Olympism and Christian Churches


On a doctrinal level Olympism and Christianity relate to each other as water and fire. The vandalic passion with which the Christians, in the name of their God, destroyed Olympia, one of the most important Hellenic places of worship and the highest symbol of Hellenic spirituality, indicates that the abyss between these two world views is unbridgeable. Trying to deal with the libertarian struggle of the oppressed, the pragmatic Coubertin sees in the Church a political ally and all in Christianity that can contribute to a more efficient protection of the existing order becomes an inherent part of the Olympic doctrine and practice. Coubertin, a pagan, does not renounce Christian God and does not hesitate to appeal to the divine authority (“divine right”) when he has to prove the indisputability and eternity of the principles he advocates. It does not occur to him to cry, like Nietzsche, “God is dead!”, or to confront the Catholic Church. Coubertin’s insisting on Christianity being above other (“ethnical”) religions, and thus the affirmation of the racial “superiority” of the white to the “colored” races, indicates Coubertin’s endeavour to establish a strategic alliance between the Olympic movement and the Catholic Church in a crusade against the cultural heritage and libertarian dignity of the “colored” peoples. For the same reasons as their co-fighter Coubertin, “good Christians”, led by the aristocracy, bourgeoisie and clergy, view Olympism kindly and accept to be the patrons of modern pagan Olympic festivities, and as far as the Catholic Church is concerned, Pope himself (Pius XII) receives the gentlemen from IOC, the arch priests of modern Olympic paganism, to give them his blessing. To make things even more bizarre, the words of a Pennsylvanian bishop Talbot (ascribed to Coubertin): “It is important to take part at these Olympic Games, and not to win.” – Which he pronounced on 19 July, 1908 in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, during a mass dedicated to the London Olympic Games – became the “humanist” motto of the Games. (21) What a hypocrisy: those who belong to a religion that destroyed ancient Olympia, the most sacred place of Hellenic civilization, hold masses “in honor of the Olympic Games” and glorify their “immortal spirit”! Even on this occasion it turned out that the “devil is not as black as he is painted” when it comes to the existential interests of the Church: “good Christians” appeal to the “ancient tradition” in order to deal with a critical-changing conscious and preserve the established order. The common interests in the fight against the ever stronger workers’ (socialist) movement, and in the spiritual colonization of the world and preservation of the patriarchal order, united the representatives of irreconcilable spiritual movements, such as Christianity and Olympic paganism.

Christian Churches showed “appreciation” for “sport” long before Coubertin established modern Olympic movement. Even at the time when the cities in Italy were being founded the Catholic Church looked “favorably” at the mass “sports” celebrations, trying to appear in the role of a spiritual patron. That Christianity is being superseded by the spirit of the New Age is seen from the demands, on the part of the Church, for the development of physical exercises, sport and Olympism. The attitude of the Catholic Church was: cura del corpo si, culta del corpo no – and it appeared in answer to the revival of the body (man) in the Renaissance and had a moralistic and not a doctrinal character. The cult of physical strength and endurance, as the expression of progressistic logic, is present in a number of modern Christian reformers. At the time of the development of the workers’ (socialist) movement in the second half of the 19th century, the Catholic Church tried to use sport to control the workers’ dissatisfaction and establish control over their leisure (“free”) time. It is one of the basic intentions of the encyclic “Rerum novarum” of Pope Leon XIII from 1891 (which was republished several times in the 20th century, last time in 1991 under the title “Centisimo anno”). (22) In England, the cradle of capitalism, the use of sport in the creation of “good Christians” had two forms. The first, in the first half of the 19th century, is the pedagogical movement of Thomas Arnold, who tried to turn the bourgeois youth, through sports competitions and physical drill, into “muscular Christians”, the basic force of the British Empire. The second, in the end of the 19th century, tried to “colonize” the worker’s leisure time by way of sport and spiritually integrate them into the established order in the form of a “Christian Socialist Movement”. The opening of the “College of the Working Man” in London, by Kingsley and Maurice, in which sports events became the main instrument for pacifying the workers dissatisfaction, represents one of the typical forms of spiritual submission of the workers. In France, abbot Didon, one of Coubertin’s spiritual idols, tried to develop in the bourgeois youth, in the guise of Christianity, the spirit of combatant individualism and the cult of physical strength. The same was done by “Christian reformers” in other European countries and the USA (like the Protestant pastor James Naismith who is the official “father” of basketball) who tried to follow “the spirit of a New Age” and protect their “herd” from new ideas which threatened the established order. Instead of being the apostles of Christianity, “Christian reformers” became the apostles of capitalism, who tilled the ground for launching a new Olympic (pagan) religion which was supposed to become the main integrative spiritual power of society, and protect capitalism from decline. The Christians destroyed ancient Olympia; modern Olympic pagans, headed by Coubertin, with even greater vandalic fervor dealt with Christianity and compelled the Christian Churches (as well as other religious communities) to accept their global domination.

