Playing for God

Evangelical Women and the Unintended Consequences of Sports Ministry

Reddit icon
e-mail icon
Twitter icon
Facebook icon
Google icon
LinkedIn icon
Annie Blazer
North American Religions
  • New York, NY: 
    NYU Press
    , July
     2015.
     256 pages.
     $30.00.
     Paperback.
    ISBN
    9781479818136.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.

Description

This book has been reviewed in JAAR by Craig Forney. Click here to read the review.

When sports ministry first emerged in the 1950s and 1960s, its founders imagined male celebrity athletes as powerful salespeople who could deliver a message of Christian strength: “If athletes can endorse shaving cream, razor blades, and cigarettes, surely they can endorse the Lord, too,” reasoned Fellowship of Christian Athletes founder Don McClanen. But combining evangelicalism and sport did much more than serve as an advertisement for religion: it gave athletes the opportunity to think about the embodied experiences of sport as a way to experience intimate connection with the divine. As sports ministry developed, it focused on individual religious experiences and downplayed celebrity sales power, opening the door for female Christian athletes to join and eventually dominate sports ministry. Today, women are the majority of participants in sports ministry in the United States. 

In Playing for God, Annie Blazer offers an exploration of the history and religious lives of Christian athletes, showing that evangelical engagement with popular culture can carry unintended consequences. When sport became an avenue for embodied worship, it forced a reckoning with evangelical teachings about the body. Female Christian athletes increasingly turned to their own bodies to understand their religious identity, and in so doing, came to question evangelical mainstays on gender and sexuality. What was once a male-dominated masculinist project of sports engagement became a female-dominated movement that challenged evangelical ideas on femininity, marriage hierarchy, and the sinfulness of homosexuality. Though evangelicalism has not changed sporting culture, for those involved in sports ministry, sport has changed evangelicalism.

About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Annie Blazer is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at the College of William and Mary (VA).

Keywords: 

Add New Comment

Reading Religion welcomes comments from AAR members, and you may leave a comment below by logging in with your AAR Member ID and password. Please read our policy on commenting.

Log in to post comments