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Higher Ground: Christian men largely believe in the spirit of sports

- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 3, 2014

File this under "duh": Older Christian men are the most likely to agree that sports are an important part of American culture.

A Barna Group survey of roughly 1,110 adults found that 55 percent of those who are practicing Christians "strongly" agreed with the statement that sports are an important part of the nation's culture.

"There's a reason the Apostle Paul used sport references in his epistles," said Clint Jenkin, a vice president at Barna Group. "Every culture that has progressed beyond subsistence has developed recreational competitions and become passionate about them."

Out of the generational divide of the survey takers, baby boomers — those born from 1946 through 1964 — had the highest percentage of support at 48 percent. Forty-six percent of men said sports are an important part of American culture, and 41 percent of women felt the same way.

The survey also found that roughly 70 percent of practicing Christians agreed, either "somewhat" or "strongly," that Americans care too much about sports.

"The popularity of sports has become intertwined with issues of safety, sustainability, income inequality and social consciousness," Mr. Jenkins said. "The larger sports are already facing a tipping point where they are expected to justify themselves in the context of these issues."

GOD OF GOALKEEPING

And on the eighth day, God created Tim Howard — or so U.S. soccer fans would think after watching Mr. Howard's record-setting performance during the U.S.-Belgium World Cup match Tuesday.

Mr. Howard made 16 saves during the knockout round, the most in World Cup history. His performance launched a wave of online support, including a temporary edit to the Wikipedia page for U.S. Secretary of Defense, and a comparison to another famous (soul) saver.

For all the fame and praise, however, Mr. Howard has stayed humble. In an interview for Campus Crusade for Christ — one from several years ago that has received renewed readership after his performance this week — Mr. Howard credits God and his faith for helping him become the man and athlete he is.

As a child, Mr. Howard said, he turned to his grandmother for support after a Tourette's syndrome diagnosis and was inspired by her faith.

"Through her, God revealed His love for me as well," he said. "It wasn't long before I was following in her footsteps. I wanted the same kind of faith and peace she had, and that is exactly what God gave me. That said, living with Tourette's is not easy. But God has blessed me with the gift of athleticism as well."

CRISIS IN CUBA

The departure of two editors at Cuban magazine Espacio Laical have some worrying that the change signals a more significant shift in the publication.

Editors Roberto Veiga and Lenier Gonzalez resigned in early May, The Associated Press reported this week, amid rumors that the magazine was courting controversy in the communist-controlled country.

Gustavo Andujar, director of Espacio Laical, said the two left voluntarily. Mr. Gonzalez did not mention his departure in an email to the AP, but said he and Mr. Veiga planned to start a project "that allows for the airing and channeling of concerns and proposals from Cubans and foreigners that keep communion with those principles," Mr. Gonzalez said.

Espacio Laical was founded in 2005 as a magazine for Catholic lay people but grew into a platform for debate on subjects that included politics, faith and the economy, a far cry from the Communist Party newspaper Granma, the AP reported.

Mr. Andujar told the AP in an email that the magazine would not change entirely but would include content about art, science and religious ethics.

BEHIND THE VEIL

France's law banning face-covering Muslim veils was upheld this week by a human rights court.

The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday ruled that the French law did not infringe on the European Convention on Human Rights. The court accepted the French defense of the law that "the barrier raised against others by a veil concealing the face was perceived as breaching the right of others to live in a space of socialization which made living together easier."

According to a statement from the court, the case was brought by a young Muslim woman living in France who said she wore a full-body covering as well as a face-covering veil, though she chose to do so and was not forced by her family.

"The applicant had complained that she was prevented from wearing in public places clothing that she was required to wear by her religion, thus mainly raising an issue with regard to the freedom to manifest one's religion or beliefs," the court stated.

The court acknowledged that while the ban did affect a portion of Muslim women, it did not restrict people from wearing any other clothing that did not hide a person's face.

"The ban was not expressly based on the religious connotation of the clothing in question but solely on the fact that it concealed the face," the court stated.

Meredith Somers covers issues of faith and religion. She can be reached at msomers@washingtontimes.com.

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