NEVER mind God is love, where’s my ball?” I can just hear them when born again Christian Black Cats player Kieran Richardson tells how he was “saved in Sunderland” at an event in Durham in May.
Entry is free to the Life Changing Event, at Good Word Ministries at Durham Business Centre, Langley Moor, where Sunderland’s longest serving player will be handing out 30 autographed footballs.
A prized footie may well be the pull for many, but that doesn’t matter, because here’s a footballer ready to proclaim his faith and be a role model, so sadly lacking in this sport today.
At 27, Kieran is making the headlines for all the right reasons.
Too often it seems footballers are on our front pages for all the wrong reasons – drink, drugs, sex or hanging out with air-head celebs with pneumatic breasts.
So it’s unusual and refreshing to see a multi-millionaire player proclaiming his faith on his back, in a “I belong to Jesus” shirt, proof that the devil doesn’t get all the best games.
In recent times more openness has crept in to this macho sport in contrast to the seventies when Christian footballers kept quiet about their faith, lest they were considered a bit of an oddball.
But now they have become much more willing to cite God as their certainty and talk of their relationship with Him in what is no longer a Christian country.
Could Christianity be in with a chance of making the best come-back since Georgie Best?
Could those footie heroes, like Kieran, who have found Jesus and are ready to share their faith with fans, really hit home and have a relevance so many mainstream churches have lost?
And can we expect to see more holy huddles in the dressing room at the Stadium of Light, like a couple of years ago, when committed Christian players Anton Ferdinand, Nedum Onuoha and John Mensah prayed together before games? Of course, there has always been an element in football of people holding strong religious beliefs, like Arthur Bridgett who played for Sunderland in 1912 and for England and who refused to play on Sundays and Good Fridays.
He was known in the area as a lay preacher. Perhaps Kieran will make more public appearances telling what God has done in his life. A born-again Christian for four years he said: “It’s changed my life for the better – through Jesus’s death. People need to know if they feel they can’t talk to anyone, the church is here for them.”
But that’s what’s missing in too many churches. So, if it takes an autographed footie to pull them in, then Keiran’s scored.
And all at a time when Christians are being “villified” by British courts and “driven underground,” in the words of Lord Carey, a former archbishop of Canterbury whose criticism this week came as part of an appeal to Strasborg judges to protect religious freedom and warning that believers are being sacked for expressing their faith.
He writes: “In a country where Christians can be sacked for manifesting their faith, are villified by state bodies, are in fear of reprisal or even arrest for expressing their views on sexual ethics, something is very wrong.”
Very wrong indeed. And while everyone is entitled to their own beliefs, the kind of discrimination that has been meted out to Christians in certain workplaces, wouldn’t have been tolerated on or off the pitch.
As for players crossing themselves, going down on one knee in prayerful praise after scoring, pointing heavenwards after getting a touch down like Tim Tebow, quarter back for the New York Jets, there’s something questionable about such displays.
But all hell would break loose if a top flight footie player faced the sack for professing his faith unlike a certain nurse, BA worker and council worker with a cross on his dashboard. High time Christians stood up for their faith before discrimination wins the day.