News Articles

FIRST-PERSON: Theology & softball

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–As I took my seat in the press box to cover a girls’ softball game for the local newspaper, I thought I was going to escape from thinking about theology for a few hours. But almost immediately, the people sitting near me started to ask questions about my life. I told them that I am a seminary student, and several of them expressed surprise. “Why is a seminary student working as a sportswriter?” they asked. “What does theology have to do with softball?”

Three innings later, their question became immediately relevant. The centerfielder for one team lost sight of a routine fly ball in the sun and allowed it to fall for a base hit. Angrily, her coach called for time and stormed onto the field carrying a pair of sunglasses. The teenage player approached him to receive the glasses, but instead of handing them to her he yelled and hurled them on the ground. Boos erupted from the stands, which infuriated the coach even further. So as he walked back to the dugout, the coach spit at the crowd.

The bleachers erupted. “Why would anyone act like that?” the people around me asked. Such behavior was incomprehensible. The game went on, but people continued to talk about the coach’s outburst. There seemed to be genuine confusion in the stands. “How could anyone possibly behave so inappropriately?” they asked.

At that moment I remembered the question posed to me before the game: What does theology have to do with softball?

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick,” Scripture counsels in Jeremiah 17:9. “Who can understand it?”

The coach humiliated his player and insulted the fans because, like all other humans, he has a natural desire to disregard what he knows is right and rebel against God. In his conscience the coach knew that God called him to love his centerfielder, but out of a sinful heart he disregarded God’s standards.

In the middle of a softball game I was reminded why I study Christian theology. Even events as ordinary as youth sports are incomprehensible apart from a Christian worldview — a worldview that understands the fallenness of man, the holiness of God and the offer of redemption in Christ. The coach is a sinner who acts out of his sinful nature. The Christian worldview understands that the only way ultimately to curb sinful coaching rage is for coaches to submit to the lordship of Jesus Christ.

Yet it never occurred to those around me that such an episode bears any relation to Christian theology. The great task of the church is to help its people see this connection so that they will no longer ask, “What does theology have to do with softball?”

Until Christians begin to think as Christians about every aspect of life, outbursts by angry coaches will continue to be incomprehensible and outsiders will be perplexed. But when the church learns to view all of life from a Christian perspective, we will help the world understand that even youth softball is hopelessly corrupt apart from Jesus Christ.
David Roach is a newswriter and student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.