Religion Scholar: God in Baseball

April 12, 2013

Gary LadermanGary Laderman, Chair of the Department of Religion, published an essay in the Huffington Post about the possible sacredness of baseball in our society.

“Springtime is here,” he begins. “The buds are blooming, the temperature is warming, and allergies are surging. It is also the beginning of one of the year’s most profound and powerful religious seasons. No, I’m not talking about Easter for Christians, Passover for Jews, or the Spring Equinox for pagans. I’m talking Baseball.”

Ladermen goes on to wonder how a sport can be religious, and he finds part of the answer in a new book, Baseball as a Road to God: Seeing Beyond the Game, by John Sexton, president of New York University, with Thomas Oliphant and Peter Schwartz. The comparison made by the authors, writes Laderman, requires “a suspension of questions about true vs. false religion,” yet the authors make a compelling connection between baseball and religious experience. The authors, he says, argue that the game has a spiritual essence, like most religions, that is “palpable and deeply meaningful for fans and fanatics.”

While “God” is at the heart of that experience, it doesn’t have the tradition-based biblical God the father in mind, according to Laderman. But “the liturgical nature of the season; the hallowed spaces surrounding the ‘axis mundi’ or sacred center of the baseball diamond; the philosophical and contemplative reveries associated with the sport – all of these elements that we generally assume to ‘count’ as religious elements are highlighted here to make a case about the spirituality embedded in the game.”

While baseball, like many other sports, Laderman continues, “embodies lessons about values and morality; can lead to experiences that are pivotal and transformative; provides an avenue for transcendence; identifies saints and heroes who achieve a divine status; gives meaning and purpose to life, and so on. If those kinds of characteristics do not add up to ‘religion’ with or without God, I don’t know what does.” 

To read the complete piece, click here.

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