Just two weeks ago, we were asking if God might be a Tampa Bay Rays fan.
On Wednesday, the Detroit Free Press posed a different question:
Is God a Tigers fan?
Seriously, the Free Press story takes that intriguing question and uses it to frame an excellent religion story.
From the top:
From its outdoor electronic sign to its noon, workday service, the congregation of St. John's Episcopal Church in downtown Detroit obeys the second commandment.
God "does tell us to love our neighbors as ourselves," said the Rev. Steven Kelly, rector of the 150-year-old church on Woodward, across a parking lot from Comerica Park. "And the Tigers are our next-door neighbors, and one of the ways we love them, is to pray for them."
At Tuesday's service, ahead of Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, Kelly intoned a prayer before the handful of churchgoers asking "for blessings for the Tigers that they may play to the best of their abilities and injury-free." He will put in another prayer at noon today.
But is God really a Tigers fan?
Keep reading, and you discover that — despite the lighthearted tone — the piece takes religion seriously. That's a welcome surprise.
After unfolding naturally, however, the story detours somewhat abruptly:
Sports fans are accustomed to seeing players cross themselves before facing a pitch, draw crosses in the dirt with their bats or point to the heavens after a home run.
"Like all sports, baseball is being affected by the general culture. And the general culture is being affected by the rise of evangelical, dogmatic religion," said William Baker, the University of Maine author of "Playing with God: Religion and Modern Sport" (Cambridge Harvard University, $29.95). "It's in our politics. It's in our artistic culture. And it certainly is in sports."
On the positive side, Baker sounds like he has perfect credentials to be quoted in a story such as this. On the negative side, how did this story suddenly arrive at "evangelical, dogmatic religion?" Huh?
Then there's this:
Conservative Rabbi Jason Miller, director of Kosher Michigan, said he took no offense at Christian displays of faith on the field.
"In America, we take our sports seriously and baseball as the American pastime has been elevated to almost the level of religion," said Miller of Farmington Hills. "When I see a player like Jose Valverde of the Tigers pointing to heaven or crossing himself, I can tell my children that he is a religious person and is grateful to God for his successful performance and God-given abilities."
Again, I like the sourcing. But why do we have someone responding to a criticism that no one has made in the story? Why exactly would he take offense?
But all in all, I like this story.
At the beginning, I expected a not-so-filling bowl of chicken-noodle soup. I ended up devouring a thermos full of hot beef stew. Kudos to the Free Press.
The story's stellar concluding grafs:
But what about the current fight for the American League pennant, does God have a stake in that?
"Oh, heck yeah," said Corena Makin of Grand Blanc, who was among the sold-out crowd attending Tuesday night's Game 3 at Comerica Park. But if the Tigers don't advance past this series, Makin said, "it doesn't say anything bad about God.
"It's just not their time," she added.
Mike Lovie, a 47-year-old pipe fitter from London, Ontario, knows all about ill-timed prayers. He also attended Game 3, but rooting for the Tigers wasn't his first choice.
"I prayed for the Red Sox," Lovie said, "but it didn't work."