Can Christians Play Chess?
1. The Christian ought, whenever possible, to do something that builds up his fellow man (or woman). But the goal in chess is to defeat one's opponent, thereby tearing the other person down. Therefore, one cannot play chess - at least not to win - insofar as one is acting as a Christian.
2. The Christian ought to foster in himself a loving character. But the competitive nature of the chess game requires just the opposite; a certain self-centeredness in the pursuit of a selfish goal. Therefore, etc.
3. The New Testament teaches us to view others at least as highly as ourselves: "Love your neighbor as yourself," Jesus tells us, while St. Paul wrote "[d]o nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves" (Philippians 2:3). Jesus' admonition seems incompatible with a desire to defeat one's opponent - I certainly don't want to lose games, so why would I wish it on my neighbor? And Paul's statement is a double whammy for the chess player: what is chess about if not rivalry? Worse still, if I really feel of someone that they are more significant than I am, then I want them to flourish, to succeed - just the opposite of what is likely to happen if I defeat them.
4. We are told to "redeem the time" (Ephesians 5:16); that is, to spend our time concerned with things of ultimate significance. Whatever wonderful things chess has going for it, being of eternal or ultimate significance isn't among them. Therefore, etc.
5. A pragmatic argument: one ought not to engage in practices that tend to develop one's ego and set one against one's fellows. Clearly, however, this happens in chess, especially but not only at the strongest levels. Therefore, even if there's no guarantee that these adverse character traits will develop, the relatively high probability makes taking up or continuing to play chess an unjustified risk.
All sophistry? Perhaps, but I'm not completely sure. Some of the arguments seem to me to require deep responses, responses that may have real implications going far beyond the question of playing (or not playing) chess. In any case, I'd very much like to see readers' reactions - though with the restriction that critiques of religious belief be omitted. The issue here isn't whether Christianity is true or false, but whether playing chess is morally compatible with being an (earnest) believer, and if so how to anwer the objections above.