I have cut back from my regular writing here over the past few months. Thus, you all have been spared of any articles about the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles. However, today that comes to a precipitous end. Oh, and let me repeat that phrase again for my own amusement and edification….. Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles. (Sorry about your Vikings, Michael.) 🙂
A little over two months ago, the Eagles won their very first Super Bowl title in one of the most entertaining games in Super Bowl history. For me personally, it ended 58 years of pent up frustration and despair……. even as I am only 41 years old. (The Eagles last won a NFL championship in 1960, which pre-dated the existence of the Super Bowl). I was so glad and relieved to see the football team I had been cheering for my entire life finally win it all. I joined many millions of other Philadelphians and Eagles fans in their joy.
Moreover, there was another aspect that made cheering for this team all the more enjoyable. There are many professing Christians on the team, significantly more than there usually seems to be on a professional sports team. I am not one to think that a team is more favored by God to win or that it is morally superior to cheer for such a team because of this. But there does seem to be an extra level of delight cheering for a bunch of guys who I can identify as brothers in Christ and seeing them succeed and experience the joys of winning. Even more, it is encouraging to see many of them openly speak of their faith and acknowledge and give gratitude to God in their successes.
Which brings me to this quandary: A few weeks ago it was announced that a group of Philadelphia Eagle players would be sharing their faith from the stage at an arranged event. It is going to be held at the church I attend, but is being organized and hosted by another ministry. I imagine the church is being used, at the very least, for its ability to accommodate a few thousand people in its auditorium.
The instant and pretty much universal reaction of those around me was one of glee and jubilation. I, however, in spite of my great Philadelphia Eagles fandom, had some mixed feelings. As much as part of me would love to attend a live event where a bunch of my favorite players were speaking about their Christian faith, I did have some reservations.
First, I am not comfortable with the hero worship or borderline hero worship that Christian celebrities sometimes receive. I already had been a bit uncomfortable in the way that some of my fellow Christian Philadelphia Eagle fans talked about and glorified these players and seemingly put them on a pedestal. If I actually were to go to the event, I was concerned I ostensibly would be surrounded by such excessive adoration and figuratively drowned in it.
Second, again as much as I would love hear from some Christian brothers on the Eagles, I began to think about what potentially would be more meaningful or impactful. Would I glean something of greater importance or impact from a group of football players or a group of pastors or theologians who are far more trained and studied in the Word and in sharing the faith? I am not saying that the football players know nothing or that it is improper for them to speak, but you can recognize the difference. Or even setting aside the study and training part, what about the difference between a group of people, who are living an at least relatively charmed life, versus a person or people who are keeping their faith amongst great hardship or struggles? Again, I’m not saying you can’t get anything of importance from someone living a charmed life, but the contrast was something to ponder. If I’m going to make the extra time and effort to go to a speaking event, which one may be of greatest benefit?
Third, there is a roster of seven players speaking at this event but there are two players whose absences are suspicious, at least to me. There are at least two professed Christians on the Super Bowl team who have previously participated in the anthem protests and have also publicly stated that they will not visit the White House when the team is invited to do so, as typically happens with Super Bowl winning teams. The actions of these two Christian players likely would not be appealing to the audience that this event is being promoted to. Now, there are more than just nine Christians total on the Eagles and so there are others who also won’t be speaking and there could be totally justifiable reasons or just coincidences as to why these two particular players are not on the speaking roster. But my cynical side does wonder.
Fourth, and lastly, is a factor I didn’t even initially recognize. Later on, when I found out that all the tickets had been snapped up for this event within hours of it being announced, I came to find out that the tickets had cost $20 each. Additionally, when all the tickets were gone, an additional announcement was made along with much continuing promotion that streaming licenses for the event could be purchased for $20 a piece. Now I had my biggest reservation. You can do the math for yourself, just as I did in that moment, but it can be seen that $20 tickets for an auditorium that can seat a few thousand, plus additionally purchased streaming licenses will result in some pretty significant revenues. At the very least, it was noted that 10% of the revenues from the streaming licenses would go to a charity of the players’ choice. I had not seen any such notification in regards to the original tickets.
So I contacted the ministry that is organizing and hosting the event. I explained that I was a big Eagles fan and was thrilled by their Super Bowl win and was also appreciative that there are so many Christians on the team, many of whom are seemingly quite willing to share their faith. But I said I also had some honest curiosities as to where are the all the revenues were going for such an event which essentially amounted to a group of Christians sharing about their faith in a church setting. I granted that each player should receive some kind of speaking honorarium and imagined that travel costs would be reasonably covered where applicable. Besides those things, however, I asked as respectfully as I could as to where was all the money going? I received no response. I followed up a couple weeks later and again received no response.
Now, it is not necessarily my right or responsibility to know where the money is going for such an event. But I have had dozens of people talk to me personally about this event and every single one of them is more than thrilled about it. I have seen dozens and dozens of comments about the event on Facebook as ads for it keep popping up on my feed, and every single commenter is seemingly just as elated. Some of the commenters even being my Facebook friends. Out of all of these communications I have had personally or seen online, I have not come across one other person who has conveyed even the slightest question, reservation, or concern in any form or fashion about the cost or any other aspect of the event. Every single person is seemingly just so pumped up about it, with nary any other considerations.
Taking all these things into account, I am not saying that this is a terrible event. There are many good things about it. But as I observe the culture around me, I wonder where our priorities are? We are so quick to shell out $20 individually that will collectively result in tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands in revenues, to hear a group of idolized football players talk about their faith without the slightest reservation. We fall all over ourselves to hear a celebrity speak about the Christian faith, but would hardly even give a second thought to go out of our way to hear some “regular joe” theologian or pastor speak. Or maybe in some cases it is the theologian or pastor or the theology that we idolize and our exuberance blinds us to the harm that we sometimes cause others. At other times yet, it may be an idolization of making God conform to our own standards and the disregard of biblical truth that gets us in trouble. We can be pretty adept at seizing good things and taking them to unhealthy and harmful excesses.
I love my Philadelphia Eagles and I’m glad the team has many Christians on it, many who are willing to speak of their faith. But I’m sometimes not so crazy about the culture that accompanies the whole situation. Lord, help me to not be cynical where I should not, but also help your people to honor you in their priorities. We fail more than enough in these regards and we could use your guidance and wisdom to help keep us straight.