“Sports Chaplains” Hunting Big Olympic Game

I’ve come all the way to Sochi
With an overarching goal-
I’m not here to win a medal—
No, I’m here to save your soul:

Have you ever heard the story
Of the savior on the cross?
Who redeemed us all from sinning
Through his sacrifice and loss?

I can see it in your eyes—you’re
Too polite to walk away;
So you’re gonna hear a story
I can talk about all day

You have shown your dedication
You’re the best at what you do
Every moment here is precious
Let me waste a bunch for you

You are here for competition
On your skis, or skates, or board
But myself, I’m on safari—
Hunting athletes for the lord!

I’ve got lots of pins for trading;
By the waterhole I lurk—
Yes, I’m here among the heathens
Doing missionary work

And I hope I bag a trophy—
Grab some big, athletic name—
Or it’s just a paid vacation
Hunting Big Olympic Game

Via NPR this morning:

There are probably fewer American fans in Sochi than at previous Winter Games, partly because of concerns about security, and partly because of the time and expense it takes to get to the Russian resort town on the Black Sea.

But Americans are represented there, with gusto, by a group of evangelical Christians who call themselves the International Sports Chaplains. Members of the group have been going to the Olympic Games since 1988.

On a recent sunny day at the Olympic Park, with bands playing and fans strolling around the venues, the chaplains move through the crowd in teams of three or four.

Reminds me of the cult recruiters I’ve seen on campuses; similar tactics, and many of the athletes are roughly college age. Sometimes they advertise their purpose, but often it is a bait-and-switch tactic:

When people see the pins, they want to trade, Gardner says. He says trading pins is a good opportunity, because he’ll say, “Hey, I’ve got a pin I’ll give to you, it’s got a story. Can I share with you that story?” Through the pins, they share the Gospel.

Gregory tells the story to a young volunteer near the entrance to the park. “See this dark area on the pin?” she asks. “That represents those choices that we make that are probably not the best choice. I want to tell you that red represents that God loves us and that he sent his son Jesus to die for us. And when we accept his love and his forgiveness in our life, he makes us clean and white, just like snow.”

Next Olympics, I want to be an atheist chaplain. My only duty would be to intercept christian chaplains on the hunt. Throw myself between the athletes and the hunters.

Olympic Conscience Wrestling

The thing you’ve been working for, all of your life?
That comes to fruition today?
The people in charge of this glorious time
Will turn you away if you’re gay.
Your colleagues, your teammates, your family, your friends,
(And you) couldn’t be more excited—
But if any of you has the wrong sort of love
Then—officially—you’re not invited.
You’ve worked all your life for this singular chance
But your hosts want to give you a choice
You can stand up and fight for the things that are right
Or compete, but keep silent your voice
I know what I want—cos I think of my friend—
You should stand up for her, and her wife…
It’s the right thing to do, which is easy to say
Since I haven’t worked all of your life.

I have known two (perhaps three, but I am bad with names, so am uncertain) Olympic athletes. One (maybe two) was my student. This student would have represented the US in the 1980 Summer Olympics… but that was the year of the boycott.

In my twitter feed, a simple and true statement: “When you tweet about Olympics, its like you’re tweeting about a party to which people like me were not invited. On purpose. By shitty hosts.”

For one person I care about, the Olympics are a once-in-a-lifetime chance, the ultimate reward (regardless of medaling) for decades of hard work, deferment of any sort of payment, and dedication beyond anything I have personally ever accomplished. For another person I care about, the Olympics are a slap in the face, a denial of basic humanity, an insult on a global scale.

And they are both right, and I can’t honor both.

It would seem easy to say that one is being hurt (if I take the other side), the other merely not advancing to a privileged peak beyond other peaks in what really is just a game. But that does not accurately describe my Olympians, really. They did not come from privilege (though, yes, the earlier Olympians did–only those who could afford to be “amateur” athletes were admitted). They worked incredibly hard, and got incredibly lucky. They are victims of the Russian hosts (not at all in the same sense as GLBT athletes, spectators, support, or citizens), not perpetrators of discrimination.

I’ve been an Olympics junkie since 1968. The politics is horrendous, but the athletes are able to rise above it–as, in 1968, Tommie Smith and John Carlos showed. 1972 showed terrorism saw the Olympics as a target; 1980 showed that politics saw it as fair game as well. And while I’m sure there may have been athletes who embodied the nationalism, or capitalism or communism, or discrimination by race, gender, class, sexuality, or more, other (more? I hope so, but have no numbers) athletes have used the platform to protest, to advance, to overcome.

Yes, I’m an atheist, but I do still believe in the Olympic games. At least for now. The hosts are indeed shitty, but (I hope, I hope, I hope) it’s the guests that make a party. And they want everybody there–most of them do, anyway–and are working to make sure you get invited to the rest of the parties.

And… I am willing to be wrong. I know I am biased. So as much as I want to make this an Olympics-positive site (I know other FtB bloggers are less than enthused with the games), the comments are open for arguments that I am wrong, misguided, or simply full of shit. (or right, of course, but hey.)


Now, I know there are some FtBers who don’t much care about the Olympics. They are, of course, wrong.

So this is a pro-Olympics thread, where y’all can throw your observations. I’ll also just tuck a little Olympian eye candy in here–I have not yet managed to make it to the Olympic games, but I did race (and lose) at the Olympic stadium. Not an Olympic stadium, the stadium at Olympia. [Read more…]