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SPORTS: Religion & online sports junkies

JACKSON, Tenn. (BP)–For the past couple of years I’ve been a regular reader and semi-regular contributor to a sports message board called RotoJunkie.

As an avid fantasy baseball devotee, I found the site while looking for new sources of information and insight that might give me an advantage over my opponents. One of the forums on the site is specifically devoted to discussion about topics mainly of interest to fantasy baseball players.

But another forum on the site appeals to a much broader audience. The forum is called the Sports Bar, and it’s a place for discussing topics not related to fantasy baseball. Movies, books, politics, music, relationships — all are fair game in the Sports Bar.

Religion is often a favorite topic that pops up, and many of the discussions we have are eye-opening. The Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians that the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Sports Bar.

While the discussions sometimes get heated, they are for the most part respectful and civil. Most of those who contribute to these topics have a genuine interest in debating weighty issues. That doesn’t mean all of the participants know what they’re talking about.

People have some wacky ideas about religion. A number of posters claim to be Christians and yet have no qualms about downplaying the deity and sinlessness of Christ, questioning the authority and reliability of Scripture, supporting abortion on demand, affirming homosexuality as a lifestyle and embracing the legitimacy of evolution.

Yeah, and I can claim that the St. Louis Cardinals won this year’s World Series. Just because I want to believe it, doesn’t make it so.

One poster who stands out in my mind says he’s a Christian, but his hatred for anything godly is abundantly apparent. He considers all conservative Christians to be on the same level with abortion clinic bombers, and he regularly derides evangelicals who post in the forum. All the while, he claims to be a staunch proponent of tolerance.

Funny how those who scream the loudest for tolerance are the first ones to deny that privilege to Christians. I wish I could say people like him are rare in today’s world, but that’s simply not the case. Their numbers are growing by the day.

The Sports Bar is a constant reminder to me that we’re living in very dark times, when Christianity is regularly scorned. All the while, too often Christians themselves are oblivious to the disdain. Many times we as Christians find ourselves surrounded by a Christian subculture. We interact with Christian friends almost exclusively, read Christian books and listen to Christian music. Our paths don’t cross with unbelievers as often as they should.

Although it’s no substitute for personal relationships with such people, an online forum like the Sports Bar provides an opportunity for at least limited interaction with — and witnessing to — those who aren’t believers.

The message board isn’t always easy to read. Sometimes I get frustrated at those who simply don’t understand. Other times I get downright angry.

But the Sports Bar is always a wakeup call to me, and it’s a great place to get the pulse of what people in our culture think about religion and Christianity.
Tim Ellsworth is a regular columnist for BP Sports, online at www.bpsports.net. He now lives in Jackson, Tenn.

    About the Author

  • Tim Ellsworth

    Tim Ellsworth is associate vice president for university communications at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally.

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