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"It is while running or thinking of running, Hall said, that he feels most conversant with and dependent on God."
July 15, 2012 10:39 AM   Subscribe

A Runner’s Belief: God Is His Coach. [NYTimes.com] "As he prepares for the London Olympics, the marathoner Ryan Hall has embraced an evangelical Christian faith and has found biblical reinforcement for his training."
posted by Fizz (158 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm not Christian, nor a very religious person but I do understand the idea of running as a form of religion. I often speak of this "empty place" that my mind travels to when I run. It is a very "zen" state of mind. Some times I will reach my destination without realizing it, not having noticed that my run is over. The body goes one place and the mind another.
posted by Fizz at 10:45 AM on July 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


I will enjoy reading his comical rationalisations when he fails to win.
posted by Decani at 10:47 AM on July 15, 2012 [37 favorites]


It's interesting to me how many people see their talent at sports as a way to glorify God. For example, there are enough evangelical Mixed Martial Artists to warrant a documentary about rectifying MMA and Christianity.
posted by ChuraChura at 10:54 AM on July 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think he's onto something. Jesus didn't get that ripped by lying around on the couch all day.
posted by found missing at 10:59 AM on July 15, 2012 [9 favorites]


Plus, when he flies over to London, guess who'll be sitting next to him?
posted by gwint at 11:00 AM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Okay, let's have a race between this guy and someone who's coached by the devil. It'll be so epic, they'll add it to the next edition of the Bible!
posted by orme at 11:01 AM on July 15, 2012 [16 favorites]


Sweep the leg!
posted by found missing at 11:04 AM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I imagine the Devil would coach you like the Soviets coached Ivan Drago.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 11:07 AM on July 15, 2012 [7 favorites]


Better that he be a runner conversing with and taking direction from God, as opposed to a politician.

If he wants to place his success in running as being the result of his faith in God, once again more power to him. His view of success may be that the difference between his performance if he were an atheist vs. his performance as a christian - if that is really what helps him overcome some psychological brick wall - more power to him.

But, if he believed that only God imbued him with the power to run, then he wouldn't be training... and uh, yeah, lets just say he wouldn't be heading to the Olympics.

So yeah, say he wins - if he uses it as a podium to say his faith made the difference for him - fine. But if he uses it to say that only through his faith could he have done it - its a subtle and untrue difference.
posted by Nanukthedog at 11:12 AM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I feel like god told me directly to not bother finishing that article.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:17 AM on July 15, 2012 [18 favorites]


I guess none of you saw Chariots of Fire.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 11:24 AM on July 15, 2012 [14 favorites]


Everytime I hear someone thanking God for this or that talent, I find myself screaming "GOD DIDN'T DO THAT. YOU DID IT." They may or may not be a fucking narcotics agent.
posted by Tikirific at 11:27 AM on July 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


Is this different than every single other athlete ever?
posted by T.D. Strange at 11:28 AM on July 15, 2012


FINALLY sports enthusiasts are looking to God for help!
posted by DU at 11:29 AM on July 15, 2012 [7 favorites]


Stopped after glory clouds. The things people believe in the name of religion.
posted by lazaruslong at 11:33 AM on July 15, 2012


I'm pretty ok with this so long as he curses God for inadequately training/gifting him when the Kenyans/Ethiopians whup him. I mean, it cuts both ways, doesn't it?

(Except that it never seems to with these types)
posted by Dr.Enormous at 11:34 AM on July 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Is Pious pious cause God loves pious?
posted by Apocryphon at 11:34 AM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


The inherent problem is that god is also coaching the opposition, which represents a bit of a conflict of interest.
posted by found missing at 11:36 AM on July 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Apparently it's just you and me, St. Alia.

Cue the Vangelis, begin the training montage with the long slow run down the beach..
posted by honestcoyote at 11:38 AM on July 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


...because God cares who wins the Olympics.

I am absolutely dumbfounded by the whole God + sports thing. Praying before games, thanking Jesus for a victory, allusions to scripture, all in service of some children's games, sometimes played by adults. Dear Lord, please help the Mudtown Wildcats triumph today over the Swamptown Hellcats...

Meanwhile the world is racked by human misery. And God is supposed to care about a stupid footrace by grown men who should instead be doing something useful with their lives? Surely the fate of a single kitten getting too close to the road is of more importance in the divine order of things.
posted by LarryC at 11:51 AM on July 15, 2012 [49 favorites]


Someone picked a bad time to become a religious prude, given how much fun he'll be missing out on in the Olympic Village.
posted by Davenhill at 11:55 AM on July 15, 2012 [7 favorites]


I love Chariots of Fire. But (as a Christian), I absolutely hate it when athletes say, "I give all the glory to God!" or "I just want to thank Jesus Christ my savior for this win ..." It's so TRIVIALIZING and commercial. Look, God is not sitting up there betting on football games and giving you a touchdown because you prayed the hardest. You sound like a six-year-old promising to clean your room if you can have a cookie, and you make God sound petty and frivolous.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:56 AM on July 15, 2012 [18 favorites]


Good for him. Its his right, its a free country. don't understand why this is my business.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:57 AM on July 15, 2012 [9 favorites]


Run Forrest run...
all the god bashing side, I wonder if he might be a bit better with professional coaching etc
posted by Postroad at 12:00 PM on July 15, 2012


Cue the Vangelis, begin the training montage with the long slow run down the beach..

roger that
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 12:02 PM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Stop being haters.
His spiritual growth, he said, has freed him from caution and a dependence on results for his happiness.

"It's going to take a special day," Hall said of his gold medal chances. "But I feel like I went for it,regardless of how the race goes. I'll always look back on this as a season of joy. Sometimes it works out,and sometimes it doesn't. That's part of the fun of life, taking some chances.
posted by notyou at 12:03 PM on July 15, 2012 [13 favorites]


St Alia and honestcoyote stole my lines. I'll just go run on a lonely beach to the sound of thundering waves and inspiring music.
posted by infini at 12:07 PM on July 15, 2012


speaking of gods did you guys know that the cult of Cthulhu is really a thing?
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 12:10 PM on July 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's great that he's benefiting spiritually, and one of the things that's beautiful about "Chariots of Fire" is the seriousness and complexity with which it treats issues of faith. And there's some of that in this article. But claiming God gives him race strategy and doing this kind of thing:
After finishing second at the 2011 United States half-marathon championships, Hall went to drug testing, a standard procedure. Asked on a form to list his coach, he wrote: God.

You have to list the name of a real person, a doping official said.

“He is a real person,” Hall responded.
is much more about religion-to-make-a-point-to-unbelievers than about faith. Pretending to misunderstand the form and the term "real person," so you can bring up how tight you are with God while some poor bureaucrat is just trying to do his job, is prideful. And rude. And simplistic.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:13 PM on July 15, 2012 [32 favorites]


Ironmouth> Good for him. Its his right, its a free country. don't understand why this is my business.


It's his right, it's a free country. don't understand why this is my business. Good for him, so long as he doesn't try to push his beliefs into my life or my government.

It's a bummer we have to add that caveat, but these days in America it feels necessary.
posted by benito.strauss at 12:14 PM on July 15, 2012


I'm a Christian myself, but I don't give a flying fuck about athletes' spiritual orientation. The Supreme Being, even for those of us who believe that one exists, shouldn't be fixing sporting contests. Presumably Wilson Kipsang, who is favored to win by many and who attended an Anglican secondary school, also self-identifies as Christian.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:15 PM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


...aaaand there are already people marketing this concept.
posted by demonic winged headgear at 12:15 PM on July 15, 2012


Or, you know, let it flow through you.

Sidehedevil: Hall doesn't expect God to fix the race for him.
posted by notyou at 12:17 PM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't feel it is in good taste to mock someone's personal beliefs, just so long as they extend everyone else the same privilege.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 12:20 PM on July 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


notyou, I was referring to the larger cultural narrative about God and sporting contests, not to Hall's beliefs about the Olympic marathon in particular. I should have been more clear; thank you for catching that.

