But this much I know. Baseball remains a great game because people still worship and argue about it and they’re going to games in record numbers.
[Yogi Berra, Foreword, 34 Creative Nonfiction (2008), 6]
Yes, that’s a baseball quote, which means, no, I’m not warriormare. I’m maplestar, her fiancé, and warriormare invited me to use some screen space here from time to time. If she hasn’t already, I’m sure she’ll give me more of an introduction, so I’ll leave her to that, and get back to the thoughts that sparked my writing today.
I was sitting in the bathtub, which is such a relaxing place to read. (To digress, it pains me so much not to be able to read library books there, for risk of damaging them, in the unlikely event of a drop into the water). But this morning that Yogi Berra quote struck me.
Maybe it was the use of the word “worship,” but I started thinking about parallels between the church and baseball.
It “remains…great…because people still worship and argue about…”
Worship and argue? The worship parallel is obvious, but for somebody who is as averse to conflict as I am (shoving my head under a pillow at even the thought), it’s hard to see anything positive about arguing.
But as I thought more, it became clearer to me that this wasn’t about arguing being good per se. The question that came to mind was: Why is it that people argue?
In the case of baseball, it’s easy to see that those arguing have a passion for the game, the players, the teams, the history. Sure, there might be the odd guy who argues about ball just to be difficult or because he has something pathological against the game, but the vast majority of those arguing are those who have a deep devotion to baseball.
Of course, the church has its fair share of arguing, too. On the international scene, I probably read more than I should about the conflicts within the Anglican Communion. And I find in watching others (and when I’m honest about some of what’s in the darkest corners of my own heart), it’s very easy to take those with whom we disagree and ascribe to them all sorts of malicious intentions and character defects.
And as anybody who’s spent any time around a church realizes, there is no shortage of conflict in congregational life either. And sometimes it can be even easier to make those ascriptional leaps, when somebody is doggedly arguing about the start time of the church bazaar or the number of candles in the sanctuary or the proper tune for one of Sunday’s hymns–OK, that last one I can understand. *grin*
But rather than grumbling that so-and-so is a perpetual grump who wants the church to remain the same as it was in 19xx (or muttering stronger language under my breath), I think there’s an opportunity that we too often miss to celebrate something wonderful that can be at the root of their behaviors (even if we find them annoying).
And it comes back to a word that tends to be scary for many of us: Passion.
Even if they’re wrong and I’m right, they are far more likely to be arguing strenuously about something because they care deeply about it. And “it” is usually not just their side of whatever is at issue. Because they usually care about it because they care about the church, they care about the congregation, they care about any number of positive things.
It’s kind of exciting to try to think of what the passion is behind people and positions that we find frustrating. And when the rubber meets the road, and I next face a deep but sincere disagreement with somebody, I hope that I can take a step back from the annoyance I feel and search for a passion I can treasure in the one with whom I disagree.