Not sure where I stand on this. I heard the prayer and wasn’t that offended by it. But who cares if our prayers are memorable to the people listening. Isn’t God the person we are addressing? Our our forgotten prayers not music the ears of God still? Not calling down fire and brimstone… just asking questions.
Pastor simply following the Bible with controversial Nashville prayer
By Matt Crossman
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
To read the condemnations of Pastor Joe Nelms from sportswriters is to read people with sticks far up their rear ends.
They have called hellfire down upon him because he had the temerity to offer a prayer which someone would remember for more than one second after it ended. This widespread condemnation from my brethren is weird because we would be lost without religious themes.
David beats Goliath every day. Saviors get drafted and traded for every year, and failures get crucified in the media. Even trash talk – you couldn’t carry my jock – is a paraphrase of John 1:27.
NASCAR media, more than others, should be more forgiving, or at least more spiritually attuned. The best NASCAR stories are exactly like the best Bible stories: Losers winning.
The Bible is full of no-name dirt trackers who win the Daytona 500. Moses was an orphaned murderer, David was a terrible father and adulterer, and Paul terrorized Christians before his conversion. And racing is mentioned far more than any other sport in the Bible, getting shout outs in I Corinthians, Hebrews, 2 Timothy and Ecclesiastes, to name four. Paul frequently uses racing as a metaphor for life – not necessarily because he was a sports fan, but because he knew his readers were.
That Nelms is still in the news four days after his prayer before the Nationwide Series race in Nashville is not surprising. Any mix of God and sports is sure to be controversial. That’s because the only thing the public is less unified about than sports is religion.
Still, the two are marbled together, intertwined in ways subtle and profound. Nearly all of the major professional sports teams have a chaplain service. The Fellowship of Christian Athletes has 6,623 chapters across the country. Hundreds of churches have sports-related ministries, and that’s on top of thousands upon thousands of damnably bad Southern Baptist softball teams.
Much to the consternation of fans and media, athletes have dragged God into locker rooms, clubhouses and race tracks since there have been locker rooms, clubhouses and race tracks to drag Him into – or at least since the first last-second field goal. Athletes give thanks to God whether He wants it or not, whether He deserves it or not.
Fans are vocal about condemning athletes for Godding up sports but those same fans make such frequent calls for destruction upon the enemy that it’s proof of God’s mercy that the Yankees have not been smote.
Into this eternal controversy Nelms dove headfirst. The main beef against him seems to be that his prayer lacked seriousness, as if the invocation before an event in which men will drive in circles for three hours must be full of solemn piety.
Instead, Nelms mentioned sponsors galore (which happens every week) and thanked the Lord in heaven for his “smoking hot wife.” The Bible tells us approximately a billion times to pray about whatever we want to pray about. If Nelms can’t pray to God to thank Him for his smoking hot wife, what can he pray to God for?
“Smoking hot wife” was an obvious reference to a line from Talladega Nights, and it has caused many to cast not just the first stone but a handful. There can be no doubt from the crowd’s reaction (they cheered the prayer!) that the crowd recognized the quote from Ricky Bobby.
Nelms was clearly playing to the audience. I won’t argue, even, if you call it pandering. Not only am I fine with it, I applaud it because he was modeling an example set by the Apostle Paul.
Said the Paulster in I Corinthians: “To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.”
To the NASCAR fan, Nelms became a NASCAR fan. For that, I say amen.
– Matt Crossman is a staff writer for SportingNews Magazine.