Sunday, July 13, 2014

Christianity and Baseball

There was a very odd editorial piece on Foxnews (why it was not on Foxsports, I don't know) about Baseball. It appears to have been written by "chief economist at the Heritage Foundation." So, in other words, he's a politico. Now, I know Foxnews gets a bad rap over being biased and too conservative, but in Foxnews' defense, I do not find it any more biased or brain dead to the Right that, say, CNN or MSNBC is to the Political Left, but that is neither here nor there. (Any comments simply bashing Foxnews will be deleted.) My point for this blog post is to discuss the editorial at hand and its argument.

I generally do not tend to read editorials on news websites, but the fact that it had to do with Baseball caught my attention. Thoughtful sports writing of any type is hard to come by, particularly on the internet. I believe this article reinforces that opinion. As an economist, I am curious as to how he comes to the conclusion that "Baseball is dying. The trend is unmistakable and undeniable." He gives no factual evidence to support that bald assertion. Instead, the author gives only anecdotal personal evidence about being about to remember stats from the 1960s and not currently and that there are many ball fields across the country with weeds growing in them. Teams being primarily stocked by Hispanic and Latino players seems to be a problem, though again, why exactly remains a mystery in his argument. Finally, he goes on to offer six suggestions to save baseball because...wait for it...baseball has to change or die.

I think that last change or die bit is what really got me going. I hear this all the time in the Church, particularly in my former occupation long, long ago in a denomination far, far away. In fact, I believe that was a major theme (and book subtitle if I recall) of a heretical former bishop of Newark. Ironically, that Bishop in terms of productivity shrunk his diocese by an exponential percentage during his tenure because he threw tradition under the bus and ended up creating a faith that was certainly not worth dying for. (Can you name a bona fide Liberal Protestant martyr? I can't.) My point being simply uprooting what is good in a tradition to change for the sake of change does not necessarily mean you are going to become popular. The Episcopal church is an example of just the opposite: they have embraced every major theological change in the last 50 years to synchronize and "be relevant" to modern culture, and the result? The Episcopal church does not even compose one half of one percent of the American population and is shrinking fast. Changing for the sake of change does not guarantee you will grow. Sometimes change signals to the greater population that you are desperate, and it actually accelerates your irrelevance. But, back to baseball...

I think in some ways, baseball and modern Christianity in America have a lot in common. They once dominated. They once were all most people knew and had little competition in their prospective arenas. They were once simply what people did culturally, whether the people actually liked or believed it in a meaningful way or not. They were once completely respected by culture. They once were largely segregated, but even in segregation, it was what everybody did.

Perhaps, most of all, baseball and Christianity have a similar philosophy in terms of time and economy. I posted a quote a few weeks ago that speaks a bit to this. Christianity is not governed by a clock. God moves in his own good time, and when the correct number of outs is finally played, only then will Jesus return and only then will God bring back all things unto Himself. God is eternal, meaning that he is apart from time. Christianity believes that God is ultimately the creator of all things, and that God will provide. This is the beauty of the creation story: out of chaos, God creates order. All those scary animals and vast oceans? Yeah, God created those too.

Simply put, dumbing things down or making things hip, whether in Christianity or baseball, is never the answer. If you unmoor a thing from what makes a thing great, then you end up with a cheapened product no one wants. Christianity cannot compete with the glitter of 'whatever feels good, do it' culture, nor can it compete with self-centered, it is all about me, right here, right now attention spans of the idiocracy, and neither can baseball for that matter. This philosophy may shrink the membership, but the membership that remains will be that much more passionate and focused.

That is a much better place to be in, even it means we are no longer have a monopoly on power.

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