I recently caught up with the first and second seasons of the Netflix series Last Chance U which follows a group of young men in Mississippi struggling to ignite their football (what we would know as “gridiron”) career by attending a community college.
Their hope is that they will impress scouts to get picked up by a prestigious university football team and from there, who knows, maybe fame and fortune with the NFL.
Many of the young men featured come from poverty-stricken backgrounds marked by domestic abuse, drugs and crime. Their chance to gain glory on the field and perhaps better themselves as a professional athlete is a compelling narrative of struggle, redemption and hope.
If you can tolerate the copious amounts of profanity (not to mention the bruising brutality of gridiron), the series offers a fascinating glimpse into how Christianity is practised and interpreted by some of society’s most marginalised people.
The football team regularly prays, biblical language is splashed across team headquarters and some attend their local church. But the spectre of how the faith is used (some might argue “abused”) in sports is a serious talking point within the series and the implications are more broadly applicable in general society. You hear of miracles in sports and you see players praying but are we really to believe God is taking an active interest in East Mississippi junior college football and intervening where possible?
This edition we have a great feature by Dr Victoria Lorrimar exploring the concept of miracles in the context of science. After watching Last Chance U and some of the questions it poses about religious practice and miracles, reading Victoria’s article was an important way of rethinking how God operates in the world and what we should expect of God when we face times of significant struggle.
A reminder: please don’t forget about the ongoing work being done with Project Plenty which Rev Heather den Houting discusses in this edition, and the opportunity for everyone connected with the church to have their say about our collective future. It’s imperative that an organisation with the reach and size of this church takes stock of its past, its present and how to embrace the future, and this project is the first step of that discernment process.