Does God care who wins football games?

Last Sunday, the Seattle Seahawks defeated the Green Bay Packers 28-22 in the NFC Championship, sending the defending-champion Seahawks to the Super Bowl to play to controversy-ridden New England Patriots. (You may have heard.) As a football game, the Seahawks vs. the Packers was about as good a game as one could have asked for. As a Packers fan (and owner!) it was the most agonizing moment in my life as a sports fan. In case you missed it, the Packers dominated the game for the first 55 minutes, causing five turnovers, wreaking havoc on defense, and moving the ball pretty well against the best defense in football.

And then Marshawn Lynch went into Beast Mode, Packers reserve tight end Brandon Bostick muffed the recovery of an onside kick, the Seahawks scored to take the lead and tacked on the first ever Hail Mary two-point conversion. Even a quick Aaron Rodgers-led drive to send the game into overtime could not stop the Seahawks: Russell Wilson, who had played one of the worst games of his life to that point, suddenly rifled a perfect 35 yard touchdown to win the game. This tweet shows just how unlikely the Seahawks’s victory was, and just how swift the Packers’s collapse was.

As talented and deserving as the Seahawks are, the Green Bay Packers blew the game. Bill Barnwell summarizes well the (many) mistakes the Packers made in losing the game in his Grantland column. Suffice it to say, if just a few things had gone differently, we would be looking at an Aaron Rodgers-Tom Brady Super Bowl that would help decide quarterback supremacy for the next few years.

As horrifying as the game was (from my perspective, as a diehard Packer fan), it was not nearly as irksome as what happened after the game. Peter King of Sports Illustrated wrote up a recap of the game, which included an interview with Russell Wilson. Wilson wears his Christianity on his sleeve: he talks about his faith often and even played a part in Mark Driscoll’s Super Bowl interviews last year. As he was reviewing his performance, reflecting on how he could go from playing so poorly to playing the part of the hero, he said this, per King:

“That’s God setting it up, to make it so dramatic, so rewarding, so special,” he said, alone for a moment in the locker room before heading out for the night. “I’ve been through a lot in life, and had some ups and downs. It’s what’s led me to this day.”

So, if Russell Wilson is right, God loves him so much that He: 1) led Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy to lose his spine and kick field goals of 18 and 19 yards instead of trying to score from the 1 and 2 yard lines on fourth down with the best offense in the NFL; 2) conspired to injure Aaron Rodgers so that he was not at full strength on the most important day of the season; 3) had Packer safety Morgan Burnett slide after intercepting a Russell Wilson pass in the fourth quarter so that we would not fumble instead of trying to gain as many yards as he could; 4) forced McCarthy to become detrimentally cautious in the fourth quarter, rather than trying to build up Green Bay’s lead; 5) perhaps ruined Brandon Bostick’s career by making him commit one of the biggest blunders in football history; 6) put a strong level of indecisiveness in the mind of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix so that he would not be able to knock down the Seahawks’s desperate attempt to complete a two-point conversion; 7) ensured that the Seahawks won the overtime toss so that the best offense in the NFL would not have the opportunity to win the game in do-or-die fashion.

At best, this is an innocuous, though foolish, statement revealing a lack of serious theological reflection. At worst, it is utter self-righteousness.

God wills what He does to magnify His own glory. Was the glory of God, whom Wilson claims helped lead his team to victory, magnified when Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin spent his time after the game screaming and swearing about how disrespected he and the rest of the Seahawks were during the season?

Wilson’s God sounds more like the gods of the Greeks, whom they believed would intervene to sway the outcomes of the affairs of man at any moment, often pitting one god against another.

Does God care about football? Of course He does. He cares about all that His creation does. Can God be glorified through football? Of course He can. God can be glorified through everything. Does God care who wins football games? Or, to put it starker, does God orchestrate what happens in football games, in effect, smiting one side while blessing the other?

I’ll let the best quarterback in football, Aaron Rodgers, answer that question: “I don’t think God cares a whole lot about the outcome.”

Russell Wilson should make like Job, saying, “I have uttered what I did not understand.” For God does not exist for the happiness and security of man; man exists for the glory of God.

[Update: Apparently, Detroit Lions safety Glover Quinn suffers from the same lack of understanding about God that Russell Wilson does. Let’s make it easy. God did not cause the Packers to lose last year’s NFC Championship in brutal fashion in order to make it so special for Russell Wilson. And God did not mean for Jordy Nelson, the Packers best wide receiver, to suffer a season-ending injury. Is this a league-wide ignorance of the sovereignty of God, or is it only existent when directed toward the Packers?]


2 thoughts on “Does God care who wins football games?

  1. Tony,
    The Packers lost with a ton of pride because they could have deflated the football and won the game easily but chose to do the right thing. I believe that might be the underlying message here!

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