Morning Report, June 8: Baseball's Fleeting Perfection, More on John Wooden, Faith and Infidelity, and Obama the ***-Kicker

Morning Report, June 8: Baseball's Fleeting Perfection, More on John Wooden, Faith and Infidelity, and Obama the ***-Kicker June 8, 2010

Secular and Christian news and commentary that one Christian found important or entertaining this morning.

1. SOUNDBITE HISTORIANS.  I just discovered the excellent podcast library at Books and CultureCheck it out.

2.  THERE’S SHARING AND THERE’S SHARING.  An example of positive synergy between evangelistic and social justice ministries.

3.  BASEBALL’S FLEETING PERFECTION.  Warren Cole Smith considers the blown call that took a “perfect game” away from Armando Galarraga.  Not only does he have some nice reflections on the transcendence of the moment, but he has some nice words on the immanence of baseball itself.  Baseball, he says, is “the most human of sports.”  I suspect he gets a little carried away, but he does have a point.  Baseball players look like the rest of us.  They are not the superhuman athletes of the NBA and NFL.

“Part of the myth of baseball is that an ordinary man, if he works hard enough, if he has enough heart, if he studies the game deeply, can play the game as well as the man with extraordinary natural gifts, as well as any man alive, perhaps as well as any man who has ever lived. The grand slam home run. The perfect game. These are achievements that—while limited and fleeting—cannot be improved upon. And when the umpire yells, “Play Ball,” the possibility of that perfection is within reach of all 18 men on the field, and they all know it. Will a million things have to go right to achieve that moment of transcendence? Of course, but one in a million times, they all do go right, and for that bright and shining moment baseball provides us with a glimpse of the good, the beautiful, and the true unlike anything seen in other sports.”

4.  GORING THE SACRED COW.  Can “separation” be a good thing for a marriage, and thus for the family which is based on the marriage?  One of the bigwigs from Focus on the Family thinks so.  What do you think?

5.  FABRICATING SYNTHETIC LIFE.  Scientists recently claimed to have created the first synthetic life form.  While it is true in some sense, and may one day lead (for instance) to forms of algae that consume carbon and produce fuels like propane, claims to have “created life” are a little overblown.

6.  FAITH AND INFIDELITY.  Emily Belz of World Magazine tells the story of Mark Souder’s anguished affair and his terrible fall from grace.  The Left typically delights when a religious conservative is caught in adultery, because they think it illustrates hypocrisy.  They also object that more religious conservatives do not outright reject those who have fallen.

I think they fail to understand the people they are criticizing.  Mark Souder never held himself forth as a paragon of virtue.  He was widely admired for being a principled man, and in many ways he was precisely that.  People are complicated, often contradictory.  Yet he never claimed to be better than the rest of us.  In fact, he was quite open that he was a sinner and subject to the same faults and temptations as everyone else.  It is not hypocritical to strive to form a more moral culture even as one fails in moral matters oneself.  We will always fail in moral matters.

And it is precisely this understanding that all are sinful and all fall from grace that leads evangelicals, in my view, to be understanding and forgiving of their public figures who commit grave sins.  We are not surprised.  Our theology teaches us to expect precisely this.  He is right to resign and rebuild his marriage and family.  I don’t know his record in detail, but having an affair does not mean that a person cannot still, in many respects, be an excellent legislator – any more than Clinton’s sins meant that he could not be a fine manager of the economy (to the extent that he was).  Do not get me wrong: character matters, and a years-long affair shows a serious character flaw that needs tending.  Yet even an affair does not tell the full story of a person, neither as a man, nor as a Christian, nor as a legislator.

Yet evangelicals should extend this same understanding and forgiveness to those who differ from them, religiously and politically, when they too are caught in affairs or other sins.  This is where we often fail.

7.  GetReligion has a nice piece on John Wooden’s faith, that references this quotation from one of Wooden’s greatest athletes, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar:

“To lead the way Coach Wooden led takes a tremendous amount of faith. He was almost mystical in his approach, yet that approach only strengthened our confidence. Coach Wooden enjoyed winning, but he did not put winning above everything. He was more concerned that we became successful as human beings, that we earned our degrees, that we learned to make the right choices as adults and as parents. In essence, he was preparing us for life.”

8.  HAWKING ON GOD.  Further evidence that scientific genius does not make a person even a competent theologian.  I am a big admirer of Stephen Hawking, but he suffers from the Dawkins Disease of suddenly losing his insight and sophistication when discussing matters religious.

9.  OBAMA THE ASS KICKER?  Again, the media underestimate the American public when they think that we just want to see Obama get angry.  Explanations that I sits down with experts in order to find out “whose ass to kick” are exactly the wrong message to send, and transparently artificial for Obama.  These are not the kind of “answers” Americans seek.  The “answer” is not about whom to blame; it’s about how to fix the problem.  Whether angry or not, a sense of fiercely concentrated purpose is what is lacking.

10.  EXECUTIVE INEXPERIENCE.  Byron York raises a fair question to those who said that Obama’s experience running a Senate office and a Presidential election (which he did not run, in any case, but let’s put that aside) was sufficient executive experience for President: How exactly did those cases of executive experience prepare Obama for a moment like this?  When, prior to becoming President, did he ever have to confront a disaster like the Deepwater rig explosion?

Does confronting Joe the Plumber count?

11.  ON THE OTHER HAND, something the Obama administration is doing right: prosecuting leakers of classified military and intelligence information.  The media tended to glorify leakers during the Bush years, but the American people have a right to expect a government and a military that can keep secrets when the lives of soldiers and civilians are at stake.  More here.

12.  MORE EVIDENCE OF THE FALL.  A cross used to beat a woman to death in a church.

13.  A FAR MORE UPLIFTING STORY, from war-torn Sierra Leone to a role in the next Harry Potter film.

14.  TODAY’S TWO-SIDES.  Is it fair to blame Obama for a poor response to the oil leak crisis?  Evidence for the prosecution was presented in yesterday’s Morning Report.  Today, an argument for the defense.


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