The religion of rugby

23:01, Sep 29 2011

Remember how over the years people have tried to skew poll results and censuses by trying to get campaigns to list their ethnicity as "New Zealander" or their religion as "Jedi"? (I may or may not have done one, if not both, of those.)

If we (not the royal one, but the collective All Blacks we) win the World Cup, I can almost imagine a similar push towards listing "rugby" as an official religion. 

Don't get me wrong - I'm not encouraging rugby to replace religion whatsoever, and as this story shows, Jesus just may in fact be an All Black. It's not one or the other - you can be religious and like rugby.

But for those, like me, who don't really identify with any one religion - could rugby be the missing link to having an "organised" faith?

I really like seeing sport and religion side-by-side. It's nice to see that all different types of belief systems can come together under one oval-ball-shaped umbrella, or random cloud-like structure.

At the church up the street from my house, I spotted this sign:

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While St Matthew in the City plays host to this fantastic advertising campaign:

There are so many parallels between the game they play in heaven and the religions that believe in heaven.

Massey University religious historian Professor Peter Lineham put out a press release yesterday about his research on the link between sport and religion.

He says "the symbolic place of sport in New Zealand society is not dissimilar to that occupied by religion in the past". There's a "new evolution in this fixation on rugby", beyond the classic refrain that Kiwi culture revolves around rugby, racing and beer, he says.

Would you agree? I'm not sure it's new - I thought we Kiwis always had a thing for rugby - but maybe the symbolism of what it means to us has become more clear in a religious-type way?

According to Prof Lineham, the opening ceremony of the tournament-that-can't-be named was an "extraordinary example" because you could see the steps - "from the calling and the karanga, and the sharks' heads coming together. Jonah Lomu became the symbol of the beauty and glory of the ultimate dream to be a rugby hero. He was the saviour figure, and the little boy was the searcher for salvation."

One hopes the prophecy doesn't link Lomu into being some sacrificial being and that he recovers speedily from his ailments for which he finds himself hospitalised.

So do you see rugby as a religion? Would you list it as your belief system on the census?

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