April 22, 2024

Today I had the honor to speak with Gene Calderon on the theology of sports. Gene has 30+ years of experience in Mixed Martial Arts.

You can learn more about Gene and his Ratio Christi chapter here.

Lastly, here is a video about one of Gene’s WEC’s fighters.

Kurt: Well good day to you and thanks for joining me here on another episode of Veracity Hill where we are striving for truth on faith, politics, and society. On Today’s show we have a special treat for you. We’re gonna be talking about the theology of sports. That is, what is sport and why is it important in a Christian life and what are some benefits that we can learn from participating in sports, but also, what are some of the downsides to participating in sporting events and then also, what are some of the ugly traits to doing sports, so the good, the bad, and the ugly of sports.
*Olympic theme plays*
Kurt: Well if you haven’t been living in a cardboard box the past week here, you know that it’s been the Olympics over in Rio De Janeiro, the 2016 Olympics are going on, Summer Olympics I should say are going on right now. I guess it used to be the case that the Summer and Winter Olympics maybe went the same year and then they started rotating them which was a wise thing to get more exposure. The Olympic sporting event is the pinnacle of sporting events with the best athletes from the world’s nations participating and competing against one another and so I’m very excited that we can be talking about this. There are great things we can learn from watching the Olympics. We can see how athletes respond to success, how they respond to failure, that’s a big thing, especially given that there’s only typically one winner in any given event which means that everybody else is a loser and so there are a lot of traits that we would learn from losing in fact. Before we get into discussing further what sports is about I just wanted to do a quick recap of last week.
Last week I came to you live from the Defenders Conference and we spoke on Christian Orthodoxy. Just very basic introductory remarks about what Christian orthodoxy is, how it’s formulated, and we looked at a couple of heresies, Nestorianism was one of those, Apollinarianism was another, and so if you’re interested to learn more about Christian Orthodoxy go ahead and listen to the previous episode if you haven’t done so already and hopefully in the future we can devote an episode just to those topics and get more specific, but I was happy to sort of whet the audience’s appetite there, and yes, the Defenders Conference was a huge success at Christchurch of Oak Brook. We had Dr. Ed Stetzer come in, Dr. Mike Licona, Dr. Tim McGrew, other speakers that were local here. Cisco Cotto, Khaldoun Sweis Perry Marshall, myself, and then a fellow named Gene Calderon, and Gene is going to be our guest for the show today because he’s been in apologetics ministry himself and he’s also had thirty plus years of MMA experience and so I’m happy to welcome him onto the show, so Gene, are you there?
Gene: I’m here. Thank you so much Kurt for this opportunity.
Kurt: Thanks for joining me! Gene, tell me a little bit about yourself. I know you’ve got a Ratio Christi chapter there in northwest Indiana, but go ahead and tell our listeners who you are and the things that you do.
Gene: Like you said, I am a chapter director for Ratio Christi in Indiana here at Purdue University Calumet for the last few years and I get the opportunity to do a lot of speaking and a lot of sharing of why we believe what we believe in the community and that’s really become a passion of mine, to reach out to students and pastors and parents and anybody who’s willing to be equipped in defending the faith, but before I started doing all of that I was and still am, maybe not as much today, but I’m very much involved in martial arts. Specifically I started off with Tae Kwon Do for about eight years straight before the UFC came on the scene and that’s when everybody jumped into Jujitsu, so I started learning some of that and I got into stick fighting, mu kei, Boxing, and just really started to put all of this together and eventually training MMA fighters, competitors within the local area, to the point where I did train one of bantam weight world champions, Miguel Torres, out of this area, and that was before WEC merged into the UFC but he had the longest reign as bantam weight champion and I was fortunate enough to be a part of all of that.
Kurt: That’s great. So you’ve definitely got a mixture there of I guess MMA, right? Mixed Martial Arts, different sporting events, is that right?
Gene: Yeah. What MMA is it’s basically to break it down into its simplest forms, it’s all of the striking arts, which is karate, Tae Kwon Do, and boxing, kickboxing, and any of those classical or non-classical arts, those are the striking arts and you can mix that together with any of the grappling arts like wrestling, judo, jujitsu, things of that sort, and there are certain rules but ultimately depending on who you are and what your style is your goal is to win the fight either by a knockout, by a submission, or by a point system kind of like boxing, you want to win the tenny round if you can, that’s really what that sports become about, but it’s such a variety of canons and abilities and even personalities. You can really enjoy a sense of different variety of ways.
Kurt: That might be, even though they are, the MMA type of sports are very popular, they’re not as popular at least here in America as the typical ball games, so baseball, basketball, football, even soccer, and so there are different point systems, different rules of course, but in either of the ball games or the MMA type hand-to-hand combat sports we have certain virtues that we can see, good virtues, in either or any of the sports. Right?
Gene: Yeah. Absolutely. With martial arts and things like that, there’s always something called discipline, but ultimately as a competitor and as someone who wants to go out there and perform their best either as an individual or part of a team, there’s such a thing as self-discipline. You’re really going to have to carry yourself through some of these things, some of these trials. The phrase “no pain, no gain”, actually has some merit. You’re gonna have to be willing to go through some of this. You’re gonna have to be willing to be humbled. You’re gonna have to be willing to be challenged and then when the time calls you’re gonna have to be willing to rise up to the occasion and do your part whether it be physical, emotional, or mental, you’re gonna have to do your part to gain the victory whatever sport that is. With MMA, it’s more of you see the individuals in the cage or wherever it is that you’re competing, but ultimately you realize that there’s a whole team behind that individual who has helped them get there, they have the support and the back-up of knowing that they’re not alone in there and so everybody one day is going to have to step in there on their own and perform and based on their training and based on the background and based on who they have in their corner so to speak or who’s part of their team, it’s gonna really determine the outcome of whether or not they’re gonna be ready for this.
Kurt: You’ve already mentioned so much there. In the Scriptures we see a number of mentions to different sports and sports themes, motifs, and so one thing that you’ve brought up there was the preparation involved, the willingness involved and so I think there of Colossians 3:23-24. “Whatever you do, work heartily as for the Lord and not for men knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward and we do this because we are serving the Lord Jesus and not men.” That definitely applies in sports for sure.
Gene: Absolutely. I mean Paul, I tend to think that Paul was a huge sports fan. He mentions physical activity multiple times in his epistles. I remember 1 Corinthians 9 where it says that everyone’s going to compete in the games and when they do that they put themselves in strict training. I don’t throw punches like someone beating the air, but ultimately they’re going to do it for a crown that will not last but the goal is to win that crown and in a sense, when we look at their training we’re supposed to kind of parallel that, their strict training that they’re willing to put on themselves physically and apply that spiritually for a crown that will last forever. I remember he goes on to tell Timothy that physical training is of some value so he’s saying “yeah, that’s a good thing,” but godliness has to have value for all things and the present life and the life to come so sports, we can definitely learn a lot from sports, and going through physical training and being able to apply it to just about every aspect of our lives.
Kurt: So we’re talking about the theology of sports here with Gene Calderon. If you’d like to have your voice heard give us a call at 505-2STRIVE. That’s 505-278-7483. So, Gene, you’ve been big into the hand-to-hand combat types. Tell me a little bit about what’s involved there. Aren’t those typically recognized as self-defense sports?
Gene: Ultimately, just about every martial arts started off as being a self-defense, a form of self-defense, and eventually developed into an art form of being able to defend themselves and so that’s where it usually all started out. Now we’ve made it a sport, we’ve made points out of it and it was for good reason, they wanted to train and practice and develop their skills, but ultimately it is to be able to defend themselves from any kind of adversary or any kind of opposition but to do it effectively, do it in a way to apply the minimal amount of damage to themselves and to the other person, but ultimately just to kind of walk away from that engagement and understanding that I handled it in the best, I would almost say economical or efficient way possible, the least amount of movement, the least amount of effort, but that’s where it all started from, really being able to defend themselves.
Kurt: Of course, we see that in the Scriptures. I mean obviously 1 Peter 3:15. Always be prepared to give a defense, sometimes it’s treated as answer, and then the key that a lot of people forget is to do so in gentleness, right, and respect and so when you talk there about how even though it is self-defense, we’re to do minimal damage. I mean that’s almost like being gentle.
Gene: For and in fact, the word jujitsu, means the gentle way, and that was again, there’s no strikes involved. It’s all about wrestling and grappling and being able to subdue the opponent without causing any damage.
Kurt: That’s great. So we’ve got a lot to touch on so here we’ve just briefly talked a little bit about the self-discipline that’s involved, self-defense, we see that in the Scriptures, there’s also a sense of joy when we compete so this is another good thing to sports, and there’s a joy. So here I’m gonna play for you now a couple of clips here of famous sporting events, some of them are personally close to my heart, others not so much, maybe Gene, maybe you’ll be able to recognize these, so I’ll play the first on here.
