Before Simone Biles Becomes Christians' Next Sports Metaphor

Quick to Listen

Jul 30 2021 • 1 hr 4 mins

After one vault on Tuesday, Simone Biles took herself out of the US gymnastics women’s team competition. A day later, she withdrew from the all-around, “in order to focus on her mental health,” read a statement on the USA Gymnastics' Twitter account. Simone also blamed the twisties, where, as the Washington Post describes, athletes “lose control of their bodies as they spin through the air. Sometimes they twist when they hadn’t planned to. Other times they stop midway through, as Biles did. And after experiencing the twisties once, it’s very difficult to forget. Instinct gets replaced by thought. Thought quickly leads to worry. Worry is difficult to escape.” While the majority of fans have reacted to Biles’ departure from these marquee competitions with support, it did draw scorn from some, who see her decision not to compete as quitting or a cop out. As with everything else these days, Biles’ decision became part of the culture wars. And no doubt her decision will make its way into countless sermon illustrations this weekend. This week on the show, we wanted to talk about how our discussion of elite athletics shapes the way we think about Christian discipleship. And when we hear words like sacrifice and redemption in our culture, it’s most often in a sports context. How is that shaping the way the church is talking about those words? Brian Gamel is a postdoctoral fellow at Baylor University’s Faith and Sports Institute, where he is writing a book on athletic imagery in the New Testament. He also wrote a piece for Christian Scholar’s Review earlier this year called “‘Whoever Wishes to Become Great’ – Sports, Glory, and the Gospel.” Tim Dalrymple is the CEO and editor in chief of Christianity Today. He is also a former elite gymnast: When he was a sophomore at Stanford, he was the NCAA’s top-ranked gymnast and a likely Olympics contender, until an accident on the high bar broke his neck and ended his athletic career. Gamel and Dalrymple joined global media manager Morgan Lee and executive editor Ted Olsen to discuss Paul’s athletic metaphors, a biblical theology of the body and sport, and what it means to actually support athletes in your church.What is Quick to Listen? Read more Rate Quick to Listen on Apple Podcasts Follow the podcast on Twitter Follow our hosts on Twitter: Morgan Lee and Ted Olsen Follow Tim Dalrymple on Twitter Email our guest: Music by Sweeps Quick to Listen is produced by Morgan Lee and Matt Linder The transcript is edited by Faith Ndlovu  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit