Sports Ministry and Evangelicalism in America
Far from the founders of sports ministry’s original intentions, the encounter between evangelicalism and sports has resulted in a flexible evangelicalism that has allowed for a far wider range of beliefs and practices than the founders of sports ministry imagined. Engagement with sport provided another toolbox for evangelical female athletes, and when they actively sought to combine their athletic and evangelical identities, sport allowed them to develop a religious self-reflexivity that opened up a wide range of sometimes complementary, sometimes contradictory understandings of what it means to be an evangelical woman in contemporary America. Sports ministry’s focus on witnessing, individual religious experience, and the discourses of spiritual warfare and Christlikeness can produce an intimate knowledge of what it means to be a Christian athlete. This intimate embodied knowledge has allowed female Christian athletes to engage and modify orthodoxy by redefining godly femininity, increasingly accepting lesbianism, and renegotiating marriage expectations. These unintended consequences show that religious engagement with popular culture can produce new religious tools that do the very real work of maintaining religious belief, but not always in ways that are predictable ahead of time.
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