Last night I decided that a total eclipse of the moon was more common than the Red Sox winning the World Series, so I dashed inside at 8:00 pm to finish watching the real wonder of the evening. The last innings were as satisfying as I had hoped. For while my Red Sox fandom only began eight games ago, when they were down three-zip to the Yankees, it has been as genuine as it has been brief.
It’s easy to like a team that calls themselves “idiots.” The linked article says, “Last year's Red Sox used the theme ‘Cowboy Up’ in the regular season before they went belly up in the playoffs against the Yankees. This week, Damon declared they were down on ‘Cowboy Up’ and instead were just ‘idiots’ with bad hair and slovenly uniforms who were out for fun on the field. ‘We're all idiots here,’ Ortiz said. ‘We all have fun. We all hug, kiss, grab, whatever.’
Unfortunately, one of the “whatevers” is a curse of modern-day athletics: pointing skyward in a God-praising gesture after scoring a touchdown, making a tackle, hitting a home run, striking out a batter, whatever [linked article is Google cache, to avoid registration]. Watching Red Sox players engage in this irritating ritual was the only fly in the ointment of an otherwise enjoyable World Series.
The worst example I saw featured an individual sky-pointing as a Red Sox “idiot” (in this case, a term richly deserved) rounded the bases after a home run, followed by a communal sky-pointing after he reached the dugout. He and a few other Christian teammates crouched, bent their heads together, and then pointed a bunch of index fingers at, presumably, where they think heaven lies.
I never saw God similarly thanked after a Red Sox player struck out or made an error. The idea that God is aiding the fortunes of one team, and not the other, is obviously ridiculous. Given that, in the big scheme of things, major league sports also is ridiculous, this sky-pointing business wouldn’t be a big deal for me except…it reflects an overall attitude among a disturbingly large number of Christians that God plays favorites.
George Bush clearly feels that God has chosen him to bring freedom to the Middle East, and that the United States has a special God-given mission in the world. This is no different in kind from a baseball player believing that God wanted and enabled him to hit a baseball out of the park, or to strike out an opposing player. Yet if God has the power to bring things that people consider “good,” then God also has the power to bring “bad” things.
In one of his sermons Meister Eckhart put it nicely: “Now I hear you ask, ‘How do I know that it is God’s will? My answer is that if it were not God’s will even for a moment, then it would not exist. Whatever is must be his will. If God’s will is pleasing to you, then whatever happens to you, or does not happen to you, will be heaven.”
Last night I found Johnny Damon’s first inning home run to be the epitome of genuine athletic good character. The long-haired Damon didn’t raise a finger, or even display much emotion. He simply ran around the bases with his head down. When he got to the dugout he exchanged a few hugs and high-fives with his teammates, but he looked like a calm, centered man who knew that all he had done was hit a first-inning home run in a baseball game that was a long way from being decided. And it is a game for God’s sake, not the Second Coming.
Thank you, Johnny, for acting like a real Christian, whether or not you are one. I hope your attitude rubs off on your ebullient sky-pointing brethren.