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Angels in the outfield?

Mount talk explores the relationship between sports and faith
September 10, 2018

Robert Miller, Mount Saint Mary College associate professor of Religious Studies and Division of Philosophy and Religious Studies chair, presented “Is God a Sports Fan? The Relationship between Sports and Faith” on Thursday, September 6 at the college.

Robert Miller, Mount Saint Mary College associate professor of Religious Studies and Division of Philosophy and Religious Studies chair, presented “Is God a Sports Fan? The Relationship between Sports and Faith” on Thursday, September 6 at the college.

 

When a ballplayer knocks one out of the park on a summer afternoon or the titans of the gridiron go for a game-winning touchdown, does God take notice? 

Robert Miller, Mount Saint Mary College associate professor of Religious Studies and Division of Philosophy and Religious Studies chair, kicked off this semester’s Investigating Research on Campus (iROC) series with his talk, “Is God a Sports Fan? The Relationship between Sports and Faith” on Thursday, September 6.

“In the Judeo-Christian tradition, we are taught to seek God in all things,” Miller explained. “God has left His fingerprints on every aspect of creation, either directly or indirectly – including leisure and sports.”  

To truly tackle the question of God and sports, one must first examine leisure in general, he said. In the Book of Genesis, humanity’s first full day of life was the Sabbath. Thus, Miller noted, “work is not our primary purpose on Earth – that is not God’s intentional plan. We were intended for contemplation and for leisure.”

He added, “Seeing leisure as simply a time to rejuvenate ourselves for more work leads to a life of never-ending servitude, while seeing leisure as our true purpose leads to freedom.”

So with this in mind, is God a sports fan? Probably, said Miller. However, unlike us, God doesn’t take sides. The idea that it’s “God’s will” for one team to win over another needs to be sent back to the bleachers, said the professor.

“To imply that God is controlling all the events, particularly in a sports game, would be to say that God removes every semblance of chance from the world – and free will as well,” Miller explained. “You can see how problematic this could become.” 

Miller holds degrees in Philosophy, Theology, and a doctoral degree in Biblical Studies from the Catholic University of America. He is a Senior Fellow of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology and a board member for the Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary - USA. His doctoral dissertation “Ti emoi kai soi: John 2:4a, Rebuke or Expression of Mutual Concern,” is a philological and contextual study of the Hebrew idiom with which Jesus responds to his mother at the wedding at Cana. 

The goal of the college’s iROC is to “provide a forum for Mount faculty, staff, and students to showcase their research endeavors with both Mount Saint Mary College and the local community in a manner easily understood by attendees,” explained series coordinators Evan Merkhofer, assistant professor of Biology, and Jennifer Park, assistant librarian for access and outreach services. Presentations include research proposals, initial data collection, and completed research projects.

The next iROC talk will be delivered by Rob Wakeman, assistant professor of English. Wakeman will examine Shakespeare’s use of innuendo in the comedy Measure for Measure on Thursday, September 20 at 4 p.m. at the college. The talk will take place in the Mount’s Kaplan Family Library and Learning Center at the Mount, 330 Powell Ave., Newburgh. It is free and open to the public.

Mount Saint Mary College is ranked a Top-Tier University by U.S. News & World Report, and offers bachelor’s and master’s degree programs for careers in healthcare, business, education, social services, communications, media, and the liberal arts.