.

There’s nothing as thrilling or satisfying for a child than scoring a goal, hitting a home run, or making a basket from the top of the key. There is no hate for the other runners when a child wins a foot race.

Watch a Little League World Series sometime. Those young men (and even a few girls) play their hearts out on the field. They don’t want to let their team mates down by failing to get a hit or dropping a ball at a critical point in the game. When the game is over, whether their team won or lost, they’re just another bunch of youngsters having fun and making new friends.

A rather sad fact is that very few Watchtower leaders have actually raised children. Charles Taze Russell, Nathan Knorr, and Fred Franz never raised children. Joseph Rutherford was a parent, but exhibited no parenting skills or any family values. In fact, his only son Malcolm grew to despise the Judge and refused to attend his father’s funeral. Rutherford’s book titled Children, released in 1941, was the wrong book at the wrong time by the wrong man.

With a history of leaders lacking any personal experience in raising children, the Watchtower bases its guidance for modern parenting on outdated 19th century protestant ethics. In their articles they quote “cherry-picked” biblical phrases and try to find support by referring to discredited recommendations from so-called (and often unnamed) experts in child psychology. Here are a few examples to illustrate my point:

1. Sports = Death

Do Not Let Yourself Be Ensnared by Fads and Entertainment (Watchtower 8/15/1975) Young Christians at school have to be particularly careful that they do not allow sports to become the big thing in their lives. Excessive participation in sports can lead to neglecting Bible study and Kingdom activities. The glamour of being on the team, the excitement of winning games, are subtle snares that can trap the Christian before he knows it. Neglecting oneself spiritually, while at the same time one is being pulled down by bad associations, the spirit of competition and the desire to be popular—all this adds up to a combination that has within it the potency of death. “The law of the wise one is a source of life, to turn one away from the snares of death.”—Prov. 13:14

2. School Sports Encourage Violence

Happy Youth in a Corrupt World  (Watchtower 1/15/1982) Also, you know that schools often push competitive sports to an excess, urging students to spend a great deal of time in such activities—not just for recreation but with such a drive to win that violence may sometimes be the outcome.

3. Sports Create Selfish Attitudes

“Gird Yourselves With Lowliness of Mind” (Watchtower 8/1/1999) That is an accurate description of this world’s prevailing spirit. It is a selfish me-first attitude. Rivalry among nations is mirrored by rivalry among individuals. In competitive sports, for example, many athletes desire to be number one regardless of how this hurts others emotionally or even physically. This self-centered spirit is promoted in children and continues in many areas of adult life. It results in “enmities, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, contentions, divisions.”—Galatians 5:19-21

4. Watching Sports Builds Hatred and Aggression

Hatred in Sports (Awake! 9/8/1976) It is said that competitive sports improve character. But often those participating even in “noncontact” sports display aggression and hatred toward their opponents. Psychology Today tells of an Olympic performer who “sits alone, head down, eyes closed, building aggression and a feeling of hatred for the next opponent.” Often, not only the participants, but also the viewers display the same undesirable qualities.

5. True Christians Hate Baseball

Theocratic Ministry School Review (Kingdom Ministry 8/1998) 5. The text at Galatians 5:26 rules out all competitive sports and games for true Christians. [Weekly Bible reading; see g95 12/8 p. 15 par. 8.]

6. Sports = Bad Associations

Extracurricular Activities (Watchtower School Brochure) Participation in organized sports, we believe, would expose Witness youths to unwholesome associations. We also feel that the competitive spirit in modern sports—‘the winning isn’t everything, it’s the ONLY thing’ ideology—has harmful effects. So if Witness youths feel the need for extra recreation, their parents encourage them to seek such recreation with fellow believers, yes, “along with those who call upon he Lord out of a clean heart.”—2 Timothy 2:22

Let’s Take Another Look at that Video

Go back and watch the video again. Take a very close look at what actually happened that day. Can you see any hatred, aggression, violence or “bad associations” on that school running track?

This is what I saw: A unified community displaying encouragement, support, and love for a very determined young man. They all cheered as he eventually overcame his limitations and finished the race.

That young man  and his audience were all winners in my humble opinion.

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