A tour of religious thought from the vantage point of that most perfect of cathedrals, the baseball diamond.
“Baseball can teach us that living simultaneously the life of faith and the life of the mind is possible, even fun,” writes lawyer, theologian and New York University president Sexton near the close of this examination of religion’s chief questions as seen through a baseball glove. So it can, and if Stephen Jay Gould observed that science and religion were nonoverlapping magisteria, baseball might just connect them into a Venn set. If science sharpens the mind to a razor edge, then, Sexton counters, religion is a medium of “contemplation, sensitivity, awareness, and mystical intensity”—and so, as every fan knows, is the game, which makes, as Sexton deems it, “a wonderful laboratory.” There are some big questions to ponder, many of which Sexton explores. If there is a just supreme being in charge, for instance, then why have the Cubs labored in the vineyards of hell for so many years? Can God hit a home run so powerful that He can’t catch it? More to the point, Sexton observes, baseball’s calendar is nearly liturgical. Its doubters often become converts to the faith, while its true believers are so often dashed against the rocks; it is a matter of saints (Lou Gehrig) and sinners (a much longer list), with some (Shoeless Joe Jackson) fitting on both lists. Sexton’s view is refreshingly small-c catholic, embracing Taoism, Dante and Yogi Berra in a single sweep, and his enthusiasm for both baseball and the otherworld is refreshing. Whether it will make a doubter of a believer is another matter, for while there may be no atheists in the foxhole, there are still those sad souls who march away from Wrigley Field season after season.
An elegant little meditation on life and the afterlife, well worth reading while waiting for spring.