Can we talk about the Christianity of Emma Raducanu?
I just looked at pictures of Emma Raducanu again, this time focusing on her upper chest. She usually wears a hanging cross, which suggests that she is a Christian. Yes I know some people wear crosses for fashion reasons, but I don’t think she is in this camp. Perhaps it is more a sign of cultural allegiance than a religious one, perhaps a precious gift from a grandparent? Or maybe a sign of solidarity with the persecuted Christians in China.
How legitimate is it to inquire about this? Orthodoxy is no fool at all. It’s his business, and it has nothing to do with his tennis success. But it’s not too out of place to think about the symbols that people in the public eye choose to wear.
If she wore a rainbow ribbon, for example, you can bet a lot of reviewers would speculate on her significance. Such speculation would not seem intrusive, as one would assume that his wearing of this sign was intentional, an invitation to speculate.
Emma Raducanu in action at Wimbledon, wearing her cross pendant
Likewise, if his pendant was an image of a saxophone, say, or a cat, or a Chinese character, you can bet people would link him to his larger life. And it’s not illegitimate to comment on her decision to wear a Chanel dress and Tiffany earrings at the Met Gala. But when it comes to religious symbols, an awkward silence sets in. Our culture would prefer there to be no such awkward symbols or images.
Especially on sports stars. Brazilian footballer Christian Neymar has just signed a contract with PSG which would commit him to respecting certain standards of behavior. It is also said that he forbids him to engage in “religious or political propaganda”.
He is a devout evangelical, who was once depicted in a banner with the caption “100% Jesus”. It is not known if he will still be allowed to wear a cross pendant, and to sign himself before the match (if that’s his thing). But it seems unlikely that he will be allowed to speak to the press about his religious beliefs.
I think it’s a little fishy to restrict a player’s freedom in this way. He speaks of a desire to ventilate the religion of contemporary life. Some would say that he should keep his religion to himself: his public function is to play football. But who can say that sport is supposed to be a properly secular space? Should politics and entertainment also remain “neutral”?
So, some advice for Emma. Say what you want about your faith or its lack. And beware of the idea that the public domain is meant to be a neutral secular space. If you feel like thanking God for your good fortune, screw up your godfather and do it.