Including: Is loving football antithetical to loving our neighbors as ourselves?

A mericans love football. Football is America and America is football. From Friday night lights to Sunday mornings, football has become the thing that shapes and fashions the lives of millions of Americans, as evidenced by the $14 billion of revenue the NFL hauled in last year.

But it’s becoming increasingly clear that there is a strong link between playing football and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease with lots of terrible symptoms, including dementia and depression. In July, the New York Times reported on a study that found CTE in the brains of 110 out of 111 former NFL players. It was once thought that concussions were primarily responsible for CTE, but it’s just as likely that even non-violent hits accumulated over time are just as damaging. In other words, the normal, every-down sequences of football are inflicting damage on players’ brains.

This is serious stuff. So, as 2017 NFL season prepares to kick off tomorrow, here are 32 questions about football, America and Christianity:

1. What are we to make of the link between football and CTE?

2. How should Christians and the American church think about football and CTE?

3. Who’s responsible for this?

4. Is the NFL responsible because the league didn’t acknowledge the link between football and CTE until it became a PR problem?

5. Is Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner, responsible for this because he wants his league to gross $25 billion in revenue by 2027?

6. Are the players responsible?

7. Are we—the consumers, the fans—responsible?

8. If so, does that mean that American Christians are somehow morally culpable for CTE in the brains of football players?

9. Is loving football antithetical to loving our neighbors as ourselves?

10. What if Boomer Esiason is right and that “all football players” have CTE?

11. What if there isn’t a “safe” way to play football?

12. What’s the difference between rest and leisure?

13. Do Christians think they’re “resting” when watching college or professional football players toil and inflict harm on themselves?

14. Do you think it’s a coincidence that most NFL games are played on Sundays?

15. Is football inherently religious?

16. If not, then why do we love football so much?

17. Is Stanley Hauerwas right that “ . . . Friday night high school football is the most significant liturgical event in Texas”?

18. If so, could we say the same thing about Sunday (and Monday...and Thursday) NFL games for the rest of America?

19. What is it that makes football such a uniquely American sport?

20. Is football an idol?

21. How do the things that happen in a football game shape our loves and imaginations?

22. Do the things that happen in football games compete with our loyalty to Jesus and his kingdom?

23. What rituals and habits define your life?

24. Is it theologically accurate to say that we are what we repeatedly do?

25. What’s the proper place of sports in the Christian’s life?

26. If we thought of athletic pursuits as recreation, would that change what sports we play and watch?

27. Why aren’t Christians bothered by the violence of football?

28. Are we not bothered by the violence of football because football teaches us to love violence?

29. If we’re being taught to love violence, how is that loving our neighbors?

30. Why are symbols of American nationalism and military power so intrinsically tied to football games?

31. Is the evangelical church’s desire for more cultural power and relevancy motivated by biblical desires for “thy kingdom come” or more so by desires formed by the playing and watching of a game that’s about violence and conquest?

32. What do you think of the Broncos re-signing quarterback Brock Osweiler?