Let There Be Baseball - but Which Side Is God's? ; Fervent and Faithful, Baseball Fans and Theologians Duke It out over Almighty Picks in the Playoffs

By Kim Campbell writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, October 15, 2003 | Go to article overview

Let There Be Baseball - but Which Side Is God's? ; Fervent and Faithful, Baseball Fans and Theologians Duke It out over Almighty Picks in the Playoffs


Kim Campbell writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


On the way to the World Series, a lot of praying goes on: Fans do it. Players do, too. But all the petitioning makes some people wonder: Who is God rooting for, anyway?

Which team the Almighty prefers is heating up conversation at watering holes and curbsides around America. To many, the very topic may seem irreverent, presumptuous, or even silly. But debate is happening nonetheless.

One reason for all the theological talk is the postseason appearance of the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs. Their so- called "curses" - for selling Babe Ruth to the Yankees, and turning away a retributive fan's pet goat, respectively - are referred to almost more often in the media than the strikeout abilities of Cubs pitchers.

Fascination with the curses is prompting fans and others to consider not only whose insignia is favored on high, but also what attention God pays to the details of human life, like free time. For some who study religion - and sports - the link between the two is obvious.

"I believe that God takes a deep interest in the sorts of things that we care deeply about," says Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif. "Play, entertainment, leisure-time activities are an important part of our lives. I would be disappointed if God did not care about these things."

So would a lot of fans. An Episcopal nun in Boston says her town's team is the chosen one. A Jewish legal consultant in Chicago is holding out hope for the Cubs, as the title of his books "Is God a Cubs Fan?" and "Is God Still a Cubs Fan?" suggest. And a fireman in New York told a Boston Herald reporter recently that the Yankees were going to defeat the Red Sox because "it's the way God wants it."

Much of this talk imputes to God the ability to simultaneously deal with, say, the crisis in the Middle East and keeping Red Sox players from shouting obscenities at the Yankees (see Game 3 of current series).

At least one sportswriter says there's enough worldly evidence to go on without involving God in the discussion. "As an imperfect Christian, I try very much only to mention God when all other explanations have failed," says Allen Barra, an author and contributor to the online magazine Slate and The Wall Street Journal. "In my estimation, there are plenty of very good explanations as to why the Red Sox lose year after year - many of them, I might add, vividly on display during [Saturday's brawl- filled game] - that don't necessarily have to do with God."

Some scholars, however, say that religion and baseball go together as comfortably as a pop fly in an outfielder's glove. It's a connection made repeatedly in movies like "Field of Dreams" and "Bull Durham," and in numerous books about the religious aspects - the values and shared experience - of sports. …

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