The Superbowl: The New Day of Solidarity
Religion & Liberty Online

The Superbowl: The New Day of Solidarity

If there is one day where young and old, Republican and Democrat, black and white, the 99% and the 1%, put down their weapons and disputes, it is on Superbowl Sunday. The game, the ads, the food, and so on, turned Superbowl Sunday into a major spectacle. The spectacle has not gone unnoticed among religious leaders. In fact, as Superbowl viewership has increased to over 100 million in recent years so has the discomfort about the game and the spectacle.

Tony Wood, Pastor of Preaching & Vision at Moment Church in Tustin, CA, posted on Facebook that “Sunday will be an interesting day as millions of Americans wake, look in the mirror, and choose which God they worship more – Football or Christ.” Nashville area pastor Ray Ortlund, over at The Gospel Coalition said that 2008 was his last Superbowl because, “It has become an intensified concentration of vulgarity and ego, with enough athletics in the game and cleverness in the commercials to trick me into watching. It’s simply not what I’m living for.” A fringe group of lay-preachers calling themselves “Citizens Against Super Bowl Idolatry” is planning to protest outside the game in order to warn the American public about the “deeper implications of Super Bowl idolatry in American life … ,” according to Birmingham lawyer, James Leonard Elsman.

Perhaps these religious leaders can take a little comfort in the fact that Superbowl viewership is actually expected to drop slightly this year, according to Brad Adgate, senior VP-research for Horizon Media.

[This season] ratings have fallen off for the NFL. Not alarmingly, but enough to predict that the Super Bowl may not surpass the record 111.3 million viewers the “big game” averaged last year. For the 2012 regular season, viewing was down on the three broadcast networks as well as ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.”

Among the biggest tensions from some pastors face with Superbowl Sunday is that fact that many churches will cancel evening worship services because of a predicted lack of attendance. This makes we wonder if Superbowl Sunday as become the secular version of holidays like Easter or Christmas. The Superbowl has emerged as a day of enjoying connection. A day to celebrate victory in community. The way many Americans will re-arrange their lives on Sunday to watch the game certainly reveals our values as a nation but perhaps it is also a reflection of the fact that the Church may be failing to make the celebration of the Eucharist, or the Resurrection, a celebratory, unifying, and life-organizing event for friends and family to rally around.

The viewership numbers are staggering for Sunday, to say the least, but it seems that when religious leaders point fingers at the Superbowl they may be missing that the fact the Americans are signalling to the church what people truly need from Her: a place to experience genuine connection around a celebratory event.

Anthony Bradley

Anthony Bradley, Ph.D. is Professor of Religious Studies at The King's College in New York City and serves as a Research Fellow at the Acton Institute. Dr. Bradley lectures at colleges, universities, business organizations, conferences, and churches throughout the U.S. and abroad. His books include: Liberating Black Theology: The Bible and the Black Experience in America (2010),  Black and Tired: Essays on Race, Politics, Culture, and International Development (2011),  The Political Economy of Liberation: Thomas Sowell and James Cone of the Black Experience (2012), Keep Your Head Up: America's New Black Christian Leaders, Social Consciousness, and the Cosby Conversation (2012), Aliens in the Promised Land:  Why Minority Leadership Is Overlooked in White Christian Churches and Institutions (forthcoming, 2013). Dr. Bradley's writings on religious and cultural issues have been published in a variety of journals, including: the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Detroit News, and World Magazine. Dr. Bradley is called upon by members of the broadcast media for comment on current issues and has appeared C-SPAN, NPR, CNN/Headline News, and Fox News, among others. He studies and writes on issues of race in America, hip hop, youth culture, issues among African Americans, the American family, welfare, education, and modern slavery. From 2005-2009, Dr. Bradley was Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology and Ethics at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, MO where he also directed the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute.   Dr. Bradley holds Bachelor of Science in biological sciences from Clemson University, a Master of Divinity from Covenant Theological Seminary, and a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Westminster Theological Seminary.  Dr. Bradley also holds an M.A. in Ethics and Society at Fordham University.