Disclaimer: This article discusses issues of transphobia, religious persecution, and misappropriation of religious doctrine. Reader discretion is advised.
On May 23, the Dodgers reversed their decision as to the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence on Pride Night, which is Friday, tonight. As such, I thought this story was done. Then a few days later, the team announced the return of Christian Faith and Family Day to Dodger Stadium — but you see, that statement is not entirely accurate.
The Dodgers did not initially announce their upcoming Christian Faith and Family Day. Clayton Kershaw did. At the time, I thought the timing was odd. I thought that Kershaw’s announcement was innocuous. The Dodgers certainly have had a mixed record as to public relations over the past year (see: Bauer, Trevor; Pride Night, the Gondola, etc.).
On May 29, Clayton Kershaw gave an interview to Jack Harris of the Los Angeles Times, which was published after the game. I read what Kershaw said. I looked at the timing of what Kershaw said. I read what Kershaw said again. Then I decided to sit and think about what Kershaw said. I saw two primary takes emerge online, both of which I think are wrong. But before I give you cause to be set upon me, let us focus first on what Kershaw did right as Pride Night is finally upon us.
Kershaw is not a homophobe
I have seen the argument that Kershaw is a homophobe sprout online from those who are either willfully missing the point or do not understand emotional nuance. It is without dispute that Kershaw, through his charities, has done considerable humanitarian work overseas for underserved communities.
During his interview with the Times, Kershaw stated that he publicly disagreed that the Dodgers are giving an honor to the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. Kershaw stated that he pushed the Dodgers to bring back Christian Faith and Family Day as a response to the Dodgers’ handling of the Sisters’ situation.
My whole premise last time was that the Dodgers were giving the voices of intolerance an effective veto over the event. The Dodgers corrected themselves until this latest happening with Kershaw.
“This has nothing to do with the LGBTQ community or pride or anything like that,” Kershaw said. “This is simply a group that was making fun of a religion, that I don’t agree with. ... For us, we felt like the best thing to do in response was, instead of maybe making a statement condemning or anything like that, would be just to instead try to show what we do support, as opposed to maybe what we don’t,” Kershaw said. “And that was Jesus. So to make Christian Faith Day our response is what we felt like was the best decision.”
Now, based on perception and the timing of what has happened, one could credibly argue that the Dodgers have given Kershaw a quasi-veto about the event. If one were to be uncharitable, as some outlets have been, one could argue that Kershaw is trying to “both sides” this issue. I do not agree with Kershaw’s disagreement, but that aspect is not my biggest gripe.
The timing of Kershaw’s disagreement and the subsequent events look bad. This matter was effectively settled until Kershaw called a team meeting after the Tampa series, more than a week later, and then the team appeared to cater to the future Hall of Famer. One could argue that Kershaw had an understandably busy week and could only get to this matter when he did, which honestly works both ways against Kershaw. With everything that has happened, this issue is the one that merits immediate attention the first moment back?
Even giving Kershaw the benefit of the doubt (as I do not know what is in his heart), the timing of pushing for something in response to the Dodgers’ Pride Night, even the Sisters’ award, is a bad look because it arguably taints both Christian Faith and Family Day (which, again, is fine) and the Dodgers Pride Night because both nights have meaning and one does not need to make one event a response to the other.
Kershaw did not take Matthew 5-38:42 into account
The other take I have seen is that Kershaw did nothing wrong here and that everyone needs to defer to him. After careful deliberation, I cannot agree with that take, because the following contradiction is too glaring to ignore.
38You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” 39But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
Unless you are picking and choosing what tenets of faith you want to follow, Christ asks a lot of those that would follow Him. I was raised in the Christian tradition, spending time in Mennonite, Presbyterian, and Catholic churches until I rejected the entire enterprise in my late teen years. So I have some idea of what I am speaking about.
The primary emotion I feel as to Kershaw’s interview is disappointment with the hope that he can and will do better. I have not forgotten Matthew 7:5 (“Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shall thou see clearly to cast out the most out of thy brother’s eye.”) If anything, I am looking at what Kershaw did as an opportunity for a teachable moment for anyone willing to listen.
By Kershaw’s standards given in his interview, he would likely have an issue with any of the following being given an award by the Dodgers:
- Monty Python (The Life of Brian)
- Derry Girls (Sister Michael)
- The Simpsons
- Father Ted
- Sister Act
- The Young Pope/The New Pope
I could go on. The counterargument is that none of these properties (or their creators) are being honored by the Dodgers at Pride Night for their works in the community. That statement is true, but barring some new information, these properties are not as active in helping the poor and reaching out to those that our society has left behind as the Sisters have.
Last time I argued that when privilege is faced with equality cries of oppression soon follow. As such, I have no issue with a Christian Faith and Family Day as the Dodgers have annually done that event prior to the pandemic. In August, the team is going to have a Jewish night. If there were sufficient interest, an Islamic night could be held, or a Buddhist night.
The point of these nights is twofold: one, for the Dodgers to be good stewards of the community as we all celebrate specific voices that are the totality of Dodger fandom; two, for the Dodgers to get our money, for those who would wish to spend extra to visit Dodger Stadium.
