Each week in The Holy Huddle, Doug Hankins takes a look at the goings on of the sports world from a distinctly Christian perspective. 

With the deafening sound of this primordial growl, Baylor University clinched the 2012 CaPC Theology Hoops Tournament Championship by virtue of a win against Xavier University.  As providence would have it, the winner of the Christian Education Division would up playing the winner of the Christian/Education Division.

While Baylor ultimately lost the March Madness (MM) Elite 8 game against Kentucky, they are nonetheless still winners of the CaPC tournament for the soul of the American religious higher education.  What follows is a recap of tournament action with projected games between religious schools. Remember, in this tournament we advance teams based on these rules.

The Theology Hoops Final Four: Marquette v. Xavier and Baylor v. Lehigh

Marquette and Xavier both advanced to the MM sweet 16 and lost.  So who would win in this theoretical theological matchup?

To answer the question I will turn to the university mottos.  Marquette’s educational goal is “For the greater glory of God.”  That sounds pretty good. Xavier’s motto, “For the greater glory of God.”  So, motto is a wash.

What about the actual “in-class” experience for students?  Xavier requires all students to take classes from the core-curriculum including 4 classes in ethics, religion, and society, 6 hours of religious philosophy, and 6 hours of bible theology.  Impressive.

Marquette also requires all students to take 6 hours of theology among the plan for Core of Common Studies. This is impressive, but not equally impressive.  Xavier advances by virtue of their more comprehensive theological educational foundation.

As for the Baylor v. Lehigh matchup?  Baylor wins in a landslide, considering that Lehigh is no longer an overtly religious institution.  Also, I should point out this sign from the student body.  Baylor’s signage?  This shirt speaks for itself.  Baylor advances.

The National Championship 

In a matchup of Protestants and Catholics that actually played out in March Madness, Baylor wins by 5 to secure the first annual CaPC Theology Hoops Tournament Championship and the honor of being the most influential institution of religious higher education in America for 2012.

On that note: Has anyone been paying attention to the Women’s March Madness?  Guess who is playing for the actual national championship?  Baylor and Notre Dame.  Baptists v. the Catholics.  What does women’s basketball add to the conversation about the role of religious higher education in America?

Consider this staggering statistic.  Religiously affiliated schools (Stanford, Duke, Baylor, and Notre Dame) have played in 16 of the last 22 final fours and have claimed 4 of the national titles in that same time. In that same time span, the Men’s tournament has only Duke and Georgetown to thank for representing religiously affiliated schools. It seems that religious education has more of an impact in women’s sports.

As an interesting corollary, women also tend to have a greater impact on American congregations and are increasingly moving into roles of leadership in local churches across the spectrum of theological orientation.  Is the Women’s March Madness tournament reflecting the culture shift in America?  Is the high level of women’s leadership on display in religiously affiliated athletic teams the foreshadowing of Christian women in leadership in businesses, society, and local churches?

Concluding Thoughts

I have two concluding thoughts from March Madness.  First, Baylor University is making inroads into the conscience of American society.  While their current motto is “For Church, For Texas” they may soon be changing their motto to “For Church, For America.”  Especially after influential dunks like this and this.

Second, both the men’s and women’s tournaments reveal that religion still has a role in American culture in the 21st century.  While women from religious schools still seem to have a disproportionately more influential role in college sports than their male counterparts, men seem to be catching up.  What is apparent is that schools like Baylor, Notre Dame, Xavier, Marquette, Georgetown, Duke, and Stanford are cranking out college grads who have theological foundations.  And here’s to hoping that these alumnus work to bring about good and not evil as they influence and shape the next century of American society.

1 Comment

  1. A few problems with how the universities are classified. Stanford is not a religiously-affiliated institution. It is private, independent and definitely not a campus climate friendly to religious belief which is pretty unfortunate considering it’s high academic standards. Though Duke has a Methodist heritage and the Duke Divinity School obviously has strong religious conviction, the university on the whole is not religious. The reality on Duke’s campus is that it is much like Harvard, Washington U in St Louis, and Northwestern. The drinking, the partying, and the negative attitude toward any form of Christianity is all pervasive which is the general case on the campuses of the country’s “elite” academic institutions. If you want to find college graduates who leave undergraduate education with a theological foundation, you’ll have to go to seminaries and theological institutes. As for Baylor being a force on American culture, which would be nice, that is not the case. Religious universities and colleges are just one of many consumer options in the education market. Especially being Baptist, the educational establishment laughs at Baylor’s relevance.

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