If you can’t get enough of Tiger and Brit Hume or Mark McGwire’s recent confession to steroid use, or if you go to your Bible and look up the verse that Tim Tebow has painted under his eyes each Saturday afternoon, then you may like Tom Krattemaker’s new book, Onward Christian Athletes: Turning Ballparks Into Pulpits and Players into Preachers (Rowman & Littlefield).
What’s the most important take-home message for readers?
Pro sports fans see a lot of religious expression in pro sports—players pointing up to God after a touchdown or home run, for example, or thanking and praising Jesus in post-game interviews—and that was my starting point for the research. As I began to dig into it I was struck by how much organization and strategy exists behind and under of all this. Not to say it’s secret or sinister or anything, because it’s not, but fans don’t realize how much work goes on behind the scenes by the Christian organizations that minister to athletes and leverage sports to reach the public with their evangelistic message.
What are some of the biggest misconceptions about your topic?
Maybe “misconception” isn’t the right word. But in talking with people about my book, I find they’re generally surprised to learn how organized Christianity in pro sports actually is. For example, most are unaware that all the teams in pro football, basketball, and baseball have Christian chaplains on hand, counseling and supporting players, leading bible studies and chapel services, and enlisting players to join them in fulfilling the Great Commission, and so forth. One journalist has called pro sports perhaps the most heavily proselytized segment in our country, and that could very well be true.