*Posted by Barry Creamer
The ancient and modern Olympic Games share not only a crowd pleasing athletic product but also a society shaping message. The key ancient influence on society was religion, of course, and the games were dedicated to Zeus. Today, religion still has a profound influence on every aspect of society by virtue of its ongoing practice and its legacy. But the Olympics are not dedicated to God, nor to gods in general, nor even to the sociological phenomenon of religion. Rather, they are dedicated to peace.
Evidence of this commitment is in the title of the resolution which the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games presented to the grand architects of “peace” in the world, the United Nations (herein “Uncle” as opposed to “Big Brother”): “Building a peaceful and better world through sport and the Olympic ideal.” The title might make it sound like there’s more than peace going on here, but there is not. The term “better” is meaningless without specific parameters—unless it is understood to compare the world of Olympic peace with the current one. The phrase “through sport” indicates that sport is not the purpose, but simply a means to a more important end, of which the only specific one mentioned is peace. And “the Olympic ideal” is as meaningless as “better” except as an expansion of or context for the peace already mentioned.
London’s presentation of this resolution to Uncle, which was subsequently adopted by all 193 member states of Uncle, is their homage to what has come to be known as the ancient “Olympic Truce” which required a cessation of hostilities between city-states during several religious festivals, including the Olympic Games, the violation of which required a considerable fine for the offending city-state. For more details on this background information, feel free to visit here.
Ideally, then, all nations should be able to ignore their mutual differences and come together in a spectacular if still temporary display of peace.
“Ignore their mutual differences.” Of course, some differences are more equal than others. A tweeting Greek athlete’s exclusion from the games comes to mind. Voula Papachristou tweeted about West Nile mosquitoes dining on Africans in London and found herself promptly excluded from competing in the triple-jump for violating the Olympic charter. Assuming the worst for more than the sake of argument, Papachristou’s comment is racist, nationalistic, and elitist. Papachristou immediately apologized, explicitly advocating her respect for every athlete competing in the Olympics. It was too late.
The ruling may have been harsh, but given the Games exaltation of “the Olympic Ideal,” what choice did the Greek Olympic Committee have? The International Olympic Committee made it clear they would have expelled her if her own team had not. So Papachristou is out for an elitist utterance she regrets.
The North Koreans actually imprison and execute people for their faith and for their political views. One of their victorious athletes gave credit for his win to their late Great Leader, a brutal tyrant responsible for the death of untold numbers of his peaceful antagonists. But the North Korean athletes are in.
Apparently it promotes peace to exclude an apologetically disrespectful individual while including an unapologetically murderous nation.
Observation 1: Peace without Purpose Produces Contradictions
When peace is its own end, there is no sense in the form it takes. Consider tolerance as a sub-topic of peace and an example of this observation. When tolerance is an end in itself, people whose conscience leads them to reject a popular view become objects of scorn. That is, tolerance tolerates everything but whatever it deems to be intolerance. Toleration is intolerant of “intolerance”—a rhetorical and still significant contradiction if not a logical one. In the Papachristou example above, “intolerance” is a threat to the “peace” which the games promotes. The intolerance of an entire nation, North Korea, is not.
Should Papachristou have been allowed to compete? Not the point. Should North Korea have been excluded? Not the point.
The point is that efforts to obtain peace for its own sake inevitably lead to that at which every human endeavor without real purpose arrives: a contradiction. A man building muscle for its own sake may achieve improvements in muscle mass through the use of steroids, often sacrificing the very health and fitness muscle mass ought to reveal. Another might achieve healthy-appearing weight loss through health-obliterating bulimia.
Not surprisingly, by replacing Zeus with his modern and entirely secular Uncle (the UN), the organizers of the Modern Olympic Games have created for the games an ideal as fantastical and impossible as Whoville. (The point is so simple that it does not even matter that Zeus is not real. The fact that Zeus represents a standard beyond the Greeks themselves, as they saw it, is sufficient for the point. To conceive instead of the Most Perfect Being only solidifies and improves the reality of the standard.)
Observation 2: Peace is not the purpose of Christianity
Peace is a good thing. People are better off when there is peace. But without a purpose beyond itself, peace is not a good worth pursuing. A powerful people can produce a persistent peace by simply annihilating a weaker opposing people—for example through war on one hand or genocide on the other.
For believers, there is no sense in pretending there is peace when it is not real—in saying “peace, peace” when there is no peace. In travel terms, peace is a context, not a destination. In metaphysical terms, it is an attribute, not an object. Believers do not pursue beach or blue, but Waikiki and the Pacific (purely, metaphorically, of course).
Christianity does bring peace—in the rule of Christ. But to make peace the goal is to diminish Christ to a means.
Pursuing supposed ends without purpose is ultimately impossible and self-defeating, producing contradictions and failure. Pursuing peace without God is so. When Christians join the “social-justice” march, making Christianity a means rather than an end, and making Christianity’s attributes goals in themselves, they become antithetical to the thesis which gives them their name.
Don’t do that.