Rugby and Reconciliation
A Christian anthropology might link all of this to humankind's profound thirst for the original harmony—a condition of profound trust and gladness wherein the lamb and the lion frisk, no creature preys upon another, Adam and Eve walk with God at the time of the evening breeze—all an exultant expression of the goodness of physicality and pure, full delight in being alive. In the delight and beauty of bodies and souls in contest with themselves or others—whether in hitting a curveball, completing a golf swing, or pounding each other raw—we glimpse the dream of wholeness and reconciliation. In play, then, lies a kind of "fun" that partakes of the plenitude of delight and intimacy intended for the whole creation. When that happens, sport becomes dance and even, perhaps, still another form of mating.
And so sport goes its way, these days especially broken and mangled, but still one of the deeper puzzles in human behavior. Sometimes, rarely, for reasons beyond knowing, sport does what it was meant to do. For a brief time in South Africa, sport did its thing, yielding reconciliation and unity, at least for a brief while, in a grievously wounded land. Eastwood's Invictus catches that story, and the story of Nelson Mandela's profoundly Christian vision of what love in the world should mean.
Roy Anker is professor of English at Calvin College. This review is dedicated to Russ DeVette (1923-2009), for over two decades as head basketball coach at Hope College the embodiment of sport as caritas.
Copyright © 2010 by the author or Christianity Today/Books & Culture magazine.
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