*sports clip plays*
Kurt: Alright, so that is the famous “Do you believe in miracles?” So Gene, do you know where that comes from? Maybe not.
Gene: Yeah. That’s from the hockey game between the U.S. and, was it, Russia?
Kurt: Yeah, or technically the Soviet Union back in the 1980 Olympics and that was the semi-finals. Some people think that was the finals, but it was the semi-finals. The U.S. would then go on to beat Finland to capture the gold medal. You hear the crowd erupt, here I’ll play a little bit for that.
*Clip plays*
Kurt: The crowd is going wild in celebration here and so sports has a way of bringing us joy.
Gene: Absolutely.
Kurt: There’s this crazy feeling that you have from finally accomplishing the goal, from the race that you’ve run, Paul uses 1 Cor. 9 as you had mentioned. Right? That’s about running the race to win the prize and so sports has this great way of joy about it, but now let me play another one here, this is from a basketball event and, Gene, are you a Chicago Bulls fan?
Gene: I used to be during the 90’s. Michael Jordan. Scotty Pippen. And what was the …yeah.
Kurt: Okay so for you, this clip here will be a joyous event, but for Utah Jazz fans, it will be severe disappointment.
*clip plays*
Kurt: So that was the famous game in Salt Lake City, that was game six of the ’98 finals, guess that’s June 1998 and there for Chicago fans off celebrating, I guess you could hear a few fans there, but that was in Salt Lake City and so you can tell the crowd just quiets. Oh no!
Gene: Broken.
Kurt: Yes! Now I’m categorizing this in the good category of sports here, the disappointment involved, so I don’t think this is a bad thing to sports. This is a good thing.
Gene: Yeah. Because in sports when you compete in sports it actually is a good thing to receive that reward for everything that you put your heart and soul into for however long you’ve been training. I mean you could have two people on that Chicago Bulls team, the people who played, and the people who were the benchwarmers. I’m sure they all got rings but who’s going to enjoy that ring more? It’s going to be the person who actually trained and got to play and got to participate more so than the benchwarmers. In the same way when we’re talking spiritually, yeah, we’re all going to get to heaven one day if we hold to the Scriptures and believe in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, but if we’re just benchwarmers or couch potato Christians, we’re probably not going to enjoy the reward as somebody who went out there and really sacrificed and gave it their all, but in the end, it’s like, Wow, this was all worth it! I really busted my behind that time on Earth, but man this is so worth it! That’s another encouraging thought.
Kurt: And also to that, imagine being the fans or on the Utah Jazz. Losing. In that sense losing isn’t a virtuously, it’s not a vice, let’s put it that way. I think it is a virtue because you learn patience from it. You learn longsuffering, especially if you’re a Chicago Cubs fan like myself, longsuffering.
Gene: I’m so sorry.
Kurt: Thanks. But hey, the Cubs are looking pretty good this year.
Gene: Yeah? I gotta agree with you there.
Kurt: So we’ll see, but they’ve always been told this is the year. At any rate, these are virtues. Right? Longsuffering. Patience. And these are good things that are spiritually beneficial. They’re not vices, so I think that’s really important that we need to remember. Even in losing, we can be awarded certain spiritual virtues, godly virtues. A lot of people take this verse, Philippians 4:13 out of context, especially a little bit in the sporting world. You know, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Yes. You can make it through the tough loss, right? But we need to gain a big picture here about the context of that verse. So yes, you can use those words taken out of context and it can apply to you, but I think when you lose there are still spiritual virtues that you can acquire and learn through sports.
Gene: As for the couple of MMA fighters, they say “I’m not losing. I’m learning.”
Kurt: Yeah. Good.
Gene: The match didn’t go their way or the event didn’t go their way, but they’re not going to look at it as “Well, pity party for me.” They’re going to go back and review the tape or review the event and say “What can I do? How can I pick myself back up?” and grow from this experience, and in the same way when we fail and when we make our mistakes we can look at it in two ways, either dump on ourselves and have a big old pity party or actually get some people around and say “Help me. What did I do wrong? What didn’t work and how can I improve on these things?” Absolutely, that’s the greatest opportunity, and it’s at that point you either really want to learn or you’re willing to just throw it all off and this is where you really need your team around you, your court, your teammates, your co-workers in this field of whatever it is that you’re competing in to really be there and that’s the heart of having a good team. Even when you’re taking your bumps and your bruises, they’re there for you and they’re gonna pick you back up and dust you off, but then they’re going to get right back on you and say “Okay. We’re not done yet. Let’s get back in there.”
