Heart in the Game
I love baseball. I will watch televised professional games, softball, or little league play. My favorite way to watch is at the ballpark. My wife and I attend the home ballpark of our local triple A team about twenty times a season. This has the advantage of the addition of a hot dog and a beer while watching. It makes me think of the famous quote by Humphrey Boggart, “A hot dog at the game beats roast beef at the Ritz.”
I wasn’t always a fan. Growing up, I was never very good at sports and until my thirties I didn’t watch much. Toward the end of my high school teaching career I taught a fine arts course for high school students who needed a half credit of fine arts to graduate. I had 7 senior members of the high school baseball team in that class. The team was having an exceptional year and I started attending games to support them. These young players and I would discuss baseball between classes and, realizing that their teacher was pretty ignorant of the sport, they taught me a great deal about the game. The team went to state that year and I drove several hours to watch the game. I was hooked.
Of course, I was thrilled recently when the long-delayed season opener was played. But I admit to being surprised by the opening ceremony when both teams knelt and clutched a long black cloth in honor of the Black Lives Matter movement. I found this ceremony very moving. I couldn’t help but remember the furor over earlier protests when NFL football players had taken a knee. How far we have come in our collective, nascent understanding of how systematic racism has impacted our citizens of color in this country. And this is happening in all major sports and in many large companies. There is an awaking that is affecting most of the citizens of the United States, regardless of race.
I recently watched a short video on You Tube featuring the educator and racial equality advocate, Jane Elliott, from a talk she gave about four years ago. She proposed an interesting thought experiment.
“I want every white person in this room who would be happy to be treated as this society in general treats our citizens, our black citizens, if you, as a white person, would be happy to receive the same treatment that our black citizens do in this society, please stand.”
Audience: (no one stands)
“You didn’t understand the directions. If you white folks want to be treated the way blacks are in this society, stand.”
Audience: (No one stands)
“Nobody’s standing here. That says very plainly that you know what’s happening, you know you don’t want it for you. I want to know why you’re so willing to accept it or to allow it to happen for others.”
. (Transcript from Being Black, You Tube)
This thought experiment reminds me of a passage of scripture from Matthew.
So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 7:12)
I believe we, as Christians, are going to have to actively work for racial justice. We will have to have uncomfortable conversations and practice deep listening. It is not enough to not be a racist personally, we must intentionally and actively work against racism in our country.
There is much more work to do as we march toward a more perfect union. As believers, we are going to have to be sure we are in the game as we fight for racial equality.
Holy God, You are always more ready to hear than we are to pray. We ask for Your guidance and strength as we work to resist the evil of racism in our world. Give us hearts to listen to our brothers and sisters and to work for peace with justice. Help us to be part of building Your kingdom on earth. AMEN.
Grace & Peace,
- Ray Wheeler, Ph.D.