Someone wise once quipped that God got tired waiting for the churches to do something about racism, so God went to major league baseball.
The film “42” opens this weekend and in it we are reminded that Jackie Robinson was driven by his Christian faith as he become the first African-American to play in Major League Baseball.
Chris Lamb writes in the The Wall Street Journal:
During their first meeting, after Rickey had read aloud the passage from Papini’s “Life of Christ,” he also asked Robinson to read from the section about “nonresistance.” Robinson understood what was needed for him to succeed.
Nobody in sports had ever faced the sort of pressure, and abuse, that Jackie Robinson did when he took the field for the first time in a Brooklyn uniform on April 15, 1947. And yet Robinson didn’t merely endure, he thrived.
In a 1950 newspaper interview, he emphasized his faith in God and his nightly ritual of kneeling at bedside to pray. “It’s the best way to get closer to God,” Robinson said, and then the second baseman added with a smile, “and a hard-hit ground ball.”
After Robinson retired from baseball he became a sports columnist writing for the New York Post and the Amsterdam News. In 1960, Robinson compared his own experience with the nonviolent resistance espoused by his friend, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“I can testify to the fact that it was a lot harder to turn the other cheek and refuse to fight back than it would have been to exercise a normal reaction,” Robinson wrote. “But it works, because sooner or later it brings a sense of shame to those who attack you. And that sense of shame is often the beginning of progress.”