The Embodied Pleasures of Sport
Christian athletes use athletic activity as a means of experiencing transcendent pleasure, which they describe as a feeling of being connected to God. Sport as a means to experience the pleasure of intimacy with God decouples sport from the evangelical project of witnessing and emphasizes instead an individual and private religious experience. Attributing athletic pleasure to God both solidifies the Christian athlete’s knowledge of God’s presence and frames that presence as sexually fulfilling. This chapter turns to early sports ministers like Wes Neal, who saw sport as able to foster the kinds of sensations that can link humans to the divine—sensations of deep pleasure and purposeful pain. Wes Neal’s reworking of sports ministry’s priorities has allowed for individual religious experience to overshadow traditional kinds of witnessing, opening the door for Christian athletes to derive religious certainty from their embodied experience of playing sports.
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