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A BRIDGE FOR COMMUNITY

Let’s be honest...explaining to others who we are as a church is not always an easy task.  With a name like “Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)”, you’ve said a mouthful, but you might find people looking at you like you haven’t clarified anything; or worse they may get the wrong impression.  I remember speaking with a woman about my church – upon hearing that we were part of the Christian Church (D.O.C.) she exclaimed, “that sounds like one of those ‘bible-thumping’ churches!  Are you one of those ‘bible-thumping’ churches?”  I explained that yes, we do believe in the Bible, but no, we probably are not the stereotypical ‘bible-thumping’ church that she is thinking of...read more

 

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Tuesday
Oct112011

What Major League Baseball Teaches Us About Forgiveness

Originally hailing from Southeastern Michigan, I celebrated last Thursday night as my beloved Detroit Tigers defeated the New York Yankees in the Major League Baseball playoffs. However, the next morning I was disappointed (though not surprised) when ESPN, the self-proclaimed world-wide leader in sports, reported on the game. The first 10 minutes of analysis delved into the inner workings of the Yankee organization, behavior and even psyche. My winning team barely received mention throughout the morning news cycle. Granted, I am not emotionally neutral on this one, but it is true that more than any other major sport, major league baseball desires “big market” teams playing deep into the postseason (read: Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Chicago, etc.). Bigger markets mean higher ratings. Higher ratings, of course, mean more revenue.

ESPN acknowledges that it gives more air time to big market teams. Mike Greenberg, on the network’s “Mike and Mike in the Morning” program repeatedly says, “We talk about what you fans want to hear.” But I have always wondered the extent to which that is true. Do we “want” what they give us because that is primarily what we receive? Or do they give us what they give us because we do, indeed, want it? It is a version of the old Euthyphro question for Socrates: Is a behavior holy because the gods enjoy it? Or do the gods enjoy it because it is holy? Either way, when it comes to big markets and baseball, ESPN is fulfilling expectations, without stopping to question the origin and the accuracy of those expectations.

This is similar to hazing. The purpose of hazing (military, fraternities), so the distributors of it will say, has something to do with bonding, brotherhood, commitment, etc. But I wonder if underlying it all is a sense that “Because it happened to me, I get to do it to you.” A cycle of behavior is continued, thereby fulfilling an expectation, without stopping to question the usefulness of the expectation that is being fulfilled.

Retribution: in some ways it feels like our preferred international pastime. “What has happened to me, I will do to someone else.” “Because I had to endure it, so must someone else.” But it was Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, and Gandhi before him, who uttered the challenging phrase, “If everyone repaid eye for eye and tooth for tooth, pretty soon we’d all be blind and toothless.” Which is where the Truth and Reconciliation movement in South Africa comes in. Established in 1995 as an attempt to forge a new South Africa after years of apartheid, it was built on the principles of “restorative” and not “retributive” justice. Victims of apartheid violence and oppression had the opportunity to share their personal stories and testimonies, while perpetrators would do the same and the opportunity to appeal for amnesty. No system human organization – be it in the area of conflict resolution or something else – is perfect and the merits of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s work is open for debate. But what strikes me as important is that it was established upon the principle that there is no possible way toward a new community unless the cycle of retribution is interrupted. Retaliation would not be accepted as an inevitable response to the end of apartheid. New stories must be told. All stories must be heard. And together, then, it may be possible for a new story of the nation to be written.

However reconciliation and forgiveness are defined, they will always be the results of long, arduous, painful and difficult processes which entail many steps. But they must begin with the step of stopping the cycle of retribution and not acting as is perhaps societally expected. Violence, retribution and retaliation must never be accepted with a shake of the head and a “Well you know, boys will be boys” attitude. Such behavior may entice us with good feelings in the short run, but it is never a long-term strategy for wholeness. That’s why Paul said in Romans 12:19: “Beloved, never avenge yourselves but leave room in your heart for the wrath of God.”

I’ve always wondered about ESPN’s coverage of major league baseball. What if they told a different story? What if they spent the majority of the air time on the winning teams regardless of market size? How might that influence our “expectations” of what we receive? I’m sure the marketing execs at the world-wide leader in sports would say that ratings are high when they do what they currently do. So why change? To which I would respond: Are ratings high because the network shows a preference for big markets? Or would they be high regardless of market-size coverage? But that’s a question for another day… or for Euthyphro.

Blessings… Michael

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