Kurt: So you’ve brought up the alternative there. People aren’t learning, they’re just kind of in for it to win, and so that brings a good point, maybe we can transition into the bad things here. One of the bad vices of sports that I see is when it becomes warlike. When it’s us vs. them and we’ve got to destroy them, this war mentality. In this respect, that’s when people take sporting events too far I think. They don’t learn from it. They can be arrogant and prideful, so with the Olympics here we just had Hope Solo of the U.S. Women’s Soccer team talk about how unfair, they were playing Sweden I think, and the U.S. lost and so she was kind of a bad sport to lose the colloquial term.
Gene: Right, and that’s again, we’re going to really have to take a look back at what’s more important. The physical or the spiritual, at that time. I mean, I understand, people put their heart and soul into something and when it doesn’t go their way, oh it’s so heartbreaking, it’s such a downer, to the point where if you’re not ready to handle that in the correct way, yeah, you’re gonna make mistakes either with your arrogance, your anger, just out of control kind of rage even, but that really shows that that person wasn’t really grounded in what the values were in being able to be blessed, to be able to even compete in a sport in the first place and so this is where the danger comes in. It’s gonna get ugly if that person doesn’t realize the bigger picture, the much bigger picture. They’re so focused on one little thing that they’ve put all their hope and they’ve actually missed out on so much more and so yeah, losing is not fun and nobody competes to lose, but we need to be prepared before we even step into the match and say “That is a possibility. It may be unlikely in my mind, but it’s still a possibility and I need to be ready to handle that, otherwise I’ve created this false world in which no one can beat me and I am the best and even if I do lose it’s because of somebody else’s fault,”. Again. False perception.
Kurt: That’s right.
Gene: That leads to anger.
Kurt: And so we see there moral failings of sort, when things go wrong, when people have the wrong mindset when they’re engaging in sport and we see moral failures both in game and out of game so here I’m gonna play two clips. The first one might be hard, Gene, for you to recognize. It’s a race here. It’s a two-minute clip and pay attention to the announcers as they’re talking about the third place runner here.
*clip plays*
Kurt: So did you hear that? Did you hear what happened to the runner in third place? That was two U.S. runners, third and fourth, and Molly Huddle was in third and she had a premature celebration and then the fourth place runner, her U.S. teammates, this is from the 2012 London Olympics, and so Molly Huddle because she celebrated prematurely she did not place. You’re talking within less than a second the difference between having a bronze medal and going home empty-handed. That’s gotta be heartbreaking, but at the same time, she lost her focus. Right? The race was not over and that’s sort of a moral failure in-game. Right? Because she hadn’t completed her race. Now here’s another big, shall we say, blooper in the football world. This is a very famous one by a fellow named Leon Lett.
*clip plays*
Kurt: So there that’s the play where Leon Lett recovers a fumble and he takes it all the way, or rather, almost all the way to the end zone only to be foiled by the Buffalo Bill who knocks it out of his hand then it’s a touchback and so that was in Super Bowl XXVII, so there once again we’ve got the premature celebration. He quit running as fast as he could and a Buffalo Bills player caught up to him. So there we’ve got in-game moral failures and then after the break I wanna talk about outside of the game moral failures so here we’re gonna have a quick break and then a word from some of our sponsors.
*clips play*
Kurt: I am here with Gene Calderon and today we’re discussing the good, the bad, and the ugly of sports. That is, we’re looking at the theology of sports, what are some of the virtues that we can acquire by participating in sporting events, what are some of the vices that people have brought upon themselves by not acting according to the rules as we see here in 2 Timothy 2:5, “An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules”, and then also what’s some of the ugliness that arises out of participating and supporting sporting events and sports teams. Right now we’re talking about the vices or the bad things of sports, but before we get back into that, it’s time for a segment that we like to call rapid questions. This is a segment of the show where we ask some lighthearted questions to our guest and so Gene, I’m wondering if you are ready to participate in rapid questions.
Gene: Let’s try it.
Kurt: Alright. So we’ve got a one minute game clock here and we’ll see how many questions you can answer within one minute so here we go.
