Reclaiming My God

It is a central piece of my faith that roughly 2000 years ago in Jerusalem, Jesus cried out from a cross “Eli, Eli, lemasabachthani?,” or “My God, my God, Why have you forsaken me?” There is no point in the New Testament, from Jesus birth until his ascension into heaven in which he is more human, more relatable to us as people than the moment in which he utters these words. We’ve all heard these words before, and perhaps even said them ourselves, in moments of failure and pain. You could hear these words from an athlete who has been defeated on the biggest stage, a person losing all hope from financial ruin, or a person who has lost their family and everything they live for. There is no line in any religious text that more closely ties man and God together, or gives us hope that we’re not alone. It really is the essence of what Christians of all kind believe is the relationship between us and our creator. Jesus spent his final moments forgiving the criminals hanging on crosses next to him, and yet suffering self-doubt.

I am not a theologian, or even at this point a practicing religious person, however I am not an atheist. I grew up a practicing Byzantine Catholic, but sometime shortly after high school I stopped regularly attending mass. It was nothing specific, I didn’t leave the church specifically over the child sex scandal, or some theological interpretation that I disagreed with. In fact, I would say that I probably have come to view the current Pope from a very positive light, comparable to most past religious leaders in our world. How could I turn against the God I described above, one who I could so closely relate to? I stopped finding value in practicing organized religion in a church, lead by the interpretations of mortal men like myself, mortal men who have made equally human decisions like I have, good or bad. I found it increasingly difficult to believe in all of the other bullshit, the stuff that wasn’t the words of the Lord himself. I read the New Testament as a child. I heard what the person I was taught to view as God told me. Love thy neighbor, no preconditions. Help those in need. Forgive. Right wrongs. Jesus didn’t tell me who to judge. He told me who to help. His words didn’t leave any gray area about what his values were. All these earthly religious leaders though? They talked about a lot of things that never came out of Jesus’ mouth once in the New Testament. They cited the Old Testament and the words of others often, but you have to remember that those parts of the bible were chosen by humans, not some God. I felt nothing for those words. The things they were saying weren’t what my faith was based on. They weren’t preaching Jesus’ word, so why follow?

Once you open Pandora’s Box, it doesn’t close itself back up. As I read through the other great religions of the world’s interpretations and writings, I found so much common ground, common themes, even common pillars of faith. There is no “God” that doesn’t share the basic values of service, love, and charity to our fellow man. Yet living in a political world as I do, so many religious leaders of all stripes want to spend a lot of time telling us who to judge, what behavior leads to eternal damnation, and in the worst of instances, who to hate. The disconnect grows. “Religious” people are the judgmental types that don’t talk about any of the things that Jesus did, or so you convince yourself. Suddenly, you’re living more and more secular, basically because you’ve convinced yourself that to do otherwise is contrary to the religious values you grew up with. Yet at the same time, you’re not an atheist. In fact, your only real problem is that you realize that God speaks in all religions through the same basic values that you yourself grew up on. You politicize your most important personal relationship, the one directly between yourself and your creator, yourself and your basic values. It’s in that moment that you lose your self values.

As I age, I’m coming to a basic conclusion- that my God isn’t defined by others, nor is my faith a condition of whether or not others are teaching the direct word of God. The God on the cross dealing with his belief in forgiveness and his own self doubts in the final moments of his life is not redefined by anyone else. This doesn’t mean I’m going to “return” to church, or any organized religion at all. What it means is I’m reclaiming my God. I’m reclaiming my values. Hell yes, I’m a person of faith. And maybe that will mean membership in some religious group in the future. For now though, it means I’m reclaiming what’s mine, and seeing where it takes me.

Big Irrelevancy

There are roughly 332 million people in America and roughly 209 million adults. In the last two Presidential Elections, we saw record turnout of 139 million in 2016 and 158 million in 2020. Meanwhile in prime time viewership, FOX News, MSNBC, and CNN combine for about 6.76 million viewers during the first quarter of 2021. In total, less than 5% of the 2020 electorate is watching cable news. Viewership is certainly declining in the Biden era, but even in the Trump era, well north of 8 in 10 voters weren’t consuming daily news cycles. This is true across demographics, and ideologies. Most Americans aren’t sitting by the TV to see political news. While more and more people are voting, how they are engaging their political system is not how we think they engage it.

