Saturday, October 17, 2009

17 OCT 09: The Extra Point

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: You may find the following item humorous, serious, or a little of both - but we offer these thoughts from time to time, as we keep a seventh-day Sabbath.)

True confession: Over 13 football seasons in Columbus, I've never watched the Friday night "Sports Overtime" highlights. I explained the religious reasons behind it to Dave Platta several years ago - along with a more secular explanation: "Fridays at sunset, I turn into a pumpkin."

While we have no Friday night football scores to offer, we're struck by the fuss in south Georgia over a high school game last weekend. A player caught a touchdown pass for Fitzgerald, then stopped to look toward the sky and point upward. No, he did NOT see a homemade weather balloon spinning out of control....

R.J. Davis explained his point after touchdown display of finger-pointing was meant to "give God thanks" for the touchdown. But the officials didn't see it that way, and penalized Fitzgerald 15 yards for an excessive celebration. Perhaps Davis needed to say in a loud voice which person he really considered "number one."

The Fitzgerald High School football coach says R.J. Davis was NOT trying to bring attention to himself, after scoring a touchdown. For one thing, being wide-open in the end zone with no one around you for 20 yards does that all by itself....

Many people in Fitzgerald have rallied around R.J. Davis. Some even made T-shirts illustrating what he did in the end zone, to wear at upcoming home games -- which shows they've gone one step beyond those pro-Bible cheerleaders on the other side of Georgia.

This is not the first time end-zone celebrations designed to honor God have caused controversy. I can remember when Liberty University sued the NCAA over what defined "unsportsmanlike conduct." The football players dropped to a knee to pray after scoring a touchdown. I've never been told why the Liberty basketball players don't do the same thing after three-point shots.

I'll assume R.J. Davis was sincere about giving God thanks after scoring a touchdown. But I have to ask if pointing a finger toward heaven is a proper way to do it. After all, the Biblical book of Isaiah urges believers to "do away.... with the pointing finger...." After all, atheists probably are pointing toward heaven with a very different intent.

(Before some of you think God pointed at man first, remember one thing - that famous artwork by Michelangelo is a painting, not a photograph.)

Yet Psalm 134 and the New Testament book of I Timothy both urge believers to "lift up holy hands in prayer...." I've heard ministers practically order congregations to do this, to prove they love God. They even note athletes raise their hands after scoring or winning - which proves football referees started this whole mess in the first place, with the touchdown signal.

Another question I have is whether you have to thank God on the spot when you score. Waiting until you return to the sidelines avoids a penalty. It comes closer to Jesus's instruction in Matthew 6 to pray in secret. And I don't think that's the reason behind all the lightning delays at college football games this fall.

So raise your hands in praise to God if you wish - but I suggest thinking first, about where and how you should do it. After all, if pointing a finger toward heaven hurts the extra-point statistics of your team's kicker, is that really showing love toward your neighbor?

SCHEDULED SUNDAY: More on the Phenix City-Russell County Library, and an invitation to go shopping....

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

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