January 23, 2021

Easter as “March Madness”

I won’t comment on this ad in our paper today for a local church Easter production. I should probably just start a “Groan or Else” category for things like this.

Easter Ad


  1. Good Lord deliver us.

  2. Oh God.

  3. I’m very stupid, I know, but I don’t get it.

    It’s something that will be put on for Easter? Like a play or a pageant? About – basketball?

    I am not seeing the link between the Resurrection and sports, I have to admit. Someone either really good or really bad at basketball, who messes up a shot in an important match, then gets a second chance?

    I… don’t see the connection between this and Easter. Forgiveness of sins, sure, but the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come?

    Explain this to me!

    • I’m assuming that because we all miss our shots, Jesus is our Rebounder who gives us second chances. I think they first read it in Augustine.

      • …who was an avid basketball enthusiast.

        • You know what is funny here… I remember 28 years ago a friend was describing what he was reading in Augustine at the time… and used a basketball analogy to describe it!

      • Now I very nearly want you to go to this thing, Chaplain Mike, so you can tell me how on earth they make a basketball game into the Resurrection (or vice versa).

        Unless this is a sneaky case of false advertising, and the innocent audience is drawn in thinking they are going to see a play about basketball and instead get two hours of preaching!


    • Martha, it is – imo – an exceedingly crass and commercial ploy – linking Christ’s death and resurrection to a college basketball tournament colloquially known as “March Madness.” Think super Bowl craziness, but applied to college basketball instead… though for the full effect, you really *have* to live near one of the Southern Conference universities that is *big* on b-ball.

      If you go to a US sports channel site (like ESPN), you’ll get something of the flavor.

      As for “rebounder,” I think they’re using that to describe the resurrection.

      It really is a “facepalm”-type thing.

      • I wouldn’t have posted it if I didn’t have the same response, numo.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Martha, it is – imo – an exceedingly crass and commercial ploy – linking Christ’s death and resurrection to a college basketball tournament colloquially known as “March Madness.” Think super Bowl craziness, but applied to college basketball instead…

        As well as having an aroma far too much like “See How Clever I Am?”

        As for ESPN, here’s their famous “Y2K Commercial” from 1999.

  4. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    “Groan or Else” is RIGHT.

    (Why do you think they call it “The Evangelical Circus”?)

  5. How about a more apropos sports analogy: “The Pinch Hitter” ?

  6. You know, I guess I don’t see a problem with pastors trying to relate the Gospel message to something that relates to current culture. Jesus did it when he told his parables. Then again, maybe back then some of his followers rolled their eyes and said, “Here goes Jesus again…relating the kingdom of heaven to a worker sowing in his field” or “I can’t believe Jesus is equating the kingdom of heaven with the landowner of a vineyard.”

    • You may be right. I’ve often wondered if some things I object to in contemporary worship styles is just a matter of personal aesthetics. Not sure where to draw the line. But my negative reaction to this ad was visceral. Maybe the problem is with me.

    • One of the things that the Roman intellectuals criticized, indeed ridiculed, early Christianity for was the what they considered the vulgarity of the Christian Scriptures; they were critical of the Greek that they were written in, which was considered debased and vulgarized, as well as the style and subjects (fishermen, farmers, peasants, etc.) of the slowly growing canon of Christian Scripture. From what I understand as a someone who does not know Greek, either ancient or contemporary, the Authorized translation of the Scriptures, while it may have been a fairly literal and accurate translation, by rendering the Greek in a high English style, poetic and sophisticated, did not reflect the low style of the original texts and language, and so in some sense did a disservice to us when we try to understand just where the New Testament would fit in an ancient aesthetic continuum from low to high, which would be at the bottom. To a great extent, the Christian Scriptures have fundamentally altered the aesthetics of the Western literary canon from that of ancient Rome. But the habit of viewing things as high brow versus low brow is perennial and creeps back in. Is my visceral negative reaction to the above ad the result of just such a an aesthetic resurgence, a creeping back in? A good argument could be made that it is.

      • During my leading of a study on the gospels of Mark and Matthew last year, I offered an analogy of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem and his last week on earth to the Super Bowl and all its hype. For instance, I said everyone expected him to be the hot-shot TD-throwing QB who would overthrow Roman team, but instead of riding onto the playing field in a Mustang convertible with babes draped on each arm, he entered riding on a tricycle. I won’t go into all the spiritual stuff I gleaned from my analogy and explored with the class, but I think it gave everyone a different perspective on what Jesus actually did and accomplished as he LOST the Big Game on the scoreboard everyone could see, but meanwhile WON a game no one knew he was playing. I’d hate to think that my fellow iMonk friends would blast me for drawing such a sports analogy.

