what is muscular christianity in sport

A standout athlete at Yale in the 1880s, Stagg was originally going to be a minister. In a somewhat similar way, proponents of amateur sports believed that an athletes motivations were the key to unlocking the character-building potential of sports. For your security, we need to re-authenticate you. It is interesting, too, to consider how the founder of basketballs views on amateurism evolve over time. The Buffalo Germans, pictured above, were perhaps the most famous of these early amateur-turned-pro hoopsters.]. Berenson and other women who picked up basketball were still constrained by gendered norms and expectations that limited their opportunities in athletics. Please. There are a couple different ways to consider how those original muscular Christians might feel about all of this today. In 1894, Berenson wrote an article explaining how and why she adapted the sport for her students, and she framed it with a similar logic used by muscular Christians. In terms of muscular Christianitys broad influence on American sports, one of the most important legacies is the idea that sports can be a site for moral formation. And if it's not too sore a topic, when might we expect its release? Later in life, he told one interviewer that one of footballs key purposes was to provide athletes with a belief in prayer, a faith in God..

I knew from experience that the FCA was not just a club for Christian athletes; it was trying to form me into a particular type of person. I get to think and write about those two themes quite a bit in my current role as the Assistant Director of the, As for the origins of my interest, I'm one of those academics who got into a subject for autobiographical reasons. Basketball proved to be an adaptable game that could be embraced by all sorts of communitiesreligious and otherwise. But sports are also seen as a space where Christian values can be cultivated in young men. They might lament the fact that basketball is no longer closely linked with the white Protestantism that helped to inspire its creation. But along with the practical matter of making a game to please his boss, Naismith also believed basketball could provide strategic value to muscular Christians in a couple different ways. It appears that you have disabled your Javascript. In the posts to come in this series, well look at four different perspectives that have resulted as Christians worked to determine new ways to connect their faith with their participation in athletics. . Naismith believed basketball was at its best when coaches were not involved in the game, only the players on the court. It was still doing Gods work. Instead, he pursued a career in coaching, deciding that he could influence others to Christian ideals more effectively on the field than in the pulpit.. Although baseball was played at the college level, professional baseball was the most popular and prominent version. As historian Derrick White explains, Gaither (and many others) saw college football as a way to cultivate a version of Black manhood that tied student-athletes to the ideology of racial uplift and, eventually, to the mantle of racial leadership., In the 1920s, while he was a college athlete, Gaither wrote an article on the benefits derived from football that advocated for the moral value in the game. When he became a coach himself, Gaither infused his football program with Christian values. note: Paul has already corrected me. So along with trying to make Christian men more physical and athletic, theyre also trying to make physical and athletic men more Christian. The obvious and blatant hypocrisies of amateur American sports probably limit our ability to understand amateurisms original allure. Muscular Christianity comes along and says that Christiansespecially male Christiansneed to place a higher value on the physical body: they need to train it and exercise it so that they can put it to Christian service. "By developing her body by as scientific and thorough means as her mind, Berenson wrote, women could "reach the highest development of true womanhood.". Q6: Thanks for smartening everyone up. Woodens pyramid was essentially a collection of values that muscular Christians had advocated for earlier in the century: loyalty, cooperation, self-control, initiative, honesty, faith, and so on. This is why you can have someone like John Woodena small-town Indiana boy who idolized Amos Alonzo Staggplay pro basketball in the 1930s after his college career was done, with no apparent reservations.

As muscular Christians get more and more involved in athletics, they do two main things: First, they help to legitimize sports for church-goers, making it a more respectable activity instead of something seen as frivolous or even sinful. How did they evolve? He protested the YMCAs racial segregation in Washington, DC.]. note: The Triangle magazine from January 1892 mentioned in last weeks article. But playing in order to make money, win acclaim, or for other supposedly selfish reasons corrupted the idealism that made sport an engine of positive moral formation. Pauls a professor at Baylor University and an aficionado of the Kansas City - Omaha Kings. The football team, meanwhile, is led by Amos Alonzo Stagg, who later pioneers and develops the roles of full-time collegiate athletic director and football coach. Defenders of amateur athletics saw it as a betrayal of their principles. "By developing her body by as scientific and thorough means as her mind, Berenson wrote, women could "reach the highest development of true womanhood.". What does it mean to compete for Christto be a Christian athlete or coach? Alright, time for the riveting Q&A, which has been slightly edited in some places, between super cool academics. And the fellows who play and the men who coach them must realize that, in no small way, by their actions they are preaching sermons and laying down rules of conduct for the coming generation.. When the ideology was first developed in the nineteenth century, it was closely linked with notions of White Anglo-Saxon superiority. And if you want a DEEEEP dive into this subject, check out Steven Overmans The Prostestant Ethic and the Spirit of Sport. I picked the 1920s as the starting point because that is the decade when sports truly became a national obsession, when it became clear that sports at all levels could not escape commercialism. If white Protestants want to lead and take charge of the supposedly more primitive raceseither overseas, in growing American cities, or in boarding schools for Native Americansthey need to be physically equipped for the task. James Naismith was undoubtedly a proponent of amateur sports; even at the end of his life he thought the college game superior to the professional.