Kurt: What is your clothing store of choice?
Gene: Kohl’s.
Kurt: Taco Bell or KFC?
Gene: KFC.
Kurt: Where would you like to live?
Gene: Texas.
Kurt: What is your spouse’s favorite holiday?
Gene: Thanksgiving.
Kurt: Do you drink Dr. Pepper?
Gene: Yes.
Kurt: What’s the one thing you’d be sure to keep with you if you were stranded on an island?
Gene: My books.
Kurt: Hokey pokey, electric slide, or the Macarena?
Gene: Electric slide.
Kurt: What side is playing on your radio these days?
Gene: Nothing.
Kurt: Have you ever driven on the other side of the road?
Gene: No.
Kurt: Never driven on the other side of the road. Alright. Well, thank you Gene for participating in rapid questions.
Gene: Those are tougher than I thought.
Kurt: You did pretty well. I’m quite surprised. Good job.
Gene: Okay. Right on.
Kurt: Cool. So here we are. We’re talking about the vices of sports or the bad here and before the break we talked about the moral failures in-game and we brought up a couple examples of premature celebration, but of course we could also mention fouling, excessive fouling, you know in basketball there are flagrant fouls and so those would be fouls that go beyond necessity. Right? So if you think that you should foul in order to stop the clock or something like that, flagrant fouls go beyond what’s necessitated by the rules of the game and so there you almost see that there is a deeper, harsher intent when people screw up and then I think in soccer often we see, especially in men’s soccer, we see people trying to get the refs to give a red card to their opponent so they fake injuries. They’re like lightly flicked on the ear and they flop down, that sort of thing, and then I know there’s another in baseball, there’s a nasty player, A.J. Pierzynski. He tries to take walks on three balls. He pretends there’s drop third strikes. He’s in-game and he’s essentially cheating.
Gene: Basically. There you go.
Kurt: But there are also outside of game moral failures and so here I have in mind sort of PEDs. Performance Enhancing Drugs. It’s a way for athletes to improve their physical ability, to be faster, to be stronger, in baseball they hit more home runs. What are your thoughts on out of game moral failures Gene?
Gene: If you’re talking about performance enhancing drugs and things like that sort, we see that also in the world of MMA and my thoughts are if you’re taking it to that extreme, if you’re really so desperate to try to get the edge by in a sense cheating outside of the game, cause the goal is to eventually make it inside the game and actually perform better, I think you’ve really lost perspective. It would be the same thing in any aspect of life. If you’re going to try to cheat to get ahead in something you’ve really lost your perspective. We’re called to be honest. We’re called to be true and be able to do things not by dishonest gains and some people will try to justify, “Well we’re doing this for that and that for this,’ but honestly, it goes beyond that. It’s become like this goal that you have has become so much bigger than the goal for your life as a whole. I think it shows a reflection I think of the person’s character or where their values really are and so much that they’ve put one thing above the other. In a spiritual sense, we’ve put winning over keeping the Lord’s name holy. We’re saying “Your kingdom come. Your will be done. Hallowed be your name.” Things of that sort in the Lord’s Prayer. Everything we do is a reflection of who we are. If we’re going to call ourselves faith-based people or people of Christ, Christians, then everything we do is going to reflect on that but when we take it to another level where we’re willing to compromise our honesty or integrity in order to win a game, we’ve really lost perspective.
Kurt: Yeah. Yeah. I absolutely agree there and in order to ward off these vices we really need to have a good grounding as you’ve mentioned. We need to have a right perspective there and as the apostle Paul mentioned, that perspective is Christ. That’s the goal and that’s why we’re participating.
Gene: People do this with their jobs and with their relationships and with their whatever, but they value other things so much so that they’re willing to cheat, or try to get by, they’re willing to do just about anything to do that, and that’s just a loss of perspective and I know we put our heart and souls into competition and things of that sort, but again, what is the greater perspective and when we lose focus of that we’re going to make compromise.
Kurt: Yeah. I know and it’s great that you mentioned that people, what they do in sports finds itself into the rest of their lives. It affects their marriages. It affects the relationships. If they’re willing to cheat in the game they’re willing to cheat in other aspects of their lives. It’s a great bridge there between the things that we learn in the game and the real world and I want to use that term real world because in a sense, games are just fictional things that we’ve made up. You’ve got Nate Smith who created the basketball game. You put the ball in the hoop. Well why does it have to be that way? Because that’s what we’ve created. And so sports in that sense, it’s a fiction. It’s not real life and so when people, they put too much emphasis on sporting events, they need to realize there are more important things in life because it’s just a game.