To be fair to Kershaw though, I can see where he is coming from, even when I do not agree with him. Finding nuanced takes regarding the Dodgers’ Pride Night fiasco, apart from my own, has been difficult. Houston Mitchell wrote a dandy of an article on June 2, speaking as a fan and a person of faith, where he acknowledges the discomfort of satire but argues that the mercy of good works should not be trumped by said satire.
Writer Michael J. O’Loughlin wrote extensively about his complicated feelings about the Dodgers and the Sisters on May 24. He sees the value of the Sisters’ ministry but does feel that the group arguably punches down at Catholic nuns. I respectfully disagree that one can punch down to a group that inherently has more power than the LGBTQ+ community.
As we covered last time, it is without question and beyond dispute, that the Catholic Church was one of the institutions that made life difficult, if not impossible, for homosexual men at the height of the AIDS crisis. Numerous Bishops fought against gay civil rights measures. O’Loughlin acknowledges this sentiment.
It is worth repeating the argument that Christians are facing religious persecution in the United States is utterly ridiculous. In the United States, no one practicing their faith (especially a Christian) is at risk of having the government take their life, liberty, or property. But LGBTQ+ rights? Pick a conservative state: odds are extremely high that I can find you an example of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation either under consideration or recently enacted.
Laws criminalizing sexual relations between homosexuals were still constitutional until 2003. Same-sex marriage was not legal until the summer of 2015. Denying the power imbalance between these two groups is arguing in bad faith.
What I wish Kershaw had said
Kershaw’s interview with the Times opened the figurative floodgates in dueling public statements from current-Dodger-punching-bag Trevor Williams and current injured Dodger reliever, Blake Treinen. (Why Treinen went through a third party rather than post on social media himself is beyond me.) Thankfully, Kershaw’s statement had none of the invective, typographical errors, and outright hostility of his contemporaries.
What I wish Kershaw had said, what I fear someone like a Treinen or a Williams will never say, is something along the lines of Sr. Jeannie Gramick, co-founder of New Ways Ministry:
While I am uncomfortable with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence using the nuns’ old garb to draw attention to bigotry, whether Catholic or not, there is a hierarchy of values in this situation. The choice of clothing, even if offensive to some, can never trump the works of mercy.
Just as I have great respect for Catholic nuns because of their compassion and good works over the centuries, I applaud the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence for their financial assistance to those in need. I support them because of all their good works. I believe that any group that serves the community, especially those who are less fortunate or on the margins of society, should be honored.
“We used to refer to them as the ‘corporal works of mercy,’ [The Sisters] visit the sick, they feed the hungry, clothe the naked. So that’s good....“For me, it’s about trying to embrace people who might be different from us,” she said. “Because Jesus said, ‘Come to the table.’ Not, ‘You don’t deserve a place at the table.’”
Forgiveness or understanding is what is fundamentally missing from Kershaw’s interview. Kershaw did not state what he saw or did to come to his conclusion and he has refused further comment, prompting this essay.
Kershaw thankfully did not cite Galatians 6:7-8, whereas Williams alluded to it and Treinen outright quoted it. Unsurprisingly, missing the point of how we should treat each other rather than act as “God’s defender.” God is God, He doesn’t need help when the core commandments were to love God and love thy neighbor as thyself.
From my perspective, it seems like the Sisters and Kershaw have a lot more common ground in what they both are trying to do as those in need. From that perspective, maybe what needs to be aired out could be solved by a conversation between Kershaw and the Sisters.
Kershaw has shown the capacity to admit error and/or course correct, as he stuck his foot in his mouth as to Freddie Freeman returning to Atlanta last year. Kershaw stood with Mookie Betts after the shooting of Jacob Blake in 2020. We all have our blind spots though. At this point, I would hope that Kershaw would grow, reach out, change, and seek understanding, but he has no obligation to me.
If Kershaw chooses to let his interview be his final word on this subject, so be it. Regardless of what my family thinks, I do not operate under the delusion that Kershaw is going to be swayed by my words. But every team in the major leagues has an annual Pride Night with one exception: the Texas Rangers. Whether this issue will be a determinative factor of whether Kershaw leaves next year is an open one.
All I know for now is that despite all the calls for a boycott, Dodger Stadium remains full. However, as if to prove my point, news arose of a “Christian” protest that is scheduled to take place on Dodger Stadium property, starting prior to Pride Night. Just looking at the organizations listed in the photograph, we are talking alt-right groups here. There is that veto again.
Hey @Dodgers: you’ve handed over parking lot 13 to a “Christian” rally on pride night that Pr*ud Bo*ys are planning to attend. On a night meant to make LGBTQ+ fans feel safe attending a ⚾️ stadium, you’re basically creating an area we can’t walk through w/out risk of violence. pic.twitter.com/k4plsxxS5w— Karen Tongson (@inlandemperor) June 14, 2023
Now would this protest be happening had Kershaw not given his interview, or if Kershaw had subsequently talked with the Sisters at any point after his interview, or if any Dodger player openly and publicly supported Pride Night? It would be irresponsible to suggest so. But considering this most recent development, I would advise attendees of tonight’s Pride Night to avoid Lot 13 if at all possible.