Politics of religion and sport

20/03/2011

Sundays used to be different.

If you wanted or needed to shop your only option was a dairy, petrol station or for an hour or two the duty-pharmacy.

All other businesses closed and there was no organised sport.

Most people went to church in the morning and entertained themselves by themselves or with family and friends in the afternoons.

Back then, when I was growing up, if there was a memorial service it would have been Christian and mono-cultural.

Including other religions and cultures as Friday’s service for the Christchurch earthquake victims and survivors did is an improvement.

But not everyone was happy with that. A letter to the editor of the Press (print edition) yesterday complained there wasn’t anything for the non-religious. Perhaps they missed Dave Dobbyn singing Loyal and Malvina Major singing You’ll Never Walk Alone.

I might not have been listening to every word but I don’t recall any reference to religion in the adresses by Prince William, Bob Parker and John Key.

There are complaints too that the deed for the Government’s charity for earthquake recovery could be mixing politics, sport and religion:

Concerns are rising that the government’s flagship charity for victims of the Christchurch earthquake may be blurring the barriers between church and state and slanted toward rebuilding sports stadiums. . .

. . .  The charity’s trust deed, filed with the Charities Commission, includes a specific objective for “the advancement of religion” and unusual clause allowing for spending on “sports grounds.”

Further publicity material from the Appeal, which has raised $17.8 million to date, specifies funds raised would be invested in religious areas including “places of worship, books, clothing, artefacts, musical instruments,” and sports facilities, including stadiums.

It is sensible to keep the Trust deed as wide as possible to draw in funds from individuals and bodies which might give for some purposes but not others and also enable the funds to be used to meet a wide variety of needs.

The Trust won’t be promoting religion but it might help religious groups – which have been very active in helping their congregations and the wider community – rebuild and re-equip. I don’t have a problem with helping people who help people nor do I see anything subversive in allowing them to buy a new organ or guitar.

As for sport, Mark Weldon who is heading the fund raising said:

 Asked whether Appeal funds would be ploughed into rebuilding AMI Stadium, Mr Weldon said:

“That hasn’t been discussed, but what we’re focussing much more on the local hockey and rugby clubs. School sports are being knocked on the head. The latest data I’ve got says of 91 sports fields in Christchurch, 46 are unusable.”

When I was a trustee of the Otago Community Trust we used to analyse the areas donations went to. Sport was always the biggest. We’d debate that and always came to the conclusion that sport wasn’t only about sport it was about health, social well being, education, socialisation, entertainment and even crime prevention. As one trustee said – kids in sport aren’t in court.

If people are concerned about the politics of religion and sport with this charity there are plenty of other charities to donate too. I prefer to give with an open heart and trust the money will be used where it is needed.


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