From Muscular Christianity to Tim Tebow

Paul Harvey

Just a quick note to a post by our contributor Art Remillard, whose book Southern Civil Religions: Imagining the Good Society in the Post-Reconstruction Era will be out this December with the University of Georgia Press.

Art's has posted here many times before on his current research interests in religion and sports (no, Sutton, fantasy football does not count). Over at the Historical Society blog, Art has reflected on "Building Bridges from 'Muscular Christianity' to 'The Tebow Thing,'" which stems in part from his current research and work in religion and sports in the South from the Civil War to World War II. A little excerpt, and then click the link for all of it:

So on "opening day," I invite students to cross a bridge from their hometown YMCA to "muscular Christianity." I cite Luther Gulick, his efforts to institute athletics at the Y, and his lifelong quest to understand "the relation of good bodies and good morals." I then turn to his colleague, James Naismith. On January 20, 1892, the Presbyterian minister gathered eighteen young men at a YMCA gym in Springfield, Massachusetts, to play his newly invented game called "basketball." Practically, Naismith hoped that basketball would give restless young men a suitable indoor activity for the long winter months. More importantly, as theologian Michael Novak summarizes, "The idea behind the game was moral, Christian, and hygienic: active clean living through vigorous exercise." Right from the gun, then, students discover the religious roots of a familiar game. Later in the course, drawing mostly from Bill Baker's Playing With God, I locate Gulick, Naismith, and other "muscular Christians" within the social gospel tradition, and discuss how they sought to Christianize all corners of society, from the schoolhouse to the gymnasium.


Edward J. Blum said…
you want to see muscular christianity at its finest: see Colorado Springs basketball court everyday at noon. P. Harvey (#1 in our hearts) makes Woody Harrelson's character in White Men Can't Jump look like a chump!
Art said…
The fulfillment of Naismith's vision, I am certain.
Paul Harvey said…
Ed meant to type: "makes Woody Harrelson's character look like Larry Bird in comparison."
B-Kelly said…
There is a fascinating connection between athletics and religion, definitely an under studied aspect of American religion. Both sports culture and Christianity are so vital in shaping our culture its a wonder there hasn't been more study of the interactions between the two. I may be wrong perhaps there is a body of scholarship that hasn't found me yet. I think anyone who has participated in team sports has come across a person who attributes their success to divine intervention. When I ran track and cross country I knew several and I always wondered where they got their sports providentialism.