It may be odd to admit this in deepest Hertfordshire but I am an enthusiastic follower of Gloucester Rugby Club - the Cherry and Whites. Scarcely a fan since I was last at Kingsholm in 1956, but as one who was brought up and then married in Gloucester (to a Gloucester girl of course) the club has always had a special place in my affections. So when Bedford played Gloucester and won in 1988 I was so horrified that I realised that no matter how long we lived in this part of the world we would always be Gloucestrians (you can take the couple out of Gloucester but you can't take Gloucester out of the couple). Even after 40 years in this area we get a warm feeling when we cross the county boundary heading west near Chipping Norton.
Rugby is to Gloucester what soccer is to Manchester or Liverpool. Ironically I played the game at school and absolutely hated it, giving it up at the earliest opportunity in favour of cross country running (what's the point of running around in the cold and wet while someone puts a muddy hand in your face or removes your legs from under you?). Nevertheless I love watching it on television and throughout October I shall be glued to the World Cup in Japan as time allows. Less hyped than the soccer one, but hopefully just as exciting as the cricket one with the same result. I mention this because events like this have an important place in the world as a force for good.
One Rugby World Cup had as its theme tune a song called 'World in Union'. This is something that is desperately needed these days. Much has been made over the past century (and throughout history) about disunity; history is one long saga since before records began of conflict between races and nations. As I write this in early September there are endless divisions over Brexit and there is unease between ourselves and the rest of Europe. There are continual tensions in the Middle East, over Kashmir, and in other places as well. Over and beyond this, racial and religious tensions simmer beneath the surface and emerge horribly from time to time. World sporting events are times when representatives of nations can get together and recognise that they are part of a common humanity, that the things that unite are far greater than those that divide. They are times for unity rather than division. This is very badly needed in the 21st century.
The Christian Church was born into a divided world, one that was far more divided even than it is today. Apart from racial and cultural differences there was a huge class divide between freemen and slaves that today seems utterly abhorrent. Christ died for everyone, regardless of their race, creed, colour and social status. He spoke of being lifted up on the cross to draw everyone to Himself, and I see those arms outstretched on the cross as enfolding everyone. This remains the same today and the world must recognise its unity and work towards strengthening that unity. If global sporting events like the Rugby World Cup can be small steps along that road then whether we enjoy the game or not they are worthwhile.
Happy Watching! Paul (Lanham)