Jim Denison: Why the Super Bowl and Secular Spirituality Are So Popular

When Tom Brady played in his first Super Bowl, there was no iPhone or Android. No Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Spotify, or Gmail. No Uber, Airbnb, or iTunes Store.

Jared Goff, the quarterback who will oppose Brady in this Sunday’s game, doesn’t remember watching Brady win his first Super Bowl. Goff can be forgiven–he was seven years old at the time.

If the Rams win, Sean McVay will become the youngest coach to win a Super Bowl. If the Patriots win, Bill Belichick will become the oldest.

It’s likely that more than one hundred million people will watch Sunday’s gameLast year’s Super Bowl was the most-watched television event in the US, tripling the highest-rated non-football program.


The Super Bowl was a metaphor for another very popular activity in the US.

Nearly 90 percent of Americans say they believe in some kind of deity or spiritual force. However, more than a quarter of Americans say they are spiritual but not religious. Their number has grown by 42 percent in the last six years. While nine in ten Americans claim to be spiritual, religious, or both, less than 20 percent regularly attend church services.

Clearly, spirituality is popular in America. Religion, less so.

Why the difference? Let’s examine the Super Bowl for insights into secular spirituality today.


The extravaganza that is the Super Bowl is a welcome distraction from tragic problems that dominate the news. For example: While the US accounts for about 5 percent of the global population, our residents consume about 80 percent of the global supply of prescription opioids.

Virginia’s governor came under fire this week for supporting third-trimester abortions in a way that seemed to advocate allowing a child who has been born to die. And Catholic authorities in Texas have released the names of 298 clergy accused of sexually abusing children.

In such a chaotic culture, televised distractions like the Super Bowl are understandably popular. But they may make the problem worse.


There was a day when books, radio, and the occasional movie were the primary forms of entertainment. I’m old enough to remember when there were three television networks, all of which stopped broadcasting after the evening news. There were no cell phones, social media, or other portable forms of entertainment.

Americans today spend nearly five hours a day watching television and eleven hours consuming media in total. Part of the attraction of so much entertainment is its ability to distract us from the problems we face in the real world.

How’s that working for us?

Much of today’s secular spirituality is entertainment-centered. From communing with nature to practicing meditation techniques to watching celebrities offer self-esteem tips, the more enjoyable the experience, the more popular it is.

In Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman claims that a particular medium can only communicate a particular level of ideas. Rational arguments require reading and analysis and are diluted by the entertainment-oriented, visual nature of television and other popular media today.

According to Postman, the more entertained we are, the less we are able to understand and respond to the complex challenges of our day. We clearly need more “sons of Issachar who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do” (1 Chronicles 12:32 NKJV).

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Source: Christian Headlines