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Rugby World Cup – Six Weeks of Heaven


Why is rugby the “game played in heaven”? The Rugby World Cup starts tonight here in Australia, and the heavenly cliché is being used a lot. Yet I grew up in New Zealand, where rugby is virtually a religion, and never heard the expression at all. Is it used outside Australia? I’m not sure.


One advantage of holding dual Australian and New Zealand nationalities is that I get to support two of the favourite teams for the Cup, the All Blacks and the Wallabies. Though I guess if you’re British you can support three-and-a-half sides – England, Scotland, Wales and the unified Irish team.


Once more, numerous Christian groups will be active, with a special version of the Jesus video, “Rugby Legends: Beyond the Game”, and special editions of the Scriptures, from the Bible Society in Australia.


Unfortunately, they have a problem. Many Christians seem to think that the secular world regards all Christians as sissies, and all rugby players as anything but.


Thus, the New Zealand Bible Society:


Scripture distribution manager John Jennings said Michael Jones, Inga Tuigamala and David Solomona had contributed accounts of what motivated them in their "Christian walk" and the value of scriptures in their sporting life. But it's not all "goody two shoes stuff", Mr Jennings said. “They are good, solid football blokes. Inga and Michael would ruck it up with the best of them."


Do these special Bibles and videos work? I’m pretty dubious about all the effort that Christian groups put into evangelising these mega-events. Does anyone do a follow-up survey? But New Zealand blogger Joseph Gelfer makes an interesting comment:


Does it encourage a certain part of society otherwise alienated from the gospels to pick them up and read? This edition has been sat around my house for a couple of weeks now. When friends pick it off the shelf they initially smirk at the cover statement, ‘The faith which is central to the lives of Jason Robinson, Nick Farr-Jones, David Solomona and many others in the rugby community is also freely available to you.’ But after that I find people thumbing through the pages with far more interest than other, more traditional, editions which continue to gather dust. This alone is no small achievement.



October 10th, 2003