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Andrew R. Meyer, PhD. Baylor University 2011 CSKLS Annual Meeting Journal of Sport and Social Issues (for consideration)

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Presentation on theme: "Andrew R. Meyer, PhD. Baylor University 2011 CSKLS Annual Meeting Journal of Sport and Social Issues (for consideration)"— Presentation transcript:

1 Andrew R. Meyer, PhD. Baylor University 2011 CSKLS Annual Meeting Journal of Sport and Social Issues (for consideration)

2 Muscular Christianity allowed for a new and modern imagining of the role athletics and sport competition had within Christian theology

3 Early Protestants in the New World saw the body as an instrument of evil and sin. Believed in original sin. Only way to redeem ones soul was to work and toil hard. Not used for sport or glory Later sport is called forth to keep young men at elite private schools out of trouble with sexual desires and other immoral behaviors. Also the young men were being seen as unhealthy and we know there was a movement at the turn of the 20 th century to include physical education to help the ailing results of the industrial revolution. Connection between religion and Christianity was given a new name to validate the new ways of thinking about the body; Muscular Christianity

4 Contemporary Protestant Christian beliefs support the ideas that : V The body is a tool to be used to establish mastery over the world V Competition is a legitimate means for demonstrating individual achievement and moral worth V Sport participation could be used as a form of religious witness(Coakley, 2010)

5 Term used to promote notions that sports participation encourages moral education as character building experience. The value of sports in education was its encouragement of youths to learn to cope with defeat, falling short, and losing, as most people experience in life. Sports ideals and lessons and their connection with the ideals and lessons of life were thought to have great benefit for the individual. What one learned on the field helped them off the field. The encouragement of competition was based on the moral grounds that games were a preparation for the battle of life and that they trained moral qualities, mainly respect for others, patient endurance, unflagging courage, self-reliance, self-control, vigor, and decision of character. (Freeman, 127) Muscular Christianity made exercise, fitness and sport compatible with the Christian life. Combined the elements seen in sports with desired characteristics of Christianity that produced manliness, courage, patriotism, moral character, and team spirit

6 The term was first used by a reviewer of Tom Browns Schooldays (1857). It became applied to a doctrine about the positive moral influences of physical exercise and sport. (Cashmore 2005, 78) According to muscular Christianity, there was something innately good and godly about brute strength and power. Physical weakness was considered to be unnatural because it was a reflection of moral and spiritual weakness…an effort to overcome physical weakness could be seen as an effort to be Christian, moral and good. Sport activities came to be seen as an effort to be a good Christian. Also viewed the body as a temple which meant taking care of it and develop physical prowess. (Mechikoff &Estes 2006, 248) Proponents of muscular Christianity claimed sport as essential for building character, leadership, competitiveness, courage, teamwork, and discipline…sport was a positive training for manhood. (Gems, Borish, & Pfister 2008, 71)

7 Thomas Arnold Head Master at Rugby (British Public School) Create in young boys a moral thinking, create Christian Gentlemen Make every boy 1.) a Christian, 2.) a gentleman, 3.) an educated person (in that order) Did no overemphasize athletics but those who so valued athleticism used Arnolds religious and educational philosophy to promote such ideals

8 Thomas Hughes Author and admirer of Dr. Arnolds – Made Rugby School famous through his work Tom Browns Schooldays – citing it as the birthplace of manly Christianity and heroic athletics Considered games far more essential to moral development than did Arnold - sold the English-speaking world of the restorative powers of vigorous athletic competition Social stress and social change required young British upper- class boys to be energetic and enthusiastic and executive; he must do things, he must do hard things, he must do heroic things. (Gulick) All under the notion of fair-play institutionalized in British athleticism Muscular Christianity became synonymous with physical morality

9 Clergyman and author Wrote on the social issues of the time and preached a Christian moral earnestness within the frame of an athletic body In published fairy tales for his children, we find the apotheosis of the strong, loving, reverent manthe doer of noble deeds. -Kingsley may have been thefirst to widely popularize the position that the greatness and scope of the British Empire came from its sporting youth – still reflected in Olympic competition today

