|Ted Williams hits one of his 521 Home Runs.|
Ron Fairly had a fairly good Major League career. He played 21 seasons in the majors and then was a broadcaster for 27 more. His lifetime average was .266. He led the USC baseball team to a College World Series championship in 1958, and then helped the Los Angeles Dodgers win three World Series in 1959, 1963, and 1965. He was an All Star. He is also the answer to a baseball trivia question that will stump all but the most obsessed fans: Ron Fairly is the player who hit the most career home runs without ever hitting as many as twenty in a single season.
Fairly was good, but he wasn’t Ted Williams. Of course, no one was Ted Williams other than the man himself. But there is a vast gulf between Ron Fairly’s exceptional talents and the best hitter who ever played the game.
Years ago I heard a story about Fairly talking to Williams about hitting, and he told the Hall of Famer that there was a particular pitch, that he just couldn’t hit. Williams responded by asking him, “Then why do you swing at it?”
If you can’t hit it, Ted told him, then don’t swing at it.
In baseball and in life, that is good advice.
It’s not perfect, of course, there are times when you have to swing even if your chances of getting a hit are not very good.
But in his twenty-one seasons, Ron Fairly struck out just 877 times.
As I contemplate our upcoming United Methodist General Conference, I find myself thinking about Ted’s advice.
I was reading “The Renewal Agenda for General Conference” proposed by the ironically named “Good News” movement, and I found myself feeling physically ill. It’s an agenda which is apparently aimed at making us more rigid than the Southern Baptists. And then it occurred to me that the “Good News” people probably feel the same way when they read about the agenda proposed by the Reconciling Ministries Network.
This is a pitch we United Methodists just can’t seem to hit.
We can’t even agree on what sort of a pitch it is. One side calls it “the issue of homosexuality.” The other side talks about the exclusion of our LGBTQ sisters and brothers (although we are not really comfortable with the gender binary).
Both sides believe that they are very serious about biblical authority and each side believes that the other is profoundly and perversely wrong.
We can’t hit it. We need to stop swinging at it.
To my mind, that would mean two things.
First, those of us in favor of inclusion need to give up on changing that grotesquely offensive statement about “homosexual practice” being incompatible with Christian teaching. Maybe we can modify it slightly and maybe not, but we probably cannot eliminate it, and we just need to let it go.
And second, those in favor of the continued exclusion of LGBTQ persons need to give up on the penalties for pastors and bishops who celebrate same sex marriages and appoint LGBTQ pastors. Just let it go. We don’t have penalties for any other comparable infractions.
My guess is that plenty of people on both sides of the issue would find this idea deeply offensive. But it would be better than where we are.