Hal Capps surely considered, even if it was merely a fleeting thought, quitting his job recently.
Capps is the varsity football coach at Mooresville High, a Class 4-A school about 35 miles north of Charlotte. He has been the head coach there since 2010 and has compiled a 35-16 record overall, including an 11-2 mark this past season.
Despite his success on the gridiron, Capps’ misstep is one that many coaches across this county, state and country take each and every week throughout the football season: he regularly led his team in Christian prayer.
While other high-school coaches in other sports may also make prayer an integral part of their routine, it seems that the game of football is a more prominent stage for taking a knee and talking with God. In fact, it probably lends itself most for such an activity, simply because it is — even at its lowest levels — easily the most violent of athletic endeavors.
Capps’ undoing may have come because he took the team prayer a step further, when he urged and also participated in the baptizing of his players — though, for a devout Christian such as Capps, baptism is hardly an unusual extension of prayer.
The fact of the matter is, Capps’ efforts to spread the word of God through his team was widely known and approved of around Mooresville. It still is. But along came a whistle-blower in the form of a young player who didn’t agree with what Capps was doing.
More likely, as is the case with most teenagers, the young man was far less interested in what Capps was doing than he was in rebelling for the sake of rebellion. The country has become increasingly more populated with protesters, not for the sake of a worthwhile cause but because they enjoy being the agitator or just plain contrary. Moral Mondays and the Occupy movement are also good examples.
Football coaches who call their team together for prayer before, during and/or after games or practices are causing no harm to anyone, no matter how the activity is looked upon. Christian or atheist players and coaches — and whatever someone may be in between — each have the right to follow along or ignore. In Capps’ case, everyone agreed that he did not force anyone to participate.
But even if a player or coach does not want to participate in a team prayer because of what they may or may not believe, the simple fact is that they are still part of a team and … well, just as was the case when I played sports, there still is no “I” in team. So even if Christianity isn’t your thing, you suck it up, join your teammates for the team prayer and think about something else. As Aristotle once said: “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
As someone who has gone far too many years without an interest in learning about the life of Jesus Christ, his messages and what His crucifixion meant for all of us, it’s been an interesting and fulfilling journey into true Christianity. But I’m only barely scratching the surface so far.
And while Sunday mornings may mean more to me now than they ever used to when I was younger, it is Friday nights in the fall when the power of the Holy Ghost can really reach out and grab hold. Capps knows that feeling.
So does Russell Dove at West Bladen High, who calls not only his Knights but players from the opposing team to join him at midfield after a game for prayer. It’s truly a humbling 45 seconds when players take a knee, put a hand on someone near them and recite The Lord’s Prayer as family stand around the circle.
Even after a raucous, hard-fought game of football, those 45 seconds become a time of returning thanks and glory to God — and aside from the prayer itself, there is hardly a sound being made around the stadium. It’s pretty awesome, really.
While reading about the attack on Capps by the Freedom of Religion Foundation, I found it interesting that the Mooresville High mascot is the Blue Devils — a bit of irony similar to that of Duke University, where the college widely known for its theology teaching and founded by Methodists and Quakers is also known throughout college athletics as the Blue Devils.
Since the story erupted, Capps has acquiesced. Despite the fact he is probably supported by 99 percent of those who are affiliated with the Mooresville football team in any way, Capps will curtail his prayer and baptizing activities — at least while connected with school events.
If there is a way to wrap this all up neatly, it may be with the words of Gov. Mike Huckabee, who recently said: “When are we going to have respect for those who are Christian or Jewish? We ought to stop discrimination when it’s because of someone’s religion … but it ought to apply to everyone including Christians, not everyone BUT Christians.”
— W. Curt Vincent is the general manager and editor of the Bladen Journal. He can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.