God also sounds like He did a pretty crap job coaching Hall considering the injuries Hall's experienced. A human coach might have had more specific advice to offer.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:24 PM on July 15, 2012


Is this different than every single other athlete ever?

Yes. The article contains a number of responses from other runners, some of whom are christian though of a slightly less evangelical bent. Also, there's something to be said of the relationship between evangelical or more extreme brands of mainstream religiosity and distance running. I think the article hits the point well that being nationally and then internationally competitive in distance running has few extrinsic benefits in the material world, and that intrinsic or spiritual motivation is often used by many top competitors. Also, personally, I will admit being woozy from hypoxia and high on endorphins after an 8-10 miler can predispose anyone to finding otherworldly awe where-ever they choose to look for it.

While atheists, agnostics or whoever are perfectly right to have whatever response to casual sideline testimonies of faith by million dollar athletic stars, Mr. Hall comes across in the article as a much more earnest zealot. His brand of passion does seem to come across with a bit of adolescent combativeness, but so do many other christians in our country and people of other faiths abroad, and has little to do with his discipline and talent as an athlete.

The reason we care is because the olympics are coming up, and aficionados of every 3rd and 4th tier sport are reading articles about the competitors. Mr. Hall has changed quite a bit since we last saw him, and it reflects a lot about the running community (the luster of elite training groups versus the romantic solitude reminiscent of Once a Runner. The ease of low altitude training versus the dubious advantage of altitude training) and a lot of it is a really unique personal struggle of faith and philosophy. People have been debating what its mean to say something is "inspired by god" probably just as long as people have been asking "why does god allow bad things to happen."

If you don't believe in any god what so ever and don't care what other people believe then yes, this article is probably of less interest of you. You are free to not read it. But a lot of people do believe and/or are interested in what others believe. Assume there's enough of them to merit this article being published.
posted by midmarch snowman at 12:27 PM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


If he wins and then at end of the race he looks back and only sees one set of footprints.
posted by pianomover at 12:30 PM on July 15, 2012 [9 favorites]


God also sounds like He did a pretty crap job coaching Hall considering the injuries Hall's experienced. A human coach might have had more specific advice to offer.

Dude, I don't know about that. Maybe, you're right, but in my own limited experience in high school cross country about 15-25% of our team had an overuse injury every year and from what I've read about modern international marathoners is injury limits the career of the majority of the runners with potential, and impacts that training of most of the other runners.

Also the guy is going to medical professionals and seeking advice about his injuries, it's not like he's attaching observing some sort of Christ Scientist or Mennonite attitude towards modern coaching and medicine. I think you're putting too much stock into the "God is My Coach" hook of the article. Yes its kinda a brash thing of Hall to say, but it's not unheard of for runners to be self coached.
posted by midmarch snowman at 12:34 PM on July 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


i just don't see the problem here. this guy isn't telling anyone else what to do, he has beliefs about his own talents, purposes, and goals, and he's living according to those beliefs. you couldn't ask for a better example of the kind of private/non-offensive diversity the U.S. is theoretically designed to foster and protect. you want to be freaked out by somebody, be freaked out by "Christians" who think their God is authorizing them to set national policy.
posted by facetious at 12:42 PM on July 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


God also sounds like He did a pretty crap job coaching Hall considering the injuries Hall's experienced. A human coach might have had more specific advice to offer.
Hall was coached by Terrance Mahon until late 2010, when he decided he would do better without him. His most famous injury, before the Chicago Marathon in 2010 happened when Mahon was his coach.

Snark about God aside, most elite runners pretty well know as much about their body and their training as any coach. Most coaches are just elite runners who got too old to keep running, anyhow.
posted by Lame_username at 12:52 PM on July 15, 2012


I am absolutely dumbfounded by the whole God + sports thing

As a coach, I wouldn't want anyone like that on my team. It's not god's will that you gave up seven runs. It's the fact that you did a horrible job pitching!

If you're not willing to accept the blame when you don't perform, how do I know you have the desire to perform well? I'm not coaching Jesus here, so, I don't *care* how much he wants you to win or not win.

I want *you* to care, 100%. I want you to be pissed off when you screw up, and do your damnedest to be better the next time. I want you trying, always trying, always trying to be better. And if you're going to excuse a bad performance as "god's will", then well, both you and god are off my team.

Jesus? When Jesus Christ can hit a curveball and shows up to spring training, then we'll talk about how Jesus helped you win. Matter of fact, if Jesus goes 3-4 with 2HR and 5RBI, *I'll* talk about how Jesus helped you win. Unless, of course, nobody else did shit and you still gave up those seven runs.
posted by eriko at 1:11 PM on July 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


>It's interesting to me how many people see their talent at sports as a way to glorify God.

I suspect that the dissociation/de-identification/ Death of the Ego mindset can often function as a performance enhancer:

"I didn't do it. X did it. [And I therefore feel reduced anxiety in relation to this performance.]"

It's an extreme version of losing "self-consciousness".
posted by darth_tedious at 1:14 PM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I love Chariots of Fire. But (as a Christian), I absolutely hate it when athletes say, "I give all the glory to God!" or "I just want to thank Jesus Christ my savior for this win ..." It's so TRIVIALIZING and commercial. Look, God is not sitting up there betting on football games and giving you a touchdown because you prayed the hardest. You sound like a six-year-old promising to clean your room if you can have a cookie, and you make God sound petty and frivolous.


I know what you mean. But on the other hand the Bible says that no matter what we are doing-eating, drinking or whatever-we are to do it to the glory of God. An athlete can compete to the glory of God, and it really is immaterial whether or not he or she wins or comes in last. It only matters that they are expressing their giftedness to His glory. But hey, Chariots of Fire says it all much better than I could.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:22 PM on July 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


I am absolutely dumbfounded by the whole God + sports thing.

Some people, when they are at the extreme limits of their personal physical, mental, or emotional limits, perceive that they are in a presence that they can only understand as that of God. I think that athletes, probably because they spend so much time pushing past their own physical limits, may be more likely than the general population to have these sorts of experiences. I think that the God + sports thing kind of naturally grows out of that.
posted by gauche at 1:25 PM on July 15, 2012


He was in ESPN's 2011 Body Issue.
posted by homunculus at 1:27 PM on July 15, 2012


Has there ever been a professional athlete who has said they owe it all to satan? Googling...
posted by Kloryne at 1:27 PM on July 15, 2012


orme: "Okay, let's have a race between this guy and someone who's coached by the devil. It'll be so epic, they'll add it to the next edition of the Bible!"

There should be a banjo duel at some point.
posted by arcticseal at 1:30 PM on July 15, 2012


According to google searches tiger woods is in the illuminati pretty hard core.
posted by Kloryne at 1:33 PM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


all in service of some children's games, sometimes played by adults

It isn't, though. It's in service of whatever the thing is the praying person really, really wants, so in that sense it's no different from asking god for world peace; that your child not die of cancer; that you get this job you desperately need; some other thing that is deeply and sincerely desired. This is why people pray, mostly. I'm not a Christian. I don't call myself an atheist but other people certainly would. And yet, when my mom was dying, I prayed - call it an internal dialogue if you like - for strength, and the ability to hold my shit together. Was I indifferent to the more terrible suffering of many other people in the world? In that moment, pretty much, yeah.
posted by rtha at 1:39 PM on July 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


Cue the Vangelis, begin the training montage with the long slow run down the beach sidewalk...

Roger that
posted by homunculus at 1:40 PM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I found biblical reinforcements for my plan of raping and pillaging.
posted by telstar at 1:48 PM on July 15, 2012


There is a strong Christian tradition in doing all things for God's glory. There is also a long Christian tradition in understanding that what God considers to be the good end of things might not match up with what we desire to be the good end of things. So, those who are right-headed about things don't rationalize perceived failures as much as they do recognize that God, being God, doesn't require us anything. But, he's not always absent, either, from what we might characterize as the mundane.