At the same time, muscular Christians believe that Americas leaders need to be morally equipped for their taskyou know, the whole White Mans Burden idea. This seems like a veiled shot at football, but Naismith never ditched the gridiron game. And basketball, too, as it evolved, moved away from the guardianship of its muscular Christian origins. So amateurism conveniently set up the middle- and upper-class white Protestants of muscular Christianity as the guardians of morally pure athletics. In the 1920s, Amos Alonzo Stagg continued to articulate this belief.

And yet, there is no doubt that it could also provide a deeply meaningful framework for coaches and athletes to maintain a healthy sense of perspective in their athletic pursuits. What role did basketball play in improving Muscular Christianity? Woodens connection to the legacy of muscular Christianity was apparent, too, in his ecumenical understanding of the Christian faith. In the United States, it takes off in large part because there's both a growing fear of overcivilization in the late 19th century and a growing excitement about the possibility of national expansion. The problem with this is that for all of American history, women have been more involved in Protestant churches than men. I get to think and write about those two themes quite a bit in my current role as the Assistant Director of the Sports Ministry Program at Baylor's Truett Seminary. As sports developed in the twentieth century, the ideology of muscular Christianity remained a central part of college and high school sports. Imagine a bunch of tweed and elbow patches. He goes on to help create the first public high school sports league in the country (located in New York City), along with other youth-focused recreational programs. Might explain his lackluster coaching record at Kansas. An evangelical who believed in the necessity of a supernatural conversion experience could easily add to their born-again convictions a belief in the value of the muscular Christian program. Physical exertion can no longer be assumed as part of ones daily existence, it must be intentionally sought out. When I began doing graduate work in history, my curiosity about the origins of the FCA began to grow. Each of these five has been around since the 1970s, continuing to exert influence today. Some of them stuck with that idea and grew disenchanted with the excess of sports in the 1920s. What is Muscular Christianity and why did it have such a prominent role in physical education and athletics at that moment? In many ways this interview is a great set-up for my book, because my book tells the story of American Protestant involvement in sports from the 1920s to the presentbasically after the original muscular Christian movement. The YMCA, so central to the original muscular Christian movement, no longer works to spread Christianity. Building upon last weeks look at basketballs original rules, today were checking out the ideology that produced the sport itself: Muscular Christianity.

Amateurism was central to that project, both because amateur sports were supposedly freer from the vices associated with pro sportsgambling, drinking, swearing, etc.and because many muscular Christians were idealistic believers in amateurism as an ideology. Jan 31, 2022 | Coaching, History, Race, Running The Race Well, Theology. The opinions and views expressed on this blog do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of Baylor University or Truett Theological Seminary. Oh well.]. It was not much of a leap to go from Jesus as the ideal business executive to Jesus as the master coach.

Its a nebulous movement, but what differentiates it from ordinary Christianity at the time is its emphasis on physicality, masculinity, and the body. While muscular Christianity could be embraced across theological divides, it could also be adopted across the color line.

