Green may be blue, but he knows his priorities
Although a brief stint in eastern Iowa more than 20 years ago turned me into a diehard Cub fan forever, I was raised in the realm of Dodgerland and retain a lingering allegiance to the boys in blue.That ancient allegiance grows stronger this holy week with the announcement by Dodger star Shawn Green that he would miss “at least one game” owing to his religion’s holiday, Yom Kippur, which began last night. Yom Kippur is, as I understand it, the most sacred of Jewish holidays, “the Sabbath of Sabbaths.” And although Green is not an observant Jew, he nevertheless feels a sense of obligation to the faith in which he was raised. This same dilemma occurred three years ago and, again, he chose not to play. He was quoted back then as saying, “It’s something I feel is an important thing to do, partly as a representative of the Jewish community and as far as my being a role model in sports for Jewish kids, to basically say that baseball, or anything, isn’t bigger than your religion and your roots.”Earlier this week, I was watching one of those sports shows that finds the rudest, loudest, most obnoxious sports writers and invites them to be at their rudest, loudest and most obnoxious. This particular rude, loud and obnoxious discussion revolved around whether Mr. Green would opt out of playing as he did three years ago.
Everyone on the set was absolutely convinced that he would not.”It’s just too big a series (with the Giants) for him not to play!” screamed one. “I can’t imagine him not playing this weekend!” shouted another. Score one for priorities.Admittedly, I have a big bias here. Over the 25 years I’ve been a minister, I’ve watched with more than a little chagrin and disappointment as my religion’s holy days have diminished in importance for many. Sundays were, once, a day for Christians to spend in worship and rest, reveling in the gift of Sabbath, a day set apart. Now, of course, Sunday is no different than any other day of the week. Most youth sports’ teams play on Sunday, forcing families to choose between two goods – or maybe I should say, two gods.
Would that more men and women witness to their faith as Mr. Green has done, contradicting the American heresy that nothing is more important than winning games.I can’t help but wonder what our idolization of sport in recent years means for the future. With fewer Shawn Greens as models, I suspect the seeming irrelevancy of religious practice will become even more pronounced. More than a few parents have told me stories of coaches who demand Sunday participation in practices and games. Absence on Sunday means the bench the rest of the week. Not many preachers can compete with that.What we can do is remind parents that absence on Sunday morning or Friday night or any holy day may be far more destructive to a boy or girl’s spirit than sitting out a few games.I submit that a society that places ultimate concern on winning children’s games is a society that will have inordinate difficulty getting along with others.It will be a society that fails to recognize the value of self-reflection and confession, the importance of compassion, the gift of understanding the ways of others, the joy of welcoming diversity and celebrating differences. It will be, perhaps, a society who sees the only resolution of conflict to be engaging in battles.
Hmmm. Even acknowledging the damage bad religion has perpetrated, I continue to believe that a healthy religion has an important place in a healthy society.It can be a vital source of moral formation and ethical guidance and certainly of more importance than playing a game. At least I think so.And so, it appears, does Shawn Green.Rich Mayfield writes a Saturday column. He can be reached email@example.com.
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