Search Results for: Yoga

LATimes pours out its love for the ‘spiritual’ Williamson

A positive news story about a political newcomer isn’t unusual. Newspapers and television outlets do these sorts of things regularly, and for all sorts of reasons.

So on one level, it’s not all that surprising that the Los Angeles Times offered a rather complimentary — some might even say “fawning” — profile of New Age authoress and teacher Marianne Williamson, who is challenging longtime area Congressman Henry J. Waxman in the 2014 elections. Here is a sample of the prose:

It was a Thursday night, normally a slow time for churches and synagogues, but the sanctuary of The Source Spiritual Center in Venice was packed.

When a diminutive woman stepped to the front of the room, people paused in their scramble for a chair or purchase of a T-shirt and engulfed her in cheers and applause.

She called for a moment of silence. The audience stilled. She dedicated the evening ahead “to all that is good … to the fulfillment of love” in everyone.

“And so it is,” concluded Marianne Williamson — friend of Oprah, associate of Hollywood elites, best-selling author and charismatic spiritual leader.

Williamson has spent three decades offering a path to inner peace for those who seek it. Now she’s entering an arena in which inner — and outer — peace seems in particularly short supply: She’s challenging Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Beverly Hills) for the congressional seat he first won when Gerald Ford was president and the country was preparing to celebrate its bicentennial.

“This is a journey we’re all taking together over the next few months,” Williamson told the crowd of 200 or so who had shown up that night to volunteer for her campaign. In the cadence of a revival-meeting preacher, she talked of a corrupt system in which the two major parties and the corporations that fund them have “locked out” citizens and ignored some of the country’s most pressing problems.

There’s no doubt that Williamson has a following, and that many, if not most, of those followers appreciate the spiritual aspect of her work, which often centers on “A Course in Miracles,” the so-called “Third Testament” and New Age tract that is popular with a large number of readers. Her own books have often been best sellers, including “A Return to Love,” which appears to have catapulted Williamson into national prominence. Williamson also appears to have some solid credentials in terms of community service and activism, so her entry into politics is a bit more serious than some celebrities’ ventures might have been.

The Times discusses all this and includes a bit more about Williamson’s spiritual journey:

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Where’s the religion at Washington’s National Cathedral?

The financial difficulties facing the Washington National Cathedral were the subject of a local news item in the Washington Post this week.

The basic story line is valid: “cathedral short of cash seeks creative ways to generate income.” But as  GetReligion editor tmatt observed in an an impromptu story conference, this piece had journalistic “holes you can drive a ’60s VW Microbus through… .”

The few errors in Anglican polity found in the story would likely distress only the perpetually aggrieved, but the real difficulty is that the Post declined to ask or explore the question: “why?”

It assumes the worldview of the liberal wing of mainline churches, making this the measure of all things religious. By not asking “why” this story could just as well be written about the troubles facing the local symphony orchestra or art museum.

I was hesitant in taking this story, however, as my theological sympathies are not with the cathedral’s leadership. The Very Rev. Gary Hall, dean of the Diocese of Washington’s cathedral, last year told the Post he was a “non-theistic Christian.” The Aug 1, 2013 story in the Style section penned by Sally Quinn quoted him as saying:

Jesus doesn’t use the word God very much,” he says. “He talks about his Father.”

Hall explains: “Where I am now, how do I understand Jesus as a son of God that’s not magical? I’m trying to figure out Jesus as a son of God and a fully human being, if he has both fully human and a fully divine set of chromosomes. .?.?. He’s not some kind of superman coming down. God is present in all human beings. Jesus was an extraordinary human being. Jesus didn’t try to convert. He just had people at his table.”

It is the glory, or the curse, of Anglicanism that the ranks of its clergy contain men and women who think this way — and others who see this as nonsense.

The divide is not merely local or new — in 2009 I interviewed the Argentine leader of the Anglican churches in southern South America and he told me that meaningful debate between left and right was not possible. He and his conservative colleagues from Africa, India and Asia believed the leader of the American Episcopal church was “not a Christian” as they understood the term.

The disdain does not go one way. Liberal American and English Anglicans have described the theological and intellectual worldview of their third world confreres as being one step above witchcraft.

The split between left and right, liberals and conservatives, progressives and traditionalists — none of these terms adequately describes the combatants — did not arise in 2003 with the election of a “gay” bishop in the Episcopal Church. While there have always been factions within the Anglican world for centuries — high/low, Evangelical/Anglo-Catholic — the latest Anglican wars began in the 30s and hit their stride in the 60s.

