Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Catching religion in Atlanta: Bring your gloves….and your Bibles?

by J.Bird

Last week, the Atlanta Braves became the first team in major league baseball to sponsor so-called "Faith Days," or "Faith Nights," sponsored by a group called Third Coast Sports. Fans received materials from religious organizations and, after the game, players and others evangelized about their religious beliefs.

While I started to think about the problems involved with using a baseball stadium to evangelize, especially given the fact that most baseball stadiums are publicly-funded, I came across the most disturbing fact:

The “Faith Day” in Atlanta was hosted by a group called Focus on the Family, an extremist right-wing group best known for its anti-gay agenda.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution covers the story:
The blend of big-tent evangelism and the national pastime is expected to draw thousands of new eyes. … [The event is] designed to reach out to people looking for a spiritual purpose in life. Faith Day is the first promotion of “intentional Christian ministry” in Major League Baseball.

Intentional Christian ministry? Let’s take a look at some of the things Focus on the Family “ministers” about. The blog Think Progress records these lines from FoF websites:
"Male homosexuality is a developmental problem that is almost always the result of problems in family relations, particularly between father and son.

The following factors can also contribute to the homosexual orientation: pornography; spousal abuse in the home; molestation and pedophilia…

‘Mom…I’m Gay’: The story of one woman who heard these devastating words."

And the anti-gay rhetoric goes on and on.

Interestingly, as Think Progress reports, a Braves spokesman claims that Focus on the Family will not be involved in any upcoming “Faith Days.” Focus on the Family has been “dis-invited” as some are reporting.

However, Focus on the Family is involved with other events in MLB this summer through Third Coast Sports.

Major League Baseball has a serious problem on its hands if it is going to allow a group that openly preaches hate and discrimination to use its stadiums, many publicly-funded, as a platform to gets out its message.

On its web site, Focus on the Family says it will use the “Faith Days” to distribute evangelical materials that include “appropriate media decisions for their children, and TroubledWith.com™, a site for individuals and families in crisis.” The “families in crisis” phrase is another anti-gay slogan.

I have no problem with religion and politics or religion and baseball. Individual players often profess their faith and use their status as role models to evangelize. Whether you agree or not with their views, it is their right.

And, as much as I might not like it, a private team can do what it wants with its stadium. But, publicly-funded parks are different. Regardless, we all have the right to stand up and say that we will not support individual teams who allow a group that openly promotes hatred and intolerance to use our nation’s pastime to promote bigotry.

Our nation's pastime has been tainted with bigotry in the past. We need to make sure we do not make the same mistakes now.

As Think Progress writes, “There’s no crying in baseball, and there shouldn’t be bigotry either.”

J.Bird's column, "Bird's Eye View", appears alternate Tuesdays

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