Religion in the Locker Room

By | September 21, 2005

The Washington Nationals suspended a volunteer chaplain, Jon Moeller, for indicating that Jewish people are going to hell. From an article in the Washington Post:

An article in Sunday’s paper about Baseball Chapel quoted [Nationals’ outfielder Ryan] Church as saying that he had turned to Moeller for advice about his former girlfriend, who was Jewish. “I said, like, Jewish people, they don’t believe in Jesus. Does that mean they’re doomed? Jon nodded, like, that’s what it meant. My ex-girlfriend! I was like, man, if they only knew. Other religions don’t know any better. It’s up to us to spread the word,” Church said.

The Post article also mentioned some conflicting opinions from Christian religious leaders:

“Just how many ways can you interpret the words of Jesus in John 14:5-6, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me,’ ” said the Rev. Richard Land, head of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. “The worst this chaplain could be convicted of is ascribing to orthodox Christian historic faith, which is what I would think you would want from a Christian chaplain.”

The Rev. Christopher M. Leighton, a Presbyterian minister who is executive director of the Institute for Christian and Jewish Studies in Baltimore, said that while the “dominant tradition” in Christianity has emphasized the exclusivity of salvation, Roman Catholics and many Protestant denominations have moved toward the view that God has a “continuing covenant” with the Jews.

“It’s a real shame that this challenge had to be mounted by a rabbi. This is the work that really belonged to other Christians, to say this is an unacceptable understanding of our faith,” he said.

This entire issue is replete with questions and, dare I say, hypocrisy. Did we really just see someone saying that it is an “unacceptable understanding” of religion to believe that another group is mistaken in their beliefs?

Did it really surprise anyone that a Christian disagreed with the beliefs of Jewish people? Is there something inherently wrong with that? I could totally understand if the chaplain had said, “Yes, Jews are evil and going to hell, and we might as well kill them now and send them on their way,” but does anyone actually think he meant anything like that? He nodded when asked a straight-forward question.

Overall, I don’t see much point in having a team chaplain. If I was a Major League Baseball player, I would do my best to attend my church meetings as often as I could during the season, and I would rely on personal study and prayer to help me through. I wouldn’t feel the need for a generic Christian chaplain — you show me 25 “Christians” in a locker room, and I will show you 25 vastly different religious views. But if a team makes the decision to bring in a Christian chaplain, they really should be prepared for the fact that, like Rev. Land said, traditional Christian theology might be preached.

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