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"I love the sense of satisfaction that I get when I’ve done a swimming workout or race, and know that I gave my whole being and heart to God in every moment of the swim. It’s the best worship I can offer him."

Penny Heyns

Christianity and social scientific perspectives on sport

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Tom Gibbons and Stuart Braye, Ed., London Routledge, 2020 (actually 2019). ISBN 13:978-1-138-31117-6

The book consists of nine papers which address a range of issues relating to Christianity and sport, viewed through a sociological lens. The authors argue that religion has tended to be marginalized in the social scientific study of sport and are seeking to redress the imbalance.

Can sport be regarded as ‘cultural liturgy’? Recognizing the significance of the liturgical frame for the social scientific study of sport - Zachary Smith

The author proposes Smith's (2012) “concept of cultural liturgy as a way of recognizing the significance of the liturgical frame for studying sport while also serving as a useful construct for the social scientific study of sport”.

Redeeming the habitus: a Christian sociological approach to embodiment in sport -Mike Tyler and Tom Gibbons

This paper is a response to exclusively secular explanations of embodiment in contrast to the Christian high view of the body.

Tanni Grey-Thompson ‘The one that got away’: a theological analysis of foeticide infanticide and the deviant Paralympic success story - Stuart Braye

In a very powerful and challenging chapter, Stuart Braye, argues that the International Paralympic Committee’s claims for advancing equality for disabled people is undermined by the continuing foeticide and infanticide of disabled children, to which IPC turns a blind eye. His statistics show that in the 2016 Paralympics, Team GB won on average 12 medals a day but that nine disabled children were aborted each day in Britain during that period, something which is “the antithesis of the equality that the IPC claim is evolving”.

He continues: “In the UK, we live in a society where it appears that the role of the unborn, or newly born, disabled child is to be obliged to die, because that is what, we, as a society have decided is their role. It is against their wishes and interests, it is murder”.

The policy of the IPC, he argues, implies that disabled people who are athletically talented have value whereas people lacking a sporting talent appear not equally valuable. He accuses the IPC of “aggressive contempt towards disabled people”

The author further comments: “One of the deviant aspects of the Paralympic Games as I see it, is that whilst it is a spectacular sporting event in its own right, it does give the false impression that equality for disabled people has indeed arrived”.

‘Jesus Saves’ and ’Clothed in Christ’: athletic religious apparel in the Christian CrossFit community - Alexander Darius Ornella

In this essay, the author looks at how business opportunities, religious and sacramental practices, advertisement and consumption practices collide in relation to athletic religious apparel.

‘We must not engage in the blind glorification of sport’: Christian orthodox youths negotiate dominant societal and alternative Reformed sport discourses - Froukje Smits, Annelies Knoppers and Corina van Doodewaard

The chapter looks at why the Dutch Orthodox Reformed Church regards sport as evil and discourages or forbids members from participating. Organized sport is seen as a worldly pleasure that must be avoided either because it is intrinsically bad or because it is associated with sinful behaviour. The article is based on interviews with young people who explain why they avoid sports.

Re-characterizing confidence because of religious and personal rituals in sport-findings from a qualitative study of 15 year old student-athletes - Matt Hoven

The paper, based on interviews with twelve 15 year-old student-athletes at two Canadian Catholic high schools, aims to show how sport psychology research on athletic confidence could be enriched if athletes’ use of religious and personal rituals in sport were considered when characterizing confidence.

Single separate or unified? Exploring Christian academicians’ views of the body, sport and religious experience - Sean Sullivan

The article provides an initial exploration of how a sample of Christian academicians in sport-related disciplines viewed the body, sport and religious experience.

Without any background in sociology, I found the chapters very accessible and interesting. Braye’s chapter on foeticide, infanticide and Paralympic movement deserves to be widely read and considered by policy makers in disability sport. An important book.

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