Fights over women clergy, premarital sex, abortion, euthanasia, contraception/family planning, divorce and remarriage, pacifism, the revision of the Book of Common Prayer, Vietnam and the civil rights movement and its various permutations of race, gender, class, ethnicity and sexual orientation have been debated ever since.

The temptation I faced was to cloak my criticisms of the underlying issues in the story with the cover of discussing proper journalism and write about bad religion rather than bad journalism. Hence, my reluctance to jump on this story.

What then is the GetReligion angle? What holes are there in this story through which I may drive my VW microbus? The lede states:

When Congress authorized the creation of Washington National Cathedral in 1893, it envisioned a national spiritual home. Decades later, it became a setting for presidential funerals, sermons by the likes of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and worship services for epic national tragedies such as Newtown and Sept. 11.

But would it have thought of tai chi and yoga mats?

The article describes a program of events and activities designed to bring people into the cathedral. The story then moves to context:

As mellow as it all sounds, the week-long public program — “Seeing Deeper” — is part of a highly orchestrated drive by the nation’s second-largest cathedral to remake itself and survive in an era when religious institutions are struggling. And what’s more institutional than a huge cathedral?

Washington National Cathedral, one of the Episcopal Church’s three major U.S. cathedrals, was already forced to halve its $27 million budget in the mid-2000s because of falling revenue before an earthquake in 2011 caused damage tallying an additional $26 million. Although it is now in the black, it must raise its roughly $13 million annual operating budget as well as the remaining $19 million for earthquake repairs.

And then moves to a discussion of the dean’s plans to raise income and attendance and to be a voice for progressive values in Washington.

What is missing from this story, though, is a nod to the reasons for the cash shortfall — apart from the occasional earthquake and economic downturn.

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What was the demon Adam Lanza locked in that hard drive?

From the beginning, there was a familiar moral tension at the heart of news coverage of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. It’s hard to ponder such a hellish act without wanting to be able to name the demon, to link the actions of the young gunman to some kind of logical motive.

Was religion involved? Maybe. Maybe not.

Did faith play any role in the dramas inside the silent home in which Adam Lanza and his mother Nancy lived those final years of their lives? Her funeral was held in the First Congregational Church of Kingston, N.H., but that could have been a simple matter of convenience — choosing the historic church in the middle of the typical New England public square.

Was evil involved in this tragedy? Yes. But what kind? As I wrote early on, in a post here at GetReligion:

In most cases, debates about massacres of this kind devolve into discussions between gun-control liberals, gun-freedom libertarians and various kinds of cultural conservatives who see evidence of various forms of social decay — from violence in our movies, to splintered homes, to increasingly value-neutral schools, to first-person-shooter video games that resemble the programs our military leaders use to make soldiers more willing to pull triggers in combat. Then there are people like me whose beliefs fall in more than one of these camps.

At the very least, Newtown was another one of those stories that — logically enough — pushes people to ask that ancient/modern question: Where was God? As your GetReligionistas noted at the time, there is a theological name for that puzzle and, tragically, anyone who wants to cover the religion beat needs to know it:

the·od·i·cy noun …

: defense of God’s goodness and omnipotence in view of the existence of evil

The painful, dry New York Times report about the final Sandy Hook report makes it perfectly clear that the investigators have not been able to name that evil and they refused to speculate about Lanza’s motive, even though it it is clear that his actions were premeditated.

If there was a motive, it almost certainly was contained in one particular computer hard drive that Lanza destroyed, doing such a meticulous job that investigators were not able to recover the contents. The lede describes the key location in this story, which was the computer-driven Lanza’s darkened haven from the outside world:

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Fake bishop or episcopi vagantes?

Media outlets had a lot of fun with a recent story about a Vatican gatecrasher. A sample of the headlines include Time: Fake Bishop Tries to Sneak into Vatican Meeting; Vanity Fair: Theological Espionage! Fake Bishop Sneaks Into Vatican; NPR: At The Vatican, ‘No Rush’ To Set Conclave; And A Fake Bishop Tries To Get In; Daily Beast: Fake Bishop Sneaks Into Vatican; San Francisco Chronicle: Vatican not amused by fake bishop who posed with cardinals; and CNN: Fake bishop busted and booted from Vatican.

