Last night at my small group we got into a conversation about “why America isn’t accepting soccer.” I sat and was able to hold my tongue for a while, but got to a point where I couldn’t sit back and have the beautiful game so egregiously disgraced! My friends were offering up the regular American soccer critiques: hating player flops, too slow, not enough scoring, not profitable, bad MLS attendance, etc. After everyone finished their commentary I shared my thoughts in hopes of diffusing their comments. Here’s some of what I shared with them: MLS has a higher per game attendance than the NBA and the NHL, players in all four of the “Big Leagues” are selling fouls to officials by flopping (and acting and exaggerating and so on…), only 7 MLS teams were unprofitable last year. When the conversation ended I was feeling pretty good about myself because my friends were seeing soccer in a totally different way. But the really cool thing happened on the drive home from small group.
Something about my fervor in defending soccer struck me on the way home. I told my wife how defending soccer in American was a lot like defending my faith in Christ…on the surface most of the critiques people have with Christ (the Church, Christianity and all things connected) are misconceptions with simple answers, but after some digging you discover that people’s problems are really more like personal preferences.
Most of my friends’ justifications for their claim of soccer’s demise in America were simply incorrect. I have several friends who are either hostile towards, or indifferent, to the Church (Christ and Christianity can be lumped in here too) because of claims that aren’t accurate.
Here are a couple inaccurate critiques you may have heard before:
Critique: “Why would I be part of a religion when religion is greatest cause of war?”
Response: According to Charles Phillips’ and Alan Axelrod’s work, Encyclopedia of Wars, of the 1763 wars only 123 have been classified as having a religious cause which is less than 7% of all wars and wars with a religious cause (or influence and presence) represent less than 2% of war’s cumulative mortality rate. History just does not support this common misconception.
* side note – up to 3 million people were killed between the Crusades and the Inquisition whereas somewhere between 30-35 million people were killed in World War I alone *
Critique: “Evolutionary evidence is too overwhelming to believe in God.”
Response: Fossil records have actually fallen extremely short in giving strong evidence for a “missing link.” Darwin predicted that an innumerable amount of transitional fossils would be found, but over 150 years later any missing link evidence is just…missing.
Critique: “Christianity is, and has always been, a patriarchal institution, oppressing women.”
Response: Jesus actually treated women with an unheard of amount of respect and dignity in His culture. The four Gospels are littered with sections exhibiting Christ’s acceptance and elevation of women. The collective testimony to the presence of woman among Jesus’ followers and to His teaching of them breaks considerably from the, then, contemporary Jewish tradition. All things considered Christ was a revolutionary figure for propagating women’s dignity and respect in society.
In John 15 Jesus was telling His disciples about being connected to the “vine” – apart from Him (the vine) we’re severed from life and unable to bear fruit. He followed up His discourse about connection to Him with a very strange left turn in verses 18 & 19 (NIV): If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as it’s own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Don’t you just love the very last line here…”that’s why the world hates you”…it never seizes to amaze me how Jesus can draw His crowd in with great news then shift it immediately to something awful! Everything up to that point was all about “life in Him” and “God’s love for us” then we learn that God’s created world will very likely hate you for simply following Him.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise when people who don't have a relationship with Christ hold inconsistent or inaccurate critiques of Jesus, the Church, God, Christianity and the Bible. Jesus even went so far as to tell His followers that the world (I understand this as – people not in relationship with Christ) would hate you…period. No real explanation for their hostility outside of our proximity to Jesus. I know it may not be much consolation, but when/if people flat out reject you as a believer in Christ it’s not you, personally, they’re pushing away it’s the evidence of transformation by Christ in you, it’s the convicting presence of the Holy Spirit, it’s the overwhelming image of a God they don’t understand in you…basically Jesus is whispering to us a timeless line He may have borrowed from George Costanza: “It’s not you it’s me.”
Being a soccer fan in America is not too dissimilar to being a follower of Christ in a world that hates Him…people “on the other team(s)” will reject you, hate you, ignore you and possibly be violent towards you. Only one of those things are worth being hated for and it’s not what’s happening at the World Cup.
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