For several years, baseball’s steroids scandal grew like a hot-air balloon until it burst in the face of some of the sport’s biggest sluggers.
As suspicions mounted, Major League Baseball’s front office sat on its hands, finally roused to action when it was no longer possible to ignore the Pillsbury Doughboys knocking the ball around.
Contrast that with the lightning speed with which the baseball gods bought into a Washington Post smear of a Christian chaplain and upcoming star outfielder Ryan Church of the Washington Nationals.
On Sept. 18, the Post ran Laura Blumenfeld’s mainly supportive feature story on baseball chaplains, featuring Nationals chaplain Jon Moeller. It included a brief conversation in which Mr. Church tells Mr. Moeller of his concern about a former girlfriend’s eternal destiny.
Church: “I said, like, Jewish people, they don’t believe in Jesus. Does this mean they’re doomed? Jon nodded, like, that’s what it meant. My ex-girlfriend! I was like, man, if they only knew. Other religions don’t know any better. It’s up to us to spread the word.”
An Orthodox rabbi, Shmuel Herzfeld, then complained to the Nationals, saying it seemed that “the locker room of the Nationals is being used to preach hatred.”
Newsflash to Mr. Herzfeld: Christians don’t hate you. We’re talking here about the 2,000-year-old Great Commission stated by Jesus in Matthew 28:19. Christians – out of love – are told to share with everyone the Good News that Jesus came to die for their sins and give them eternal life.
Three days later, on Sept. 21, this Post headline appeared: “Nats’ Church Apologizes for Remarks About Jews.” Talk about a wild pitch thrown right to the head.
What would the casual reader think? At the least, he would conclude that Church had uttered some horrible, anti-Semitic slur and then backed down, as if that would exculpate him. The poor guy had asked a question, OK?
The Post headline writer might as well have wrapped Mr. Church in a Ku Klux Klan sheet.
By Oct. 1, Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said, “I was deeply offended by what happened with Ryan Church and Jon Moeller,” and he pledged to review Major League Baseball’s relationship with Baseball Chapel, the volunteer group that supplies chaplains to each ball club.
Well, we agree on one thing. This whole episode is offensive.
A player raises a theological question to a chaplain out of concern for someone dear to him. A Washington Post writer reports it. An obliging rabbi makes an absurdly inflammatory charge. But the rabbi is not the one accused of intemperance. Instead, Major League Baseball begins a witch hunt to see whether chaplains are actually sharing their core faith.
Professional sports teams, which provide role models for kids, have too many players who consider it a good day when they don’t have to raise bail. But baseball is worried about its image, so it moves quickly to crack down on … chaplains. Does anyone outside of Rabbi Herzfeld and the American Civil Liberties Union think the baseball world will be better if the chaplains are driven out of the clubhouse?
According to the Post, the team with the highest chapel attendance is the Boston Red Sox.
What’s next, an inquiry into whether the Sox deserve to keep their 2004 World Series title or have it yanked on grounds of “inappropriate and un-diverse religiosity?”
Let’s pray that Mr. Selig reconsiders and throws this “investigation” of chaplains out of the game.