That story begins:

Move over, Tareq and Michaele Salahi, the Virginia ex-couple who famously – or infamously – crashed President Obama’s first White House state dinner. There’s a new impostor posing with dignitaries, and he set his sights on an even more coveted gathering.

Meet Ralph Napierski, a German self-declared bishop who reportedly called himself “Basilius,” said he was with the nonexistent “Italian Orthodox Church” and set out to infiltrate a Monday meeting of cardinals at the Vatican.

The fake bishop donned a purple sash (really a scarf) over his vestments and mingled with cardinals and others who’d flown in from around the globe ahead of the conclave to pick a new pope. He smiled wide and posed for cameras while shaking hands with Cardinal Sergio Sebiastiana. He tried to blend in.

And here’s ABC News: Prankster Nearly Sneaks Into Meeting of Cardinals

The Swiss Guard promptly ejected the man, later identified as Ralph Napiersi, who told reporters his name was “Basilius.” Napierski said he belonged to an Italian Orthodox Church, which does not exist.

A website that appears to be associated with him describes him as a bishop of Corpus Dei, a fictional Catholic group. The site not only has a fanciful coat of arms for the fake bishop – the motto “Horse of Christ” – it traces his phony credentials all the way back to an 18th Century Patriarch of Babylon.

Napierski is a proponent of “Jesus Yoga” and claims to be a keeper of relics, items of religious veneration because they were touched by or belonged to a saint.

“We want to equip churches (especialy [sic] those with low income) with high class relics,” it says on his website. There are lots of spelling mistakes on the site.

Now what’s fascinating to me about the media coverage of this situation is how it is 180 degrees different from the coverage we see of Roman Catholic WomenPriests! In those stories, there is no such language mocking the individuals claiming to be Catholic priests or the group they’re aligned with. There’s no real questioning of the claim to being genuinely Catholic in at least some sense.

But, as could be said about many extreme positions, this coverage goes way too far in the opposite direction. To understand how and why, I’d recommend reading through Orthodox pastor Andrew Damick’s post “Media Discovers Episcopus Vagans at Vatican, Film at 11.”

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Prosperity Buddhism and a grisly desert death

A few years ago, I read a fascinating story in the New York Times about Buddhist teachers Michael Roach and Christie McNally. A decade earlier, they’d taken vows never to separate, night or day. And yet, the article explained, they were celibate. It was one of those interesting, if a tad fluffy, stories written under the heading “Living Together.” The headline was “Making Their Own Limits in a Spiritual Partnership:”

Their partnership, they say, is celibate. It is, as they describe it, a high level of Buddhist practice that involves confronting their own imperfections and thereby learning to better serve the world…

But their practice — which even they admit is radical by the standards of the religious community whose ideas they aim to further — has sent shock waves through the Tibetan Buddhist community as far as the Dalai Lama himself, whose office indicated its disapproval of the living arrangement by rebuffing Mr. Roach’s attempt to teach at Dharamsala, India, in 2006. (In a letter, the office said his “unconventional behavior does not accord with His Holiness’s teachings and practices.”)

The Dalai Lama’s statement against the teachings of Mr. Roach did not receive any of the opprobrium that, for instance, similar statements the Vatican issued this week against books that aren’t in accord with that church body’s doctrine have, but that’s just the way the media works with these things, I think. The article was favorable toward its subjects without being too imbalanced. And it had enough of an impact on me that I wondered if they were the same people who were discussed in a more recent New York Times piece. They were.

And boy is it a sad story. Datelined Bowie, Arizona, we’re told about a daring rescue attempt in a cave 7,000 feet up a rugged desert mountain. Inside the cave was a jug with an inch of water and McNally, delirious. Her husband, a man named Ian Thorson, was dead. And that’s just the beginning. They were expelled from a nearby retreat center run by Mr. Roach where adherents had pledged to meditate silently for three years, three months and three days:

The retreat — in which adherents communicate only with pen and paper — was designed to allow participants to employ yoga and deep meditation to try to answer some of life’s most profound questions. Mostly, though, it has only raised more questions.

Was it a genuine spiritual enclave? What happened to drive Ms. McNally and Mr. Thorson out of the camp and into the wilderness? And just why, in a quest for enlightenment, did Mr. Thorson, a 38-year-old Stanford graduate, end up dead, apparently from exposure and dehydration, in a remote region of rattlesnakes and drug smugglers?