A typical example of “Christianizing” modern Olympism is the work “Theological reflection of human dignity in sport – on the example of the Olympic Games” written by theologian Paul Jacobi. (23) Starting from the conclusion of the II Vatican Council, he sees “in the demand for unity” the basic way of justifying the Olympic Games and of the interpretation of Coubertin’s Olympic doctrine. What it is all about is clearly seen from the very title under which the Council was held: “The Church and Today’s World”. It is an attempt of the Catholic Church to survive by adapting to the capitalistically degenerated world in which there is less and less space for faith. Hence Jacobi emphasizes Coubertin’s demand for a new development of religious feeling, “overlooking” the fact that, for Coubertin, Olympism is above all the “cult of the present world” and thus a radical renouncement of the Christian ideal of “another” (better) world. The absurdity of the endeavour to Christianize modern Olympic paganism can be seen from Jacobi’s attempt to, drawing on the book by Joseph Ratzinger “Christian Brotherhood”, connect the Olympic idea with the idea of peace and brotherhood between people under God’s wing. In his glorification of the Games Jacobi goes so far as to see in them a hint of “new society” governed by the “rules of fair-play, tolerance, justice, human dignity, peace, solidarity, brotherhood and freedom”. (24) The Olympic Games become the means for realizing a “utopia” which includes the “divine kingdom on the earth”. The words of Pope Paul VI: “In their shared work people discover that they are brothers.” – become the guiding principle of the Olympic movement. (25) The relation of the Christian churches to Olympic paganism shows their true relation to Christianity. Trying to strengthen their ever weaker social position, they threw Christian humanism under the feet of primitive Olympic paganism and thus showed that positivism (the defense of capitalism) is the basis of the Church “Christianity”. There lies the answer to the question why Coubertin and his followers, the members of the Catholic Church, were not expelled from it for preaching paganism and organizing the Olympic Games as pagan “Churches”,  but were first tacitly, and later openly, supported by Pope and the Catholic clergy, as well as by the aristocracy and the bourgeoisie – all “good Christians”. One of the best comments on Christian hypocrisy was given by Kautsky who said that “Catholic fanaticism of popery was not a religious fanaticism, but the fanaticism of greediness disguised in Church forms”. (26) If we tried to describe the original nature of modern Olympism in a nut shell, then “fanaticism of greediness” would be its most precise definition: Coubertin’s “cult of humanism” is nothing else but a cult of greediness.

The ceremony of the burial of Coubertin’s “heart” in the “Olympic valley” (today the “Valley of Pierre de Coubertin”), which Coubertin bequeathed to the Nazis as the executors of his Olympic will and “sacred” guardians of (his) Olympic idea (the burial was performed without the Catholic clergy) shows the relation of Olympism to Christianity. Coubertin did not send his “soul” to Heavens, but, on the “most sacred place” of pagan Hellas, through his heart (built in a monument) symbolically united it with the “immortal spirit of antiquity”. What is “Christian” about that is the fact that his heart became a peculiar (Olympic) relic, like the remains of deceased Christian “saints”. Anyway, the “burial” of his heart did not have a spiritual but a propagandist character: Coubertin “went to eternity” according to the same (banal) scenario which he used to organize “his” Olympic Games.

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