Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Green Cathedrals

I would be a card-carrying agnostic, but the agnostic leadership isn't quite convinced of the need for cards. Really, they're not quite convinced of anything, and when we all get together, no one can ever make a decision. I have no regrets about my agnosticism, but as you may have guessed, our meetings totally suck. Ordering in lunch? Forget about it.

Not so for Christians in St. Louis, who have managed to pull off what sounds like a fine gathering called Christian Family Day for the past seventeen years at Busch Stadium(s):

The annual program at Busch is one of the most successful promotional events of its kind in Major League Baseball.The Cardinals allotted 9,200 seats — about 20 percent of Saturday's tickets — to organizers of Saturday's event. Two hundred of those were sold to South County Baptist Church. The Rev. John Childers, the church's pastor, said he emphasized to his congregation the connection between St. Louis baseball and a Christian's duty to evangelize.

St. Louisans worship the Cardinals, which makes Busch Stadium the sanctuary of this city and this culture," he said. "Christians need to impact that culture, not just watch it go by. What better place to do that than Busch, which is part of the heart and fabric of St. Louis?"

While such an event is obviously not my cup of tea (English Breakfast? Earl Grey? Man, I just can't decide), one has to admire the way the Cardinals marketing folks have managed this event. For those of you not aware, differences of opinion about religion occasionally cause problems. It seems, however, that Christian Family Day is pulled off in such a way as to neither (a) make the non-evangelicals feel uncomfortable; nor (b) serve to marginalize or ghettoize the event for the participants:

Bringing Jesus into the ballpark is not always easy, and [Marty] Hendin [vice president of community relations for the club] said the Cardinals kept an eye on other clubs that have had problems with similar events.

[Jeff] Miller [a senior group sales executive with the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers] said that after holding Christian Family Day in the Kauffman [(the Kansas City Royals’ stadium)] parking lot before the game for a couple of years, the Royals decided to move it inside the stadium. But they still “did the Christian stuff” before the game.

“We brought in a huge banner that said ‘Jesus is King,’ and that didn’t go over too well,” said Miller. “People were calling the marketing department from their seats and complaining. It was not good.”

Hendin said that’s why the Cardinals do most of the Christian Family Day activity after the game. The Cardinals allow the organizers to hand out the player testimonial cards at the game with invitations for all ticket holders to stay afterwards, listen to the music and hear the player testimonials.

“People can choose to leave after the game,” he said. “We’re not subjecting them to any message they don’t want to be subjected to.”

Given our society's penchant for outrage it's not hard to imagine someone making a fuss about this, but it all seems totally reasonable to me. Indeed, as a Catholic-raised agnostic who has sat in the stands while simultaneously crossing my fingers, wearing a rally cap, praying to Jobu, and eating a Hebrew National, my view is that there is no harm in adding a bit of evangelism to the mix.

(link via GetReligion.org)