Is God a football fan?
[Dr. Bennet] Omalu is best known … for the startling discovery he made after performing an autopsy on former NFL player Mike Webster. As chronicled in the 2015 film Concussion, with Will Smith starring as Omalu, the then-medical examiner in Pittsburgh found Webster had chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease caused by repeated blows to the head—the kind of blows to the head you ought to expect when playing tackle football. …
Omalu is precise and careful with his words. When he says, “I let the Spirit of God percolate into my being,” I half expect to hear his celestial brew bubble. “Everything I do, I do through the eyes of faith.”
Omalu doesn’t seem to be exaggerating; his Christian beliefs and morals permeate his outlook on everything. Early in our conversation, he asks if I’m a Christian writer, and I try to say I’m more like a Christian who writes, but Omalu isn’t one to thread the needle between competing postmodern definitions of Christian vocation. The Bible on his desk is as important to him as any medical textbook—and based on its proximity to his laptop, he might use the Bible more often.
And it’s with this same precision that Omalu offers an uncompromising assessment of the sport running U.S. recreational life each Saturday and Sunday (plus Monday nights on ESPN, Fridays if you’re in high school, and it’s even trying to make Thursdays a thing) for about six months out of the year.
He says, with the utmost clarity and conviction, “It is not of God.” …
When my father—at the time a self-described radical, leftist, black activist—was in college in the ’70s, he liked to needle his Christian peers with disingenuous “gotcha” games about everyday moral quandaries. The one he remembers the most went something like:
Dad: Hey, friend! You’re a Christian, right?”
Friend: Yeah …
Dad: But you like football?
Friend: Yeah, I do.
Dad: But wait—isn’t football violent? Aren’t Christians supposed to be about love and peace and goodwill? How could you root for people to injure someone?
He’d close it off by asking if Jesus would really cheer people on while they harmed each other.
Omalu tries not to judge people for watching football. Yet to anyone endeavoring to live a moral, convictional, and, most of all, Christian life, his charge is this: “If the way of the world is telling you: ‘Love football,’ but the Spirit of God is telling you, ‘This is not good,’ which will you listen to?”from “football ‘is not of god'” by bradford william davis in sojourners magazine (sept./oct. 2018)