Archive for Sunday, July 22, 2012

Faith Forum: Should athletes compete on Sundays if it conflicts with their religious beliefs?

July 22, 2012


The Rev. Rob Baldwin, pastor, Trinity Episcopal Church, 1011 Vt.:

While the Episcopal Church doesn’t have any restrictions regarding playing sports on Sunday, I can appreciate the desire of people to respect a day dedicated to worship.

In the end, a person’s religion is about the value you place upon it. By that I mean when posed with a difficult choice, and your faith’s teachings dictate one thing while other factors in your life (professional responsibilities, politics, etc.) suggest another, then the decision you make illustrates to God, yourself, and to the world what is truly important to you.

I had a professor who once said that whatever trumps everything else in your life is your religion, even if it has nothing to do with God. Choosing your faith over athletic pursuits, or any other pursuit for that matter, means that your relationship with God is your religion.

— Send email to Rob Baldwin at

Deacon Godsey, pastor of vision implementation at Vintage Church, Liberty Memorial Central Middle School, 1400 Mass.:

The short answer is, no, they shouldn’t if it conflicts with their religious beliefs. To do so would violate one’s conscience, which is rarely (if ever) a good thing.

A necessary follow-up, however, is: does their religion explicitly forbid the athlete from competing in certain circumstances, or is it a matter of personal conviction that may or may not apply to others of the same faith?

Some Christians, for example, choose not to compete on Sundays in light of their beliefs about the “Sabbath” day of rest. In light of that conviction, it’s good for them to abstain from competing in a way that would violate their conscience. The most famous example here is that of British runner Eric Liddell, portrayed in the Oscar-winning film “Chariots of Fire.” (Liddell refused to run his best event at the 1924 Olympics when it was scheduled on a Sunday.)

Other followers of Jesus, like myself, apply the principle of Sabbath differently, and are totally at peace with competing on a Sunday. The obvious example of Tim Tebow comes to mind: if he can’t compete on Sundays, he’s clearly chosen the wrong profession. (Others might think that anyway, but that’s a different issue altogether.)

Muslim athletes deal with this principle as well, in light of the fasting restrictions during the month of Ramadan. Hall of Fame NBA center Hakeem Olajuwon faced this on an annual basis and was able to be true to his faith and to his team, by both fasting and helping his team win NBA championships (ironically, many have noted that his play and statistics improved during that stretch of the season.)

For me, it’s a matter of personal conviction. If your religion allows for it and you’re at peace with it, then I’d say, “Have at it.” If it’s clearly forbidden or you don’t feel at peace with it, then — for what it’s worth — I’d say, “Don’t do it.” Basically: don’t avoid it out of unnecessary false guilt, but don’t engage in it and violate your conscience either.

— Send email to Deacon Godsey at


Getaroom 5 years, 11 months ago

All Olympic hopefuls, before they train, understand the Olympics goes on despite religious affiliation and without respect to individual beliefs. This is as it should be. The rules set by the Olympic Committee cannot bend to every whim of every belief system. Know the rules and honor them or don't participate. It is really very simple. Why does this question still have life after all this time? Bending the Olympics to suit personal belief has no place in equation.

Bob Forer 5 years, 11 months ago

Mssrs. Baldwin Godsey have apparently forgotten that we are not a Christian nation, but a nation where all citizens are guaranteed the constitutional right to free exercise of religion. The question they posed has a decidedly Christian bias and is an affront to non-Christian persons of faith.

The question as posed reads "Should athletes compete on Sundays if it conflicts with their religious beliefs." Why is "on Sundays" necessary? For Seventh Day Adventists and Jews, Saturday is the Sabbath. Do they not count?

For by the way, Reverend Godsey,, the most famous example for me is not Eric Liddell, but instead, Sandy Koufax, who for five years at the height of his career was the best pitcher in the history of major league baseball. When the Los Angeles Dodgers finally made the World Series, Koufax, a non-religious Jew, refused to pitch on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath. .He was motivated not by respect for the Sabbath, but by respect for the First Amendment., mainly that ALL persons are entitled to free excise of religion, not just Christians.

Sherry Warren 5 years, 11 months ago

The people who answer the questions are not the people who write the questions. Staff at LJW write them and send them out to area leaders in faith communities to answer... FYI.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.