whytheology

For the Intersection of the Everyday and the Sacred

What did you think of the Paralympics?

So, I ran some regular posts during the Olympics, but failed to post during the Paralympics. This wasn’t because I was less enthused by them, but because of the timing gap primarily. At any rate, the Paralympics ended this past Sunday. I thought of the many overwhelmingly inspiring stories and the raw athletic talent featured throughout the games. I though of so many things that could have been said about these games in a spiritual context. Instead I will open this up to those of you reading this.

If you watched any of the Paralympics (or if you didn’t and can find some internet player to watch some), what is one Spiritual lesson you can draw from these games?

I’ll offer one myself. For me it seems to really drive home the inherent worth of people. These people are not only valuable, but have overcome what others would see as impossible or near impossible limitations. I also believe they have shown, in an interesting way, that God doesn’t make mistakes. They are not less human with the loss of a limb (or limbs) or other limitations (not that I ever thought any of these athletes were), if anything, they more fully express what it is to be human.

Ok, so that’s like three things. Anyway, it’s your turn.

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5 thoughts on “What did you think of the Paralympics?

  1. I found especially inspiring that all the athletes don’t comply with our general definition of “normal” and yet they overcame all the problems that come with that and made something amazing out of it. It shows that all of us who outwardly look normal (but no-one really is) can also overcome our difficulties and turn them into something good.

  2. Our culture tends to worship or value the beautiful, the perfect. Those perceived as less than perfect are often ignored or even ridiculed. God made each of us unique, and we are all beautiful in His sight. If those of us who are blessed with “normal” bodies would use our gift to the extent those less gifted do, where could we go? What could we accomplish? Instead we use only a fraction of what God has given us and often complain about our plight. The paralympics were inspiring and amazing. I feel a little guilty about not stretching the limits of the abilities God has given me. I think the athletes are a reminder of what motivation and drive can accomplish. I pray today for all of those who competed. May they continue to amaze and inspire us as they strive for their lofty goals.

  3. Overall I was pretty sceptical about the Olympics, as a Londoner I didn’t really think it was sensitive to the social issues in the east of the City – especially in light of last years disturbances. I also find the Olympics quite neo-pagan in character – deifying physical power and supremacy, not to mention encouraging a tribal loyalty amongst spectators. Indeed, the Olympics come-up in my PhD research on Bonhoeffer, because of Berlin 1936. The amenability between Nazi-ideology and the Olympics to this day is still perceptible.

    But – the Paralympics are very different, obviously. It is no coincidence that these are not pagan in origin, and they were founded in the post-war years, in Britain. Hitler would not approve. For this reason I felt they were generally an encouraging thing.

    But, if we turn to Bonhoeffer’s writing on the disabled, from within the Third Reich, I wonder if the Paralympics correspond with it. For Bonhoeffer, the disabled are not less human, but able to experience aspects of God’s love in ways which we are completely unable to – and also unable to understand. So I wonder if the Paralympics correspond with a theology of disability along these lines, or if they still express the worth of the disabled against the backdrop of what the able-bodied can do. That is, saying ‘hey look, they can do what we can do’, and not, ‘let’s serve those who can do what we can’t do in their immediacy to God’. This is just a question – I don’t want to be negative, overall the Paralympics were a great thing.

    • Well I might agree to an extent. Certainly with the Olympics there is that tendency. However, I don’t think it is inherent, and there is a sense in which we might “redeem” the culture. I, in particular, did not feel a huge sense of tribal loyalty (though admittedly my patriotism did come through at points). For instance, my favorite sport every year is handball (team handball), and my home country (the US) has no team to speak of (and none in the Olympics). And there are certainly some good models (thinking Eric Lidell) to see how they can turn these secular games on their head. Still, I get what you are saying. I personally find the promised economic stimulus to East London a bit despicable in light of the fact that they (sometimes literally) moved those living there out. Those who needed the benefit didn’t receive it. In the end, I would agree that from a purely spiritual/theological perspective, I think the paralympics certainly lend themselves more easily to this type of thinking.

  4. This was kinda so relevant I had to post it here:

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