It was Monday Night Football, a national spotlight shined on the game of the week between two premier Superbowl contenders. On a seemingly routine play, Buffalo Bills Safety Damar Hamlin tackled Tee Higgins, rose to his feet and immediately collapsed on the field, suffering cardiac arrest. It was a sight that shocked the world—a player being admitted CPR on the field on national TV.
In the era of social media, no football player had ever died on the field. The subsequent game was canceled and Hamlin was rushed to the hospital where, according to his uncle, he was resuscitated once more. Thankfully, he did recover.
Unfortunately, whenever tragedy garners national attention, social media dictates that it becomes a religious sacrament of utmost uniform devotion. People were quick to offer their prayers, players and nonplayers alike. This is to be expected and there is nothing wrong with prayer, but because this is a national sensation, even prayer devolves into empty theater before a Thrice Holy God.
In other words, caring about Damar Hamlin became a virtue to signal, to prove not that individuals care about the player’s recovery, but that they were better and more compassionate than those whose behavior did not mirror their own. Skip Bayless was bashed for a benign tweet. Talk of resuming the game or the implications was deemed insensitive, despite the fact that games resumed as expected the following Sunday. Even sack celebrations (which I detest as a practice) were scrutinized despite the “CPR dance” being common. Robert Griffin the Third wore a backwards jersey. Damar Hamlin’s toy drive fundraiser accumulated over $10 million in donations. Think about it, people willfully donated money to a charity of a professional football player whose name they previously did not even know—all to prove how much they care. There was no consideration to whether the money would be properly stewarded, as the donations exceeded what the charity had ever raised by a large magnitude, or whether a toy drive is the best use of one’s charitable contributions. It was not about Hamlin. It was about Self.
So too it became with prayer, becoming theater for Self rather than either for Hamlin or to God. Dan Orlovsky recitation of a prayer on ESPN, which became clickbait fodder for Conservative Inc, quickly descended into pregame performances and theatrics by the following Sunday. When coaches praying is a Supreme Court controversy, public displays of prayer suddenly became celebrated and acceptable. This led to widespread praise within Christian circles as the media platformed images of players publicly praying in their circles, which is a common custom in the NFL, yet there was little emphasis on the reality that a player almost died suddenly on the field and why that is.
A reminder of the inevitability and suddenness of death should have served as an ideal opportunity to present the gospel was reduced to prayerful theater—photo ops, video recordings, and mass participation. There was much appeal to God, but little emphasis on what separates God and Man, and the reconciliation found in Christ. To his credit, while Baptist Press touted the Buffalo Bills chaplain, who is an Andy Stanley fanboy, Michael Brown called out Damar Hamlin for tweeting out “OMFG!” on Sunday. How many of these players if they died would go to Heaven? How many only believe in a generic version of God as opposed to the Triune God presented in Scripture? While I do not know the answer, I can imagine it is fewer than those who participated in public demonstration.
If we turn to Scripture, Jesus condemns these public displays of prayer. In Matthew 6:5-6 Jesus states,
And when you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they will be seen by people. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But as for you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
This is the leadup to the Lord’s Prayer. Christ condemns theatrical prayer. In the modern context, those “thoughts and prayer” tweets and Facebook posts would fall under the modern street corners, as social media has become the public forum. Faithful obedience should be at the forefront of prayer, not public spectacle.
To a nation has descended into depths of depravity as America has, we cannot pretend that public prayer that is lauded in our society is pleasing in the eyes of God. Isaiah 1:15 reads,
So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; Yes, even though you offer many prayers, I will not be listening. Your hands are covered with blood.
This was to a disobedient Israel, where that which was once a pleasing aroma devolved into a putrid stench due to their rebellious sin and refusal to repent. Is America any different with its rampant abortion, sexual perversion, racial idolatry, criminal violence, and social media self-worship? Four of these sins are particularly prevalent in athletic circles.
Hands of Blood
The phenomenon of sudden deaths had captured the attentions of Americans, to which the documentary Died Suddenly plays into. Otherwise healthy young adults and even minors are dying at random due to heart or blood clot related medical conditions. Hamlin is 24.
What would it take for Americans to wake up to the vaccines? Where will you be stricken again, Isaiah writes. How about an athlete in America’s most popular sport on prime time suffering cardiac arrest? That would do it, right? American sports possess a transcendent quality over a society, just as they did in antiquity, to which Paul incorporated sports metaphors into his epistles. Unfortunately, it was not enough. While the comment sections and those on the edges of the mainstream called out the culpability of the jabs, the spirit of the age rolled out its official narrative of commotio cordis—the blunt force impact of the hit caused a cardiac reaction, a condition which has never happened in professional football and is usually occurs in sports like baseball, hockey, or lacrosse where the ball/pucks travel at well over 40mph. Should he have been resuscitated twice, this narrative becomes highly improbable.
Nevertheless, the mainstream media refuses to call out the preponderance of evidence that the covid vaccines which they peddled despite government agencies throughout the world officially declaring harmful side effects. Even when the regimes are confessing to the health issues they implemented, the media and at-large society refuses to act.
They would rather enact performative demonstrations of prayer and solidarity rather than face the Truth of the relationship between their actions and the suffering of athletes and everyday young adults, especially young men, suffering from these poisonous jabs. The NFL peddled the jab through coercion and mandates. Colleges and high schools did the same. Sports media condemned dissidents, like Aaron Rodgers or Kyrie Irving while taking blood money from Pfizer. Tragically, countless pastors failed to resist and even advocated this wicked narrative.
Americans have blood on their hands from the fallout of these jabs. We need widespread repentance, not shallow prayers.