Monday, September 10, 2012

Christian Denominations are Like...NFL Teams

on pop theology, philosophy, theology, culture, pop culture, christianityby Ben Howard

In honor of the beginning of the NFL season and because I have a bizarre need to compare things that are in no way similar to each other. I give you a list of Christian denominations and their corresponding NFL team.

Roman Catholic – Chicago Bears
They've been around since the beginning and their history is filled with both conquests and venerated saints like George Halas, Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers. However, in recent years they've often been on the defensive leading to middle of the road status. Finally, Mike Ditka is Pope John Paul II and Walter Payton is Mother Teresa.

Episcopalian/Anglican – Oakland Raiders
Historically, a rebellious group of upstarts from the insurgent AFL that has tamed over time as it's come to find more mainstream success. Still prone to bouts of rebellious behavior that come across more weird than iconoclastic in the modern context. You have a legion of hardcore fans that refuse to leave even if your behavior seems occasionally bizarre. Al Davis is King Henry VIII and John Madden is N.T. Wright.

Presbyterian – New York Giants
You continue to have success in spite of the fact that it's entirely unclear why you've been successful in the first place. You base a lot of your work on your ability to amount a worthwhile defense and the fact that your success must simply be preordained. You're led by an angry man who will become lovable in historical context (Tom Coughlin and John Calvin).

Methodist – Kansas City Chiefs
You spent most of my childhood trying to redefine that gray area between average and slightly above average. A lot of your historical cache comes from simply existing and not embarassing yourself. Your fans are also fiercely loyal and very underrated.

Lutheran – Indianapolis Colts
Your relevance is based upon the prolific production of a bygone hero who led you out of the metaphorical wilderness and into the historical spotlight. Out of deference to the bygone hero, people are still paying serious attention to you, but no one is completely sure why. Peyton Manning is Martin Luther.

United Churches of Christ – Miami Dolphins
A franchise with a lot of historical significance including the only unbeaten season in NFL history and the crazy success of Dan Marino. The franchise's status has been undermined in recent years through a combination of identity crisis and wondering whether or not anyone actually cares.

Church of Christ – Cleveland Browns
You like to think that you have a long and storied history, but in truth your franchise began in 1999. A loyal fan base sticks beside you through thick and thin. Often characterized by an inability to find adequate leadership. Examples of inadequate leadership include Tim Couch, Kelly Holcomb, Derek Anderson, Brady Quinn, Colt McCoy, and probably Brandon Weedon.

Disciples of Christ – Baltimore Ravens
The more successful cousins of the current Cleveland Browns. Your success is based around the fundamentals like defense, running the football and not committing turnovers. However, to your detriment, fundamentals are really, really boring.

Eastern Orthodox – Jacksonville Jaguars
Because there is like a 50% chance that you didn't know they were a team and an even higher chance that you can't tell me anything about them at all.

Baptist – Minnesota Vikings
From the outside you look kind of cool and hip with your purple jerseys and your occassionally dynamic offensive player (Adrian Peterson, Randy Moss), but then we recognize you're the same underachieving team from years past. I fall for it every time. Maybe the cold Minnesota winters trick my mind.

Non-denominational – Dallas Cowboys
The flashy name and the stars are always enough to make someone check you out, but it's nearly impossible to tell if they'll find something brilliant or something that just sputters along until it falls in a ditch. Smart money of late is on the ditch. Also, there is a near 100% chance that the whole enterprise is run by a megalomoniacal white man.

Pentecostal – Arizona Cardinals
Everything just feels chaotic, hot and generally confused, but still full of some type of unrealized potential. It feels like your brand-new, but you've actually been around for quite awhile.

Quakers – Buffalo Bills
They're quiet, obscure, and unlikely to pick a fight. Also, they both produced Republican's who were on a Presidential ballot (Jack Kemp and Richard M. Nixon).

New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers, Pittsburgh Steelers
These are the teams everybody thinks they are. They're perennially successful and are able to roll with whatever changes or developments the rest of the world can muster. They have their weaknesses and their strengths, but they are so well trained and trust each other so much that they can work their way through almost any situation.

Yes, I am aware that all of the above are gross caricatures and are not reflective of the whole of a denomination and I'm fine with that. The caricatures serve their purpose.

You might think I'm writing all this to say that every church should aspire to be the Patriots, Packers, and Steelers, but it's not. Churches need to be who they are and they need to own who they are and try and be the absolute best that they can be in that context. Every denomination has weaknesses and strengths and my hope is that if they all worked together, perhaps in some sort of national faith league (or NFL, for short), then we might learn something from each other and work towards a better world.

Do I hope for “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church?” Yes, very much so, but I'm not certain we can put that together on our own and during the in between time we can at least try and find a viable working substitute.

As always, feel free to comment. I'd love to hear your thoughts and suggestions for this list.


When he isn't trying to match-up NFL teams with Christian denominations, Ben spends his time comparing mid-90's basketball players to the Founding Fathers. Gary Payton is totally Alexander Hamilton. You can follow him on Twitter @BenHoward87 or email him at benjamin.howard87 [at]

1 comment:

  1. I must disagree with the Orthodox church being the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Orthodox church has a rich tradition second only to the Catholics in number of centuries that it has been around. I would say a more accurate representation is the Detroit Lions or the Packers, since they're by far the biggest "rivals" of the Catholic Church.