There is also a horrible Christian tradition in saying something along the lines of "it was all God!" Well, if it was all God, you'd probably do the marathon a bit faster than that. However, it's pretty consistent with many Christian traditions to say that God cooperates with us, even in the mundane, because he cares, on some level, about what we care about. God not being so lofty as to not care about only the rotation of the galaxies is what provides some comfort. He doesn't guarantee success in the way that we define it, but he does offer to walk with us, and some might might argue provide for a better result (in athletics, academics, etc.) than what might be gotten simply by our own efforts.

But, not always. If God is God, it also follows that he does whatever he wants and will not be bent to the whims of people.
posted by SpacemanStix at 1:57 PM on July 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


*trips up the runner next to him* "God told me to do it."
posted by Webbster at 1:59 PM on July 15, 2012


Sheesh. The reason Chariots of Fire is a great story is not that it was about a religious athlete who was a winner. It's a great story because it's about a winning athlete who valued something more than his sport. (And it would be an even greater story if it told about how Eric Lidell's faith led him to helping others in a Chinese prison camp.)

I'll hum Vangelis for this guy when he demonstrates there's more to his faith than "God inspires me to train hard and makes me feel better when I lose."
posted by straight at 2:02 PM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


What I appreciate is that there is absolutely no complete lack of god's intervention that cannot be explained away as definitive evidence of god's intervention.
posted by found missing at 2:05 PM on July 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Look, God is not sitting up there betting on football games and giving you a touchdown because you prayed the hardest.
posted by DU at 2:09 PM on July 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


If a famous and successful athlete ever attributed their success to lots of gay sex and tequila I would probably worship them like a god for the rest of my life.
posted by elizardbits at 2:10 PM on July 15, 2012 [13 favorites]


Seriously though I would rather people expect god to spend time influencing the outcome of sporting events than worrying about who has sex with whom and in what ways. Unfortunately I think the people who believe any god cares about sporting events also tend to assume that god judges the private sexy lives of people all over the world.
posted by elizardbits at 2:13 PM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Jonathan Edwards, the devoutly Christian triple jumper, took silver at Atlanta, won gold in Sydney -- and then became an atheist.
posted by grounded at 2:29 PM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ironmouth> Good for him. Its his right, its a free country. don't understand why this is my business.


It's his right, it's a free country. don't understand why this is my business. Good for him, so long as he doesn't try to push his beliefs into my life or my government.

It's a bummer we have to add that caveat, but these days in America it feels necessary.


Is there any evidence this guy is trying to push his beliefs into your life or your government?

Religions may proselytize. They have a legal right to free speech on that issue.

I'm not a Christian, but they do have that right.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:33 PM on July 15, 2012


I am totally with the "God is not a sports fan" crowd. Even if there WERE an anthropomorphic interventionist God, She would not be rooting for one team over another.

The one part of the concept that I can get behind is that idea that God can help you become the best athlete you can be. Whether that's because an actual benevolent force is lifting you up, or because the idea of subsuming yourself to a higher purpose helps you get out of bed in the morning and run up and down stairs instead of rolling into the diner for a stack of pancakes, or because personalizing the adrenaline and ecstasy of hard work as an external religious force has cultural resonance for you. It's different saying "Jesus made me win that game" than it is saying "Jesus, or my faith in Jesus, helped give me the strength to work and train as hard as was necessary to win that game."
posted by KathrynT at 2:36 PM on July 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Athletes, from early on, are very superstitious... looking for every edge and leaving nothing to chance. At elite levels athletes, for the most part, are training at very high levels. At some point, the option of training harder than your opponent isn't an option. Believing god wants you to win, is on your side, has a plan for you, is very appealing.

Eventually, when an athlete wins, he's questioned about 'why'. He's facing other elite athletes, training just as hard, and yet he won. Giving the credit to god sounds much better than crediting luck, or chance, or simply that they were randomly given the tiniest bit of athletic talent more than their opponents.

And of course, it's comforting to believe that you've done everything possible, and now, for good or bad, the difference between your winning and losing is out of your hands and in the hands of a bearded man living in the sky.

And God is supposed to care about a stupid footrace by grown men who should instead be doing something useful with their lives?

Not everyone should, or could, become doctors. There's nothing wrong or stupid about using the talent you've randomly been given.

Entertainment is certainly useful to most people. Musicians, actors, athletes are responsible for a lot of that entertainment. Some people don't find value in music, some don't find value in sports, as you seem to not. That you find it stupid doesn't make it so to others.
posted by justgary at 2:51 PM on July 15, 2012


It is so easy to judge another - and mock him for his beliefs.
So many haters posting on this board.

The guy is an Olympian - and his world view has helped him achieve that goal.
Whatever works for him. Why can't we allow him to believe what he wants?
posted by Flood at 3:08 PM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Who exactly are you suggesting is - attempting to disallow
him from believing what he wants? All sorts of

beliefs are open and fair game to mockery. Why do you
seem to be suggesting that beliefs regarding faith in god

are protected from criticism?
posted by lazaruslong at 3:13 PM on July 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


The guy is an Olympian - and his world view has helped him achieve that goal.

How can that be proven? We could just as easily state that he's achieved the goal of becoming an Olympic athlete despite his world view.
posted by explosion at 3:22 PM on July 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


The Christian church shut the games down for a reason. If he were a true Christian, he wouldn't be competing in a pagan competition honoring a bunch of Olympian gods. Competing makes him a heretic.

Besides, sucking up to Jesus isn't a competitive advantage when so many others are already doing it.

A story about an athlete's religion would be far more interesting if he were planning to sacrifice a goat and compete naked.
posted by Davenhill at 3:29 PM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wonder if what I'm doing right now is in the glory of god.

But actually, I found the bit about god being a real person kind of amusing to imagine, for varying definitions of person. Like if god has a kidney. And then what if it stopped working right and god's blood pressure went through the roof and bits of creation didn't get quite the level of attention they should have, and then we end up with moths and the platypus.
posted by dumbland at 3:31 PM on July 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


As long as God isn't also his pharmacologist I don't care.
posted by srboisvert at 3:32 PM on July 15, 2012


Apparently, God is mad at his wife, who failed to qualify for the Olympics.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 3:33 PM on July 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


I guess none of you saw Chariots of Fire.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:24 PM on July 15


Yeah, I did. What's your point? That real god-botherers don't run on Sunday?
posted by Decani at 3:57 PM on July 15, 2012


I'm surprised that the death of Hall's friend Ryan Shay at the 2007 Olympic trials didn't come up. Ryan Hall won the race; Shay collapsed during the fifth mile. The ambulance carrying his body went by Hall as he ran. He had no idea what had happened till he finished. Then, following his training regimen, he was trounced in Beijing, even though he was following his own training plan. What a shitty year.

I'm not saying that a terrible thing happening is a requirement for religious devotion, but that if something terrible does happen to someone you love and your job is to—basically—do the impossible with your body, you might adhere to an unorthodox belief system to manage your brain. And if you can muster an entire church's worth of people to love and support you to boot? Lots of people are Christians, but as mentioned earlier, even Christian runners think Hall has gone kind of out to the fringe. On the other hand, his strategy for winning was once to run 26 4:40 miles in a row, which is a physical feat pretty much none of us can even imagine striving for. Four minutes and 40 seconds per mile! For 26 miles! Consecutively! Even though he couldn't ultimately do it, that was his plan. That's, honestly, way farther out than his devout faith.

Also, I'm a wholesale atheist, and the lulzy hating is this thread is both predictable and disappointing. If Ryan Hall were to run a 2:02 marathon, it would be incredible. How he got there isn't anything I'm going to badmouth. And if his faith keeps him from being totally destroyed afterward, whether he wins or loses, I count that as a win. I mean, look what happened to Sammy Wanjiru after he won Beijing. Destroyed by alcohol, and died in a fall from a balcony in shady circumstances.

