Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Banging Heads Is Destructive

In May 2012 Junior Seau, a star NFL linebacker who played in two Superbowls took his own life. He retired in 2010 and was just 43 at the time of his death.

Seau shot himself in the chest. His family believed he did this so his brain could be donated to science. It was studied by the National Institutes for Health who in January 2013 confirmed that he suffered from CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy). There's a good summary of his career and later struggles here.

CTE has been increasingly diagnosed as more and more footballers (and hockey players) have donated their brains for research. Here's a stunning quote from the CNN article linked above,
"In a recent study, researchers found CTE in 34 of 35 deceased NFL players whose brains were donated by family members."
Of course, not all footballers suffer form CTE. The fact that many of them maintain successful post-playing careers in the media as commentators fair and square in the public eye demonstrates they haven't lost too many brain cells. However, it's certainly a serious health issue that contact sports such as the NFL and NHL are going to have to deal with. Is in conscionable to promote an entertainment form (sport) that results in the premature deaths of its participants? Some think that CTE could lead to the end of the NFL, and even American Football as a major sport at all levels.

On 24 January the Seau family announced that they're suing the NFL for wrongful death. This ESPN.com article mentions that 3,800 former players have sued the NFL. In all there are over 175 lawsuits related to brain injuries currently outstanding against the NFL. It's certainly not a guarantee that these will all be successful, but if they were, the payouts could cripple the NFL. Additionally, the game would have to change dramatically to minimise or eliminate the risk of future brain injuries. FLAG FOOTBALL ANYONE??

I'm not being trite or disrespectful when I say that Christians also need to remember that banging heads leads to injuries and in some cases premature death. In Philippians 4:2 Paul tells those two famous female gladiators of the church Euodia and Syntyche to stop fighting each other. Elsewhere God tells Christians to live at peace with everyone. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus teaches that if we want to be children of God, we will first be peacemakers. (Matt 5:9) In fact, the Bible frequently calls God "the God of peace" and identifies him as the source of all peace.

So when I see Christians butting heads with each other, or arguing aggressively with the government, or with others with whom they disagree, it gives me a headache. CTE reminds us that fighting with each other is self-destructive. It brings no glory to God and seldom changes anyone's mind for the good. Like football, when Christians conduct themselves in this way parents will stop sending their kids to church for fear of injury. People will lose respect for the institution, and the future growth will be questionable.

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