TEXAS FAITH 97: Can baseball bring you closer to God?

Dallas Morning News,

Dallas Morning News,

Each week we will post a question to a panel of about two dozen clergy, laity and theologians, all of whom are based in Texas or are from Texas. They will chime in with their responses to the question of the week. And you, readers, will be able to respond to their answers through the comment box.

A tip of the hat to Daniel Kanter for this question. He sent along a link about New York University President John Sexton’s book, Baseball as a Road to God.

Sexton has taught on a course on this subject for more than a decade, where, as this review suggests, he uses “baseball to illustrate the elements of a spiritual life.” I have not read his book, but the link I am sending along — along with this E.J. Dionne column — report that he uses writings about the game, its characters and its rituals to suggest that “we can touch the spiritual dimension of life” through baseball.

His co-author, former Boston Globe columnist Thomas Oliphant, put his own twist on this in a CBS essay. Oliphant talked about “the special feelings in seemingly secular settings that suggest the spiritual. The feelings can be as powerfully simple as having a catch with your dad, or watching the St. Louis Cardinals come back twice from being one strike away from elimination in the World Series, or actually hearing Jackie Robinson breathe as he sprinted home.

Now, some of us who are Texas Rangers fans may equate watching the Cardinals come back twice from being one strike away from losing the World Series — to us — as a near-death experience. But there is a point here worth discussing:

Do secular settings like a baseball game lead us to the spiritual dimension of life? If so, what are those for you? In what ways does the secular lead you to a deeper spiritual understanding?

NITYANANDA CHANDRA DAS, minister of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness), Dallas 

Both matter and spirit are God’s energies. If our relationship with matter is seen in the light of spirit, meaning that if we are conscious of matter’s connection to God, then yes, that will lead us to a higher spiritual understanding.

What is that consciousness? If one looks at matter, or a secular event, in the mode of personal or extended personal enjoyment, then that is materialistic. Such consciousness further binds the soul in his competitive attitude towards God. On the other hand, if one sees matter in the mode of service to God then such vision is liberating.

For example a materialist may look at a forest as a place to rob resources and the servant of God may see it as a place to meditate on the Lord. It is simply a difference in vision.

Games such as baseball are not enacted in mode service to God, but rather one’s own personal separate enjoyment. Therefore, that situation may be hard pressed to lead one to higher spiritual understandings.

However, that is it not to say that other secular events, such as star gazing, cannot be seen in a God conscious manner.

To see all responses of the TEXAS Faith panel click here.