International fame, pressure, and the physical toll this level of running takes on your body and your mind are seriously hard to manage. I don't think God is making Ryan Hall's legs move; I think Ryan Hall is doing it. But I'm not going to argue with him about that. He's doing fine without me.
posted by purpleclover at 4:00 PM on July 15, 2012 [9 favorites]


Psalm 147:10-11 NIV New International Version

10 His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of a man; 11 the LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.
posted by grimjeer at 4:05 PM on July 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


purpleclover, I'm not sure that fasting for a week and then bonking your tune up races is doing fine. He should get a coach.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:20 PM on July 15, 2012


I wonder who god wants to win the speed walking competition?
posted by Brocktoon at 4:32 PM on July 15, 2012


How can that be proven? We could just as easily state that he's achieved the goal of becoming an Olympic athlete despite his world view.

I'm agnostic. But to reach a certain level of athleticism everything in your brain has to be working right. Doesn't matter your talent, if you don't have focus, strength of will, and a certain ability to tune out the external world during training and competition, then you're not gonna make it.

It is important to note that "working right" means "working right in the context of your sport." Endurance events require you to be able to reach a plane of zen, a certain dissociation from your body, otherwise you're going to focus on your pain and how much longer you have to go and you will fail. It makes a lot of sense that an intense religious faith and faith that a higher power is helping you with your pain would assist in maintaining that meditative state. So much of sports psychology is centered around teaching an athlete to let their body do what it knows how to do without the brain getting in the way.

I mean, wasn't there just an article posted on the blue about an ultradistance cyclist whose success was likely due to the fact he went crazy during his rides? That guy's brain may not have been working right for general health, but it sure is working right for his sport.
posted by schroedinger at 4:37 PM on July 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


God told me to buy a pint of Ben and Jerry's Boston Cream Pie ice cream. I was all, shut up deity in whom I do not believe and God was like yeah, but you really like ice cream and it IS half price, I'm just sayin'.

And lo, it's some pretty alright ice cream. Little too sweet. A caring and omniscient God would've steered me toward Coffee Heath Bar Crunch.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 4:37 PM on July 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Nobody is suggesting that Hall has no right to his beliefs.

Some of us, including people who self-identify as Christian (me!) are turned off by the US media's constant coverage of top athletes' Christian beliefs.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:26 PM on July 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


I wish the man well in his race - I am about to run my first marathon this year and would be lucky to break 4:30. But holy crap I have never heard of glory clouds before, and it freaks me out that a guy had a religious revelation over them. Guess he never saw dust motes in a bright beam of light before? Seriously not trying to be snarky here, I just cannot understand how something this mundane can be seen as an otherworldly encounter with a higher power.
posted by caution live frogs at 5:32 PM on July 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Schroedinger: Jure Robič, tragically killed in 2010.
posted by The Michael The at 5:50 PM on July 15, 2012


If a glory cloud appears over this guy in London airspace, the RAF are not going to be amused.
posted by homunculus at 5:52 PM on July 15, 2012


But (as a Christian), I absolutely hate it when athletes say, "I give all the glory to God!" or "I just want to thank Jesus Christ my savior for this win ..." It's so TRIVIALIZING and commercial.

I understand what you’re saying, but I see those two statements as completely different things. Almost opposites.
posted by bongo_x at 5:53 PM on July 15, 2012


purpleclover, I'm not sure that fasting for a week and then bonking your tune up races is doing fine. He should get a coach.

Noted. But four years ago if we'd been privy to Sammy Wanjiru's strategy of going all out from the starting line, we would have thought he was not strategizing sensibly too. He won. At this level, I think sometimes trying crazy stuff can work, because it's all pretty crazy
posted by purpleclover at 6:12 PM on July 15, 2012


At least it's a break from the flag waving.
posted by thelonius at 6:33 PM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


No one ever says, "the good lord tripped me up behind the line of scrimmage"
posted by chela at 6:34 PM on July 15, 2012


Oh, he goes to Bill Johnson's church. Cool.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:53 PM on July 15, 2012


Look, God is not sitting up there betting on football games and giving you a touchdown because you prayed the hardest.

Guess what? Every one of the athletes that you are sneering at agrees with you. It certainly does not seem to be the belief of the subject athlete, who said, "But I feel like I went for it, regardless of how the race goes. I’ll always look back on this as a season of joy. Sometimes it works out, and sometimes it doesn’t. That’s part of the fun of life, taking some chances and seeing what happens."

I am Eastern Orthodox, so I certainly think that some of his beliefs are not theologically sound, but your caricature about God granting victories to whomever "prays the hardest" is simply not what these athletes believe.

When non-religious believers talk about the God they do not believe in, I often surprise them by saying that I don't believe in that God, either.

Psalm 147:10-11 NIV New International Version

"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize" 1 Cor. 9:24

One does not have to read very much of the New Testament to see that Paul repeatedly used athletic imagery. In fact, the word "asceticism", which is an integral part of my faith of Eastern Orthodoxy, comes from the Greek word ἄσκησις, meaning "exercise/training".

It has been said in several comments to the effect of "sports matches are too insignificant for God to care about." The obvious and amazingly unanticipated response would be that no matter is too small for God's attention. He may be true that God is not a fan of any particular team, but the teaching would surely be that He cares about how the outcome of that game may affect the players, spectators, and all other people, about whom He does care very much.
posted by Tanizaki at 6:59 PM on July 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


When non-religious believers talk about the God they do not believe in, I often surprise them by saying that I don't believe in that God, either.

Otherwise a great response. But this particular soundbite bugs me because:
1) my non-belief is not about you
2) it puts the non-believer in the position of playing wack-a-mole with hundreds of different definitions of deity.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 7:22 PM on July 15, 2012


For the record, I'm bothered more about the way sports media attempts to turn a player's faith into a public referendum on belief than I am by religious players.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 7:28 PM on July 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


Oh, he goes to Bill Johnson's church. Cool.

I'm not a big fan of offshoots such as the Word Of Faith movement, but I guess as long as he's not pushing his faith as a political agenda, I'm okay with him being part of it.
posted by hippybear at 7:33 PM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


God does not want any particular team to win any particular game. Yet there really, truly are athletes who make claims for that, and people who say they believe that. (This is just from the first three pages of Google results for "god on our side" + "football".)

I agree with you that Mr. Hall made no such claim. I do think the structure of the Times story helps perpetuate the environment in which those claims are made, though.

This piece by former US football star Fran Tarkenton kind of delights me; it was another early find in that Google search.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:34 PM on July 15, 2012


Whoops, "you" was Tanizaki. Y'all type fast when I'm wearing wrist braces!
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:35 PM on July 15, 2012


Hippybear, I wouldn't call Johnson's church "word of faith." They might share some beliefs but it is a....well, a slightly different flavor.


(Not to derail, but to make it easier to understand denominations and movements it is helpful to look at who founded certain churches and what their own church backgrounds were, etc. It's kinda like trying to parse the varieties of techno music. Seriously.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:55 PM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hippybear, I wouldn't call Johnson's church "word of faith."

I'm just going by what Wikipedia has to say about it.

If you feel that is incorrect, you should probably edit the entry.
posted by hippybear at 8:01 PM on July 15, 2012


Religions may proselytize. They have a legal right to free speech on that issue.

And we have a right to comment on how it offends us when they proselytize.

Yet another mocking, sneering LOL xtians thread.

I do agree.

There is however a great deal of very justifiable resentment built up in unbelievers in the United States - because in the real world, it's not even "LOL atheists", it's "atheists are evil people who will suffer infinite torment forever" and the people who say this are frequently politicians who control our lives.

