Which Team are You Praying For?

On Super Bowl Sunday, sports and religion intersect like no other day in American life (possible exceptions: anytime Notre Dame and BYU play each other in anything; Joel Osteen’s church-wide foosball tournament). Walter Russell Mead shares the stats and adds a dose of good sense:

According toa recent survey by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), half of American sports fans “see some aspect of the supernatural at play in sports.”

About a quarter of fans report having prayed for God to help their team or believe that their team has been cursed at some point in time. Roughly one in five believe that God plays a role in determining the outcomes of sporting events or perform a ritual before or while watching their favorite team. Half of all respondents fall within at least one of these categories, and football fans are more likely than those of other sports to express a belief in supernatural forces.

Thirty-eight percent of white Evangelicals say they have prayed for their team while fans in the Midwest are especially prone to believing that their team has been cursed (38%). Meanwhile, 62% of white evangelical Protestants and 65% of minority Protestants believe that God rewards athletes who have faith with good health and success.

For all those preparing to put on your lucky pair of socks, do that ritual dance of yours in front of the television screen, and say a little prayer for your team we do have one little question: what team did Job play for?

Faith involves accepting God’s will; superstition is about trying to trick or coerce God into complying with yours. Christians especially should understand this; Jesus of Nazareth got the cross, not a Superbowl ring.