When Ms. McNally and Mr. Thorson left the retreat on Feb. 20, after having participated for one year and one month, she had been its leading teacher. The monk who ran the retreat, Michael Roach, had previously run a diamond business worth tens of millions of dollars and was now promoting Buddhist principles as a path to financial prosperity, raising eyebrows from more traditional Buddhists.

He had described Ms. McNally for a time as his “spiritual partner,” living with him in platonic contemplation. What the other participants did not know is that before she married Mr. Thorson, Ms. McNally had been secretly married to Mr. Roach, in stark violation of the Buddhist tradition to which he belongs.

Even the manner in which Ms. McNally and Mr. Thorson left the retreat adds a fresh turn to an already twisty tale. It came days after she made a startling revelation during one of her lectures: she said that Mr. Thorson had been violent toward her, and that she had stabbed him, using a knife they had received as a wedding gift.

It’s so odd to reread the more positive tale of McNally and Roach’s relationship from three years ago and fast forward to this story. Of course, it sort of made me wonder what both stories might be missing.

Critics are given more of a voice in this story, including some who claimed that the initiation ceremonies at the retreat center involved genital touching and drawing blood from fingers. It may seem obvious but I would have liked to know a bit more about why these practices are unconventional — to get a bit more information about why the orthodox communities disparage such practices.

There are some great quotes, however, such as this one:

Erik Brinkman, a Buddhist monk who remains one of Mr. Roach’s staunchest admirers, said, “If the definition of a cult is to follow our spiritual leader into the desert, then we are a cult.”

We do get some interesting information from Roach about how he justified the marriage and more details on how things went south:

In early February of this year, Ms. McNally and Mr. Thorson received a letter from Mr. Roach and the five other members of Diamond Mountain’s board of directors, demanding explanations for the violence and stabbing she had discussed in her lesson. There was no reply. In a letter she posted online — which she wrote after their departure from the retreat, though before Mr. Thorson’s death — Ms. McNally described it as an accident by a novice martial-arts practitioner rehearsing her moves.

This might be a good example of how the article fails to explain things as well as I needed. How did she post the letter online from her cave area? I read elsewhere that this letter was posted on April 19. We’re given other details about how they were just camping next to the retreat center and that other retreat participants left water for them but that at some point they fell ill. She had a portable transmitter that she used to send a distress signal on April 22. So how did she post that letter three days prior?

I had so many other questions, too. When did McNally fall sick? When did her husband fall sick? Why, specifically, do the police not suspect foul play given all the other problems leading up to the death? How do Buddhists handle those teaching contrary to more traditional strains? Even a bit more explanation of why we’re told that Roach believes in the Prosperity Buddhism — is that the reporter’s contention or is it Roach’s own claim? How do vows of silence work in an age when notes can be posted on the internet?

Sonoran Desert photo via Shutterstock.

Ghost in report on modern babushkas

In Russia she is called “Babushka.” In Greece she is called “Yiayia.”

It really doesn’t matter what you call her, since she is the same famous character — the legendary grandmother who looms over her children and grandchildren in the old-world communities of the East.

If you are trying to capture her character on film, there are two classic images that you need.

In the first, she is scowling at her progeny in stark moral disapproval, trying to save them from sins that will yank them into the depths of hell. In the second, the babushka or yiayia is shown at the back of an Orthodox sanctuary lighting candles as she prays for her children and grandchildren. She may also be shown shushing people who are not showing adequate reverence (perhaps by talking, wearing the wrong kinds of clothes, failing to make the sign of the cross correctly, etc., etc.).

It’s interesting to note that, in Russia, these iconic images of the babushka were so powerful that the stereotypes even survived during the Soviet era. No story about the fading role (or perhaps the brave, sustaining role) of Orthodox Christianity in the Soviet Union was complete without a visit to a Moscow church that was all but empty, except of course for the many silent, faithful babushkas.

I bring this up because of a lively and interesting Washington Post story about a Moscow contest to select a circle of new “Super Babushkas” to serve as examples for modern Russia. The emphasis, of course, is on the new, the different, the improved image. Thus, the opening:

MOSCOW – If the word “babushka” once summoned up a resolute dowdiness — Americans might know it from the eponymous scarf often tied under the chin of Russian grandmothers — hello! — the year is 2011.