For many of us, some Christian beliefs are not just ludicrous but offensive - Hall's idea that if you praise God enough, he will intervene in a sports event so that you win is a morally bankrupt one. The idea of a judge who is not impartial but one who is swayed by praise to act in your favor is, to me, deeply abhorrent - if there's one value I honor above all others, it's fairness.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 3:37 AM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm with larryc above. It is the height of hubris to imagine "God" as caring about how fast someone runs in a mega-corporate/nationalist media spectacle, but not about Syrian babies being mangled by artillery fire, yo? People who describe their "god" this way are the ultimate narcissistic hypocrites who make the rest of us even more sure their "god" is fictional pablum.

I took look forward to his explanation for losing. And genocide.
posted by spitbull at 5:04 AM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Tanizaki, you (and others) seem to think I am a 'sneering' non-believer. I am not. My reference to Psalms was my effort to point out the difficulty (or clarity) of knowing why one runs, or does anything.

You point out that Paul uses athletic imagery but you omit further context that makes it clear he is not really talking about running at all:

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

You could argue that Paul considers running for the sake of running a waste of time.
posted by grimjeer at 5:07 AM on July 16, 2012


It's interesting to me how many people see their talent at sports as a way to glorify God.

I was raised Hindu and I'm not overly religious but having become an ardent runner the past two years, there is something powerful about giving up yourself to running. It doesn't have to be God, though it is for many. For me, it's about the movement of my body, the way my mind goes one place and my body goes to another. I don't know that it's a religious experience, but I find myself feeling good about my place in the world and that's good enough for me. If Ryan Hall wants to call that God, then who cares.
posted by Fizz at 5:34 AM on July 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


What ever happened to that tim tebow guy? Didn't he become a preacher or something?
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 6:16 AM on July 16, 2012


This seems similar to the gospel of wealth idea that God is actively involved in the outcome of one's personal finance. I think it trivializes the real involvement that God can have in one's spiritual development and awareness of self as a spiritual being. The evidence of faith is traditionally considered a pious heart, not a material award -- even if such an award is dedicated to the glory of God. The very idea of "do x to achieve y" in faith is what Jesus railed against in his time.
posted by dgran at 6:49 AM on July 16, 2012


Bethel is a cult by any reasonable definition and I fully expect them to be on the front page of the NYT in the future for some unique combination of Jim Jones, Jim Bakker, Ted Haggard, and/or David Koresh hijinks.
posted by entropicamericana at 7:43 AM on July 16, 2012


"For many of us, some Christian beliefs are not just ludicrous but offensive - Hall's idea that if you praise God enough, he will intervene in a sports event so that you win is a morally bankrupt one."

Guess what? The idea that praising God curries favor is not a Christian belief. Perhaps you can trot out some Joel Osteen-type or some evangelical lay person who would profess as such, but such a belief is simply not found in the teachings of Jesus, the Church Fathers, or the Desert Fathers. There is no point where Ignatius of Antioch or John Chrysostom says, "Do these things and God gives you stuff." It simply isn't there. To the contrary, the teaching is that even miracle workers may be cast out (Matt 7) and that no one should believe he has God's favor. (1 Cor 13, that is the true meaning of it, not just frilly words to read at a wedding.

And, to the extent that someone might claim that God has granted them some gift or blessing, the teaching is that very well, but you had better use that gift for a godly purpose. Chrysostom wrote on this but I cannot put my finger on the exact quote.

By the way, your offense is an emotional reaction, not a logical argument. Whether or not a proposition offends you has no bearing on its truth. (in this case, your offense is well-founded even though it is directed at a non-Christian belief)

"The idea of a judge who is not impartial but one who is swayed by praise to act in your favor is, to me, deeply abhorrent - if there's one value I honor above all others, it's fairness."

See above. This is a good example of you telling me about the God you don't believe in. Well, I don't believe in that God, either.
posted by Tanizaki at 9:45 AM on July 16, 2012


"Tanizaki, you (and others) seem to think I am a 'sneering' non-believer. I am not. My reference to Psalms was my effort to point out the difficulty (or clarity) of knowing why one runs, or does anything."

Actually, my comment to that effect was directed towards E. McGee, who self-identified as a Christian.

As an aside, it does not matter to me what your beliefs are. What matters to me is that beliefs described as "Christian" actually be Christian beliefs. Ideas like God sending unbaptized babies to hell, picking an "elect" and "reprobate", or granting victories to the people He likes best just aren't Christian beliefs. They are simply foreign to the ancient faith.

One does not have to read very much of the Bible to figure this out. The entire Old Testament is essentially the story of Israel misbehaving because they thought being chosen cut them slack, and God showing them just how wrong that belief is.

That is the point of Psalm 147. The horses and the warriors legs are symbols of man's power, about which God does not care and which cannot stop Him. The psalm is not about how God does not care about running races, but how no amount of physical power is worth anything if one is not fearful of God and loving. God delivered this message the hard way by sending in the horses and warriors' legs of invaders. (in the case of this psalm, from Nebuchadnezzar, who is referred to as God's servant in Jer. 27)
posted by Tanizaki at 10:04 AM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Lupus: For many of us, some Christian beliefs are not just ludicrous but offensive - Hall's idea that if you praise God enough, he will intervene in a sports event so that you win is a morally bankrupt one (emphasis added).

Tanizaki: Guess what? The idea that praising God curries favor is not a Christian belief. Perhaps you can trot out some Joel Osteen-type or some evangelical lay person who would profess as such, but such a belief is simply not found in the teachings of Jesus, the Church Fathers, or the Desert Fathers. (emphasis added)

This strikes me as a classic no-true-scotsman. And irrelevant here because the criticism was focused on a specific theological claim made by a specific person. It's one of the reasons why I'm generally not interested in criticizing Christian doctrine because the response is often a schismatic disavowing of the doctrine, practice, or person in question.

The entire Old Testament is essentially the story of Israel misbehaving because they thought being chosen cut them slack, and God showing them just how wrong that belief is.

Beanplating which view of God's favor is more appropriately called "Christian" is missing the point. She doesn't do that either.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 10:30 AM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


That is, if she exists, a question about which doubt is both warranted and healthy.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 10:39 AM on July 16, 2012


the response is often a schismatic disavowing of the doctrine, practice, or person in question

I can see how it looks that way, but the belief that God confers favor to the faithful is a decidedly modern interpretation that breaks with most of Christian tradition. I don't doubt whether Hall is a Christian but I can't trace his line of thinking through the centuries among credible actors in the faith. This is typically how one separates novel faith claims from traditional ones and Hall's beliefs simply don't line up with what Christians believed for easily a thousand years. On that basis Hall is either blessed with revelation or mistaken.
posted by dgran at 10:53 AM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


"This strikes me as a classic no-true-scotsman. And irrelevant here because the criticism was focused on a specific theological claim made by a specific person. It's one of the reasons why I'm generally not interested in criticizing Christian doctrine because the response is often a schismatic disavowing of the doctrine, practice, or person in question."

It should not, because I have a very particular idea of what constitutes Christian doctrine. I will pin myself down for you: any teaching that was a dogma declared at or before the Second Council of Nicaea (787).

Dgran touched on this, but it is pretty easy to see what beliefs existed in, say, 8th century Antioch and which are novel. For example, there is simply no semblance of anything resembling the Rapture scenario depicted in the "Left Behind" series until a few hundred years ago. It just is not there.

I don't know what "beanplate" means, but I was disappointed by your "har har har, look at me, I call God 'she'". I suppose there may be a reason to do so other than spite, but I have yet to learn it.
posted by Tanizaki at 12:16 PM on July 16, 2012


It should not, because I have a very particular idea of what constitutes Christian doctrine. I will pin myself down for you: any teaching that was a dogma declared at or before the Second Council of Nicaea (787).

And how is that relevant to a specific discussion (and explicitly stated as such) of Hall's theology?