Even as there isn’t a lot of debate about what I wrote above, American politics still tends to cater to and center the folks in the 2-3% of America who are internalizing the “Beltway” debates on television. The Republican Party has fully embraced some hybrid of the FOX audience and people in the red hats at the Trump rallies as their true base. The Democratic Party largely chose to center online “ActBlue” small donors last cycle when they made raw donor numbers a criteria for getting on the debate stage in the Presidential Primaries. They may not be numerous within the electorate, but the political parties seem to want to embrace the people most stuck on the podcasts, cable news shows, and Twitter. Does it make any sense though?

Of course it doesn’t, and one must not look any further than the man sitting in the Oval Office right now, Joe Biden. Did he lead in online donors in the primaries? No. Was he super popular in Twitter in the primaries? No. Did he have the coolest memes? No. Was he ever seemingly the most popular candidate with MSNBC’s primetime hosts? Definitely not. President Biden was elected as a basic rejection of all of that, of all the coverage that said the party was moving left, or that he was too old fashioned, or that he was not what the electorate wanted. President Biden won the nomination by the widest contested margin since at least 2004, and did so faster than anyone since that same 2004 race went to John Kerry. His coalition was largely working class, cutting across demographic lines of all kinds. It wasn’t close, and it’s meaning should have been clear. Joe Biden was nominated by a broad coalition of Democratic voters, despite a press that wanted to declare him dead, a bunch of opponents who thought they knew better where voter sentiment was moving, and a community of activists and leaders who were pretty sure that his politics weren’t all that appealing to the public, and would ultimately lose again. To be fair, Biden was hardly the first recent rejection of party orthodoxy in either party. One can fairly assume though that without change, he also won’t be the last.

The vast majority of voters aren’t really looking for what the cable news shows are selling as party orthodoxy. The story of the last 15 years in American political life is the voters selecting something and someone very different than what is expected. The truth is that the most partisan, most activist bases of the parties are very tiny groups, and they aren’t all that representative of the vast majority of primary voters, let alone general election voters. This has created a big industry, both politically and within the media, that is representing a tiny slice of American life. That ever shrinking pie is scaring the folks that make their money off of the conflict and chaos that drives “Beltway” conversations. As that dynamic continues to unfold in the era of President Biden, expect even more ridiculous stories about the President’s dogs shitting in the White House hallways, faux controversies about Dr. Seuss, and even ridiculous stories about the rantings of the former guy hanging out in Florida. There’s a need to create some kind of news, otherwise there’s a possibility that for some, the grift is up.

My 2021 MLB Predictions

Finally, it’s Opening Day 2021. Fans will return to the seats. And we’re going to have a “normal” season. So what will happen? Here are my 2021 picks…

AL East

  1. Yankees 96-66
  2. Rays 94-68
  3. Blue Jays 88-74
  4. Red Sox 70-92
  5. Orioles 60-102

AL Central

  1. Twins 90-72
  2. White Sox 84-78
  3. Royals 76-86
  4. Indians 66-96
  5. Tigers 58-104

AL West

  1. Astros 89-73
  2. Athletics 86-76
  3. Angels 76-86
  4. Rangers 64-98
  5. Mariners 59-103

NL East

  1. Braves 94-68
  2. Phillies 90-72
  3. Mets 89-73
  4. Marlins 80-82
  5. Nationals 70-92

NL Central

  1. Cardinals 90-72
  2. Brewers 83-79
  3. Reds 76-86
  4. Cubs 70-92
  5. Pirates 56-106

NL West

  1. Dodgers 104-58
  2. Padres 98-64
  3. Giants 75-87
  4. Diamondbacks 63-99
  5. Rockies 58-104

AL Playoffs

AL Wild Card- Rays over Jays

AL Divisional- Yankees over Rays, Astros over Twins

ALCS- Yankees over Astros

NL Playoffs

NL Wild Card– Phillies over Padres

NL Divisional- Dodgers over Phillies, Braves over Cardinals

NLCS- Braves over Dodgers

World Series

Braves over Yankees

Awards:

MVP’s- Mike Trout and Fernando Tatis Jr.

Coach of the Year- Aaron Boone and Joe Girardi

Rookie of the Year– Ke’Bryan Hayes and Randy Arozarena

Phillies Leaders-

Homers- Harper 41

RBI’s- Harper 115

Hits- Hoskins 175

Wins- Nola 16

Innings- Nola 202

ERA– Wheeler 2.85

Let’s play ball.