The media is awash with top 10 lists–everything from apologies to TV ads makes a “best” or “worst” list at this time of year. As you know, our ministry is called to speak God’s word to our culture by engaging contemporary issues with biblical truth. So, what would I list as the top 5 faith and culture stories of 2011?
We’ll start today with three of the most famous athletes of our time: Tim Tebow, Albert Pujols, and Josh Hamilton. Tebow has been remarkably successful as the quarterback of the Denver Broncos. Albert Pujols won the last World Series, then signed a 10-year $250 million contract to play for the Los Angeles Angels. Josh Hamilton was the American League Most Valuable Player in 2010 and played in the last two World Series.
What makes them a faith and culture story is the way they have made public their commitment to Jesus. Josh Hamilton’s testimony is well known: he defeated drug addiction and revived his baseball career because of the transforming power of Christ in his life. When a fan fell to his death last July trying to catch a ball Harmilton tossed into the stands, Josh credited his faith as enabling him to deal with such a terrible tragedy.
Albert Pujols is one of the most generous benefactors in sports. His foundation website describes its mission: “The Pujols Family Foundation exists to honor God and strengthen families through our works, deeds and examples.” It helps Americans living with Down syndrome and supports impoverished people in the Dominican Republic.
Tim Tebow, as nearly everyone in America knows, prays on the field before games and credits God with success afterwards. His kneeling intercession has sparked a national phenomenon known as “tebowing.”
And a national backlash from those who think faith should be kept private, which brings me to my point. All three athletes have faced skepticism if not ridicule for their public commitment to Christ. What does this phenomenon say about American culture?
Our society is convinced that religion and the “real world” are separate domains. There’s Sunday and there’s Monday. We divide the soul from the body, the “spiritual” from the “secular.” Faith is for church services, not athletic contests. Americans think people who make their beliefs public are forcing them on us.
Imagine that logic applied to any other dimension of life. I can’t talk about my love for Janet and our family because family is a private matter? I can’t discuss my political beliefs because politics are only for the voting booth? You can’t tell me about your career or school because such discussions should be reserved for your workplace or campus?
I thank God for athletes and other public figures who obey Jesus’ edict to “let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). In 2012, who will praise God because of you?