Okay, I really wanted the Kansas City Royals to win the World Series this year. It would have been a wonderful Cinderella story, but it was not to be. The Series belonged to a young pitcher for the San Francisco Giants, Madison Bumgarner.
Wow. What a performance. Bumgarner shut out the Royals in game 5 and then in game 7 closed out the final innings without allowing a single score from the Royals. Baseball does not get any better than that.
I did not know this before, but it turns out that Madison Bumgarner is also an evangelical Christian, according to an interview he gave about four years ago. As long as his stellar performance this past week does not go to his head, this extraordinary athlete will serve as an inspiring example to a generation of young baseball pitchers out there growing up in families all across the country.
So, why did I title this blog post the “Bumgarner Blues?” Well, I am continually struck at how so many cultural celebrities from a Christian background who make the scene are athletes. Rarely do you find public intellectuals or respected spokespersons representing an evangelical point of view in the wider culture. Over the next week, you will surely see the lanky, dark curly haired figure of Madison Bumgarner graced over the pages of magazines and Internet websites. Well, great for him, great for the San Francisco Giants, and great for Christian believers for whom baseball is an important part of life.
But when was the last time you saw someone like a C.S. Lewis, a Malcolm Muggeridge, or a Billy Graham hailed across the Internet media landscape? Who stands up to present the Gospel in such a persuasive way that others will thoughtfully listen to the message, even though they might respectfully decline to accept that message? Why is it that great evangelical scholars like Daniel Wallace, Darrell Bock and Ben Witherington, or even prolific pastors like John Piper or Tim Keller, fail to register much of a bleep on the cultural landscape… even on Christian media? Aside from some moral scandal or political debate, about the only time you get a glimpse of an evangelical spokesperson is when someone tips over some line theologically, like a Rob Bell (to the left) or a John Hagee (to the right).
Okay. I can think of one public intellectual or spokesperson over the past ten years who stands out as an exception: National Institutes of Health director Francis Collins. Can anybody think of others?
Sure, you can probably find a number of reasons where blame can get assigned, such as perhaps a media bias of some sort. Okay, I get that. But I wonder if the trouble is not something within the church, too. Do we really value public thought for the sake of Christ, seeking earnestly to give a reason for the hope that we have in Jesus? It will take more than phenomenal baseball players like Madison Bumgarner to draw the world’s attention to the Savior.
Where are the public intellectuals and spokespersons for the faith today?