Thursday, June 28, 2007

Take Jesus out to the ballgame

Any sports fan has noticed athletes like to cross their chest or point to the heavens or take a knee after hitting a jack or scoring a touchdown or sinking a long putt or (fill in the blank). But it's not often that you hear about sports organizations getting involved with religious expression.

Not like the Promise Keepers who used to pack football stadiums with tens of thousands of weeping men. But, like I wrote about two years ago with the Inland Empire 66ers, a class A team for the Dodgers, a faith night for fans. Church at the ball park. Or, as the Cardinals call it at Busch, Christian Family Day. The idea is spreading, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Baseball has been called an American religion. Its players are worshipped, its rules memorized and debated like Scripture, its fields tended like sacred ground.

"The great, old ballparks ... are spoken of with the awe generally reserved for the great cathedrals of Europe," baseball historian Roberta Newman has written. "They are our Green Cathedrals."

For 17 years, St. Louis' Green Cathedral — Busch Stadium — and some of the gods who play there have hosted a group with a purpose higher than winning a pennant. They have come to the ballpark to win souls for Jesus Christ.

I've often wondered how many players are sincere when they give props to God, whether they are humble enough to believe their perfectly sculpted bodies and unreal talents come from someone beside themselves. I'm more cynical when it comes to business enterprises.

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