10 1861, Hold it to be a good thing to have strong and well-exercise bodies … that a mans body is given to him to be trained and brought into subjection, and then used for the protection of the weak, the advancement of all righteous causes, and the subduing of the earth which God has given to the children of men. Thomas Hughes, Tom Brown at Oxford (London: Macmillan, 1861), Newsweek article, presidential hopeful John Kerry was described as demonstrating a gentlemans code of muscular Christianity reflecting traits such ideals as virtue of humility, the sin of pride, and the value of quiet service to others. Evan Thomas, Fits and Starts Newsweek (11/15/2004).

11 Manliness, courage, patriotism, moral character, and team spirit Brute strength and power – sin is associated with weakness Strong well-exercised bodies Body is given to be trained and brought into subjection Used for the protection of the weak and advancement of righteous causes Humility, sinfulness of pride, and quite service to others

12 Armstrong is neither a Christian nor is he (to my knowledge) aware of that he is reflecting muscular Christian notions. His image is however caught up in the American sport context that is premised on these ideals. Focused on exploring how American cyclist Lance Armstrongs popular image involves several muscular Christian values from these classic authors All of this is of course embedded in contemporary American sport ideologies, perpetuated through the media portrayal of athletes and sport.

13 LANCE ARMSTRONG The man; the media image; the philanthropist…the muscular Christian

14 Shepard Fairey Austin, TX Airport

15 Lance in other popular culture: On childrens program Arthur 10/

16 He suggests the ethos of muscular Christianitys reflections and representations are all around us and so normalized (usually but not always under secular rubrics) that it fails to stand out as anything unusual. (692). Many new developments – from… – ethic themes such as youth moral development, urban renewal and class peace through sport with the more historically American theme of immigrant integration and multiculturalism – all suggest a renewed significance and even a certain hidden dependency on muscular Christian ideology. (690). In the United States, where, it can be argued, the ethos had even greater impact in building institutions of civil society than in Britain, the term muscular Christianity is not today widely familiar, even in scholarly circles. Those who know it as such tend to inhabit the marginalized fields of education, religion, and sport studies. (690).

17 Books: One autobiography, and one biography News media – news outlets, magazines, online material Television Commercials YouTube Montage Videos At the LiveStrong campaign of the Lance Armstrong Foundation (LAF) Participation in charity events Yellow Bracelets

18 2000 Its Not About the Bike Establishes his image as an example Provides advice on living, dying and thinking about each So if there is a purpose to the suffering that is cancer, I think it must be this: its meant to improve us. He then gives a prescription, for how someone should deal with cancer, I think we are supposed to try to face it straightforwardly, armed with nothing but courage. The definition of courage is: the quality of spirit that enables one to encounter danger with firmness and without fear (273) Lance: The Making of the Worlds Greatest Champion Interviews those who influenced Armstrong and those inspired by Armstrong Argues Armstrong is a champion beyond because he excelled in an event so daunting, so physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding it has even been called sadistic. He references the perfection of Armstrong, that a pure athlete can win the Tour, but to keep winning, year after year, demands a different kind of sporting perfection (xi)

19 Nike Commercial for Lance as cancer victim: Courage, manliness, determination feature=related feature=related My Body: Strong well-exercised body Miracle Breath: Savior? eature=related eature=related A Reason for living: Body given to be trained and brought into subjection hTmLNf0&feature=related hTmLNf0&feature=related

20 In these videos we see the advancement of righteous causes as well as humble service to others Nike Driven Its about… g4gc&feature=related g4gc&feature=related Wassner sisters: s.individual&videoid= s.individual&videoid= Lance Mackey: ature=SeriesPlayList&p=60A95A6DB9FF442E ature=SeriesPlayList&p=60A95A6DB9FF442E

21 4HMg snow patrol 4HMg ygfFWCM&feature=related requiem for dream ygfFWCM&feature=related wRRs cold play wRRs These video montages reflect new ways that digital sport fans are interacting with Armstrongs image and creating virtual communities

