He shoots, he scores … he prays? The intersection of faith and sports – from boxer Muhammad Ali to football quarterback Tim Tebow – often attracts critics eager to bash believers. CNN Belief Blog contributer John Blake joined the fray with a May 25 entry, "When did God become a sports fan?"
Blake's entry waxes sarcastic on the issue of faith in sports and criticizes athletes who point to God, beginning with a tongue-in-cheek comparison of the Ultimate Fighting Championship to an Old Testament God of wrath.
Blake quoted William J. Baker, author of “Playing with God,” who said these successful athletes are using their faith to draw more attention to themselves rather than to their religion. "It's an athlete using a moment to sell a product, like soap,” Baker said. Baker also called these athletes “pious,” and accused them of believing in a “winner-take-all gospel.”
Blake's criticism is leveled primarily at evangelical Christians and Catholics. Two athletes pictured in an accompanying slideshow were labeled as Muslim, but the article itself did not include criticism of openly religious Muslim athletes, or sports stars of other faiths.
Blake also quoted Tom Krattenmaker, author of "Onward Christian Athletes," who said that many openly evangelical athletes are quick to publicly talk about Jesus after victories but remain silent about other issues, such as steroid use and racial discrimination against minority coaches.
Krattenmaker, who also writes for USA Today, criticized then-Florida Gators' quarterback Tim Tebow for “leveraging sports' popularity” to promote a message that is “out of sync with the diverse communities that support franchises, and with the unifying civic role that we expect of our teams.”
Blake included a tongue-in-cheek reference to Scripture suggesting Jesus' New Testament lesson that “the last shall be first” might mean losing athletes are being punished for a lack of faith.
CNN's “Belief Blog” is supposed to “cover the faith angles of today's biggest stories,” but posts like Blake's make it seem like just another weapon in the media's anti-Christian crusade.