There has always been an unspoken comparison between the World Cup soccer tournament and the Olympics. As I have watched the World Cup finals play out on Univision (with liberal use of my Mute button for their obnoxious commercials and production background), I have come to the conclusion that there is one very important difference between the two mega-sports conferences, and it makes all the difference.
Although there is a whole world of betting based on the World Cup, the only science that you can bring to it is whatever knowledge you have of each team's background. It seems that the European teams have come to the World Cup riding on the prestige of their world-famous soccer royalty. The Spanish team brought with them the mystique of Real Madrid, to say nothing of the legendary Manchester United, which lends gravitas to the English national team. But the teams that are dominating are the Latin Americans.
While the Europeans are older veterans of the game with bottomless experience, the Latinos are young, strong, talented and hungry. The performance of Costa Rica has made history, in that this morning they became the first Latin American team to win back-to-back in World Cup semifinals.
And what of the Olympics? Well, they are fixed. While the World Cup is won or lost on the playing field, we cannot say the same of the Olympics. The scandal around the Canadian and Russian figure-skating teams a few years ago, which resulted in the awarding of two gold medals, did damage to the appeal of the games. It was inevitable; when you watch the Olympics you wonder whom the judges have already decided to award the medals to. The events that are still decided on the playing field have eclipsed the formerly-riveting figure skating and gymnastics, among others.
But there is an insurmountable obstacle standing in the way of the World Cup games of 2022. The actual next World Cup will be held in Russia in 2018; that is not going to be a problem. Russia is accustomed to the whole logistical process of hosting world games. But the 2022 World Cup is scheduled at this time to be held in Qatar.
Aside from the fact that temperatures in Qatar range in the hundred-twenties in the World Cup season, there is yet another problem that ought to bring United States participation in the 2022 World Cup to a screeching halt. It isn't going to bankrupt Qatar to build a climate-controlled stadium, but believe it or not, Qatar is a nation that allows the buying and selling of human beings. Yes, Qatar is a slave nation.
The United States of America cannot participate in the World Cup games if they go off as scheduled in Qatar. Not one African American should pass their border, nor should any American who "holds these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal..." The United States must be prepared to boycott the 2022 World Cup if Qatar has not taken action to amend their laws and eliminate slavery. I am not giving orders here, but any other nation on earth that shows up to play soccer in Qatar has to answer for a serious moral lapse. Full stop.
As I have been contemplating this situation, it reminds me of another story. A couple of thousand years ago there was a huge religious establishment whose morality included the owning of human beings. Along came a group within that larger entity that had this to say about it:
"But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.
"For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." [Galatians 3:23-29]
Yes, those are the words of St. Paul. The Jewish faith establishment was riding on the enormous credibility of the Hebrew Scriptures; on top of that, most of the members of the emerging Christian Church were Jews. Yet as they came to new realizations about the nature of God, they realized that the primitive morality of slavery had to go into the dustbin or history. No longer would the strong dominate the weak; Christians were told to abase themselves, to be humble, to give to the support of the poor, and to consider everyone equal before God. This is the basic reason why Christians consider that the morality espoused in the Old Testament, with all its laws and penalties, has been superseded by the Christian ethic: our God is the God of love and compassion, not crime and punishment.
This is just a short step from considering everyone equal before the law, as our Constitution places Americans. But as this pattern emerges more clearly in my mind, I see where some people who call themselves Christians do not consider that everyone is equal in reality, either spiritually or legally. Some Christians hold themselves above those of other faiths and lifestyles. Some Christians do not believe that those from oppressed minorities ought to be liberated. Just as the United States is going to have to make a decision about participating in World Cup games if they are held in a slave nation, we in the Christian faith have to decide if we are superior to some other Christians of whom we disapprove (for whatever reason).
If we do come to that dangerous conclusion, we have been warned by Jesus himself:
"To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: robbers, evildoers, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” [Luke 18: 9-14]
As I say above, we have been warned. Franklin Graham and Bryan Fischer have been warned. The un-Christian evangelical Teabaggers have been warned. Who is going to take this seriously enough to put a stop to the abuse of the poor and disenfranchised in this supposedly-great United States of America? Or are we going to be like the Olympic judges, creating spectacle while doing or saying anything to profit ourselves?
And what was that other thing Jesus said? Oh, right:
"Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.'" [Matthew 16: 24-27]
Do you take this seriously? Does the Republican Party take it seriously, for all their pious prattle? Do not worry about whatever reward anyone else has earned; worry about living the kind of life that Jesus is talking about, and you will know what to do or not do (and what you'd better not do).