Now babushkas carry cellphones, and Irina Komarova was wearing a large-brimmed, bright pink hat last week when she turned up to accept her title as one of Moscow’s best babushkas. She took up yoga not long ago, swims frequently and has a deep, expressive singing voice. Reaching into her purse, she retrieved a freshly pressed CD of her work to present to a new acquaintance.

“I keep forgetting my age,” she said, recalling that she’s 69. Komarova still works as a telephone operator at the substation where she has toiled since 1960.

The problem, for me, is that the story (a) tells readers next to nothing about the classic elements of the babushka archetype and (b) does not link this subject into Russia’s crisis of demographics and shattered families. Russia is celebrating mothers and grandmothers for a reason.

In other words, readers miss the religious elements of the stereotype and the moral issues that could have been woven into the story. We end up, as we should, with a fun feature, but one that could have been more complete. It could have had just a suggestion of the deeper issues.

There are one or two passage that hint, a bit, at the context.

Valentina Gorbatova, wearing a long purple gown with pearls arranged flapper-like around her neck, selflessly took on the task of patrolling the line of winners waiting to climb onstage.

“Who’s number 8?” she demanded, taking her sister contestants by the arm and moving them to and fro as they fussed over each other, smoothing hair here, fluffing it there.

“I’m very proud of my grandchildren,” Gorbatova confided. “If everyone had grandchildren like mine, Russia would not be so low.”

And later on, we read:

Galina Kamyrina, wearing a splendidly embroidered black caftan, had only just finished remonstrating with the expo center staff. She had carried her dress from home, she said, and not only did she have trouble finding a decent place to change, but the checkroom did not want to keep her bag. “Of course I made a scandal,” she said. “We were brought up in the Soviet Union.”

Kamyrina, who will be 70 soon, was brought up when rules were rules and babushkas enforced them.

Rules? What kinds of rules? Moral rules perhaps?

In other words, was there content to the babushka’s famous, serious and all-knowing scowl? She was deadly serious and judgmental, but why?

Ghosts in the Amanda Knox murder trial?

Not only do I avoid cable news, I think I was born without that gene where you obsess over white women who have gone missing or are in legal distress. I didn’t know Casey Anthony was a female until the end of her trial. My mom, on the other hand, followed the trial regularly. So did many others, to judge from ratings.

So it is with the case of Amanda Knox, a lovely young American who was convicted of murdering her roommate in a flawed trial in Italy. Most of what I know is from this Rolling Stone piece on the matter, where I learned that the prosecutor suspected Knox of being involved in a Satanic orgy. But while the prosecutor apparently suspects such things of many people and without evidence, there was very little discussion of Knox’s religion, if she had any.

Yesterday Knox was acquitted of murder and sexual assault and released from prison. The BBC report included a quote that intrigued me:

People close to Knox say that she has the character to handle the enormous scrutiny but will emerge from prison a different person.

“She is fundamentally the same wonderful and excellent person she has always been, but it’s dampened her optimism and forced her to deal with a reality we would do anything to protect her from,” says Jessica Nichols in Perugia, who has travelled from her Seattle home several times to support Knox.

“It has impacted her ability to inherently trust people, which was something she always did before this ordeal.”

In prison, she has kept herself busy, says Ms Nichols, 24, who describes her schoolfriend as “loving, sweet and patient”.

“She reads, writes, does yoga, assists other prisoners who can’t write in communicating with their families. She plays guitar and sings with the church choir, and values the time she gets to walk outside each day.”

And in this Guardian report, we learn:

Prison may even have made her more enigmatic. “Like all the women in here, she puts a mask on in the morning that she only takes off in the evening, in her own bed, when she is alone,” said Father Saulo Scarabattoli, the chaplain at Capanne prison, where she has spent the last four years.

I Googled Scarabattoli’s name and found a story from the Times (U.K.) November 2007 headlined:

Amanda Knox ‘is turning to religion’ says chaplain at Perugia prison

That article goes into some depth about how she was raised Catholic but wasn’t religious. The priest says it’s his sense she is turning to religion in prison.

Now, maybe this was well-covered by American media who, to judge from the headlines I’ve skipped past for years, have been all over it like the Ravens defense was on Mark Sanchez this week. But it is an interesting angle, if one that doesn’t fit the dominant media narrative about the woman who has spent the last four years in an Italian jail.

Contrast with the foreign press (yes, the same press that accidentally ran with “Knox is guilty!” stories). The UK Press Association ran a story headlined “Amanda Knox at Mass ahead of ruling.”

