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Showing posts from September, 2017

The "High Visibility" Mormon in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes

Vernon Law was one of the reasons I began to take a deeper interest in the history of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

It was not Law's athletic exploits that interested me, although he did have a distinguished sixteen-year career pitching for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1950s and 1960s. Rather, it was his religion. Law was a Mormon. And he was involved with the FCA, a pioneering sports organization founded in 1954, supposedly formed from the same 1940s/1950s neo-evangelical/"re-engaged fundamentalist" soil as parachurch organizations like Youth for Christ, Campus Crusade for Christ, and the like.

I knew that neo-evangelicals generally did not think that Mormons were true Christians, so Law's involvement with the FCA intrigued me, and suggested that perhaps there was something different about the FCA compared to other evangelical parachurch organizations. Although I have since expanded beyond a sole focus on the FCA, that organization remains central to my di…

Christians and Football, the Early Years

Last week Christianity Today published an essay on football that I co-authored with Hunter Hampton. The piece looks at how Christians (particularly white Protestants) responded to football when the sport first became a national obsession in the 1920s. If you are at all interested in the cultural history of football, then you should check it out. We bring in a wide array of voices and institutions: J. Gresham Machen, Aimee Semple McPherson, TheChristian Century, Charles Sheldon, Amos Alonzo Stagg, Wheaton College, Sinclair Lewis, the YMCA, and more. 
Here is a snippet of the introduction:
...[F]ootball’s paradox—immense popularity combined with fierce criticism—is not unique to the present moment. In many ways it is a tradition that dates back to football’s founding in the late 19th century, with moments of heightened controversy emerging from time to time ever since. The 1920s witnessed one such moment of controversy. In that decade football emerged as a truly national spectacle. Spo…