America Needs More Baseball (part 1)

 
 

Use your imagination for a minute. Trust me, I think you will like this. I want you to imagine a football game being played in Heaven. Jesus is the quarterback, and you are His star receiver. It’s 3rd down and 8, and the defense, led by David and his Mighty Men, are showing blitz. Jesus looks at you and gives a nod; not just any nod, but a nod that says, “it’s coming to you so be ready.” A nod that says “It’s go time!” Jesus says, “Hut,” and thunder cracks as pads hit. You run as fast as you can, which is faster than ever because you are in Heaven, after all, and the ball comes just over your right shoulder. It is a perfect pass. Touchdown! The celebration dances ensue. Moses gives you a chest bump. Jacob does that weird jump-up-turn-and-bump-hips thingy (but this time Jacob isn’t limping because this is Heaven, remember). The crowd of multitudes of every tribe, tongue and nation cheer with a sound so loud that it shakes the stadium. Is your blood boiling yet? Good. America loves football. I would venture to say that this image is one that most decent red-blooded Americans would love to have of Heaven.

We love the idea of forcefully advancing. We love the idea of an enemy attacking or a foe oppressing and our taking the foe by force. “For freedom and country!” we shout. Some might say Jesus even likes this idea. He says in Matthew 11:12:

  And from the time John the Baptist began preaching until now, the Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing, and violent people are attacking it.

This verse is one of the toughest verses in the New Testament to translate. (Just give this article a quick browse, and you’ll get a sense of how tough it is.) I share Martin Luther’s view that this verse is actually a good thing. Jesus is saying that the Kingdom is advancing forcefully into this world and violent men are eager to join in on the fun. The word that describes this activity in the Greek is βιάζεται (transliterated, biazetai). “Violent men” is doesn’t do the word justice because it refers to people who pursue something because they are eager to attain it! Jesus wants violent men. When I read this verse, which is also accounted in Luke 16:16, I can’t help but think of football. I want to forcefully advance with Jesus down the football field of this life with men and women who want to do the same. I want to blow through the Kingdom of Darkness with the Kingdom of Light. I want to score all the touchdowns or make all the amazing tackles. The truth is that America also wants this (though not always for His Kingdom).

Even before the founding of our nation we have been known to forcefully advance. We forcefully advanced into Christopher Columbus’ “new world” by ingenious play calling and audibles where we blitzed our way through native territory claiming land along the way as we saw fit. The poor Native Americans never saw it coming. They should have had better practice and film study. Victory took a few hundred years but it has been moderately swift and easy. (To show our appreciation for the sacrifice of the Native Americans, we named a few sports teams after them. I’m sure they’re thrilled.) We still have this blitz mentality today, and it pervades the American psyche. Freedom is perhaps our highest value, but by “freedom” we do not mean our freedom; we mean my freedom. My individual freedom now and at any cost. Freedom without patience. (By the way, the Cowboys are playing the Indians…I mean Redskins… next Monday night. It’s probably going to be the highest rated MNF game in terms of viewings so far this season.)

The problem with the football mentality of life, faith and country is that it turns into a sort of attention deficit disorder way of viewing life. Why wait for something when you can have it now? We begin to make idols out of things because we can’t cope with having to be patient. We are obsessed with football and with winning right now. Here’s an example. In 1980, an NFL head coach had an average tenure of about 4.61 seasons. In 2003, the number of seasons dropped to 2.75 seasons, and the number continues to fall. Coaches and players are becoming sacrifices in our idol worship. When a player gets hurt on the field, does it bother us when people clap?

Exodus 32 tells the story of Israel creating and worshiping an idol. Do you know why, after all the miracles The Lord performed, they thought it was a brilliant idea to worship a golden calf? (The Charlton Heston version got this scene all wrong, by the way.) It was because Moses was taking too long getting instructions from God! They got impatient, so they made their own god.

  When the people saw how long it was taking Moses to come back down the mountain, they gathered around Aaron. “Come on,” they said, “make us some gods who can lead us. We don’t know what happened to this fellow Moses, who brought us here from the land of Egypt.”

Sounds pretty ADD to me. They fired Moses to look for a new head coach. The result was a divine dumpster fire. God even threatened to wipe out the whole nation of Israel and start over with Moses. Thankfully, Moses appealed to God’s merciful side.

We read that passage and think, how idiotic of them, but we shouldn’t be so quick to judge because we do this every day. Idol worship follows impatience, and it destroys a nation and dehumanizes people as a result. Israel didn’t want Moses. They wanted a golden calf. America doesn’t care about who is playing for their team or who suffers as a result just so long as our team wins. This mentality was exposed in Kansas City in 2012. The Chiefs were enduring a rough start to the season and poor performance by then-quarterback Matt Cassel. Cassel had thrown two picks when he was hit by a Baltimore Ravens defender and forced out of the game because of the resulting injury. Then something surprising happened: fans cheered. It didn’t matter that a man was hurt. No, the fans got a chance to see a new quarterback play and hopefully win the game. It’s idolatry and dehumanization front and center, and it shows us what we really value.

What’s more, this false value is reinforced by the brutality we get to see at least four days a week on TV through both NFL and NCAA football. America needs to embrace patience and big-picture selflessness once again. We need to be reintroduced to perfection because we have lost touch with what it is.

America needs more baseball. More on that to come.