Thursday, December 28, 2017

"It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart."

I got Summerland, a novel about fairies and baseball by Michael Chabon, for Christmas. I'm reading Chabon's introduction which is, in and of itself, quite something.

Anyway, partway through it quotes from A. Bartlett Giamatti's "The Green Fields of the Mind," which is maybe the best short piece of writing on baseball I've ever read (though I'd need to reread Don Delillo's "Pafko at the Wall" to decide). So of course I had to go reread it to see if it really is as good as I remember.

It is.

(Giamatti, by the way, has one of the stranger resumes out there: professor of English to president of Yale to, all too briefly, MLB commissioner.)

You should go read it now, if you haven't already. It reveals that David Bentley Hart baseball essay for the purplish overwrought garbage that it is.


PS: I should reiterate that I have long felt--ever since watching my grandfather watch the Braves in the early 90s--that I ought to like baseball quite a bit more than I actually do, that my fervent preference for college basketball over baseball is a weakness of character, and so my penance is to read essays, short stories, and novels about baseball that only serve to reinforce that idea.

PPS: The College World Series final in the summer of 2016--in which Coastal Carolina beat Arizona--did convince me that maybe I do have it in me to be a baseball fan. I watched two games in the hotel room at my APUSH training conference. The third was set for my last night there, but it was rain-delayed, and so I watched it via the laptop of the guy in the next row over.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Sermon for Advent II

Yesterday I preached my Advent II sermon--on the nature and sources of true hope, how suffering relates to hope, and the Bible. Yes, it was wide-ranging.
Of course, faith and love are at the heart of what it means to be a Christian—but hope? Does life in Christ mean having a perpetually optimistic, temperamentally upbeat take on life? Does it mean remembering that “every cloud has a silver lining”? Always “making the best of a bad situation”? Making lemonade “when life gives you lemons”? 
Now, these very American sayings aren’t all bad. They can be helpful when we lose perspective amidst the minor setbacks and frustrations of everyday life. In those cases, there’s nothing wrong with saying, “It isn’t as bad as all that, is it?” But these little pieces of sound but limited advice have essentially nothing to do with the theological virtue of hope. 
When, in fact, it is that bad—when real tragedy strikes—(saying,) “look on the bright side” amounts to a denial of reality. And denying reality is not a theological virtue. To the contrary, denial is one short step from despair, hope’s opposite. 
This hope in no way denies or reduces the reality of suffering. It does not seek to “balance out,” much less eliminate, suffering. Rather, through hope our suffering is incorporated into the life story of Jesus. Just as the scars of Jesus were not erased in the resurrection, this incorporation does not wipe away the tragedies in our lives. Yet we will find them somehow transformed, healed, and redeemed in Jesus. And just as Jesus wept over the death of his friend Lazarus moments before raising him from the dead, our right understanding of reality and our full anticipation of the triumph of life over death does not eliminate mourning. The promise that Jesus will wipe away every tear is eschatological—it is a distinctly future event. That future is sure. Our task, then, is to live with a right understanding of present reality in anticipation of future triumph. To live hopefully means knowing that death is not the end, that the apparent power of the forces of darkness is an illusion, that our victory is sure.

You can read the whole thing here.