Gene: Right. One other thing is when we play these games, whether we realize it or not, we’re actually training ourselves on how we’re going to handle some of the things we’re going to handle in life with the kind of mentality that we’ll take into the game even though that’s the fictional thing, it’s a good time to practice that we’re going to have to bring into this real world such as value or cheating or working hard and gaining, things like that, if we don’t bring that into perspective we might just fall into pragmatism. Let’s just do whatever works in order to win the game. I realize that doesn’t fall on the side of morality.
Kurt: Yeah. I know. This is where we turn a bit from the bad aspects to the sports to the ugly aspects. When it does affect your life. When we begin to embrace certain life philosophies like pragmatism that you’ve mentioned. One of the big things that I see in 21st century American sports is essentially it’s in practice. It’s functionally idolatry in certain regards where we’re paying hundreds of millions of dollars to athletes, especially I have in mind elite athletes here, some of the non-superstar guys. They still make a more historically common wage. Maybe some of the guys making less money have to pick up a second job in the off-season, which is the way it has been traditionally speaking over the past 150 years, if it paid at all for some athletes, and so we went from a fictional game to the gladiator games. Right? I mean we went from a board game to nationally televised, broadcasted with sponsors, and it’s just become this big hoopla, and this is just a regular sporting event now, not even like a championship game.
Gene: Yeah. I mean Super Bowl Sunday is bigger than probably Christmas and Easter, you know?
Kurt: Yeah, that’s right, and to that football’s a big one where because it’s on a Sunday there are a number of males who predominantly watch football who would rather stay home than go to church and fellowship with their community and this may be the case….
Gene: We’ve made a joke out of that in churches. We’ve kind of excused it because we joke about it. Yeah, okay pastor. When you done? The game starts soon. Even in churches we joke about it, but it really is a serious problem.
Kurt: Yeah. Cause we’d much rather have people coming to church than watching a fictional sporting event.
Gene: And nothing against football games at all. I mean, yeah, we want to watch games too, but we’re also in the digital age where we have DVR and things of that sort. We’ll catch up. It’s not the end of the world.
Kurt: Yeah, and it’s about priorities. If you really want to watch that game, what’s more important? Watching the game or going and creating and fostering healthy relationships with other believers?
Gene: I think culture has fed that to us to the point where it glamourizes or even make a team more valuable to get together with the fellows and watch a game than to go to church and this is where we’re going to have to watch our influences. We’re going to have to kind of say “Prioritize. What’s the bigger issue here?” Because if we leave it to the football commercials, they’re going to give us one side. I’ll say it again. Take a look at the bigger perspective. Things will start to come clearer.
Kurt: That’s right. And as you point out, these are cultural influences, especially for non-believers. Right? They’re just going to do whatever they feel like, but in that sense we’re all responsible. Right? I mean not just us Christians. Our society at large has created this atmosphere of the sporting world and without God as our goal, all of a sudden we see these vices, even the bad things that we talked about, become all the more common where athletes are doing it all for themselves, they’re trying to win just for themselves. It becomes warlike. Right? There’s a lot of divisiveness so even in your regular season like with baseball, there are harsh rivalries. I can recall a game, I’m not sure if it was playoffs, between the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers, and there were some fans, I think they were Dodger fans, they beat up on the Giant fan and the guy went into a coma.
Gene: Oh my goodness.
Kurt: This is where people have lost perspective. When the game becomes that important that you want to fight another fan, you’ve clearly gone too far and there is a clear obvious moral failing there. And that’s some of the downside of sports.
Gene: When we start valuing things that really don’t bring any benefits to us other than the feeling of “Hey, I’m part of this group that won,” again, ultimately we’re really losing, even if morality has to go out the window in order for my team to win, we’ve really lost perspective then. That’s the problem. We’ve put so much value, so much emphasis on that thing of winning and the other guys are losers, that that’s all that our life is worth or that life is about now and there are fanatics who will take it that far, but sports is a good thing. It’s not wrong to get out there and even kind of gloat or a little bit of trash talk. It’s meant to bring out a competitive way, to bring our best effort out there, and to build each other up, but when you start taking it really personally and lose perspective it’s like “Okay. It is a game,” that’s where all of these compromises, all these weird behaviors start to come out, even to the point where it may become violent and that’s the danger we always have to be careful of, the slippery slope that we head into, except in those kinds of matters.
