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World Cup Soccer & the "New Barbarians"

 June 2010 

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During June our family has been enjoying watching the World Cup Soccer matches in South Africa on TV. In fact it seems as if the whole of New Zealand (NZ) is caught up in it. Rugby with the famous "All Blacks" and not soccer is our national sport, yet more people play soccer than rugby here.

I can remember the excitement in 1982 when our NZ team became one of the 32 teams that made it to the World Cup in Spain. At the time thousands of young people around NZ took up soccer. But at that World Cup, we never got a goal and were eliminated in the first round.

This time we almost got to the next round. We drew our three matches and never lost a game scoring two goals in the process, but still failed to make the next round consisting of 16 teams competing.

The New Zealand team was ranked as number 78 in the world. The game that was the highlight for me was the one against Italy (the previous World Champions) where we drew one all. We almost won that game which would have put New Zealand into the next round. The NZ team has returned home as national heroes.

Sport is often referred to a being like a religion in our country. Many people are making a "god" of sport. We have come to believe that sport can be a blessing that God allows but if it assumes too higher place in our lives, then it becomes an idol.

Our family in the past has struggled not to exalt sport above the Lord. I especially loved and still love watching rugby and soccer on TV. Around 30 years ago, they used to have English soccer on TV at midday on a Sunday. I would come home from church and even though we usually had visitors at our home for lunch, I would usually turn on the TV.

Later when our sons were young we got them into playing soccer, and it quickly became a problem for our family in our walk with God. It was a problem because we found it difficult to keep doing things as a family. Because our children were different ages they were in different teams. So the midweek practices were at different times. Then on Saturdays the teams played at different venues. Sometimes one of our sons would play in Kerikeri, which is over 100 km's from where we live. We could see that playing sport with family members going in different directions was counterproductive to our walk with God.

We were also shocked at the lust for honour and glory we could see in ourselves and other parents to want their children to greatly achieve in sport. We could see how our desire for our children to make a name for themselves was badly affecting them. Sport, not the Lord, was becoming the passion of our family so we realised that something had to be done.

About 10 years ago "Sky" TV came to NZ, where you could view sport all over the world, via satellite. We deliberately decided not to get Sky TV because of the temptation to watch too much. It could easily have become a problem in our family.

However, as a family we are now deliberately trying to make God our greatest joy and not allow TV or sport or anything else to be our "gods."

Recently I have read a challenging book, "Against the Night," by Charles Colson. Colson was a close aide to President Nixon in 1974 at the time of the Watergate scandal. He became a Christian, confessed his involvement and because of this was sentenced to one to three years imprisonment. He subsequently started Prison Fellowships all over the world.

I found his book to be very enlightening as to what is happening in Western civilisation. In this book, he clearly shows that the mighty Roman Empire fell to the Barbarians, a vastly inferior force, in 410AD.

Because of its decedent lifestyle for hundreds of years leading up to 410AD, the moral fabric of society that had made Rome a great Empire collapsed. Rome collapsed internally so that it could no longer defend itself.

Colson clearly shows how the new "barbarians" wearing suits and ties with their Anti-God teaching have virtually destroyed Western civilisation. In this book he quotes ones like C.S Lewis and Arnold Toynbee who could see the rot setting into society. Toynbee is said by some to have been the most important historian of the 20th Century. He died in 1975.

When I was a teenager, I remember one preacher often quoting what Toynbee said. Toynbee said that he could see no future for Western Civilisation. He said he believed that we were entering a period similar to the Dark Ages.

Colson clearly shows that with the new "Barbarians" causing the collapse of such things as marriage and the family in America and throughout the Western world, we are indeed entering a period similar to the Dark Ages.

The main thing that struck me in this book which I had not known, was that when the Barbarians overthrew Rome, civilisation did not completely collapse and this was because of the Monks.

For hundreds of years, all across Europe, the monks kept civilisation alive by such things as making numerous hand written copies of the Bible. They also made copies of much of the great literature of ones like the Greek philosophers and Early Church Fathers. They wrote many other wonderful books such as the "Imitation of Christ" by Thomas a Kempis in 1418. This book was a great help to me as a young man.

The Monks cleared land, built houses and harvested crops. When society was very dark, with little light from anywhere else, the Monks provided attractive models of communities of caring and character, and in the process they preserved both faith and civilisation itself.

Colson basically says that there needs to be groups of Christians, who like the Monks, are passionate to keep true Christianity alive. He, himself, has started prison fellowships all over the world. After reading his book, I felt encouraged to keep pressing on with the ministry of "Families Walking with God." If enough families were to start effectively praying and sharing together, then the "New Dark Ages" could be reversed.

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