Moses at Rephidim: “If I let my arms down, the other team will win!“
Talk about timely! The Bible readings for Sunday, September 28, include Exodus 17:1-7, which serves as a prelude to Exodus 17:8-16, which in turn tells of Israel pulling off their “first upset of the season.” They beat their hated arch-rival, the dreaded Amelikites, thanks to Moses:
Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. 11 Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed; and whenever he lowered his hand, Am′alek prevailed. 12 But Moses’ hands grew weary; so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat upon it, and Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side; so his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.
As noted in On the readings for September 28, that sounds “a lot like a modern-day football fan, watching his favorite team on TV; moving around the room, sometimes standing, sometimes sitting,” sometimes muting the sound, sometimes telling his wife to leave the room, but “always trying to ‘help his team win.’” (See also On “God’s Favorite Team” – Part I.)
So imagine Moses – today – watching the “battle” from a stadium seat, or on his TV back at home. For some reason he holds his arms up, and his team scores a touchdown. But then his arms get tired and he lets them down, and – lo and behold! – the other team scores a touchdown. So, in order to help his team win – or in the alternative, to avoid “jinxing” his team – Moses got his buddies Aaron and Hur to hold his arms up “for the rest of the game.”
That makes Moses the prototype of the modern-day football fan who does all kinds of strange things to help his team win. And that is a basic theme of the Scribe’s new novel, God’s Favorite Team. The book is all about finding spiritual growth by and through reading the Bible on a regular basis, and offering up the appropriate, “ritually efficacious” sacrifice to God.
Here’s how one “skeptic” explained the phenomenon, as shown by Moses at Rephidim and by the modern-day football fan trying to help his team win:
It’s a natural tendency for people to make connections between events. “When I do this, that happens…” Primitive people [and perhaps even modern-day football fans] developed superstitions in similar ways. One year, the crops were bad. The next year, they put a basket of dead birds in the middle of the field, and everything turned out great. Therefore, placing a basket of dead birds in the field ensures a good crop… Like the primitive farmers, we continue to make assumptions of causation [which] leads us to think that [for example] prayer works (you pray for your sports team to win…) [I]t’s important that we not jump to conclusions. We should make multiple observations. We should try different sequences in various combinations… Even with all that, we might never be sure about the real causes. But we can rule some out, and we can increase our confidence in others.
See Faulty logic: Post hoc, ergo propter hoc « Gotham Skeptic. All of which is another way of saying that many times those fan superstitions just don’t work out, as in reference to The Pueblo Chieftain | Broncos fans hope superstitions pay …., which told of the rituals used by Denver Bronco fans before last January’s Super Bowl. (And we know how that turned out.)
On a happier note, that also brings up the subject of “Touchdown Jesus,” a feature of the stadium at Notre Dame, and in which the pose of Jesus – seen further below – looks a lot like the pose of Moses at Rephidim, with his arms held over his head. (And who knows? Maybe today’s signal for a touchdown somehow came from “the original,” Moses at the Battle of Rephidim.)
Beyond that, many “Irish” fans believe TDJ brings the team good luck, and/or “helps them win.” See for example Touchdown Jesus: Does Notre Dame have God on its side, posted on January 5, 2013, the Saturday before the national championship game:
Will God be on Notre Dame’s side Monday night when the No. 1 Fighting Irish meet No. 2 Alabama in college football’s national championship game in Florida? Hard to say… But when Notre Dame plays at home, Touchdown Jesus stands watch. Here are some little-known facts about the iconic mural that some call superstition, others consider the embodiment of belief and all would agree is a symbol of the Irish, who are one victory away from their first national title since 1988…
Of course we know how that game turned out too, but it does lead to another interesting point.
When I first published God’s Favorite Team several years ago – under a different nom de plume – Notre Dame had the most national championships of any college football team, at 13. But in the years since then Alabama won national titles in 2009, 2011 and 2012, to take the lead at 15. Which leads to another interesting point…
How can we tell which college football team is “God’s Favorite?” Is it the number of national titles they have? On that note, were the original Children of Israel known for the number of “national championships” they won? Or was there something other factor involved?
The answer could be in God’s Favorite Team. More later…
The upper image is courtesy of Rephidim – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, with the full caption: “Moses holding up his arms during the Battle of Rephidim, assisted by Hur and Aaron, in John Everett Millais‘ Victory O Lord! (1871).”
The lower image is courtesy of Touchdown Jesus at Notre Dame – College Football – About.com, with caption: “‘Touchdown Jesus’ is seen here towering over Notre Dame Stadium. (Tom Hauck/Getty Images).” Here’s a closer view courtesy of Word of Life Mural // Hesburgh Libraries … Notre Dame.
For further information on TDJ, see Notre Dame Stadium – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Touchdown Jesus – A Notre Dame Campus Landmark | UHND.com, and/or Word of Life Mural // Hesburgh Libraries // University of ….