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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Red Sox theology watch returns!

It's been a long time since the last episode of the Red Sox Theology Watch here at Philocrites. But today's Boston Globe delivers the real deal — on the front page, no less: a profile of the evangelical Christianity embraced by more players on the Red Sox than on any other team in Major League Baseball. Bob Hohler describes the influence of Baseball Chapel — "a ministry that provides all 30 major league teams with a chaplain" — and the Rev. Walt Day, the chaplain who meets with a dozen Red Sox players regularly for prayer, Bible study, and discussion. What's it all about?

Win or lose, Schilling and his fellow evangelicals said, the message remains the same.

"This is our platform, our place to speak our faith and live our faith," Timlin said. "This is a special gift from God, to play baseball, and if we can spread God's word by doing that, then we've almost fulfilled our calling."

Noteworthy: The team's new owners have been much more accommodating to Baseball Chapel and Rev. Day. Non-evangelical players, like Gabe Kapler (who's Jewish), say the evangelicals are a harmonious bunch who respect different beliefs. Several people attribute the team's strong esprit de'corps to the "spiritual unity" of the players — and it keeps them on straight and narrow:

Olerud said the Christian players serve as a support system, particularly on the road, where the seeds of many marital problems are planted.

"There are a lot of temptations on the road," Olerud said. "Having a group of guys who share a similar mind-set helps you get through the season."

Also worth noting: the players who participate regularly in Baseball Chapel are all white guys — Nixon, Timlin, Wakefield, Varitek, Schilling, Mirabelli, Mueller, Clement, Olerud, Myers, Graffanino, and Bradford — although Hohler writes that "a number of the team's Latin American players also have attended chapel."

Now if we could just get Curt Schilling a copy of the letter 800 students and faculty at Calvin College wrote to President Bush when he visited their Christian college . . .

("Faith Binds Many on Sox: Evangelical Christians Give Sport a Spiritual Context," Bob Hohler, Boston Globe 8.31.05, reg req'd; "Bush Visit to Calvin College Exposes Divisions," Collin Hansen, Christianity Today 5.20.05; previous installments of the Red Sox Theology Watch)

Copyright © 2005 by Philocrites | Posted 31 August 2005 at 8:05 AM

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Dudley Jones:

August 31, 2005 12:21 PM | Permalink for this comment

Your article mentions of the race of the players. That reminded me of UU GA 2006. Are you going to comment on the racial incidents there? UUs are quick to beat up Christians when they stumble on racism. What does Philocrites have to say about UU GA 2006 on that topic?


August 31, 2005 05:10 PM | Permalink for this comment

Do US sports teams usually have chaplains like the Red Sox? There are quite a few soccer teams here in Spain who have one (Catholic, of course). And this year is the first that the Barcelona soccer team has not gone to offer the League cup they won to the Black Madonna (there is a new president that is not so devout as the others). This is particularly curious because the Barcelona team was founded by a Swiss Protestant, but that was back in 1899.


August 31, 2005 05:58 PM | Permalink for this comment

Jaume, I don't know a lot about chaplains to professional sports teams -- although I've been curious about the phenomenon of Evangelical professional athletes for some time and knew that Evangelical groups were funding a variety of programs specifically for professional athletes. (It's great marketing for Evangelical Christianity, obviously, in addition to providing a genuine service to the athletes themselves.)

From the Boston Globe article, it's clear that an independent organization funds the chaplains for all the Major League Baseball teams -- and the same chaplain that meets with the Red Sox also meets with the players of the New England Patriots football team.

Dudley, my mention of the cultural makeup of the baseball ministry strikes me as unrelated to any of the discussions about "racial incidents" at G.A. I just don't see the connection.

As far as the Globe story goes, I don't see any evidence that there's anything racist about the baseball ministry. Nothing in the story conveys that to me, although I would have been interested to know a lot more about the religious lives of other players. I was simply struck by the fact that the Evangelical ministry so clearly connects with the team's white players.

If, as you say, some UUs "are quick to beat up Christians when they stumble on racism," I certainly wouldn't count myself among them. Did my post strike you that way? That was not my intent.

As for G.A.: When I have something to say about a topic, I tend to say it; when I don't, I don't. There are a lot of contentious issues among UUs that I don't find any reason to weigh in on. This is one of them.

Bob Smietana:

September 9, 2005 02:00 PM | Permalink for this comment

The evangelicals on the Sox (and the Patriots--whom Walt Day is also the chaplain for) have a refreshing answer when asked if God somehow ordained their success, as seen in this clip:

"The Sox evangelicals said they often have been asked if they believe God wanted them to win the World Series rather than the Yankees or the Cardinals.

''I don't know what he thinks," Myers said. ''If I knew that, I'd be God."

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