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Real Answers™
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Copyright: © ©2004 Gary Hardaway
640 words

DODGER SLUGGER STRUGGLES WITH RELIGIOUS INTEGRITY

By: Gary Hardaway

 

As Yom Kippur approached in September, Los Angeles Dodger first baseman Shawn Green struggled with a weighty question: to play or not to play. For religious Jews, like Green, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is the holiest day of the year. The community observes a day of fasting, grieving over one’s sins, and seeking reconciliation with God.

The issue kept him awake at night. "I've been struggling hard with this. . .. It's a really tough deal."

Meanwhile the Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants were battling each other for Major League Baseball’s National League West championship. At sunset on Friday, September 24 – the official start of Yom Kippur – the two archrivals opened a three game series that could eventually decide the division winner. The holy observance coincided with both Friday night and Saturday afternoon games.

Green, a power hitter with 27 homeruns and 81 runs batted in, plays an important role on the Dodgers. In five years he’s missed only ten games, including the last time Yom Kippur conflicted with the Dodger’s schedule.

Said Green, "I'm totally committed to getting to the postseason and winning, and at the same time I'm committed to my religion . . . . I wish there was an easy solution, but there's not."

As ESPN sports analyst Dan Patrick summed up the issue: "Which is more important: baseball or God?" Dan’s radio sidekick, former star pitcher Rob Dibble, argued that the team has to come first. "When you agree to join the team, for eight months you sacrifice everything: birthdays. weddings, births, deaths, and religious ceremonies. Your teammates, the coaches, the owners, the fans are all counting on you. It’s selfish to put your own individual desires ahead of your obligations to the team." Dibble, a Roman Catholic, emphasized, "I’m not saying Green’s faith is not important."

In 1965, Hall of Fame Dodger ace Sandy Koufax, sat out the first game of the World Series against Minnesota in order to fulfill his commitment to the Day of Atonement. In 1924, British Olympic sprinter Eric Liddell, a devout Christian, refused to run the final 100-meter dash because it fell on a Sunday. In each case, God won out over all other considerations.

The secularist insists that we leave God completely out of all practical or civic matters. Atheists constantly go to court to ban public prayers, religious symbols, the mention of God in the Pledge of Allegiance, and Bible study clubs on school campuses.

Canada has passed a law forbidding "homophobic hate speech" -- simply saying that homosexual acts are sinful. France has outlawed the wearing of veils by Muslim girls in school, punishing them for practicing their religion. Some employers fire employees who won't work on the Sabbath.

The Ten Commandments, however, begin with the admonition, "You shall have no other gods before me." Jesus, a devout Jew and the founder of Christianity, told his followers "Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness" (Matthew 6:33).

In other words, for people serious about their faith, God must have first place in daily conduct. One cannot shed one's faith upon entering the workplace or school or sports arena. Jobs and careers can become a virtual god if one forgets Who's the source of life and ultimate authority in all affairs. When God is displaced by something else -- by anything else -- the betrayal is called idolatry. To put it mildly: Not good.

Likewise, co-workers and teammates, as important as they are, must not claim our ultimate allegiance. Some things are more important than driving in the winning run in the bottom of the ninth.

As secularism grows more demanding, people of faith have to stay true to their convictions, whatever the risk or cost. You don't owe your soul to the company store. You owe it to Someone a lot more worthy.

Gary Hardaway has taught in universities in the USA, Lithuania and Canada. He holds a Ph. D. in foundations of education. "Real Answers™" furnished courtesy of The Amy Foundation Internet Syndicate. To contact the author or The Amy Foundation, write or E-mail to: P. O. Box 16091, Lansing, MI 48901-6091; amyfoundtn@aol.com

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