Rev Dr Rob Marshall, Priest at St John the Evangelist, Welwyn Garden City

Sport. Isn’t it just fantastic, especially during the Invisible Magic Friend’s Holy Pandemic.

Sport is a theological matter. In fact, there wouldn’t be any sport without theology. That’s how important theology is.

3 thoughts on “Rev Dr Rob Marshall, Priest at St John the Evangelist, Welwyn Garden City

  1. No!
    No, no, no, no, no!
    Once again that old canard about sport being like religion.
    It isn’t.
    At the end of the European Championship match this weekend there won’t be dead bodies scattered over the pitch. Sport is not about one person or group prevailing over the other with the defeated being suppressed, banished, or slaughtered. Sport is about a friendly coming together to find who is best at a particular discipline at a particular moment. It is an ongoing process, new competitors, new winners generation after generation. No one wins conclusively for ever. Yes, there can be ‘underdogs’ who amazingly succeed against all the odds; but that’s not David and Goliath – the big Philistine ended up being decapitated. Religious ‘battles’ for supremacy have no second and third place, no runners-up. After the Israelites claimed their ‘promised’ land there was no magnanimity towards the Canaanites, the Hittites. Perezites et al – ‘nice try lads, better luck next time, no hard feelings.’

    Olympic sport is the epitome of all sport. It is a coming together of peers in a spirit of friendly rivalry; there is respect all round for other competitors who too have worked and trained hard to be the very best in their field Winning is important, but there’s a definite understanding that simply qualifying to take part is an achievement in itself. In Olympic competition there are honours for second and third place.

    There is no parallel for any of this in religious faith. In religion it is a matter of winner takes it all. My IMF is the right and only one; my BBOMS is the right one, not yours. In religious competition and struggle for supremacy or domination there are always dead bodies on the field afterwards – lots and lots of them; every time.

    All that Marshall said about sport in relation to the pandemic was true. But as for offering ‘quasi theological insights,’ that notion was a load of complete claptrap.


    1. Perfectly put, Liverpudlian.

      Another rather important difference between sports stadia and places of worship is, of course, that at least in sports stadia the subject of worship actually turns up as well.


  2. Well said both.

    Does Rob Marshall really, seriously think that when sports commentators talk about ‘David and Goliath’ or ‘walking on water’ or ‘coming back from the dead’ they are trying to make a theological point? Or that the theological connotations are the first things their listeners will think of? At most, such phrases hark back to what used to be a shared set of cultural and literary influences. In practice, they are usually as empty and hackneyed as any other lazy cliche.

    It’s bad enough when people like Marshall insist on seeing perfectly natural things, events or phenomena through the distorting prism of faith. Now they’re trying to muscle in on sport as well. What next? The Eurovision Song Contest?


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