Sports in Society: Issues & Controversies

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1 Sports in Society: Issues & Controversies Some athletes in the U.S. combine sport participation and religion in ways that are rare in other societies. Chapter 15 Sports and Religion: Is It a Promising Combination? Religion: A Definition Socially shared beliefs & rituals that people use to transcend the material world and give meaning to their lives Birth Suffering Illness Life Tragedy Injustice Death Why Do Sociologists Study Religion? Religion provides people with a set of meanings that influences Cultural ideology (how people interpret the world) Actions and relationships Ideas about body, movement, & sports Religion is an important part of culture Religious Beliefs & Rituals The Sacred versus The Profane are connected to a sacred and supernatural realm This connection is based on faith, which is the foundation of all religions When religion is challenged, so is the faith of believers The Sacred Objects/activitie s connected with supernatural Churches Sacristy Prayers Sermons The Profane Objects/activities not connected with the divine Stadiums Locker room Warm up drills Half time talk 1

2 Depending on conditions, religion and religious beliefs can lead to Sports As A Form of Religion? (I) Powerful forms of group unity A spirit of love & acceptance Commitment to prevailing norms Acceptance of systems of power or Devastating group conflict Moral judgments & condemnation Rejection of prevailing norms Rejection of systems of power Both sport and religion Have activities to produce personal betterment Have places for communal gatherings Emerge out of a quest for perfection Are controlled through structured organizations and hierarchical authority Celebrate values through scheduled events Have rituals before, during, & after events Sports As A Form of Religion (II) Essentialists Focus on Differences Between Sport & Religion Both sport and religion Have heroes & legends about their actions Evoke intense excitement and emotions Provide deep personal meaning Are sources of existential experiences May distract attention from important social and political issues SPORT Tied to profane Goal = rewards Rooted in fact Involves competition Rituals = instrumental & goal-oriented Based on a spirit of achievement & conquest RELIGION Tied to sacred Goal = transcendence Rooted in faith Involves cooperation Rituals = expressive & process oriented Based on a spirit of humility & love Religions and Sports As Cultural Practices A social constructionist approach Research and analysis based on critical and interactionist theory Assumes that the meanings and practices connected with both sports and religions vary by time and place Assumes that variations and changes in sports and religions usually reproduce dominant values, but also may oppose them Studying Sports & Religions Using critical questions as a guide What are the meanings that sports and religions have for people? Do different religious belief systems have unique relationships with sports and sport participation? How does religion influence ideas about the body? Are some religious beliefs more easily combined with sports? 2

3 Protestant Christian beliefs have supported the ideas that The body is a tool to be used to establish mastery over the world Competitive success is a legitimate means for demonstrating individual moral worth Sport participation can be used as a form of religious witness Why Christianity Has Become Connected with Sports Elements of the Protestant Ethic are compatible with the spirit of sports Worldly asceticism Rationalization Goal Directedness Individualism Achieved Status Work ethic Time ethic Sports and Religions Around the World Research is rare Doing studies is difficult because some religions don t make sacred/secular distinctions Research is needed to understand links between various religious beliefs and Ideas about the body Participation in physical activities & sports Meanings given to sports vary by religion Well, sports fans, let s hope you ve placed your bet on the right competitor here! World Religions and Sports (I) Buddhists & Hindus use physical and spiritual discipline to transcend the self Muslims focus on submitting to Allah s will Many Muslims have a gender ideology that strongly influences the conditions under which believers play sports Some female Muslim women athletes challenge traditional Islamic beliefs about the body Religion is important in most societies, but few people assume a direct link between religious beliefs and sports, as some Christians do. This player in Sendai, Japan would not think of combining Buddhism and baseball. 3

4 Muslim women and international sports As in all religions, Muslim beliefs may be interpreted and applied in different ways Fundamentalist Muslims are likely to Enforce strict dress codes for women athletes Require male permission for females to play sports Liberal/Secular Muslim girls and women have participated in sports without special dress or male permission World Religions and Sports (II) Shinto consists of rituals and ceremonies that influence the rules and traditions of Sumo wrestling Native Americans have animistic religious beliefs that merge the spiritual and physical worlds Christians and Christian Organizations Use Sports (I) When sports become a central cultural activity, churches may alter services to attract fans as this one does due to its location next to a stadium 1. To promote spiritual growth 2. To recruit new members 3. To promote conservative, fundamentalist religious beliefs Religious schools have often linked beliefs and sports to attract fans and believers. Athletes and Coaches Have Used Religion (II) 4. To cope with uncertainty 5. To stay out of trouble 6. To give meaning to sport participation 7. To put sports into perspective 4

5 Athletes and Coaches Have Used Religion (III) Christian athletes often give visible thanks when they succeed, but seldom do so when they fail. 8. To establish team solidarity & unity 9. To reaffirm expectations, rules, and social control on teams 10. To assert autonomy in the face of power 11. To achieve success When coaches organize or promote team prayer, many athletes feel social pressure to pray, regardless of beliefs. Does this produce unity? She says this prayer to the Goddess is voluntary. Who is she trying to fool?!? Christian athletes often disagree about the appropriateness of using prayer to achieve success in sports. Public Prayers at Sport Events in the US Public prayers are allowed at all private events in the U.S. All people in the US may pray privately at any time; no law can prevent this On June 19, 2000 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that public prayers at games involving teams from public schools violated First Amendment guarantees of religious freedom and church-state separation FIGURE 15.4 Christian religious beliefs and power and performance sports: a proposed model of conflict, doubt, and resolution 5

6 The Challenges of Combining Sports & Religious Beliefs For Athletes: Determining the worth of sport participation as an act of worship when: Violence and intimidation are regularly used by players an emphasis on self-promotion and the aggressive pursuit of personal success is expected Can actions that could kill or injure others be defined as acts of worship? I just want to thank my Lord and Savior, who made this all possible. Strategies for Resolving Doubts Christian athletes use three strategies to resolve doubts 1. Focus on ascetic aspects of sports 2. Play sports as before, but Ignore moral questions Use sports to give witness & evangelize Focus on good works & service off the field 3. Give priority to religious beliefs by Changing behavior Playing pleasure & participation sports Withdrawing from sports People in all cultural groups construct images of deities that reflect their values and experiences Religion, disability, & sports (I) Biblical references emphasize that physical impairments & disabilities are Gifts of suffering given by God Signs of moral inferiority Defects to be healed, or helped through charity Religion, disability, & sports (II) Religions have supported pity and charity for people with disabilities, but offer no direct support for the provision of sports World religions all endorse the norm of reciprocity ( do for others what you want them to do for you ), and this supports providing sports to those with disabilities. 6

7 When Christianity is Combined with Power and Performance Sports Sports change very little, if at all Religion becomes muscularized It emphasizes discipline, duty, & selfrighteousness rather than stewardship, social responsibility, & humility Winning, obedience to coaches, and improving skills become moral virtues so that the sport ethic is sanctified People adapt images of their gods to fit their values; these statues muscularize Christ for young Christian athletes Do Christians play sports in the same ways as atheists and agnostics? 7

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