Thursday, September 24, 2015

Experimental theology: religious football

Somewhere between one third and one half of Americans believe that God / Jesus cares enough about the outcome of sports contests to intervene, typically in favor of those who pray most fervently. I propose to put this belief to the test with the new game of Religious Football.

The game is very simple. It is played on a conventional American football field with a standard ball. The game begins with the ball at midfield on a tee, and two teams of eleven prayers line up on opposite sides of the field, five yards from the 50 yard line. Each team prays as hard as it can for the ball to move towards the opponents' end zone. Prayers can be spoken or silent, according to each team's ecclesiastical tradition.

If a team manages to pray the ball across the line, they score a point, the ball is re-centered, and the process begins again. After 60 minutes, the game ends and the team with the most points win.

This is a game where the "twelfth man" is exceptionally important. Supporters are allowed, even encouraged, to pray along with their team to help move the ball. (Conversely, the 13th man will be hung from the goalposts at half time).

There are a few other rules and penalties, to maintain order. The major ones include:
  • Offsides: The players must maintain five yards from the ball at all times, so if one team's prayers cause the ball to move, it can advance and the other team must retreat. Approaching closer than that incurs a five yard penalty.
  • Illegal touching: touching the ball in any way, or causing it to move with anything other than the power of prayer, is a ten yard penalty. 
  • Out of bounds: any reference to an opponent's mother, sister, or other female relative is completely out of bounds and will be penalized ten yards.
  • Roughing the pastor: any contact with the opponent's spiritual leader on the sidelines results in a 15 yard penalty. 
 I propose that we launch this game in Texas where, I'm told, both Jesus and football are popular.