Connecting with Culture
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Readers of a nervous disposition might want to look away now – I’m going to talk about the World Cup. As the wounds of Saturday’s penalty heartbreak slowly heal, the competition rolls on, and on Sunday afternoon is the biggest game in football: the World Cup Final.
And what a unique World Cup it’s been. One where the sport became a mere footnote to the fierce discussion. Should Qatar have been allowed to host the competition given their human rights record, treatment of women, and laws against homosexuality? Was there corruption involved? And, given their cup run lasted about as long as snow on a British pavement, do they actually like football that much?
Then there’s the response from the West. Armbands planned then left unworn, covert attempts to universalise a worldview that’s largely particular to a relative minority of the world’s population, even potential hypocrisy where the ideological sins of former host countries have been ignored.
What are we to make of this as Christians?
We’re certainly called to prophetically speak up for the oppressed and stand in solidarity with those on the margins. In fact, the reason that the West is so evangelistic in its liberalism is that it’s entirely shaped by a biblical worldview in the first place – the upside-down kingdom has become the air we breathe.
So, how might we respond?
Well, beneath all the politics, it’s important to remember there’s a football competition going on, with lots to celebrate. I’ve loved experiencing the joy of sport, watching games with friends and family, marvelling at beautiful goals, and rejoicing with those who rejoice (especially when it involves a shock upset).
But we also shouldn’t pretend it’s all about the football. Until Sunday evening at least, the spotlight will be on Qatar. This is a chance to call out unjust laws, and demand justice for the thousands of migrant workers on whose bodies the stadiums are built.
Then, we can learn from the example of others. The Iranian national team used their public platform to sacrificially stand alongside women being persecuted back home. Or, more subtly, Japanese fans have even stayed behind after games to help clear up stadiums – you wouldn’t find that in the Premier League.
Whether enjoying what is excellent and praiseworthy, risking our necks for the sake of moral integrity, or serving our neighbour in a thousand selfless and unseen ways, there’s plenty this World Cup can teach us about life on our frontlines.
Editor, Connecting with Culture
Connecting with Culture is taking a Christmas break next week – we’ll see you on the 30th!