Kurt: That’s right. While there are certainly ugly aspects and there are bad aspects to sports, it is good to keep in mind those good things. We mentioned the spiritual virtues that come as a result of that. I want to sort of conclude on a good note about sports, taking it a level deeper. More than the personal benefits that we receive, the spiritual virtues that we receive, is that when we participate in sports, we are in a sense, using our God-given talents, we’re using our God-given imagination, because sports is a game and it’s fiction. We are in that sense participating in the creation because God creates the world and then he creates creatures who then can create small little mini-worlds. Right? In that sense, we’re tapping into being made in the image of God because we are imitating God and I’m saying this in a good respect. We’re imitating the way God is and the way that He made us to be and so in that sense we’re participating in the creation by creating ourselves. Right? We’re creating games. We modify and update the rules. Right? This takes it a level deeper because we are tasting the great virtues that God has given to us and wants us to enjoy. You know, Gene, you’ve mentioned being on a team and how teammates can lift you up and yeah, there’s fellowship. It’s key. Not just in the Christian community, but it’s something that everyone can experience when they play sports.
Gene: Ultimately, when we’re playing a sport or we’re participating in it, we do it because we’re intentionally trying to reach a goal and if there isn’t a goal place before us to try to attain, we’re going to sit on our backsides and not do anything but just sit back and watch, but the whole reason why there’s a game is for someone to get up and participate and in the same way, I think a lot of us, Christians, if we go to church we just kind of want to sit there and watch the game happen and sort of take in our faith and say “You know what? I’m actually going to play this game.” I’m using this word loosely as far as
“I’m gonna play this game called Christianity where you know what? I may go out and evangelize and I may go out and share a word.” In this sense, I’m participating in this game. In this game, there has to be a strategy involved, there has to be training, there has to be work. I need a team to help me put this all together, but ultimately I’m gonna go out there and I’m gonna play this game and I’m gonna win this race. I’m gonna go out there and apply everything the Lord has blessed me with whether it be physical, mental, or spiritual. I’m gonna go out there and play this game and the only way I’m gonna get excited about playing the game is to plan for it. I gotta pick a fight. I gotta go out there and say “Hey. This is the game. You’re the opponent, and I’m gonna go out there and I’m gonna challenge you.” Now for some of us that opponent may be a struggle in our life or just blatant sin in our life. We’re gonna pick a fight with that aspect and you know what? I need to train and prepare. I need to go out there and be ready to take this opponent on and I wanna win. So there’s gonna be strategy involved. There’s gonna be techniques involved. There’s gonna be some time. I’m gonna get a team together and we’re gonna win this game. There’s so much involved I think that we can learn just from sports that really cross over and parallel our lives.
Kurt: Yeah. And in turns of spreading and sharing the Gospel as well, there’s sports evangelism that Christians utilize. Sporting events and opportunities to reach people and to share the Gospel with people.
Gene: Right.
Kurt: Have you ever had experiences in sports evangelism yourself?
Gene: What would you mean sports evangelism? How would you mean that?
Kurt: Sometimes there are like formal Christian ministries, but sometimes it’s just informal. When you are hanging out at the gym with people, you’re talking with people about Jesus.
Gene: As a trainer and as a coach, there’s so many times I get to use the parallels. I’ll train them to the point where they hate me, they can’t stand seeing my face again. They go out there and they win the match and they look at me and say “I couldn’t have done it without you. Thanks so much. You’re my guy.” They love you to death and sometimes during those opportunities before the match I can start to witness to them and say “Hey. This is how it is.” And then afterwards I can say “Remember this feeling because this is what it’s for and you would not have got this feeling had you not gone through the hard times.” So yeah. There’s so many different parallels that we can lose to be able to reflect what Christ has called us to. Christ never promised us an easy comfy life. He said you will be persecuted. You’re gonna have to go through trials. At the end of it all, you’re gonna see that it’s well worth it, but we’re not gonna see it or even value it unless we put ourselves through the rigorous training that it’s going to require.
Kurt: Right. Right. And so it’s good because for Christians we can understand these virtues, these vices. Right? I mean, from what the Scripture talks about, the things that we can learn from that, and even for the non-believer, they can experience these things too and in that sense they can, the Holy Spirit can utilize those things and press these experiences, even feelings upon their heart and use that to reach them. In that respect, sports is a great way to reach people too.
