After last Sunday’s Super Bowl, my best friend Roger Williams posted the following commentary on Facebook:
“We have again witnessed the largest religious event on the planet. No, it wasn’t a megachurch rally or a papal appearance. It was the NFL Super Bowl.
The event had all the elements of liturgical worship.
During the prelude, commentators engaged us with life-changing stories about players who’d overcome extreme poverty or racism. These heroic players helped build their communities and otherwise fulfilled the “American Dream.”
As the first half began, “preachers” would often interrupt the game to proclaim their messages at the rate of $9 million a minute. McDonald’s promised they’d “Pay it with Love,” while Reebok scolded us for gender-biased thinking.
Nationwide channeled a voice from the grave admonishing us to prevent childhood accidents while Budweiser encouraged us toward the ethical treatment of animals.
Throughout the show, the choir fervently inspired us with a religious patriotism celebrating the god of our age though a halftime show and fireworks. During halftime, we momentarily left our surround sound sanctuaries to overload ourselves on nachos, pizza, chips, sodas and beer.
As the third quarter started, evangelists from Carl’s Jr. and Victoria’s Secret comforted us with messages of self-indulgence, sexual objectification and amorality.
As the game entered its final minute, we rose from our couches to cheer the dualistic fight of good versus evil. By the time we heard the final whistle, we had made our offerings, consumed a common meal, expressed our faith, and spent our time, money and self to validate our faith.
After the game, the Lombardi Trophy advanced to the NFL altar in the same way clergy process into the sanctuary carrying the bible, bells and candles. At this point, the ritual was complete. The god of sports was honored and exalted. We said the final “amen.”
In closing his post, Roger asked “Somehow I wonder – is there more?”
Answering his post by email, I wrote:
Gratefully, as hospital chaplains, you and I are witness to the fact that there is more.
Every day we are privileged to share in the heroic journeys of our patients. None of them are star receivers, million-dollar quarterbacks or lucky rookies, but nearly every one of them has a life-changing story.
We’ve stood with mothers as they birth babies of 25 ounces and then eventually watch them go home as healthy babies.
We’ve seen unconscious children come into our emergency room after being retrieved from local pools. Five hours later, we’ve seen them awaken to their mother’s tearful embrace.
We’ve paced the floor with patients as they were hearing voices. And later rejoiced with them as their lives became whole again with the help of faith, family and good medicine.
We pray with our patients who curse God, challenge God and doubt their faith. Yet, much of the time, they find again that sacred space where God dwells.
Finally, we’ve held the hands of people finishing their fourth quarter of life. And in all those times, I don’t think we’ve ever heard any one of them ask – “What if there’s not a heaven? We’ve never had anyone of them say, “Now that I’m seeing things more clearly, I don’t believe there is a God.”
That’s because those patients know there’s more. They saw what the Apostle Paul expressed when he said: “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12).
Gratefully, yes, Roger, there is more.