Very Superstitious: Christians and Baseball Players

Baseball players are infamous for their superstitious behavior. Watch almost any major league pitcher or batter. Before they pitch or hit, they repeat the exact same movements, adjusting their ball caps, fastening their gloves, pulling their shirts, spitting.

For example, relief pitcher Turk Wendell chewed and spit out four pieces of black licorice every inning he pitched. Slugger Barry Bonds kissed his gold necklace after he hit a home run. Worst of all was Kevin Rhomberg, who made little impact on baseball except for his obsessive need to touch back any one who touched him first. If he was tagged out on base, he would wait for the end of the inning and touch the opposing player back as the player left the field. If Rhomberg failed to return touch someone, he would send them a letter saying, “This constitutes a touch.” “The Seattle Times”

Laugh if you will (you should), but most of us, especially those of us who believe in God, behave superstitiously. Even King David. Read on.

Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.

TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)

1 Chronicles 12:19-14:17

Romans 1:1-17

Psalm 9:13-20

Proverbs 19:4-5


1 Chronicles 12:19-14:17: This section is largely a rehash of previous readings and the author seems concerned with telling us how David consolidated his throne. We see two things. First, many of the fighting men from other tribes, who presumably served with Saul, joined David, giving him military might. Second, unlike Saul, David seeks God before making any military moves, giving him spiritual heft.

Romans 1:1-17: I believe Paul was one of the greatest intellects in human history. If not for his strict Judeo/Christian worldview, Paul would be ranked with great philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, and Descartes. Consider that in his letter to Christians in the city of Rome, he articulates the philosophies of reasoning from the natural to the supernatural (nature to God in chapter 1), the psychological concept of humans carrying dual natures (Jekyll and Hyde, chapter 7), the thorny idea of predestination (chapters 8-9), a nascent equality of races (chapter 9-11), and a brief but profound philosophy of government (chapter 13). These ideas and his powerful, often poetic, and logical way of communicating them  have earned him a respect that even Christians often do not award him.

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Believers in God and baseball players are equally superstitious. By superstitious I mean that you, either consciously or subconsciously, believe that if you do or say certain things, that may not actually be connected, a specified outcome will result.

Outfielder Larry Walker fixated on the number three. He wore number 33 and was married November 3 at 3:33P.M. Some Christians avoid 666 and revere threes and sevens. Other Christians repetitively cross themselves, kneel, and touch religious objects in a certain way. Hall of Fame third basemen Wade Boggs tagged third, second, and first base in that order before each game. He would also walk on the baseline, step twice in the coach’s box, and take four steps to get into the dugout.

A stretch, you say. A truth spoken in jest, I say.

After Saul died, King David began to consolidate his throne by not only gathering his army and asking for God’s guidance–very wise moves–he also decided to retrieve the ark of God as a means of having something physically to show God was on his side.

How can I classify that as superstitious? First, David, by not investigating how God commanded the ark be moved, shows he was not really concerned with honoring God, but rather with gaining control of God through obtaining this religious relic. Witness how David transports the ark the same way the Philistines did when they superstitiously returned it.

Second, God takes the life of Uzzah, when he touches the ark. When God takes such drastic measures to make his point, the point is always a major one. God is not perturbed with Uzzah for touching the ark, but rather with David’s view and expectations of the ark.

Just like Wade Boggs, David is guilty of magical thinking.

We are too. We (subconsciously) believe if we go to church, or make a donation, or have enough people praying, or quote a Bible verse, or do God-stuff, God will be pleased with us, or heal us, or do what we have asked (demanded).

This is one of the fallacies inherent in the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” In part this is magical thinking, much like Kevin Rhomberg’s. If I do good things, God must touch me back with good things.

God wants us to know he loves us so much he freely interacts with us. But God is not magic. God is a self-determined, living Being. God cannot be contained in an ark, and therefore controlled by the owner of the ark. God hears our prayers–and often answers them. God smiles on our good deeds–and often rewards them. But these things do not compel God or control him.

Far better would it have been had David regained the ark out of his love and respect for God. Far better also is it for us to worship, pray, serve, and give out of love and respect for God rather than hoping those actions will garner God’s gifts.

  1. Which reading spoke to you?
  2. How have you exhibited superstitious behavior toward God?

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Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO and writes a blog

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