From the Editor—Friday Reflections

Called Out at Home

Breaking the Rules Ruins a Glorious Game

June 1, 2018

Baseball has been called America's pastime. Writers such as George Will have written of its transcendental aspects. Indeed, sports at their best can touch the transcendent. Were that not the case, the physical acts of baseball—batting and fielding practice—would suffice without ever playing a game. But the game is more than the sum of its physical parts, but for its meaning to emerge, an order of rules is necessary.

In my boyhood, neighborhood baseball games attracted boys who came not to just hit and catch a ball, but to play a game. And we knew there could be no real game without the basic rules, rules that we did not make up for ourselves.

Of course, we adapted the rules, depending on the number of players and the field of play available. Adaptations might include "pitcher's hands out," "right field foul," and "no base stealing." Adaptations were agreed upon before each game, so we always played by a set of rules.

Once in a while a lopsided game would end when the losing team started breaking rules—a base runner, for example, would leave the base line to avoid being tagged out, but then keep running away from defenders until he reached home plate, pretending he had just scored a run. We knew a game was over whenever "pretend baseball" started. It was their way of saying, "We quit."

Knowing the real game was over, players on both teams might join in the faux-baseball shenanigans. Such pretend baseball lasted no more than a few minutes, for without rules it could not sustain much interest. Such "play" outside the real game may relieve frustrations and burn off excess energy, but we were under no illusions about the value of a real game versus that of the faux-play. No one would have left their homes for the park or field just to goof off and play pretend baseball. They might have left home for batting and fielding practice, but only if it was in preparation for a real game.

An organized ball game is to faux-play baseball what marital sex is to sex as it is currently being promoted. Sexual activity severed from both marriage and family formation is like baseball activity without a real game in view: the physical sensations may be the same, but they lack purpose other than a quick feel-good. It's the difference between the meaning of a hook-up or one-night stand and the meaning of intercourse between a chaste man and wife who are deeply in love and open to having a family. One is merely orgasmic, the other romantic and marital. One is recreational, the other pro-creational.

George Gilder claimed in Men & Marriage (1986) that the orgy was part of a pattern in pre-Judeo-Christian human society that sanctioned a brief but contained explosion of sexual energy, but only to reinforce regulated sexual intercourse within an established marital order that endured.

Whatever the case may be, what we have now is essentially a sanctioned perpetual orgy for all comers. Even though many decline to take part in it, its energetic spirit of transgressive sexual chaos is hard to ignore. It poisons everything.

The Christian gospel preached to the pagan tribes included a mandate for a highly regulated sexual purity. The Judeo-Christian ideal of a "holy nation" had no place for the orgy, for sexual expression driven by mere lust:

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles ... (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5)

Today, many school boards, teachers, publishers, legislators, government authorities, and even church leaders are complicit in the anti-culture of faux-sexual intercourse. Yet its bitter fruit is becoming increasingly apparent in the growing list of sexual abusers. Many of the umpires abolished the rules years ago. But there is no excuse, for they knew the rules in their hearts. If only it were a mere game; casualties are coming in. The game should already be over. How much longer?

Yours for Christ, Creed & Culture,

James M. Kushiner
Executive Director, The Fellowship of St. James

—James M. Kushiner is Executive Editor of Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity, and Executive Director of The Fellowship of St. James.