God may not have invented baseball but apparently he is a fan of the game. As foolish as this sounds, it’s not uncommon for believers to fantasize about what their god likes or dislikes. In the new film 42, the story about Jackie Robinsons’ integration of major league baseball, Branch Rickey, the owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers invokes the name of god in his efforts to break the color line in Americas’ national past time.
In an early scene Mr. Rickey gets a phone call from another team owner in Philadelpia who is upset about the Dodgers having a black man on the roster. He states his team will refuse to play the Dodgers if Robinson shows up in Philadelphia. During the phone conversation Mr. Rickey asked the owner if he thinks God likes baseball. The owner is puzzled by the question and Mr. Rickey continues by saying when he gets to heaven and God asks him why he didn’t allow a black man to play baseball, his answer might not be the right one.
The use of fear to get people to do the right thing is not new and is common with monotheistic faiths. Mr. Rickey, a devout Methodist, was no doubt following the dictates of his version of what a good Christian should do in regards to integrating baseball along with insuring his team a chance for a championship. The time was the late 40’s when blacks were denied equal access to many things, both in the public and private sector. This was immediately after the Second World War when blacks served their country overseas but in segregated units. These patriots were good enough to fight and die for their country but not good enough to participate in the national past time. Along with most things at the time baseball was segregated and therefore the creation of the black baseball leagues.
Bob Buzzanco, history professor at the University of Houston gives this quote; “Wow, I had no idea Branch Rickey said that. So you have the most important, in fact epic social struggle in U.S. history – the struggle for black liberation and equality, and the best argument you can make is that some mythical other-world figure is going to be upset about your racist ways? By the late 1940’s there were plenty of people – black and white – making a cogent and strong case for civil rights based on legal and political logic.”
Bob Kolenich of Austintown, Oh. had this to say; “The thought that immediately came to mind is the hypocricy that permeates Christians and Christianity. They have a bible that allows slavery, the Catholic church did little to help the Jews during the holocaust, The Church of Latter Day Saints did not allow black members until the 1970’s and Branch Rickey invokes the name of his god and eternal punishment when confronted about Jackie Robinson playing in major league baseball in the 1940’s. Baseball should have addressed the issue out of fairness and nothing else.”
The idea of fairness is supposedly an American value that goes back to our founders when our Constitution was written but it wasn’t fully realized until generations latter as blacks, women and those without land gained equal rights under the law.
Whether you believe in the bible or not we must all live in a pluralistic society where the color of ones’ skin should not determine access to public or private accommodations.
Jack Brizzi of Warren, Oh. says; “I can separate the mythical primative god from the words of Jesus, the philosopher and his message of loving your fellow man as yourself as expressed in the Sermon on the Mount.”
Another unlikely figure in the entertainment field to advance racial equality was the actress Marilyn Monroe. In the 1950’s the black jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald was denied permission to sing at the exclusive West Hollywood nightclub, Macambo. Ms. Monroe personally intervened by calling the club owner and said if he would book the singer she would reserve a table up front every night Ella would perform. Ella Fitzgerald was ever so grateful and said she had the utmost respect for Ms. Monroe. By using her intelligence and logic Marilyn Monroe got what she wanted without primitive fear tactics.
Whenever we see the other person as ourself, we are likely to do the right thing by them, not out of fear of punishment but out of love.
“Reason obeys itself, ignorance submits to whatever is dictated to it.” – Thomas Paine