Christians Making Christians Feel Uncomfortable

There's my soccer star!

My daughter has played in a homeschool rec league since roughly a year after we moved here. She is going into her seventh year of sports in the league, most of it on one team.

First, it might help to explain a bit about the league and how its teams work.

It’s a self-contained league, playing only other teams within itself, and is specifically for homeschoolers. Many homeschoolers in our area – Catholic or not – have large families. The way teams are set up is that each team is divided into three age groups: 6-8, 9-12, and 13+, with an option for girls to remain one extra year on each of the lower two teams (since they tend to be smaller than boys, especially once you get into those upper two groups). A family who joins the league is kept all on one team, and the entire team practices on the same day. One practice, one game each week. For families who might have 5, 6, or 7 children playing sports, it’s really fantastic. Much less running around, and the practices and games are all on the same two days each week.

It’s also a Christian league, and this is where, oddly enough, I’m feeling conflicted very suddenly.

Ever since we have been a part of the league, there’s been prayer before practices and games, and the team shirts all bear Philippians 4:13 on them. And the gentleman who runs the league (along with help from his über-organized wife) has always made a point that, as a Christian league, we need to honor God with our behavior and our play.  Parents, children, coaches, refs…everyone needs to act in a Christlike manner.

I have always liked this part of the league, and I thought it was nice that often, the children lead prayers before practices and games.

Now, the gentleman who runs the league and his wife have almost always been Big Girl’s coaches.  There was one year where she wound up on another team, but she wound up back with this family right after that. And they’ve always loved her hard work and effort.  (And, heck, lemme just say it: her talent. She plays much bigger than she is.)  So every season, every Fall and Spring soccer and every Winter basketball, we hear the beginning of the year pep talk and reminders: we’re going to have a great season, everyone play hard, act like Christians, etc.

He also acknowledges that not everyone in the league is a Christian; this, he says, doesn’t make a difference. We can still play together and have fun and follow the rules (which are pretty reasonable).

However, this week, something new came up that really has been rubbing me the wrong way.

Perhaps it’s rubbing me wrong because I was unhappy with a new rule for his team (not league-wide) in which players who missed a game would sit out ten minutes in the beginning of the next game. “It’s not a punishment,” he insisted. But when my daughter is a starter and gets sat for missing a game on Good Friday, I see it as a punishment (and so does she). Well, white martyrdom, right? But the idea that she got sat after I asked for an exception because it was Good Friday, and he couldn’t see why she should get one… Well, it’s just bugged me since then.  I even tried to explain to him how important the Triduum is for Catholics, but I guess it’s not something he, as a Baptist, could relate to.

Since then, I’ve been gearing up to make a plea for there to be no games on Good Friday next Spring.  There are a lot of Catholic families who have to make a choice between letting down their kids’ teams and honoring one of the most holy days on the calendar.  (Making this case, by the way, would be much easier if all the Catholic families in the league did what I did. However, more than one said, “Well, our kids make up something like half the team,” or “Well, most of our team is Catholic, and we’d wind up forfeiting.”)

Yes, I know. It’s August and Easter is in April. But when it comes to conflict, I make George McFly look downright aggressive. And I honestly don’t think my request will be met with any sympathy, either.

We all should pray

Then, to add to this crazy stress I’ve put upon myself, a new twist came up during the coach’s opening-of-the-season speech.

After mentioning that there will be prayer before practices and games, he added, “I know that some coaches have been doing a little Bible lesson during prayer time. And I’m fine with that. If you have a problem, see me.”

Well, yeah, I have a problem with that.

Look, I know they mean well and that there’s probably little my well-formed eighth grader couldn’t handle, but I have a problem with someone who is not Catholic giving my kids a Bible lesson.  Their interpretation might not match up with what they’re being taught at home and within the Church.  And I’m NOT okay with someone confusing my kids.

If you’re not Catholic, you might not understand this idea a lot.  Protestants pride themselves on the concept of sola Scripturaand the interpretation of Scripture by each person individually.  So to give you an idea of my problem, let me turn it around for you.

Our Lady

My husband and a friend of ours coach basketball in the Winter for this league. Our friend, like us, is a devout Catholic.  Imagine if our prayer time Bible lessons focused on the following:

  • The Queenship of Mary, based on Luke’s Gospel and Revelation 11-12
  • The Real Presence of the Holy Eucharist, based on John 6
  • The Primacy of St. Peter as the First Pope, based on Matthew 16, with cross-references to the Old Testament parallels
  • The Reality of Purgatory, based on Maccabees, and why we should pray for the dead
  • The Communion of Saints, based on Maccabees and Revelation

My question is: Would he be okay with that?

I somehow doubt it.

I’m still not sure if I’m going to say anything about this at all.  He hasn’t done any Bible lessons at prayer time himself.  If it happens, I’ll say something, though.  Plus, when Big Girl gets to the age where she’d have to move up to the 13+ group, we’re planning on pulling her and signing her up for a league that isn’t co-ed.  (Up until then, the boys aren’t that much bigger than her.  But in that upper group, there are young men – and I mean men who shave and have hairy arms and legs, and armpits!)  So unless there is a huge conflict, I think I’ll just wait things out.  Next Fall would be her last soccer season on this league where she’d qualify to play on the 9-12 team. And I think I’ll sit tight until then.

But I have to say, this idea that a Bible lesson could be included in the prayer time makes me feel very much like, though he says non-Christians are welcome to play with us, he doesn’t mean it as sincerely as it seems.  Such a thing would make me feel very unwelcome if I weren’t a Christian.  Heck, I already feel uncomfortable about it, and I am a Christian!

What would you do? Would you stick around? Would you say anything?

Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament

6 thoughts on “Christians Making Christians Feel Uncomfortable

  1. Sounds to me that the Lord is clearing a new path for you and your family. I know it is difficult to do the right things, but I know that you and Nathan, through my friendship with you on FB, will do what is best for your girls.

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  2. hmmm quite a conundrum. I like the idea of prayer before a game… basic, asking God to protect them and help them play their best.. generic. But Bible lessons in a sports team? Seems a bit out of place to begin with. I mean, the kids are there to play — not have a Bible lesson.

    As for the Good Friday game.. it is really a shame when Christians do not honor the day that Jesus died. I mean really! It isn’t a Catholic holiday — it is a Christian day. Supposedly, all Christian believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that He died for us on Good Friday. So I would think that a Christian League would not have any games at all on that weekend. But maybe that is just me (and you) since obviously not all Christians worship much anyway.

    Now, as much as I know it is hard for someone like [Big Girl] to sit out the first quarter of a game (after Good Friday) – it is a small price to pay for honoring Jesus. I think if she looks at it as a very small martyrdom for Christ, she will be more okay with it. Christians are persecuted all the time for following their faith, and [Big Girl] should be honored to face a tiny bit of persecution for her faith. Jesus even told us that we would be persecuted for His sake….. and we should accept it and know that it is an honor because our faith is strong. Jesus will be by her side as she sits on the bench and He will be pleased.

    If I were you, I would bring up the issue of games on Easter weekend, and suggest that as a Christian League, it would be good to honor Jesus by NOT playing on this most holy weekend. I might also suggest that Bible study has no place in team sports, that prayer is good, and maybe even a small reading – but teaching about the Bible should be left to pastors, or priests and not included in sports. That is not why the children are there. Keep it a Christian League – but don’t make it Sunday School.

    Most of all — Don’t stress over it. In the larger scheme of things it is not that important (Soccer, I mean, … not Easter). [Big Girl] is strong in her faith so I wouldn’t worry about her. And who knows… maybe the Word of God will touch someone else whose faith is weak, or non-existent, and they will feel compelled to learn more.

    Good luck!! Be at peace. Make your suggestions (no games on Easter, no “Sunday School” before games/practices) with good reasons and clear (non partisan) logic….. and then leave it up to God.

    Via con Dios my dear.

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    • Thanks, Mom. (BTW, I edited out Big Girl’s name here.)

      She actually took it well last year. Wasn’t happy about missing part of the game, but she understood, did not argue or complain (except that she thought it was wrong to have four hours of soccer games on Good Friday), and offered it up. And her accepting of it wasn’t one where you could tell she was upset with us over missing a game. She wasn’t; she thought it was right to skip that game even if there were negative consequences for it.

      I’ll have to update when I do talk to him (or email). I somehow don’t think it’ll make a difference, but we’ll see.

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  3. You know that I love you and agree with you whole-heartedly. I had an incident today where my girls were lectured by friends on the unnecessary practice of confession. The friends’ mom cautioned her kids about focusing on the similarities in our faiths and not badgering my girls about their beliefs, but the stage was set and, in the case of one of the girls, a seed of doubt planted. I can deal with that and see it as an opportunity to teach my girls about the great gift that confession is. In general, I’m not worried.

    However, I really had to work hard to see things from the point of view of the other girls, and this is where there is a similarity to your situation. Those girls love mine and would love to see them in heaven. They speak and lecture from a love of their faith and their God, and they don’t want that to be jeopardized by what appears to them to be a false practice. If we are to be what God calls us to be, we should be professing our faith all the time and not compartmentalizing our lives. (God is okay here, but not there.)

    That having been said, I’m about as confrontational as a snowflake falling against the windshield of a speeding car. I’m not professing my faith in words like these soccer people and friends are. I prefer to let my life speak, and hopefully it is doing that well. Would I tell the coordinator that I am upset? Probably, but I wouldn’t go to the mattresses on it. Would I continue on the league if my team started a bible study before games and practices? Definitely if they refused my request to lead the study!

    The crust of it is that I can’t fault them for doing what they (and we) are called to do. But I don’t have to let it affect my kids negatively or risk that they would turn from our faith because of it. One thing is certain…I got a wakeup call today about the need to catechise my girls a little better about the reason we are Catholic and why they should remain so!

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    • I can see their point of view, too, and that’s probably why I was thinking that this might be partially my gearing up for the expected confrontation over Good Friday soccer games. It’s irked me since Spring that we had to choose between Faith and soccer and Big Girl got punished for choosing Faith – by her Christian coach.

      She totally understood our reasons and could even explain it herself to the other kids, and I am pretty sure the Bible lesson wouldn’t do much as far as her faith. Her approach to “why do Catholics do THAT?” is to assume that we’re right and they just don’t get it. (I love that about her!) I just kept thinking how not-good-with-it the coach would be if I taught his kids about Mary and the Saints. 😉

      BTW, I’m bringing my Faith Defender cards to co-op and will work with the elementary girls on apologetics during religion time. Thought it might be a good thing for them all, especially since I haven’t concentrated that much on it with Little Girl.

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  4. WOW! I was reading along, thinking this whole thing sounded wonderful and then BAM!! What? Good Friday? This is NOT ok. Just think of what would happen if this happened to a child of any other faith (what is it with Catholics we seem to be the only group it is still ok to bash. sigh) anyways, you are doing the right thing. I am sure he is a good man and doesn’t understand, but the thing is, he doesn’t have too, he just has to understand it’s important to the faith of a family, and that is Christian.
    It seems hard, but I would plow ahead and try to get the other Catholic familes on board. Prayers

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