SPidge Tales

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Rockies, Religion, & Baseball: Josh Beckett Outpitches God

The Colorado Rockies are in the World Series and it’s a Miracle! This is no small m miracle, like winning 21 out of 22 games just to make the playoffs, sweep the first two rounds, and get here. This is a capital M Miracle, with God on their side. Yes, the Rockies are blessed by the Almighty.

The Rockies are not just a baseball team. They are a Christian organization. Ben Shpigel writes in his New York Times article, “Rockies Place Their Faith in God, and One Another, (www.nytimes.com/2007/10/23/sports/baseball/23rockies.html?_r=1&oref=slogin)” that the Rockies look to build a roster based on Christian virtue. Lewd magazines like Maxim and Playboy are banned from the clubhouse, and the team seeks to sign players “with integrity and strong moral values.” There is no compulsion or pressure to become Christian, as player Jason Hirsh, of the Jewish faith, “said not once during the season had he felt uncomfortable with the place Christianity occupies within the organization.” But Dave Zirin of leftwing publication The Nation is concerned by the effort to unite religion and faith in the workplace. In response to Hirsh’s comment, “It’s not like they hung a cross in my locker or anything. They’ve accepted me for who I am and what I believe in,” Zirin, in “The Rockies Get off Their Knees (http://www.thenation.com/doc/20071105/zirin),” derisively remarks, “That could be a great pitch for recruiting free agents: ‘They won’t hang a cross in your locker!’”

Is Zirin right? Zirin says “freedom of religion should also mean freedom from religion at the ballpark, it doesn’t matter if you call it Buddha-Jesus-Jewish-Vishnu-Islamic-Wicca Awareness day. We just want to go to the ballpark without feeling like we’re covertly funding Focus on the Family’s gay retraining programs. Religion and sports: it’s a marriage in desperate need of divorce.”

If professional sports were public entities, by law employees—manager, players, coaches—would be asked to keep their religious beliefs to themselves. But baseball is a private business, and private businesses can be set up in support of particular viewpoints and goals. A car dealership exists to sell cars. An environmental group exists to promote conservation. It seems fair to ask, why not allow the Rockies to promote a business goal of proselytizing and playing, bible and baseball. If they wish to alienate fans, it is their financial loss. If players do not wish to play in a Christian organization, there are plenty of secular baseball teams to try out for.

But our society is more than one of religious toleration. Religious toleration allows for one faith to be promoted, while members of other faiths must step back and practice in private. The only way we have found so far to make all people equal is to ask that all faiths step into the background once people enter the public sphere. No one religious belief or philosophy may be seen as normative. It is only considered acceptable to promote a specific faith in a group whose express purpose is faith based. In Catholic schools, it is now common for religion to only be taught in religion class. Catholic Charities in California is required to cover birth control in their health plans, under the notion that their express purpose is not religious. Since the Colorado Rockies primary purpose is baseball, it is considered a faux pas to mix faith with the ball-field, especially if it is a specific faith and not some abstract Unitarian notion of pluralism.

The risk in a society based on a specific faith is the danger of persecution towards non-believers. The danger in a society based on the idea that, “at the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existing, of meaning, of the universe and the mystery of life,” as Anthony Kennedy said in his famous ‘sweet mystery of life’ soliloquy in the Supreme Court decision Casey vs. Planned Parenthood, is that people will have nothing binding them together. For all the melancholy meanderings about the joy of deciding our own beliefs, people cannot be inspired by abstract ideas like “it doesn’t matter what you have faith in; as long as you have faith in something.” People need a common cause, something like—no, more than like, more like specifically—God to rally around and believe in.

It may be necessary in today’s pluralistic society to put our religious beliefs away when we go into public. Like smoking, religion maybe needs to be tolerated so long as we leave the room and not come back until we put out those faith filled ashes. Yes, maybe this is the only way. But, we must admit, something is lost when what we value must be put aside in polite society.

Maybe God is not on the Rockies side, after all. Maybe He doesn’t want baseball and Himself mixed. The Rockies got smoked in game one of the World Series 13-1. But, then again, Red Sox ace Josh Beckett is a fireballer from Texas, God’s home state. The Rockies hopes aren’t too promising tonight either; Curt Schilling—the right arm of God Himself—is pitching for the Red Sox.


Blogger Jen said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7:07 PM  
Blogger Jen said...

Found your blog (somewhat) randomly, and just wanted to say that I am a fan. It's always insightful, entertaining, and well-written. :-)

8:40 PM  

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