Religion and Baseball

Any other baseball fans catch this New York Times piece on baseball and religion?  Apparently they teach a course on it at N.Y.U.!

There is one paragraph that seems to summarize my love for baseball and why I believe it needs to continue to be America’s Pastime.
“The real idea of the course,” he put it in an interview, “is to develop heightened sensitivity and a noticing capacity. So baseball’s not ‘the’ road to God. For most of us, it isn’t ‘a’ road to God. But it’s a way to notice, to cause us to live more slowly and to watch more keenly and thereby to discover the specialness of our life and our being, and, for some of us, something more than our being.”
Baseball’s grueling 162 game season, “slow pace,” and strange culture of rules, chatter, and superstitions, make it beautiful.  Yet, these are some of the very things today’s youth find “boring.”

What’s with these so called athletes who don’t ever have to run farther than 270 feet at the most?!  What’s with standing around waiting for a ball to possibly be hit knowing that it probably won’t be and even if it is there’s not a great chance it will actually come to me? 

I would argue, as Dr. Sexton has, that this is precisely why we need to teach baseball to our youth.  This slow, boring game is exactly what we need in a fast-paced, barely know what our neighbor looks like society.  There’s something about the slowness of the game that allows fans to have a conversation while maintaining focus on the game.  There’s something about the chatter and seemingly silly banter that happens on a baseball field.  What does “little bingo” mean anyway?  And how about “can of corn” or “frozen rope”?  This is the language of baseball.

Baseball, as Sexton points out, might not be a road to God, but it does teach us to be patient (both in the field and at the plate); it does teach us to take notice (what is the count on the batter, how many outs are there, what is the situation as a base runner); and it humbles us (the best hitters in Major League Baseball fail almost 70% of the time). 

This is the game I want my kids to learn to love.  This is the game that America needs.  We need to notice those around us and “discover the specialness of our life and being.”  In some ways this is the very essence of the Christian faith – love God and love our neighbor.  In loving God, we begin to discover the specialness of our life and being – we are created in God’s image, loved by the Creator, and deemed worthy of redemption.  In loving our neighbor, we begin to see those around us – we see that the other isn’t really all that different; in fact, we are more alike than we are different.

Baseball might not be the most exciting sport ever invented, but it has a lot to teach us – possibly even a lot to teach us about loving God and loving our neighbors as ourselves.  

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