Not By Faith Alone

Some politics. Some religion

1) A “Christian” education, eh? Well that’s a hell of a thing to pursue from a very young age. Let’s take a look at the first grade course load:

Physical Education
The Study of the omniscient, omnipresent, eternal creator of all things past and present, The Lord, and the history of his interaction with humanity, including but not limited to the life of His Son, Jesus Christ, who was God but apart from God, while also fully human, and was sent to Earth two thousand years ago to live perfectly and die blamelessly, thus atoning for the act of original sin, which was performed by Eve in the Garden of Eden at the dawn of creation, and has been attached to every single human since, dividing us from our Creator. Only through Jesus’ death and sacrifice may we be in Holy Communion with our Lord once we die, otherwise you, young child, are dammed to eternity of hell and torment by the sin you contain within your soul.

Now, please turn to Luke Chapter 4……

2) You learn in that environment. You learn fast. Multiplication tables, grammatical structure, Ezekiel and Jeremiah are MAJOR prophets, Hosea and Obadiah are MINOR prophets, i before e, except after c…. It’s all part of the daily schedule. Wake up, head downstairs to the kitchen, crack a book, sharpen a pencil, and get to work. This is the ritual of your homeschooled education.

“Public school?”, they say.  “Well maybe when we were kids, but now we can’t have that. Did you know the Clintons banned prayer from school? Public school is good enough for them, but not for us. We’ll stay here. If you need friends, well, it’s almost Spring. Little League will start in a few months.”

3) There’s a little metal cross someone gave you for your birthday once, you don’t remember who. But some of your favorite baseball players have one too, and so you let it hang out of your uniform. It looks……cool………right? You stand in centerfield for entire summers, and as your team criss-crosses the country you hold that cross for every big pitch, in every big moment. The finish wears off, and you kind of give your right hand a little mini-Stigmata holding the damn thing, but it works often enough.

Plus you look cool. And there are girls in the stands. Maybe someday you’ll get up the courage to talk to one.

4) In college it’s more of the same. You could have gone to a state school on the cheap and been out in a few years with minimal debt but, again, there’s that implication that everyone is really hoping you’d go somewhere for that “Christian” education. So Bible college it is.

You’ve got questions now, a lot of them. But the answers more often than not point you towards a knowledge gap. You’re offered a big dump truck labeled “Faith” and encouraged to fill in that gap, but no matter how many times you try that, the gap remains. Maybe it’s just too deep to fill.

In the meantime, while it gnaws at you, you vote for George W., attend prayer meetings earnestly asking God to put a Republican in the White House, and make fun of the music majors in your department who seem like they might be gay.

You’ve got questions, but you’ve also got to keep up appearances.

5) While the school won’t let you watch cable TV, or spend more than 4 hours at a time a few days a week in the girls’ dorms (doors open, lights on, feet on the ground), even they won’t cut off the internet. Baseball was always your connection to the outside world, and the Mariners, weirdly, are really good. So you use the Mariners as your launching point for accessing the internet’s vast array of content. ESPN is your startup page. Edgar Martinez has 145 RBI. Life is good.

One day you get an email from a friend back home. “Check out this site. It’s just a few guys who love the Mariners, but they’re really smart, and they’re saying stuff I’ve never heard before.” It’s a blog post by a guy named Derek Zumsteg. He’s clearly smart, at least equally arrogant, and strangely not optimistic about the team, despite the fact that they’ve won 90+ games four years in a row.

6) The baseball world you loved is unraveling before your eyes. It’s all numbers, data, empirical evidence, and metrics now. RBI are……….meaningless? Bunts are not noble sacrifices of the individual for the greater good, but instead simply sub-optimal strategy? Pitcher wins are comically overrated?

As child, as a teen, hell as a Sophomore in the dorms you would have just pushed this all away. But now? Well you’re engaged now. You’re getting married in a few months. Adulthood is around the corner, and you’ve got a few hundred bucks in your bank account. It’s time not to just start asking questions, but to find some answers.

So you rabbithole sabermetrics; Moneyball, Bill James, the whole Smart Baseball Fan Gospel. You’ve got it, you’ve learned, you’re in the know. You come up for air, to look at your politics, your social beliefs, your religion. You thought you knew baseball before, and look at you now. You wonder what will happen if you take these newfound, shiny principles of empirical thought and data-supported beliefs to the other parts of your life. You’ve still got those gaps, but maybe now you’ve got tools a little more refined than an empty dump truck you have to wish full. You get to work.

7) You still have faith, of course. It’s not particularly revelatory to observe that life demands constant small acts of faith. Faith a chair won’t break, the car will start, you’ll make rent.

You have faith that the nurse setting your wife’s IV drip won’t accidentally mix up the levels, overdose her on Pitocin during labor and cause her uterus to contract and refuse to stop contracting. Faith, as you watch your child’s heart rate plummet and doctors spring out of nowhere to rush them both into surgery, that there’s only been one mistake, and that there won’t be another. Faith they can Fix This. Faith that the child’s scream you just heard is normal, and that your wife will survive too.

Sometimes faith is rewarded, and other times it’s not. We keep faith because we have to. We keep it because without it, we’re paralyzed.

8) The Mariners, a baseball team of little consequence who nonetheless was the mechanism through which you learned to think, to rationalize, to escape a life of narrowness, smallness, bigotry, and malice towards anyone who thinks, feels, or believes differently than you, are no longer good, and haven’t been since shortly after you got that first USS Mariner email. Somewhat poetically they are the ones asking for faith now; in them, in the future. Their general manager is a bright, earnest, handsome, well-spoken man. It’s easy to sit back, close your eyes, and let everything he says make you feel great about where the team is headed. It all just makes so much sense. It’s just sports, right? What’s the harm in it?

Faith is a personal choice, and one of the deepest, most vulnerable ones we can make. Your choice isn’t for all, and you’d never expect it to be. Others have more faith, newer faith, different faith. Your faith is, simply, yours. Your journey taught you a long time ago that many will ask for faith, and many don’t deserve it.

So, you wait. You question, wonder, agitate, annoy, and speculate. When the handsome man speaks, you don’t close your eyes and believe. You push back. You probably always will, now. You lived on faith for a long time, but no longer. Not by faith alone.


3 thoughts on “Not By Faith Alone”

  1. Love the honesty and vulnerability here, Nathan. Sounds like we’re close to the same age. I think faith is even more challenging in our generation than many before us for a myriad of reasons; the nasty intermingling of politics and religion certainly hasn’t helped. My upbringing might have been even more sheltered than yours – home school instead of private school. I have had to wrestle with many big questions, difficult questions myself.

    I love your illustrations of how we all walk in faith in everyday life. Beautifully said.

    Go M’s.


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