Messi-ah over Messi, Padre over Pele: The cult of hero worship

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Hero Worship

Welcome to “Athlos” a weekly blog which examines pillars of personal excellence and regularly brings together the worlds of Christian spirituality and sport.

Mere Mortals

When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form! […] The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them. But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: “Friends, why are you doing this? We too are only human, like you”-Acts 14:11, 13-15a

Divine Distinction

Acknowledging human achievement is appropriate. There is so much that we can learn from others’ experiences and exploits. We see it in multiple spheres of life, especially in sport. As we start 2023, I feel compelled to highlight what I consider to be the crossing of boundary lines when it comes to adulation of heroes.

As I mentioned in recent blogs, two sporting icons have been celebrated for different reasons. Lionel Messi won the World Cup for Argentina and Pele, the Brazilian maestro, passed away on December 29, 2022. In their home countries and around the world, their were honoured and, rightly so. However, different media houses suggest that some fans bowed down in worship at Pele’s coffin, while either or both players were referred as “god” or “King.” This is the language of divinity.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand that cultures vary and that people show respect in diverse ways. My attempt here is not to be simplistic or overly dramatic. Yet, I do feel some discomfort when praise for sporting excellence gets confused with Divine Authority. My own worldview places Padre over Pele and the Messiah over Messi. i.e. the Holy Father (more accurately, Señor, in Spanish) and the Anointed Son always have preeminence. The implications for this standpoint are simple: humans must never be elevated to the status of deity.

This is what we saw back in biblical times, as cited in Acts 14 above. The apostles refused to be worshipped as if they were gods. They would have none of it. In humility, they acknowledged their humanity. I invite us to do the same, whether we are the recipients of praise or are offering kudos to others.

Proper Perspective

Appreciate humans. Worship God.  

If you were inspired by this blog, please consider sharing it with one other person today. To learn more about these and other related themes that promote the cultivation of an integrated inner self, read UNBEATABLE! which is available on Amazon in print and as an e-book.

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