The Guardian‘s story on Knox’s exoneration included this bit:

Knox took minutes to pack up her belongings before thanking the prison chaplain, Father Saulo Scarabattoli, with whom she had spent most of Monday between her final speech and her return to court to hear the sentence.

“She spent the day in the chapel singing then pacing up and down to pass the time as the expected time for the verdict slipped,” said Girlanda. “She was nervously asking ‘Why do they need so much time?’” he added.

“After the verdict I asked her ‘So what really did happen that night?’ and she said exactly the same thing she has always said – ‘I was at home with Raffaele’. Now the first thing she wants to do is stretch out on green grass,” he said.

There was this Radar report:

Amanda Knox attended Mass Saturday afternoon at her prison outside Perugia, Italy. She also played guitar at the service.

“You can imagine how she is but Amanda envinces great strength and hope,” the prison chaplain, Rev. Saulo Scarabattoli told reporters.

For those of you that watch cable news and followed this sensational trial, was this aspect covered well?

The ghosts at Grantland

Grantland is Bill Simmons’ new website for long-form sports journalism. The articles and essays aim to connect sports stories to larger cultural trends and ideas. They aspire to make sense of sports stories.

I’ve enjoyed the site but a reader sent in a recent story with a huge religion ghost. And considering what Grantland is all about, it’s a disappointing miss.

The article is about left-handed pitcher Barry Zito and how his latest visit to the disabled list has sparked whispers that the Giants might release him. Esquire‘s Chris Jones tells the sad tale that begins quite nicely by showing how Zito got his amazing seven-year, $126 million contract. His agent had put together a binder with statistical analysis making the case for that kind of money:

Barry Zito is a believer in totems. In those days, he had a replica of Reggie White’s Green Bay Packers jersey draped over the back of his couch for inspiration. He had a shrine built to Sandy Koufax in his bedroom, near his own Cy Young Award from 2002. A portrait of Carlos Santana was on the wall nearby. And now there was this blue binder sitting on his kitchen counter.

That binder destroyed Barry Zito.

We learn about Barry’s father Joe, a musician and composer who gifted his son with “belief.” Here’s a quote from his father:

“Baseball is not a game of chance. Nothing is left to chance. If you create the psychological state, it will become a physical fact. Whatever you see in the visible world, it started in the invisible world, in the mind. The universe took care of the rest.”

We learn about “mystical moments of inspiration” and how baseball was the same sort of creative mystery or “Spiritual Art” as music. Take this section:

Barry was at his best when he was blank, less a man and more a vessel. He had written a reminder inside his cap: LET IT DO THE WORK THROUGH ME. Those words were pressed against his forehead every time he took the mound. Barry could make himself better than he might have been given the power of his own belief, but ultimately he was just an instrument to be played. So long as he remembered that much about himself — so long as he felt his way through his life rather than plotting it, rather than thinking his way through it — he could be transcendent.

Only once had Barry’s faith in himself and the planets and the stars been tested: He began the 2001 season badly, managing a record of only 6-7 through late July. “He forgot who he was and how the universe operates,” was Joe’s explanation. Father and son locked themselves away for four days. They read to each other; they talked to each other; they listened to music; and they marveled again at those nights when the songs came pouring out.

“It’s really hard to be consciously unconscious,” Barry said. “But that’s what you have to be.”

Gosh, it’s almost like there’s some kind of system of belief that they’re talking about there, right?

The reader who submitted this story comments:

“Let it [what is "it"?] do the work..”? “Consciously unconscious”? “How the universe operates”? These seemed like more than just quirky slogans to me, so I looked up Zito on Wikipedia:

“He plays guitar, surfs, practices yoga, and follows Zen. He has done yoga poses in the outfield, and meditates before games. In 2001, Zito espoused a universal life force that he credited with his midseason turnaround. His mother Roberta named him after her brother Barry, a beatnik “freethinker” and acolyte of Zen who mysteriously vanished in 1964 at the age of 22 near Big Sur, California.”

Jones seems to miss this huge influence in Zito’s life: not his “faith in himself,” but Zen Buddhism and other religious influences. As a result, he also misses a key question directly relevant to his article. Zito has become famous in baseball for his career struggles and his enormous salary – do his religious beliefs have anything to say about that?

I couldn’t have said it better. It’s disappointing enough when a typical sports stories misses the religion angle to an intriguing sports story. That it would happen at Grantland is somehow worse.