I don't know what "beanplate" means, but I was disappointed by your "har har har, look at me, I call God 'she'". I suppose there may be a reason to do so other than spite, but I have yet to learn it.

You mean, beyond the fact that some of us come from religions where a Goddess is primary? As I said, it's not necessarily about you.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 12:22 PM on July 16, 2012


I don't know what "beanplate" means,

It's a metafilter-specific thing that means "overthink."

posted by rtha at 12:31 PM on July 16, 2012


What ever happened to that tim tebow guy? Didn't he become a preacher or something?

Jesus asked him to take it down a notch.
posted by homunculus at 12:37 PM on July 16, 2012


And how is that relevant to a specific discussion (and explicitly stated as such) of Hall's theology?

It is quite relevant to the extent that Hall's beliefs are described as Christian, which tees up the chorus of how offensive certain "Christian" beliefs. If one declares that "some Christian beliefs are not just ludicrous but offensive", that is fine, but it is certainly relevant to examine whether the allegedly offensive belief is Christian. As I have said to you before privately, I have very rarely found that such statements are based on serious theological concerns based on what theologians have actually said.

(of course, offense is an emotional reaction, not a logical argument, so it does not matter if a belief is offensive)

You mean, beyond the fact that some of us come from religions where a Goddess is primary? As I said, it's not necessarily about you.

By the same token, it is not about your religion and whatever diety is primary in it. The religion you come from might be relevant when the NY Times features it in an article.

Abrahamic theology portrays God as masculine. In a discussion of same, is there a sound theological reason to use a non-masculine personal pronoun?
posted by Tanizaki at 1:02 PM on July 16, 2012


Abrahamic theology portrays God as masculine.

I'm a Christian and my church uses non-gendered or multi-gendered language for God.
posted by KathrynT at 1:06 PM on July 16, 2012


In defense of Tanizaki, the Eastern Orthodox faith is based on the very earliest teachings of the Church Fathers-in other words, pretty foundational Christianity. (One reason my son converted to it.)

There are some tenets of faith that a rather large subset of those that call themselves Christian subscribe to. It is that to which Tanizaki refers, I think.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:22 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


"For many of us, some Christian beliefs are not just ludicrous but offensive - Hall's idea that if you praise God enough, he will intervene in a sports event so that you win is a morally bankrupt one."

This isn't what's going on here at all. Where did you get this idea? Ryan Hall is looking to his idea of God for guidance, but he's not making God sign a noncompete agreement. God is not like a coach who only works for Hall and wishes ill on his enemies. That's only how the concept of God works for atheists* who wish to make religious faith the ugliest strawman possible. (See also the upthread hand-wringing about genocide and Syrian babies. Are you really suggesting that if God existed he'd be getting too distracted by sports to smite evil? Religious doctrine explains evil by introducing the concept of sin. Anyway, this is irrelevant.)

Plus, did you read the article? Hall's going it alone (or, with God) certainly hasn't been seamless; he's made lots of mistakes. Which he seems cool with. He's not suggesting that a glory cloud of wind is going to blow his opponents behind him. He's not an ordinary person who is demanding on divine intervention to make him a contender in the Olympic marathon. I don't find it ludicrous or offensive for religious people to invoke God in hoping to do their job well. If a second grade teacher were to pray that her school day goes well, are you offended that she's asking God to alter the behavior of 7-year-olds?

*I am an atheist! I have my no-God card and everything!
posted by purpleclover at 1:27 PM on July 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm a Christian and my church uses non-gendered or multi-gendered language for God.

I do not know you or your church, so I cannot say if you or it is Christian or not.

To attempt to cut off the indignant howls of "who are you to say what or who is Christian!?", the word is an adjective that describes a certain set of beliefs, and one either meets the definition or one does not. I use the term in its theological sense and not as some sort of synonym for "nice person".

If your church uses non-gendered or multi-gendered language for the Godhead, I do not see how it can profess the Nicene Creed. ("I believe in one God, the Single Parent"?). How does your Bible translation render Luke 23:34, for example? "Forgive them, Parental Unit?" (the Koine Greek is Πάτερ)
posted by Tanizaki at 2:08 PM on July 16, 2012


I'm not getting into a pedagogical defense of faith with someone who has no authority. You asked why someone would refer to God in the feminine if not for spite, and I answered.
posted by KathrynT at 2:15 PM on July 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


You asked why someone would refer to God in the feminine if not for spite

Yeah, this was kind of a rude assumption you made.
posted by rtha at 2:21 PM on July 16, 2012


It is quite relevant to the extent that Hall's beliefs are described as Christian, which tees up the chorus of how offensive certain "Christian" beliefs. If one declares that "some Christian beliefs are not just ludicrous but offensive", that is fine, but it is certainly relevant to examine whether the allegedly offensive belief is Christian. As I have said to you before privately, I have very rarely found that such statements are based on serious theological concerns based on what theologians have actually said.

First, since I don't consider the early ecumenical councils or the Bible as products of a unique prophetic tradition guided by God, I don't consider them to be authorities on how divine favor works. The second problem is that practically all flavors of Christianity make claims to authority grounded in a theory of scriptural interpretation and/or apostolic succession. Since I don't believe that there's a unique prophetic tradition at the root of Christianity, I can't very well say that any of those theories have theological grounds to declare others non-Christian.

Abrahamic theology portrays God as masculine. In a discussion of same, is there a sound theological reason to use a non-masculine personal pronoun?

Part of your argument was that Hall misunderstands God because God punished Israel for similar hubris. My point is that this argument doesn't make much sense to people outside of an Abrahamic religion, much less people who interpret the Old Testament in different ways.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 2:29 PM on July 16, 2012


Tim Tebow asked God to help the Broncos win a Superbowl. God sent Peyton Manning.
posted by Bonzai at 2:39 PM on July 16, 2012


A quirk of parental academics resulted in most of our family vacations coinciding with communal studies conferences, compared to the great flowering of Christian heterodoxy that bought cheap land on the frontier in the 18th and 19th centuries, Hall's beliefs strike me as very pedestrian.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 4:26 PM on July 16, 2012


I do not know you or your church, so I cannot say if you or it is Christian or not.

So, um, what's it like being Pope?
posted by benito.strauss at 6:08 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


The hats are fantastic.
posted by found missing at 6:09 PM on July 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


arcticseal: "orme: "Okay, let's have a race between this guy and someone who's coached by the devil. It'll be so epic, they'll add it to the next edition of the Bible!"

There should be a banjo duel at some point.
"

I would think a fiddle duel would be more appropriate.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 11:09 PM on July 16, 2012


I don't consider the early ecumenical councils or the Bible as products of a unique prophetic tradition guided by God

This itself is a modern and novel approach. The 20th century mode of interpretation is effectively to decide what you believe, a priori any established tradition, and then find a heterodox interpretation to support it. Its fashionable to say that the ecumenical councils were doing the same thing, except they were steadfast ensuring that every interpretation had a basis in what the preceding generations believed. Preserving the tradition, along with charity and spreading the gospel, is a central function of Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches.

So, when a few of us say that Hall has some discordant ideas it is a fairly objective statement (in spite of the obvious faith leaning that Tanizaki and I share) that could be said also by non-Christians about the issue. Disliking the traditional interpretations is fine, but it doesn't make materialistic Christian interpretations any more grounded in history.
posted by dgran at 5:25 AM on July 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Me: I don't consider the early ecumenical councils or the Bible as products of a unique prophetic tradition guided by God (emphasis added)

dgran: This itself is a modern and novel approach.

I was not aware that religious thought imploded to Christianity and only Christianity in the First Millenium.

The 20th century mode of interpretation is effectively to decide what you believe, a priori any established tradition, and then find a heterodox interpretation to support it. Its fashionable to say that the ecumenical councils were doing the same thing, except they were steadfast ensuring that every interpretation had a basis in what the preceding generations believed. Preserving the tradition, along with charity and spreading the gospel, is a central function of Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches.

