Remember when Babe Ruth called his shot over the center field wall or Usain Bolt glided to a world record? Two examples of amazing talent that left us cheering fanatically! (I actually wasn’t alive when Babe Ruth did that, but I have seen the footage; it is amazing!)
As a former college athlete and current fan of athletics, there are frequent moments when my jaw drops and all I can say is “wow”. You know exactly what I mean – those moments like Babe’s or Usain’s when some athlete does something ridiculously amazing. It brings us to a place of wonder, a place of amazement, a place of marvel. The reason – athletes aren’t just “entertainers”, they are actually artists. They realize what the human body is capable of and spend countless hours working and training that very body to perform stunning acts.
Leo Tolstoy, author of War and Peace, defined art in terms of its ability to communicate concepts of morality. I like that. Ruth Saw, a philosopher, said that top athletes demonstrate “elegance in action”. I like that too. I think this makes our case of athletes being artists.
So it makes sense that athletes often produce those jaw-dropping moments. They use their body in such excellent ways so as to generate wonder in spectators. Making that “impossible shot” or hitting that “perfect dismount” are actions where an athlete can create excellence with his body. He can use his own body to do something spectacular, something that supports the purpose and functionality of the human body, a temple of the Holy Spirit as the Bible says. He uses his body to reflect something beautiful. Go back to Tolstoy’s definition – art should communicate concepts of morality: the body is good and it can do amazing feats of physical performance, which underscore the magnificence of it. Athletes showcase a “theology of the body” in their performance. What I mean by this is that their actions teach us all something about our Creator. The feats of athletic excellence are beautiful, magnificent, all things that reflect truths about God. And we are drawn to these things, because we were made for God.
Another beautiful thing that uses the body to also showcase and reflect God and His truth, beauty and goodness: sex. And by sex, I mean the act of intercourse where a man and a woman, married to one another, are physically representing their free, sincere, total, fruitful gift of self to the other. So if sex is beautiful, what’s wrong with pornography? Pornography is not sex. Pornography is a lie. It uses the body of another person(s) to incite sexual desire and pleasure. It is not real; it is fantasy. It uses the body for something disgusting. It is not giving of self; it is using another. It is not faithful; it is fickle. It is not fulfilling; it is enslaving, creating an inner prison for millions of individuals. Pornography is a perversion of sex.
When a husband and wife seek to serve each other in their marriage, the sexual union becomes a profound reflection of God. The term “making love” becomes a true description. Love is giving to another for their good. All sex should be making love – giving yourself to your spouse as a physical sign and gesture of unconditional love. Since this is not what pornography is, it can’t be art. Pornography, coming from the Greek meaning “description of activities of harlots”, does not reflect concepts of morality – it does the opposite. It does not reflect truth, beauty or goodness – it does the opposite.
This is why sports engender awe and pornography engenders addiction, violence, and enslavement. No one is ashamed of being a sports fan. Thousands of men are seeking freedom from pornography. The National Council on Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity estimates that 6 to 8 percent of Americans – or 18 million to 24 million people – are sex addicts. And 70 percent of sex addicts report having a problem with online sexual behavior.
One statistic from 2006 claimed the worldwide pornography industry had $97 billion in revenue. I just saw a business site stating the US internet pornography industry has $2.8 billion in revenue. The industry is huge with 35% of all internet downloads and 12% of all websites being pornographic.
This problem should appall, revolt, and sicken us. Let us continue to fight and pray for the protection of the dignity of marriage.
Every true fan of sports should also be appalled, revolted, and sickened with pornography. Let’s all hope for that.
(This blog post was originally published at FOCUS.)
Thomas started college at the University of San Diego where he played a season of football and joined Phi Kappa Theta Fraternity. He transferred his sophomore year to Benedictine College where he played rugby to stay in shape and eventually graduated cum laude with a BS in Biology. It was while at Benedictine College that Thomas was exposed to FOCUS which was a major instrument in his conversion to the Christian life. He joined FOCUS staff in 2001 and served as a missionary and Team Director at Illinois State and as Team Director at Seton Hall. After two years as Men’s Formation Coordinator and receiving his Master’s Degree from the Augustine Institute, he helped launch Varsity Catholic, a division of FOCUS reaching out to college athletes, as Director. He continues to serve as the Director of Varsity Catholic (which has full-time staff working with seven different athletic departments across the country) and resides with his new bride, Kate, in Denver. You can follow Thomas and Varsity Catholic on Facebook and Twitter (@vrsitycatholic).