What’s Wrong with the World

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I heart golf.

Another reason to love golf: it seems that about a third of the men on Tour are professing Christians of humble and endearing faith. Almost every other winner gives glory to God in his interviews, sometimes to the amusing discomfiture of the interviewer. Yesterday an American named Jonathan Byrd won the John Deere classic in Illinois, a smaller tournament lacking in big-name players but thereby offering a better opportunity to the younger guys. Interviewed by Bobby Clampett, he said that he prayed to God for calm during the final holes. If that sounds hokey to you — well, then you’ve probably never played golf. Calm in this game, in pressure situations, really must have a divine origin.

Poor Tim Clark, a South African who held the lead almost all day Sunday until his last two holes, showed on the 17th why this is so. His second shot on the par-5, slightly mis-hit, landed on the upslope of a fairway bunker, right near the lip, leaving a near-impossible shot. Had it carried 18 more inches, it likely would have taken a nice bounce up toward the hole, at worst coming to rest in the greenside bunker to set up a fairly routine up-and-down for birdie.

Just another week on the PGA Tour. Byrd’s victory give him a bid to next week’s British Open, as well as a spot in next year’s Masters. Nice perks for a “smaller” tournament.

Comments (20)

As much as I love golf, I'm afraid it sounds hokey to me too. Calm in this game, in pressure situations, really must have a divine origin. No it musn't. Maybe Tim Clark was praying for it too, but it didn't work? What happened to him is called the rub o' the green. Or, as Hogan put it, it's a game of misses. The winner missed closer.

The problem with giving the glory to God is that one imagines one's victory is somehow a manifestation of His glory, which it isn't. I don't think God cares if you win a golf tournament. He probably cares that you play by the rules, but not that you win. Any prayer should be restricted to gratitude - for your natural talent and the opportunity to make your living in such a way. I don't think Mr. Byrd's victory was a sign of God's favor, or got him one step closer to heaven.

I mentioned in a long-ago post at my own place that my wife once said a rosary (probably several) during one of Bernadette's qualifying rounds for the U.S. Women's Amateur, and when she chipped in on the 18th hole, the supplication seemed to have worked. Now I think saying a rosary is a good idea most any time, but when Bern got to the Amateur and was disqualified the second day for misunderstanding her tee time, God's favor seemed to have shifted. Perhaps the merits of her mother's prayer were applied in some other area.

Or perhaps I'm taking your post too seriously.

I don't really like golf at all, but I do admire any sport that one can smoke while engaging in.

As for looking to Divine assistance in sport, I just don't think that God cares who wins a sporting match. Otherwise Steve Young would have been born with no arms.

The problem with giving the glory to God is that one imagines one's victory is somehow a manifestation of His glory, which it isn't.

We can at least say the victory was within his Providence, right? And I'm not inclined to speculate about what God cares about, outside that which we have on good authority. We have plenty of examples in Scripture, for instance, where the Lord did concern Himself with the worldly success of certain men.

It seems to me He certainly cares how a man handles worldly success (or failure for that matter): whether he is tempted to pride and vainglory, or moved to humility and reverence.

I don't think Mr. Byrd's victory was a sign of God's favor, or got him one step closer to heaven.

Nor do I. Nor, as far as I could tell, does Mr. Byrd. My interpretation of his interview is that he was indeed simply expressing his gratitude, in a way that is common enough among American evangelicals.

Readers should also understand that Bill is actually, you know, good at golf, whereas I have trouble staying calm when teeing off with someone I don't know. So yes, for me, calm in a pressure situation is an ineffable thing.

If we say that it's inappropriate to pray that God will help you do well at a sport, is it also inappropriate to ask God to help you in some other non-life-threatening worldly situation? For example, if I'm late for an appointment, is it too trivial to ask God to help me get there on time? How about cooking a new dish and asking for help to do it well?

Myself, I couldn't care tuppence about golf. Never understood its appeal, never played it, would doubtless be incredibly terrible at it, as I have no visual depth perception. Sports generally have no interest for me at all, unless they involve horses, perhaps. But I'm willing to admit that my sympathies are too limited. _If_ playing golf well is a beautiful thing or a good thing, then asking God to help you do it is like asking him to help you do well anything else that's worth doing. Is it any different from a musician's asking God to help him do well in a recital?

I don't know. I might be inclined to say that making or not making a hole _isn't_ like messing up or not messing up in a musical performance, because the musical performance is aesthetically a higher and better thing. But I'm wary of saying that. I might be wrong.

The problem with giving the glory to God is that one imagines one's victory is somehow a manifestation of His glory, which it isn't.

An old problem. Herodotus got hung up on this idea that God is on the side of the winner. In the Book Job they struggle over the same.

Job with just one hole to play is caught by Eliphaz curling a 20-foot birdie putt in the back door. "I don't heart golf anymore," says Job. "You're not so good after all." says Job's wife as she spits. "Curse God and die."

There is also a popular version running the political circuits that claims God is on the side of the loser.

For example, if I'm late for an appointment, is it too trivial to ask God to help me get there on time?

Yes. If you want to ask Him to get you there safely, that's different.

We can at least say the victory was within his Providence, right?

For pete's sake, you can say that about anything.

Indeed you can, Bill -- which seems to me reason for caution with saying there are things God doesn't care about. As He is the source of all being, Who has numbered the very hairs on our heads, I am reluctant to say that things are too trivial for Him.