It's an interesting argument (one that I partly agree with), but irrelevant to me as a non-Christian. I disagree that Jesus was the messiah. Therefore, it naturally follows that I can't accept any claims about the authority of a holy apostolic Church, regardless of whether those claims involve historical orthodoxy or modern guidance by the Holy Spirit. Questions about orthodoxy vs. heterodoxy are, therefore, historical and political rather than spiritual.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 8:23 AM on July 17, 2012


Or to put it another way. It's not up for me to judge as a non-believer what is and is not authentically Christian. The privilege is letting people speak to their own beliefs and practices is not something I feel comfortable reserving only for the orthodox.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 9:14 AM on July 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


but irrelevant to me as a non-Christian

This isn't about you or what you believe and I didn't mean what I wrote in an argumentative way at all. You don't have to believe anything about Christian Orthodoxy one way or the other to make conclusions about whether an article of faith, such as God giving favor in a foot race, to say that the belief is novel and a break with historical tradition. In fact, you would probably be in a better position than me to do so. I'll readily admit my adherence to faith creates a blind spot of sorts.

To clarify further, no one knows if Hall is authentically Christian -- including himself. When I critique materialist Christian notions I mean only to criticize the interpretation because the people involved are often very well meaning. He certainly has, and exercises, the privilege to speak his own beliefs but such a right doesn't make whatever someone believes necessarily right.
posted by dgran at 12:15 PM on July 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, um, what's it like being Pope?

Apparently I failed to cut off the indignant howls of "who are you to say what or who is Christian!?"

If someone says that President Obama is not a Muslim, do you ask what it is like to be caliph?
posted by Tanizaki at 12:42 PM on July 17, 2012


"I'm not getting into a pedagogical defense of faith with someone who has no authority. You asked why someone would refer to God in the feminine if not for spite, and I answered."

Actually, your answer was not responsive. Your stating that your church does so is not an explanation for why your church does so.
posted by Tanizaki at 12:44 PM on July 17, 2012


First, since I don't consider the early ecumenical councils or the Bible as products of a unique prophetic tradition guided by God, I don't consider them to be authorities on how divine favor works.

I find this to be a novel comment from someone who on more than one occasion has chided with, "this isn't about you".
posted by Tanizaki at 12:45 PM on July 17, 2012


You didn't originally ask for an explanation as to why my church might use the feminine form for God. You asked why ANYONE would. My answer is, "Perhaps that is the form of address their faith tradition uses. There are many faith traditions that do so, including mine."
posted by KathrynT at 2:03 PM on July 17, 2012


If someone says that President Obama is not a Muslim, do you ask what it is like to be caliph?

Well, if that someone is Barack Obama, no, I don't challenge his credentials to speak on President Obama's religious affiliation.
posted by benito.strauss at 2:10 PM on July 17, 2012


You didn't originally ask for an explanation as to why my church might use the feminine form for God. You asked why ANYONE would. My answer is, "Perhaps that is the form of address their faith tradition uses. There are many faith traditions that do so, including mine.

Do you include yourself in the pronoun "anyone"? Saying, "the reason they use it is because they do" is not an explanation. Are you being deliberately obtuse or do you not know why your church uses such nomenclature?
posted by Tanizaki at 2:45 PM on July 17, 2012


I'm a Christian. I refer to God with feminine pronouns at times and masculine pronouns at times, which is something the Bible does as well. God has no sex. God does not have a penis, because what would God do with it? In truth I tend to stick mostly with feminine pronouns because we are so used to the idea of God as a man that it is useful, for me, to serve as a correction in my head that God is not a man.
posted by shakespeherian at 3:11 PM on July 17, 2012


dgran: This isn't about you or what you believe and I didn't mean what I wrote in an argumentative way at all.

The first-person narrative was only a demonstration of the logic. If you reject the foundations on which a tradition is built, then the argument from tradition carries little weight.

You don't have to believe anything about Christian Orthodoxy one way or the other to make conclusions about whether an article of faith, such as God giving favor in a foot race, to say that the belief is novel and a break with historical tradition.

We're four centuries past the time when Queen Elizabeth declared religious Days of Thanksgiving for the divine provenance of the defeat of the Spanish Armada, and almost 150 years since Abraham Lincoln did the same WRT freedom and liberty. Carefully reading the article, I don't think that "God giving favor in a foot race" is a fair summary of Hall's claimed theology, which strikes me as well within the bounds of historical and contemporary Protestant thought.

He certainly has, and exercises, the privilege to speak his own beliefs but such a right doesn't make whatever someone believes necessarily right.

Certainly. But non-conformity to an orthodoxy is bad argument for why he's wrong, and amounts to little more than an interdenominational no-true-scotsman. I quietly roll my eyes also at religious liberal claims that they alone understand true Christianity as a social-justice mission.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 3:17 PM on July 17, 2012


I'm a Christian. I refer to God with feminine pronouns at times and masculine pronouns at times, which is something the Bible does as well. God has no sex. God does not have a penis, because what would God do with it? In truth I tend to stick mostly with feminine pronouns because we are so used to the idea of God as a man that it is useful, for me, to serve as a correction in my head that God is not a man.

To say this is to deny the Incarnation. Did you ever wonder what the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ was all about?
posted by Tanizaki at 3:34 PM on July 17, 2012


which strikes me as well within the bounds of historical and contemporary Protestant thought.

To be rich in history is to cease to be Protestant.
posted by Tanizaki at 3:36 PM on July 17, 2012


To say this is to deny the Incarnation. Did you ever wonder what the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ was all about?

This is silly. It's like saying God is 5'8" or God has brown eyes.
posted by shakespeherian at 4:13 PM on July 17, 2012


To say this is to deny the Incarnation.

Are you saying that because God once appeared in corporeal form (that we know of), and that form was male, that God therefore always-and-forever has a penis?
posted by rtha at 4:22 PM on July 17, 2012


In other words, to make all physical characteristics of the incarnation into essential attributes of God (and then, by extension, as is often the case, to extrapolate from those essential attributes of God particular metaphysical truths about humankind) is to make of theological import things like hair color, metabolism, and other genetic incidentals. This is wrong.
posted by shakespeherian at 4:28 PM on July 17, 2012


> To attempt to cut off the indignant howls of "who are you to say what or who is Christian!?", the word is an adjective that describes a certain set of beliefs, and one either meets the definition or one does not.

> Apparently I failed to cut off the indignant howls of "who are you to say what or who is Christian!?"

Of course you didn't. All you did was push it off one step to "a set of beliefs", and whoever determines this set of beliefs says who is or isn't a Christian. Your comments indicate that you think it is you who does.

So I'll ask again: Who are you to say that someone is not a Christian?
posted by benito.strauss at 4:37 PM on July 17, 2012


You are being tiresome. You implied that the only reason anyone would use a feminine form of address for God is "out of spite." I am telling you that there are non-spiteful reasons, and that many people (myself included) feel that God is best addressed with gender-neutral or multi-gender pronouns. The reasons why I believe that are, frankly, none of your business.
posted by KathrynT at 4:48 PM on July 17, 2012


Spirit does not have gender, true. However, God does use the masculine pronoun when He refers to Himself in scripture. Granted, when the Bible says we were created in His image, the implication is that male and female are two parts of that image.

However.

Since Christ (who is very God of very God and the second person of the Trinity) and the Church (referred to collectively in the feminine, btw) are said to be reflected in the marriage covenant (in that somehow, mysteriously, marriage reflects that relationship between Christ and the Church) I am very comfortable in believing that male pronouns in reference to Deity are appropriate.

