How ironic is it that it took the National Football League's strict adherence to federal copyright law to make hundreds of churches across America notice the commandment that says you should "Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy"? Depending on how you want to interpret the 4th (or 3rd if you're Catholic, Lutheran or New Church) Commandment, watching professional football on Sunday is not exactly keeping it holy. For a church to sponsor a mass viewing 50 years ago would have been unheard of. Alas, times have changed, and yes, I will be watching the game Sunday.
The Indianapolis Star seems to have broken this story Thursday with an article about how a local Baptist church was told that it was improper to show the game on the big screen. The paper told residents a week ago that there would be no mass viewing of the game at the Colts' downtown stadium, the RCA Dome, due to the copyright law (the significant road games of local basketball teams are frequently shown at the local facility), but apparently churches around the country were unaware:
By day's end, churches from Texas to Ohio were calling the newspaper to ask if the NFL's stance was firm. Told it was, they said they intended to end long-standing traditions of congregational Super Bowl parties.
"I'm not sure quite what we're going to do," said Tamara Mayne, a member of Cypress United Methodist Church in Houston, which quashed its Super Bowl party Thursday.
The issue facing churches across the country is their use of big-screen TVs to show the Super Bowl in what the NFL deems "mass out-of-home viewings."
The touching part about this piece is that while the church's pastor, the Rev. John Newland, could have fought the NFL's legal letter and had supporters around the country willing to back him, Newland spent his time explaining that people should not break the "antiquated" law.
Another church, whose pastor (the Rev. Crawford Huff) has been putting on Super Bowl parties for 30 years, decided to give away its party food:
"We've got a lot of food to give away," Huff said, adding that the church has a biblical mandate to obey the laws of the land.
"We want to be obedient."
The law is all about how you want to interpret it, right? I guess that includes God's law. Ironic, isn't it?