A Matter of Faith

Faith, family and football


I don’t often watch football anymore. It loses its appeal as I get older. 

I did watch the end of the Kansas City/Cincinnati game as it had playoff implications. The game was played in the Chief’s stadium with 90,000 screaming, dancing, enthusiastic fans portraying the exuberance for the sport. For the next week, millions of excited, anxious fans would be watching and hoping their team makes the playoffs.

Total attendance for NFL games in 2022 attendance was 18.82 million fans across the regular season (latest statistics from Gallup and Statista). For the NFL, a total of $18.6 billion ($10 billion of that revenue from media deals between networks and the NFL) was added to their coffers in 2022 (Statista, Sept. 5, 2023). 

In 2022, for 3,777 college games (NCAA divisions I, II and III) there were more than 50 million fans. Millions of those fans will be watching bowl games during the next weeks.

On the other hand, at the end of 2021, Pew Research data showed self-identified Christians made up 63 percent of the American population, a 10 percent drop—mostly among Gen-Zs and Millennials— from the previous decade. The Gallup Research Organization has come up with a similar figure — 69 percent of Americans identify as Christian, yet only 40 percent, or roughly 92 million people, who said they attended worship on the previous weekend. 

A Hadaway and Marler Study conducted in the late ‘90s found Americans tend to exaggerate how often they attend services with only about a fifth of Americans attending church on a weekly basis — half of the Gallup figures. 

Today, 30 million more people live in the U.S. than in 2010 (336 million as from our last census and estimates from immigration, according to the Census Bureau). Over that same period, the share of adults who claimed no religious affiliation climbed to 29 percent (Higher Ground). So, the data shows Christianity declined in the last 30 years, while the share of religiously unaffiliated adults—“Nones”— or those who identify with non-Christian religions, grew by almost 30 million over this period. Thirty-two percent of Archuleta County residents identify as religiously unaffiliated. 

The data shows that Christians are declining as a share of the U.S. adult population, and participate less in their faith and worship than in previous decades. “I’m spiritual,” is the new buzz word among many of the “Nones.” 

Over the same time period, those who attend or watch football games on Sundays increased by 5 percent, according to NFL statistics. Many non-Christian families, and Christians for that matter, put sports and recreation ahead of their faith. 

Watching sports requires no real buy in; just show up, have fun and hope your team wins. Granted, it costs a lot of money and is exciting to watch, but whether your team wins or loses, after a week goes by, the game is behind them and fans go on with their lives.

Being a Christian requires faith and discipline ­­— participation in Sunday services; visiting prisoners, the sick and lonely; education; missions; evangelization; and giving to the poor (Christians give nearly twice as much to charities as do non-Christians, ABS Study, 2023). Christians live a moral life of service and giving. 

Does football take people away from church? Yes, but only as it is representative of the culture we live in today. The real culprits are pleasure, power, money and self-satisfaction. When we, as a culture, lose our common faith in God, we see division in society and loss of morality in the populace. Cultural norms, exemplified by football, becomes problematic when they takes families away from their faith and worship on Sundays — the day of the Lord.

So, enjoy your sports, but keep faithful to your relationship with Christ and make sure your priorities are right: faith, family and football, and not football, family and faith.

This column may include both fiction and nonfiction, and views expressed do not necessarily represent those of The SUN. Submissions can be sent to editor@pagosasun.com.