Of course, it is always amusing to remember that male Christians are all part of the Bride of Christ. :D
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:12 PM on July 17, 2012


God does use the masculine pronoun when He refers to Himself in scripture

Quibble: You probably mean "masculine form". The Hebrew (OT) first-person pronoun doesn't have gendered forms, though verbs and adjectives do (OT). I think it's the same in Greek (NT).
posted by benito.strauss at 10:04 PM on July 17, 2012


Here's a profile of Hall from the New Yorker four years ago, the build-up to the 2008 games -
Running to Beijing: The making of a long-distance runner.
posted by phl at 4:40 AM on July 18, 2012


The Hebrew (OT) first-person pronoun doesn't have gendered forms, though verbs and adjectives do (OT). I think it's the same in Greek (NT).

Yeah, and the masculine is also used for gender-neutral, so it's a bit murky.
posted by shakespeherian at 5:11 AM on July 18, 2012


This is silly. It's like saying God is 5'8" or God has brown eyes.

Why is it silly? Jesus has a human body.

Are you saying that because God once appeared in corporeal form (that we know of), and that form was male, that God therefore always-and-forever has a penis?


Jesus has a human body. It is not taught that after the Ascension that his body evaporated or was thrown into a throttling wood-chipper.

This is a pretty basic point of Christian theology. I am surprised that people are shocked by it.

Who are you to say that someone is not a Christian?

A native speaker of English who knows that "Christian" is a noun and adjective with a definition. Either a belief meets that definition or does not. For example, the belief that Muhammad is the prophet of God, the sun is Apollo's chariot, or that Izanagi created the islands of Japan with brine dripping from his spears are not Christian beliefs.

The reasons why I believe that are, frankly, none of your business.

This is poor form. "I have a sound theological reason, but it is secret and how dare you question it." Please don't tell me about your sound theological reasons and then refuse to reveal them, but I am sure you will do what you want. Does your church similarly keep its theological reasons secret from outsiders?

The Hebrew (OT) first-person pronoun doesn't have gendered form

Neither does it in English but there is no need to look to the personal pronoun because in Hebrew and other Semitic languages such as Arabic, verbs do inflect for gender. For example, is אוֹכֵל "he eats" and אוֹכֶלֶת is "she eats". In Genesis 1:1, it is בָּרָ֣א (he created).

I would also note that the Hebrew you have is the Masoretic Text, a ninth century text. The Greek Septuagint is a thousand years older. We don't have even a fragment in any language beyond the second century BC.
posted by Tanizaki at 7:41 AM on July 18, 2012


You could at least finish reading someone's sentence before responding to the first clause.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:07 AM on July 18, 2012


You could at least finish reading someone's sentence before responding to the first clause.

I presume this is addressed to me. If so, please be more specific than "someone's sentence". Thank you.

By the way, with regard to your statement of "I refer to God with feminine pronouns at times and masculine pronouns at times, which is something the Bible does as well," could you please cite a verse or two that refers to God with a feminine pronoun? Thank you very much.
posted by Tanizaki at 8:15 AM on July 18, 2012


You quoted benito.strauss and then corrected him by making the same point he does in the rest of the sentence which you quoted from.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:17 AM on July 18, 2012


This is poor form. "I have a sound theological reason, but it is secret and how dare you question it." Please don't tell me about your sound theological reasons and then refuse to reveal them,

It's not poor form if she's not interested in having a theological discussion with you and only wants to call out your slander that someone would only refer to God as "she" out of spite.

You should apologize for that, Tanizaki, because it was a false, slanderous statement.
posted by straight at 8:26 AM on July 18, 2012


You should apologize for that, Tanizaki, because it was a false, slanderous statement.

If it is in writing, it is libel. Also, statements about an unidentified group of people are not defamation. (IAAL). And specifically, I never said that KathrynT used feminine pronouns to refer to God out of spite. I merely asked why she did.

My original statement, which was addressed to no one, was "I suppose there may be a reason to do so other than spite, but I have yet to learn it." This was an invitation for someone to educate me. KathrynT missed that opportunity. That is fine; she can keep her religious beliefs as secret as she wishes. However, if she wishes to use her beliefs as evidence against my statement, she needs to reveal them. In my business, this is called "injecting the issue". For example, one cannot claim medical expenses in a lawsuit but then shield them from discovery by claiming doctor-patient privilege.

tl;dr version: I said "I suppose there may be a reason to do so other than spite" and you claim I said "someone would only refer to God as 'she' out of spite." That is incorrect. Now who is defaming whom?
posted by Tanizaki at 8:34 AM on July 18, 2012


You quoted benito.strauss and then corrected him by making the same point he does in the rest of the sentence which you quoted from.

Which sentence?

By the way, with regard to your statement of "I refer to God with feminine pronouns at times and masculine pronouns at times, which is something the Bible does as well," could you please cite a verse or two that refers to God with a feminine pronoun? Thank you very much.
posted by Tanizaki at 8:36 AM on July 18, 2012


Le sigh. benito.strauss's comment was: Quibble: You probably mean "masculine form". The Hebrew (OT) first-person pronoun doesn't have gendered forms, though verbs and adjectives do (OT). I think it's the same in Greek (NT).

You quoted The Hebrew (OT) first-person pronoun doesn't have gendered form and then said 'Neither does it in English but there is no need to look to the personal pronoun because in Hebrew and other Semitic languages such as Arabic, verbs do inflect for gender.'

God is frequently pictured in feminine terms in both the Old and New Testaments. In Numbers 11, Moses addresses God as the one who gave birth to Israel and nurses a child. In Isaiah God is pictured as a woman in labor, whose labored breathing is an image of divine power. There are plenty more places where God is referred to as the mother of Israel, a mother hen, a mother bear, a mother eagle, a seamstress, a midwife, a woman seeking a coin (paralleled with a shepherd seeking a lost sheep), etc. etc. etc.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:50 AM on July 18, 2012


You quoted The Hebrew (OT) first-person pronoun doesn't have gendered form and then said 'Neither does it in English but there is no need to look to the personal pronoun because in Hebrew and other Semitic languages such as Arabic, verbs do inflect for gender.'

Ok, so what is your point?

God is frequently pictured in feminine terms in both the Old and New Testaments. In Numbers 11, Moses addresses God as the one who gave birth to Israel and nurses a child. In Isaiah God is pictured as a woman in labor, whose labored breathing is an image of divine power. There are plenty more places where God is referred to as the mother of Israel, a mother hen, a mother bear, a mother eagle, a seamstress, a midwife, a woman seeking a coin (paralleled with a shepherd seeking a lost sheep), etc. etc. etc.

Maybe "pronoun" means something different to you than it does to me.
posted by Tanizaki at 9:19 AM on July 18, 2012


[Folks, you're going down the rabbit hole on this, maybe take this to email?]
posted by jessamyn at 9:33 AM on July 18, 2012


Nah, I'm out.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:33 AM on July 18, 2012


Yeah, this is going nowhere. Bye.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:43 AM on July 18, 2012


Holy christ on a cracker. I wanted to come back and post an update now that the race has been run but now I'm afraid it will set off another week of petty bickering.

Let's promise to talk about running, okay?
Within seconds of each other, U.S. marathoners Ryan Hall and Abdi Abdirahman were out of the Olympic race.

First, Hall dropped out around the 11-mile mark with a tight right hamstring. Then, Abdirahman called it a day because of an aching right knee.

‘‘I felt like I was favoring my stride and didn’t want to get injured,’’ said Hall, who lives in Flagstaff, Ariz. via
Even though the gold medalist was from Uganda, not Kenya, East Africans continue to dominate the event. The South Sudanese runner (who's was in the US on asylum, only run two marathons before, and was forced to run under the independent banner due to South Sudan not being a country more than a few months ago) did well, finishing 47th in the crowded field.

Another American runner, American Meb Keflezighi, was in fourth. Britain's Scott Overall was 61st.

In other distance running news, Leonel Manzano took the silver medal in the 1500m and in the 5k and 10k Great Britain's Mo Farah did okay, I guess .. I don't know, I didn't catch the races... :P
posted by midmarch snowman at 9:22 AM on August 12, 2012


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