        So I think we need to give some leeway to people bringing the gospel message using analogies that resonate with people today, even if it’s in sports lingo. Again, Jesus spoke in parable, using situation that resonated with the people and culture of his time. Teachers today should be allowed the same grace.

        • Well, I would say it’s one thing to use such a point as a single illustration and, on the other hand, to make it the major theme of the holiest season of the year.

          I vote that in this case, it is “evangelical circus” all the way.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      You know, I guess I don’t see a problem with pastors trying to relate the Gospel message to something that relates to current culture. Jesus did it when he told his parables.

      And these guys obviously ain’t Jesus. They came up with a DUMB way to do it.

  7. Matt Purdum says

    If anyone can figure out why people put up with this, call me anytime day or night.

    • Got me…..”.Come on in, we are turning the Holiest three days of the year into a Hat Trick! ” (yes, I know I am mixing sports…why not!:

      Meanwhile, here in Jerry Falwellville, his megachurch has a half-page color add in this morning’s paper, showing a tattered green chair with a centered text that says …..

      God’s Story. My Story. Your Story.

      This is the performance art that this church is so famous for….they don’t have an altar, they have a stage, with orchestra pit and stadium seating. You would never know from this ad or their “campus and worship arena” that they had anything to do with Christ.

  8. Not sure why they need basketball to get people to come to church Easter Sunday. Chocolate eggs work just fine.

    • Well, in Indiana where I live, basketball is a primary religious activity, so I can understand why they might have used it.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Sounds like Syncretism in action. And in Syncretism, as Entropy sets in the non-Gospel part of the mix eventually crowds out the Gospel part. To paraphrase Chesterton, “They will tell you how Christianity and Basketball are at their core one and the same thing — especially Basketball.”

  9. GROAN

  10. It’s the same reason churches present “40 Days of Purpose” and other gimmicks during Lent. Along with Christmas, Easter is among the few reasons many go to church. Market-driven churches view this as a potential target audience and, yes, use glitzy, over-the-top productions to attract that audience. A local mega-church here puts on a giant Easter production. My church rents out the local minor league stadium for a sunrise service.

    I sympathize to a degree with those attempts to market to twice-a-year church-goers. Where I don’t is in the bad theology which often accompanies these marketing appeals (good news is whatever floats your boat; give the people what they want).

    In this case, the Greek word for sin, meaning “missing the mark” becomes “missing the shot”. The solution?? We need a rebounder. So far, I’m not appalled. I do find the slogan, everyone misses A shot, a bit telling, because it comes across as everyone misses a shot now and then, and all we need is a second chance or an assist; otherwise, we’re just fine, basically good.

    For me, it sounds close to Lutheran, but not quite. I think Luther would say we miss EVERY shot, not just one or two. Paul would be more emphatic: we miss every shot because we are DEAD in sin. We’re not even in the game. An assist is of no use, because dead men can’t even dribble the ball, let alone make a shot. To “make the shot”, if you will, Jesus had to die on the cross. It’s there the analogy unravels completely. Perhaps Jesus paid the price to buy us back from the team of death – with their REALLY ugly uniforms. 😉

    All of our works, “shots” if you will, are sin – “bricks” everyone. As Christians, the “redeemed”, we make our shots in faith that Jesus has already won the game, i.e. fulfilled all righteousness and pleased the Father. God is working in us that new creation, where he is teaching us the game of love,and we grow in that new creation everyday. Someday we will be Michael Jordan? I’m not sure, perhaps after we are resurrected at the second coming of Christ. But we will never graduate to the big leagues where we no longer need a Savior.

    Does this “preach”? Not sure. Is it suitable for church growth marketing? Doubtful. Is my rendition equally heretical? Probably.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      It’s the same reason churches present “40 Days of Purpose” and other gimmicks during Lent.

      Because presenting Lent itself is too Romish.

  11. The Rebounderis the name of a book that appears to pre-teen, early teenagers from what I can read on Amazon. It’s possible that this church put something together based on that book.

  12. connie odonnell says

    Well, living in the TRIANGLE OF NC, where basketball is like breathing, I see the analogy. After laughing, I also see the commercial, modern call for evangelizing faith —– which is sad. The best story of Easter….. life, light, resurrection….that’s truly it. Play Ball!

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