"Last night, longing for some sunlit hours with Mary, and for a drive they had planned to the Roman road across the downs, she had prayed that it might be fine again. Her brother said it was childish to pray about the weather because it obeyed the immutable laws of nature. God did not go messing about with His own laws and she was only wasting her time. But it confused her to try to think what she could pray about and what she couldn't. She had to pray about everything or she couldn't live, and it was surprising how the fine days came, and the cat had her kittens safely and she was able at all times to obey."

From the novel _The Scent of Water_ by Elizabeth Goudge

Paul, I am not reluctant to assert that the outcome of a golf tournament, and the state of a player's nerves during it, are too trivial for Him. But if his ball changes position when he address it, whether he touches it or not, and he fails to call himself on it, he might be struck dead.

Hi Lydia. Who the hell is Elizabeth Goudge?

She had to pray about everything or she couldn't live..

This girl is disturbed, and probably needs therapy.

Elizabeth Goudge was a Christian "women's novelist" (or so she was regarded) who wrote in the mid-twentieth century. She died, I believe, in 1984. She also had a couple of books for children which are almost uncannily Victorian in style, considering that Goudge was born in 1900 just as Queen Victoria's reign was ending. She was a high Anglican and almost overly English, the daughter of an Anglican priest and scholar. She loved Oxford and lived part of her life there when her father had a job there. She is very anti-capitalist and anti-technological and called herself a "socialist." Indeed, her ideas on that subject match those of some of my WWWtW colleagues more than they do mine.

Goudge's adult fiction varies widely, almost wildly, in quality. It is all deeply Christian and contains many reflections that are profound and spiritually helpful, but she allows herself to preach too much and sometimes succumbs to sentimentalism. Paradoxically and despite her sentimentalism, her moral code is very severe. Her novels are full of unhappy marriages which her characters are called upon by God and for the salvation of their own souls to make work. It's difficult to think of an unambiguously happy marriage in all of her books. And the self-blame her good characters heap upon themselves for sins of omission sometimes seems excessive. She tends to be harder on her female characters than on her male characters, as one might expect from a spinster lady novelist of the old school.

_The Scent of Water_ is one of her two or three best books, the other two I would put at the top being _The Dean's Watch_ and _The White Witch_. _The Scent of Water_ deals in at least two of its characters with mental illness, a subject about which Goudge seems to have known a lot and which she portrays very well. (In her autobiography she says that her mother suffered from mental illness at the end of her life.)

Yes, indeed, the character in question is disturbed. She's a semi-elderly lady named Jean. Nonetheless, her need to pray for everything and the closeness of her relationship with God is meant to be one of her best qualities and the one that pulls her through her mental troubles, as you might gather from the (to my mind) very striking and unexpected ending of the above quotation, "and she was able at all times to obey."

I suspect you would dislike Goudge's novels very much, Bill, so I don't recommend them to you. I was thinking of a novel the other day that I thought you might enjoy but can't remember...ah, yes, it was _A Cry of Stone_ by O'Brien.

Are you being ironic, or is that a real book by a real human?

Oh. I don't know how "socialist" some of your WWwtW colleagues are, but you can count me out.

This girl is disturbed, and probably needs therapy.

That's not very nice to say.

Bill's bark is worse than his bite. :-) For some reason, this thread seems to have brought out the Grinch in him. Don't get him started on Tolkien. I think I'm gonna stop making book recommendations. :-)

Meanwhile, while I don't play golf, I'll continue to pray about most everything, including being on time to appointments. After all, I'd rather not cause other people inconvenience if God can help me to avoid it.

There's old KW trying to get at my conscience again. Let me revise somewhat: that girl needs to hie herself to a convent.

So, this O'Brien guy. How come I've never heard of him?

Maybe you don't read First Things, Bill? I've dropped my subscription. (I just gradually got bored and never had time to read it.) But up to a couple of years ago, they used to have what I recall as full-page ads for O'Brien's novels in there. Also, my priest reads them and has mentioned them in a couple of sermons, so he loaned them to me. I think you'd find several of them too thriller-like and lurid (_Fr. Elijah_, for example), but _A Cry of Stone_ is less like that. It's also not near-future, as some of the others are, but rather set in the 1970's. And it's very sad, as I said, and not sentimental, which I know you hate, so I thought perhaps you with your dislike of anything like fantasy or anything you regard as escapism would like it. Also the main character is an artist--a painter.

I love escapism. Sci-fi for example. It's just hard to find good stuff. And your sentence says that I hate the absence of sentimentality, when it is its presence I abhor. Well, I'll look for Mr. O'Brien next time I'm in the bookstore.


I think it is fine to pray for help in attaining excellence in athletic performance. I don't think it is right praying for incompetence on the part of the other team.

The notion of praying for excellence for me and just a little bit less excellence for the other guy is problematic, too.

It is far better to pray for fortitude and humility, no matter what the outcome.

I did a google search for "what is wrong with this world".It came back with exactly 666 million results.I then clicked on this site and read this post. I went on to read how so many golfers give the glory to God after victory.I'm sure even some of them give glory to Him after a loss.A true athlete would be grateful just to be able to provide for their families.I can't judge every athlete but many a professional athlete has given the same glory to God only to end up in thier local police blotter.But I ask you... With 666 million results for "what is wrong with this world?", where would this rank?

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