22 Armstrongs philanthropy is a clear example of his service and advancement of righteous causes. Cancer has defined his image: I would rather have the title of cancer survivor than winner of the Tour… ( Its Not about the Bike (2000) 259.) Developed Lance Armstrong Foundation (LAF) while battling cancer Spreading cancer awareness globally is Lance Armstrongs goal through the LAF, and ONE of the reasons he un-retired. Has developed successful for cause Livestrong events A sign of faith 2004 – Yellow bracelets Today over 80 million sold (4/2011)

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24 Many have taken Armstrongs image and included it into their own lives, they have followed his example. One Facebook respondent LiveStrong is to live thru cancer, and if possible, beyond. To grablife by the balls and live it to the full. To appreciate all that is good in life and not dwell on the bad stuff, as, as a survivor, i know i shoudnt be here. Thats what LiveStrong means to me (sic). LiveStrong Challenge 2027/k.7211/TEAM_LIVESTRONG__Home.htm 2027/k.7211/TEAM_LIVESTRONG__Home.htm

25 The power and popularity of sport in contemporary American culture suggests that sport, and the characters involved, can come to assume religious and spiritual meaning. Sports have become a social activity where millions of Americans look to find spirituality today because of the embedded religious values (muscular Christian) and involves many of the socializing elements of human communities. Sydnor, suggests that we can envision sport as a cultural site that may have transformative sacramental qualities in which the effort and discipline of sport can be experienced as purification, sacrifice and immolotion. Bruce Forbes – Notice that popular culture and traditional religion function in similar ways, providing meaning and helping people cope with lifes problems.

26 B ecause of the muscular Christian ideology at work in contemporary American sport (premised on Judeo-Christian values) characters such as Armstrong can operate as religious and spiritual figures in that they give meaning and purpose in peoples lives. While Lance Armstrong is the sport hero-icon I focused on in my reseaach, I argue that these themes could be applied to many in the American sports world His case offers a clear example of the muscular Christian themes the American sport narrative is premised upon. Kyle Kusz suggests Armstrongs unique portrayal has taken the form of an ideal embodiment of the human spirit. His victory over death His continued athletic success His philanthropic endeavors Sydnor our studies and conclusions…we might boldly answer that the developed worlds obsession/fascination with…sport-related productions and representations is the result of individual and societal emptiness that is only fulfilled by God.

27 Questions please? Andrew R. Meyer, PhD.

28 Jon Meacham. The End of Christian America, {http://www.newsweek.com/id/192583}; The percentage of self-identified Christians has fallen 10 points in the past two decades.http://www.newsweek.com/id/ The Associated Press. More Americans say they have no religion: Study finds percentage of Christians in the nation has declined, 915# #

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30 Due to a shift in cultural mentality, radical orthodoxy claims that in post-modernity, individuals seek God, or the divine in and through common daily cultural activities. They seek to recover what might be termed theological textuality (a recognition and description of a divine reality in theologically empty cultural texts. Graham Ward writes on the presence of God in the architecture of modern cities and other cultural products like film and literature in his book Cities of God (Radical Orthodoxy), These thinkers point to the world not as a secularised object of knowledge, but rather as a God-given mystery. They search for the God that the academy attempts to erase, and their scholarship is aimed as journeying toward a higher wisdom of God; God may be found at their epistemological and ontological centres. Sydnor (2002), 26.

31 The power and popularity of sport in contemporary American culture suggests that sport, and the characters involved, can come to assume religious and spiritual meaning. Sports have become a social activity where millions of Americans look to find spirituality today because of the embedded religious values (muscular Christian) and involves many of the socializing elements of human communities. Sydnor, radical orthodoxy leads one to envision sport as a cultural site that may have transformative sacramental qualities in which the effort and discipline of sport can be experienced as purification, sacrifice and immolotion. Bruce Forbes – Notice that popular culture and traditional religion function in similar ways, providing meaning and helping people cope with lifes problems.


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