Warning: the following material contains Christian bias! I always try to be clear when my demographic details or core beliefs may shade my coverage of a story. I of course have done my best to look at the story fairly, but if you object to this perspective, this is your signal to quietly X this blog post and go elsewhere. On the other hand, it's Good Friday, so you should be able to tolerate it today (if ever), right?
Murray Chass tries his best to portray "Faith Nights" in baseball as an underhanded evangelism tool. He uses the provocative title that "Is a Night Devoted to Faith Really About the Money?", and I'm sure he was hoping to find a right-wing, crazy-Christian plot to save the dirty souls of baseball fans across America. But his story fails to answer his own question! There are no surprise testimonies, no hawking of literature in the stands, and no compulsory attendance. John Smoltz doesn't pause before pitching the top of the 5th to announce "I still am going to pitch, but first, let me give you my Christian testimony for an hour and ask you to repent!". The T-shirt guns don't send "Jesus-Wis-Er" knock-off shirts into the stands, and the cheerleaders and ball girls aren't replaced by nuns. Despite the absence of a smoking gun piece of evidence, Chass slurs Faith Nights with weak analogies and high-minded quotes about separating church and baseball. It's a shame the Times let him use them as a platform.
I've been to one of those Faith Nights before. You wait 30 minutes after the game is done for it to start. Trust me, no one is still there who doesn't want to be there, unless perhaps someone is so drunk that they're still sleeping it off in their seats 30 minutes after the game. I would cheerfully submit that even Murray might concede that a "Faith Night" might do such a degenerate some good.
Perhaps I haven't proved my point well enough. Let's take a quote from the end of the article:
Why should teams be in the business of promoting any particular religion?
Some clubs, like the Mets, hold heritage nights: black history, Latino, Irish, Jewish, Polish. But those are ethnic celebrations, not religion based.
“It’s just a way for a team to reach people in another way,” High said, meaning a different way of luring fans.
The idea has caught on in baseball because clubs want to sell tickets. That’s why Major League Baseball will never halt faith nights. Anything for a few dollars more. But it has no place in baseball. Baseball crowds are made up of people of all faiths and no faith. No segment should be singled out.
Do you see how he contradicts himself? First, he disproves his own title, by saying that MLB IS in it only for the money. Second, he makes an argument that no segment should be singled out...while admitting that there are plenty of promotions to target ethnicities (and gender). How are those not exclusionary? Would Mr. Chass be brave enough to show some consistency, and object to Hispanic Night, Family Night, or Pride Night? How non-hispanic, single, or non-homosexual people might feel singled out or ignored on such nights? No, of course not, because that would sound like bigotry. Hmm...so why didn't this piece sound like bigotry to the Times' editors? Consistent standards is all I ask for, seriously. (That's why I'm not sure I agree completely with the Mark Cuban boycottsuggested by esteemed colleague Jordi Scrubbings; at least Mark is being consistent, although he is acting unfairly in my opinion).
If fans were subjected to a bait-and-switch; if they were showing up to what they thought were a baseball game, only to be held hostage to listen to a sermon--I would object. True belief can't grow from coercion. But Faith Nights are labeled as such, and no faith content is occurring during the games itself. If some fans are so threatened by Faith Nights, then they can avoid that 1 out of 81 games, right?