What would Jesus do?
Jesus would not turn an essentially powerful slogan into a marketing ploy.
Jesus would not participate in capitalism or consumerism, especially around a holiday that uses his name to boost sales.
And Jesus would not play scholastic competitive sports.
The slogan—What Would Jesus Do—has been haunting me since the 2015 ACC championship football game in which head coach of Clemson, Dabo Swinney, was captured on camera twice berating the team’s punter.
There are several important reasons this incident is worth more attention.
First, scholastic coaches screaming and swearing at their players is typical, both historically and currently, in sports; therefore, Swinney’s outbursts need not be singled out as somehow unique (with the important caveat that these moments of unequal chastising are disproportionately between white coaches and black athletes, unlike the Swinney incident).
Second, these fits of rage and profanity are demonstrated by coaches (leaders) who press their players moment by moment to be in control and to display high character.
And third, as someone who has been a high school athlete and coach in the Bible Belt, I have witnessed that scholastic sports are places where no one can hide from Christianity. As Diane Roberts explains:
Christianity and football, according to former Florida State and NFL star Deion Sanders, “go together like peanut butter and jelly” — and they have for a long time. The marriage between the Prince of Peace and America’s most warlike sport predates the Reagan era, when the religious right and the Republican Party became fatally entwined. In fact, it started more than a century ago, in England.
In this twisted conflating of competitive sports and Christian zeal, again, Swinney is not unique, but simply one of the more demonstrative coaches for Christ.
Just as the warmongering and daily intolerances as well as calloused demonizing of the poor and disregard for children in the United States prove that the country is no Christian nation, scholastic sports and the hypocrisy of the leaders are further evidence that the sloganification of Christianity is all word and no deed.
As I have argued before, there is no real or credible connection between academics and athletics, and the pontificating about student-athletes is mostly smoke and mirrors so that coaches, universities, and the NCAA can profit on the backs of young people who at some point loved the game.
This sanctimonious and vapid hand-holding between competitive sports and Christianity is but another piece of the larger United States of Hypocrisy pie.
Jesus wouldn’t berate a young person publicly, humiliating another human being.
But we don’t have to go that far—no one expects anyone to be an idealized personification of perfection.
Adult leaders of young people should have higher standards for themselves than the people they lead.
And there is no way to square Christianity with capitalism without corrupting Christianity.
Just as there is no way to square Christianity with competitive scholastic sports without corrupting Christianity: