John MacArthur on Morality in Sports and the Culture

February 4, 2015 § Leave a comment


Lance Armstrong

For world-class champion cyclist Lance Armstrong, it is apparently easier to score hundreds of athletic victories and beat cancer than it is to beat peer pressure. Lance was recently asked if he would use illegal drugs to enhance his performance if he could do it all over again. Lance replied, “If I was racing in 2015, no, I wouldn’t do it again because I don’t think you have to. If you take me back to 1995, when doping was completely pervasive, I would probably do it again.” This is not to excuse his choice, but it’s a parable of how hard it is to do the right thing counter-culture, when “everyone’s doing it.”

In a story about deception in athletics covering this and the over-inflated “Deflate-gate” that overtook the media before the Super Bowl, Fox News’ Gerri Willis asked notable Christian author and pastor John MacArthur what he thought about the state of honesty in American sports. I couldn’t find a transcript, so I made my own from a video I found on YouTube, because I think MacArthur’s response is worth reading.

GW: “Is there no expectation of honesty anymore from our athletes? With us now, John MacArthur, Senior pastor at the Grace Community Church in CA. Pastor, welcome back to the show. What happened? Should we have no expectation of honesty in sports?”

JM: “Do we have an expectation of honesty everywhere else in this culture? Sports aren’t certainly going to set the standard for ethics; they’re not going to set the standard for morality. I mean, it takes seven officials to basically rule a football game because guys are working so hard to break the rule and not get caught, they have to have that many people to find them. There are replay booths, and you know all of the things that go in replay. They try to find out the reality, because you really don’t want to just ask someone, because you’re not likely to get the truth. It’s a culture full of deception, full of lies. It’s a part of who America has become, and it’s simply reflected on every level. There are things to this culture far more important than the truth, and that’s really sad, because that’s when society begins to break down. It shows up in business, with all the scams and all the false business practices and all the cheating and scheming. Look it happens to people who are cheating on their income tax… you might find out the IRS is cheating on the other end. It’s part of the fabric of a post-Christian culture.”

GW: “The tragedy in this in many ways is that kids really look up to these professional athletes. I think that Lance Armstrong was followed by small kids… and all of these professionals, really, they just attract all these kids. How do we deal with that?”

Not real sharks

Not real sharks

JM: “Let me put it this way: We’ve got all the wrong heroes. Nobody knows Lance Armstrong. Nobody knows Tom Brady. When I say that, [I mean] the vast number of people in the world who see them on a flat screen, they don’t know these people. So the heroes are people who do something. What we need are heroes of character, heroes of integrity, heroes whose lives are righteous, virtuous. Heroes who sacrifice themselves for the sake of honesty and decency and truth and who make a difference in the world because of their character. That is why the church is so critical. That is why the Bible is so critical, because there you have a transcendent, divine standard of ethics, behavior, morality and righteousness that isn’t just up for grabs. It’s a fixed set of absolutes, and when they’re in place and everybody lives to that level it makes a difference.”<

GW: “What I think is so interesting in what you’re saying right now is there is this defining down all the time [of] what’s acceptable, what works, what we’re willing to put up with. Do you think what’s going on is because we’re so divided? There was a Fox News poll, and I want to get your reaction to it. The question was, “What best describes America today?” 73% of the folks said a dysfunctional family. Do you agree with that?”

JM: “Well, absolutely. I would say if you don’t think we have dysfunctional families in America, you’re probably in a dysfunctional family and can’t see the reality of it. The family is the building block of culture, the building block of society. It’s how truth, integrity, goodness, values, virtue is passed down from one generation to the next. And as the family is literally disintegrating before us with massive amounts of divorce, people living together without being married, making kids live in fear of what their future is, kids home alone being raised by these flat screen media personalities… Of course the family is breaking down. And with people wanting to redefine what is marriage, what is a family, it is a disaster. And as the family breaks down, the building block of civilization, culture, society that protects us with virtue disintegrates.”

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 9.50.00 PM

Gerri Willis with John MacArthur on Fox News

GW: “You know, I think what’s interesting is we also just fail to communicate with each other, I mean on a very basic level, because we are that dysfunctional family that can’t talk to each other, that doesn’t trust each other. That basic communication and trust that you would normally like to see just isn’t there. Do you agree?”

JM: “I absolutely agree, Gerri, and it’s because we do have a deceptive, lying culture. Lying is okay. Deceiving is okay. You can lie if you’re a politician, if you’re a senator, if you’re a congressman. You can lie if you’re the president, you can cover the truth, you can send out deceptive information. You can lie if you’re a professor and you want to do a revisionist view of history so that you can change the morality of a generation of young people. You can lie if you can get away with it in your business. We reward lying and deception. We have allowed ourselves to think that anything is okay if it gets me what I want. And when truth isn’t the seal that holds relationships together, you can’t trust anybody. If you can’t trust anybody, you can’t respect anybody, and if you can’t respect anybody, you can’t have a relationship that has any meaning.”

“We’ve got all the wrong heroes” indeed.

“All have sinned and fall short…” (Romans 3:23)

A previous post I wrote about Lance, Thor and Ideal Heroism:

For more from John MacArthur, visit

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