Batter Up: 7 Spiritual Truths from the Baseball Diamond

Sports are one of the great sources for spiritual insights. As a child, I remember paying extra attention when the rabbi used an illustration  from baseball or football.

baseball life lessons

They helped me visualize and understand the spiritual lesson. Of all sports, baseball lends itself best to Jewish wisdom.

Every year as the season opens, I am reminded of this truth. As a Chicagoan, most of whose synagogue members are Cubs fans, I need to draw from that wisdom often.

Here are seven insights gleaned from the baseball diamond.

Can God Make It in Hollywood?

God is now on the Hollywood A-List. With the release over the last month of both Son of God and Noah, studios have clearly bet on the popularity of religious themes. Will they succeed?

hollywood

The answer depends on what we mean by success. If success is studio profits, the answer is probably yes. Religious themes resonate with Americans. We know the stories and recognize their power.

If success is spiritual growth, however, the answer is no. The purposes of film and faith differ fundamentally. To say a film can teach faith is like saying a great tennis coach would also make a great basketball coach. 

Are You Married?

“Life is like a wedding.” So Jewish wisdom teaches. What does this mean?

wedding canopy

One rabbi says it is the Jewish equivalent of “carpe diem, seize the day, live life to its fullest.” This rabbi points to one of the Hebrew words for wedding, Huppah.

Huppah means wedding, but it also refers to the wedding canopy.  A canopy goes up. Then, soon after the marriage ceremony, it is taken down. Our lives are similar.

We are here for a brief period. Then we are no more. During that brief period, we should live as if we are at a wedding, celebrating, making merry, enjoying ourselves with legitimate pleasures.

A More Original Idea

Is It Ever Okay to Hate? A Lesson for Purim

In Sunday school we tend to emphasize the inspiring parts of the Bible. “Love your neighbor as yourself,” and “Do justly, love mercy, walk humbly with thy God.” (Leviticus 19:18; Micah 6:8)

Tough Topics

But what about the more difficult passages? What about the murdering and pillaging and sexual perversity? As we begin the Jewish holiday of Purim, we confront an immensely challenging text.

A People to Destroy 

The Blessings of an Imperfect World

The most charming character in Disney’s hit movie Frozen is the snowman Olaf. He is goofy and wise at the same time. His wisdom is a gift for each of us.

olaf

Why Olaf? 

Olaf is a snowman who dreams of summer. For him it is perfect in every way. It is the time , as he sings, when he can tan, play with the followers, and roll around in the sand.

The joke is, of course, is that as a snowman, he can only live in the cold. He is wishing for the one thing thing he can’t have. He is idealizing the one experience he can never experience. 

Life is not a Fairy Tale

4 Problems with New Son of God Movie

This time was supposed to be different.

son of god

Earlier this week I was invited to see the Chicago premier of the Son of God film, directed by Mark Burnett and Roma Downey. They achieved great success with The Bible miniseries on the History Channel.

I was excited. As someone dedicated to building bridges between Jews and Christians, I hoped this film would help and educate. I was wrong. Here’s why:

  1. This time was supposed to be different: Different from Mel Gibson’s horrific violent film of a decade ago. Free of the anti-Semitism and Jewish caricatures of a decade ago: Did it succeed? NO. Even as the Anti-Defamation league signed off on the film, it persists in displaying anti-Jewish stereotypes.
  2. The Laughing Jewish High Priest at Jesus’ execution: Every movie and every story needs a villain. Filmmakers decided to make the Jewish High Priest Caiaphas the villain. That’s not how historians recount what happened: It was Pontius Pilate who was the true villain, and the film  does not show that.
  3. Jesus was Jewish, and this is not shown well in the film: In fact, even as the film tries to convey a Christian message, it does so sporadically and out of context; anyone who is not already a believer would have a hard time discerning any spiritual message.
  4. A big missed opportunity: Every filmmaker makes choice. I do not expect this film to be perfect or to be something I show in a class. Yet, Burnett and Downey constantly choose the outrageous over the plausible, the exclusive over the inclusive.

They could have done much better. Since many churches, especially here in Chicago, are sending big groups to the film, it is all the more disappointing to have missed a chance for deeper learning and repair of the religious divide in America.

Question: Have You Seen the Film? What Do You Think?