Gene: Yeah. If I ever meet a non-believing athlete, there are so many ways I can reach out to that person that they would immediately pick up on and understand if I start talking about spiritual values and use the physical things that they’ve been through to kind of it, and they get such a quicker, deeper understanding by using those parallels and then just pointing them to the Scriptures, and by the way you know, Paul says this and Jesus says this and Peter says, there’s those values in there that they can immediately pick up on simply because they participated in competition in sports.
Kurt: Yeah. This has been great. Thank you Gene for joining me on the show. Thanks for your insights on the good benefits, the virtues to sports, self-defense, self-discipline, joy. The downside, the vices, the moral failings, and even the ugliness that we see, so again, thanks Gene and by the way before you go here, what’s the best way for people to reach you if they’ve got further questions on the theology of sports?
Gene: You can look at our website. RatioChristi.org/Purduecal. That will be my branch of the web site but if you look up RatioChristi.org look up Indiana or look up my name, Gene Calderon. You can easily get in contact with me. Send me a message. I’d love to hear from you.
Kurt: Great. We’ll put some of those links up at our web site as well. Thanks Gene for joining us.
Gene: Thank you. It was my pleasure.
Kurt: Take care.
Gene: God bless. By by.
Kurt: So. There we have it. The theology of sports. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Now it’s time to head to our mail bag because we had a question from a listener this week.
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Kurt: So that was the Austin Groove noise, I hope you liked that, for our mail bag. So here’s a question from Christian. He writes “What would you think this phrase means? Engage your mind through poiesis rather than doctrine.” So that was the question and so that word poiesis, that comes from a Greek word, poieo, which means to make. And so here as I was reflecting upon Christian’s question here, I was wondering if what he meant there is that what the phrase means is that poiesis is about constructive communal thinking, or constructive communal conversation so essentially we’re making theology together and in this regard that’s a good thing, doing a theology in community is a good thing, and so the phrase there, and I don’t think it comes from Christian himself so engage your mind through poiesis rather than doctrine. Here I think the author phrase is perhaps a bit mistaken because I would ask the author of that phrase “Well where does doctrine come from?” And so doctrine comes from poiesis, from the communal conversation. Now that’s not to say there are fundamental propositions or divine revelation that formulate our doctrine. Right? So that’s not to say that poiesis is just ad hoc as to whatever. It’s just contrived. Whatever we make up. Whatever we decide.
There are fundamental building blocks to our knowledge base and to our theology so in that regard poiesis itself is contingent upon doctrine. It’s almost like a give and take relationship between the two concepts, more so than picking one over the other. They’re both needed. Doctrine and poiesis or what I would just say is communal conversations or doing theology in community, so Christian. I hope that answers your question but of course if it doesn’t, feel free to call up, follow-up on that, and if you have a question, give us a call sometime. Our number is 505-2STRIVE. That’s 505-2787483, and you can leave a message during the week or if you want you can have your question or comment aired here on the show live, 1 PM Central Time on Saturdays, and of course that’s not every week. We try our best to hold to that standard. Last week we were a bit early because the breakout session at the Defenders Conference.
That does it for our show today. I’m grateful for the continued partnership with our patrons. If you want to learn more about how to become a patron you can go to Veracityhill.com/patron. You can learn about the different levels there and the benefits involved. This is a listener supported broadcast and so I’m only doing this because of the generous support of people like yourself who have chipped in just a little bit to help me produce and come on and do the show here and I’m also grateful to our sponsors, Defenders Media, Consult Kevin, The Sky Floor, Rethinking Hell, and the newly added Illinois Family Institute, a special thanks there to David Smith’s organization for their support. I would normally thank my tech team, Chris and Joel, however today they were both out and about on some other different planetary system, but I look forward to them perhaps coming in next week to help manage the tech stuff behind the scenes here, and then a special thanks to Gene Calderon for coming on as our guest today, discussing the theology of sports. I found his insight was quite helpful, thirty years experience in mixed-martial arts. He’s really lived this stuff out. He’s experienced it so much in his life he’s been able to share with people the Gospel through sports and so I’m thankful that he was willing to come on the show and if you want to connect with Gene I’ll have some links on the web site at Veracityhill.com and you can connect and ask him questions to if you’d like. Thank you so much for listening in and striving for truth on faith, politics, and society.

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Kurt Jaros

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