Baseball and faith

For a decade, All Saints’ has decamped to the baseball field thanks to the generosity of anonymous parishioners (last year being the exception when games were suspended due to COVID). All Saints’ will head out to see the Cannonballers in action against the Kinston Down East Wood Ducks on August 20th. You can register here.

The annual pilgrimage north to the land of balls and strikes, hot dogs and peanuts, goofy sideline games and conversations with the late Marshall Smith has prompted me to think deeply about parallels with baseball and Christian faith. Here is one.

Baseball and Christianity both recognize the very human ways we fall short. Baseball marks errors, Christianity names sins. Both understand flawlessness as an elusive goal not realized in this lifetime. The sheer number of games in a baseball season leaves aside any thought of a “perfect season.” Even the best batters get out more than fifty percent of the time. The baseball anthem “Take me out to the ball game!” ends with a strikeout, the only well-known sports song to end in failure. 

Recently, there has been a recapture in Christianity of what is called “the spirituality of imperfection,” seeing faith not as an exercise in attaining perfection but a pilgrimage of progress. Such understanding was a trademark of early Christianity, seen especially in the writings of the Desert Fathers and Mothers. Richard Rohr (priest and author) observes that spirituality of imperfection gradually gave way to a spirituality of perfection as Christianity became the religion of empire. He tracks some of the current discord among Christians as a clash of those demanding perfection, which he labels modern Phariseeism (observing this generally leans toward exclusion) and those for whom faith leads followers to recognize the many ways they fall short. Such faith focuses on growth in spiritual disciplines –gratitude, humility, tolerance, and forgiveness – and recognizes the absolute need for a Savior to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. 

To continue this refection, I can offer two (very different) books – Baseball as a Road to God: Seeing Beyond the Game by John Sexton and Falling Upward by Richard Rohr.