Touchdowns for Jesus and Other Signs of the Apocalypse initiates the complex conversation of sports and theology. The author, Rev. Marcia W. Mount Shoop, exceptionally qualifies for examining this topic. Not only as an educated theologian, but she brings twenty years of perspective from her husband coaching in the NFL and NCAA.
Apocalypse in the book refers to the unveiling of truth. Shoop seeks to unveil the darkness and redemption of sports. The book catalogues the inconsistencies of institutions within sports and American culture’s affixation with sports. Yet, her undertaking of the theology of sports seeks to find the message of hope in the Gospel. She herself exemplifies grace and truth in the conversation of sports in America. Throughout the book, she juxtaposes her personal experience in the marketplace of sport and deep theological reflection.
Shoop shares a gripping example of her relationship with sports and theology in chapter called “Encountering Fan(tasm)”. While her husband held the role of Offensive Coordinator for the Chicago Bears, she heard the criticism from a fan in the stands of her husband. The confrontation escalated. Shoop’s reflection on this experience gives readers an insight into the deep emotions connected to sports:
They were angry at having to feel disappointed, frustrated, helpless, and hopeless. They were angry that no one was listening to them, that they didn’t have a way to control the outcome, that life is not fair, and that the things never seem to be easy (pg. 19)
This commentary on sports points to the deeper need for redemption and hope. Shoop articulately guides the reader to see how sports point us to the Gospel. Her later chapters concerning issues of race, gender, and greed show how sports reveals the human need for meaning and redemption in the world. Whether you call yourself a fan of sports or not, this topic connects to the deepest emotions of individuals. Shoop provides a starting point for viewing sports within your context.
I highly recommend reading Touchdowns for Jesus and Other Signs of the Apocalypse. Shoop’s work relevantly responds to the controversies in sports within the last six months; an extremely timely reflection. A book like this invites followers of Christ to have a rich dialogue on sports within church and society.