And it also became popular in rural and small-town communities in states like Kansas and Indiana. That, I think, is where James Naismith would have landed. And muscular Christianity also forged links between Christianity and sports that we still see today. Now, embedded within this idealistic view of sports were all sorts class- and race-based assumptions and prejudices. By setting their eyes on Jesus as the master coach, their Christian character could grow through the sports they played and coached. YMCA educators and missionaries were spreading the game far overseas in the 1890s.]. note: this is an important point in the history of basketball. I dont care what religion you have but have one. For Wooden, the Golden Rule was the essence of all religions; if someone treated others as they wanted to be treated, Wooden said, youll believe in the creator as I do.. I have a decent grasp on this religious outlook that infused basketball, but I wanted to bring in my friend, , who has studied Christianity and sport far more deeply than I have. Nation of Coaches, an evangelical sports ministry for college basketball coaches, has this for its mission statement: to honor Coach Naismiths spiritual design for the game, by empowering mens college basketball coaches across the country to leave a legacy of excellence.. Muscular Christians said that sports were not inherently sinful, nor were they simplyentertainment and recreation; instead, sports could be a way to develop and grow Christian character. He prayed with his team before games, encouraged his players to attend church, and continued to articulate the moral benefits of the sport. Click the link we sent to , or click here to sign in. Note the peach basket has been ditched, yet the net is not yet open at the bottom. Many Christians back then held on to this idea that to be the best Christian, one had to focus on the inner life, on things not seen: on cultivating the mind and the heart. These places had plenty of white Protestants, but they tended to lean more towards George F. Babbitt booster-types than the elite Ivy Leaguers who thought they were above vulgar commercialism. Q2: From my understanding Muscular Christianity emerged in the late 19th century. There was one final element to the muscular Christian program that appealed to athletes and coaches: the notion of true success. It went like this: Instead of determining ones worth and value through wins and lossesthe results on the scoreboardtrue success came from how one engaged in the process of competition. How much power and influence do those organizations have in American life? Still, basketball became one of the few competitive team sports available for women, and thus one of the ways in which muscular Christianity extended beyond men. That notion is not exclusive to muscular Christians, of course, but they do a lot of work in popularizing it and making sure the idea continues even when the logic behind it (based on the purity of amateur sports) proves to be a farce. On the one hand, its reasonable to look at the white Protestant triumphalism of the movement and to say that muscular Christians might see basketballs pluralistic and cosmopolitan development as a problem. In this view, the body is sort of a necessary evil, full of sinful desires that must be controlled by ones inner self. Thank God, they like to go to football games! But basketball was not as prominent in public debates about amateurism, at least not compared to football. Im hoping I can finish it in time for a 2021 release date. Earlier I mentioned that muscular Christians wanted to shape the structures and institutions of sports so that moral formation could occur through athletics. Q1: Hi Paul, I've known you for several years now, but could you tell the people about yourself? If you cant wait for Pauls book, a good introduction to all of this subject matter is Clifford Putneys Muscular Christianity. , today were checking out the ideology that produced the sport itself: Muscular Christianity. In 1908, sportswriter Grantland Rice captured the essence of this idea with his famous lines: For when the One Great Scorer comes to mark against your name Of course, those connections have changed considerably over the years. Emphasis on the Omaha part. My hope is that by tracing the historical and theological roots of these five approaches, those of us in sports and sports ministry can reflect on and better understand our own ideas and practices, while gaining an appreciation for those who might come at it from a different angle. While only a handful of White muscular Christiansat least until the 1940sbelieved that racism and racial segregation were serious moral problems worth confronting in sports, Black coaches and leaders showed that muscular Christian ideas could be adapted to fit the moral aims of the Black community. Designed by Elegant Themes | Powered by WordPress. In order for you to see this page as it is meant to appear, we ask that you please re-enable your Javascript! Bruce Bartons The Man Nobody Knows (1925) is the classic example of this approach. This happened soon after its invention when Senda Berenson, the director of physical education at Smith College, modified the game and brought it to her students. Weve already talked about how basketball was picked up by women. As for the origins of my interest, I'm one of those academics who got into a subject for autobiographical reasons. As a result, it continues to provide a language and framework for how Christians compete. One way that Christians countered this was by positioning Jesus as the exemplar of muscular Christian values, the ideal muscular Christian. In 1925 there was a big national scandal when college football star Red Grange turned pro.

note: girls playing basketball in Washington, DC, in 1899. While White muscular Christians like Stagg believed young Black men lacked the leadership qualities necessary to excel in football, Black coaches like Gaither directly challenged those racist assumptions. And then theres a physical education instructor named James Naismith. First, it could give them an indoor sport to play. American football never gets a foothold outside of North America. Although basketball was growing in popularity, for the first half of the twentieth century it lagged far behind sports like football, baseball, and boxing in terms of national attention and popularity. But urbanization, industrialization, and corporate capitalism are taking white Protestants out of physically demanding jobs and into white-collar city work. So while physical labor might be necessary as part of ones work, things like recreation, exercise, and sports are seen as time wasters because they dont cultivate the soul and they can potentially lead to all sorts of fleshly desires. While it claimed that its focus was not on the scoreboard, it was almost always someone like Woodensomeone who had achieved a high level of scoreboard-determined successwho championed true success ideas. You could write entire books (some already have) on the strong relationship between basketball and Catholics, Jews, or Mormons. Anyways, you've touched on this already, but how would you summarize Muscular Christianity's lasting influence on basketball and American sports? Pauls a professor at Baylor University and an aficionado of the, I'm a historian who specializes in American sports and Christianity. I have a decent grasp on this religious outlook that infused basketball, but I wanted to bring in my friend Paul Putz, who has studied Christianity and sport far more deeply than I have. And muscular Christianity also forged links between Christianity and sports that we still see today. Six years later Im still digging into those questions.

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