Dear Brother Dirk,
I just finished reading Out of My League over the course of the last 3 days, and I came away broken-hearted. I purchased the book as a summer reading gift for my son, a college athlete, hoping to encourage him in his Christian walk. He’s at a cross-roads, taking a big step of faith to compete with an Athletes in Action team this summer.
I was discouraged, because I thought you, as a self-identified Christian athlete, would be writing about how to stand up for God through the trials of competitive sports.
I am broken-hearted because of the tone in which you seemed to mock your parents and grandparents (rather than honoring them), and because of your steady profanity and of the taking of the LORD’s name in vain (as opposed to recording when others did so).
Brother, I am in no way condemning you, because there is only ONE who ultimately judges. I am only hoping to encourage you to be mindful of the many young Christians who are also trying to navigate this world’s waters – trying to be “in the world, not OF the world.”
We are commanded to be mindful of the “weaker” brothers and not to encourage them to do that which is in opposition to God’s commandments. We need to be careful not to “make light” of the deep and grievous sins that caused Jesus to go to the cross. The world is watching.
May God richly bless and keep you, Brother Dirk. May he draw you close. I hope, if I’m out of line somewhere here, that God will correct me and not stumble you.
Many Thanks and Blessings,
First, Thanks for buying, reading, and engaging with my book. I appreciate it. That’s why I wrote it.
Now, as per your letter, don’t call me brother. Makes me feel weird, like we’re in some cult together. Just call me Dirk.
And don’t put your broken heart on me. That’s your choice. I never set out to please you or your son or any other Christian, or increase or decrease any one’s faith. I set out to write an honest account of my life—and I did. My parents went through hell and my grandmother is a psycho. The men of pro-baseball are sinful bastards whom I love with all my heart because pro-ball is an absolute grind, but they’re the only one’s by your side.
You say I dishonored my parents. I can assure you that they have never felt more honored than they did when my stories went to press. They had an incredibly hard life, and to sugar coat that would have made the experience meaningless. You have NO IDEA how many people have written me to tell me my book helped them, their families, and their self-identity. I’m sure you don’t need reminded that some of the greatest stories of the Bible are built on the broken and struggling nature of the humans in them. Through my writing, my parent’s brokeness has healed so many. If that’s not honor, I don’t know what is.
You’re God damn right I took the Lord’s name in vain! Why? Because I did take the Lord’s name in vain! I’m not going to play revisionist historian so that the sensibilities of potential Christian readers can be met with cleanly scrubbed, safe for Christian consumption stories. Sin exists in this world, and the Christian’s who can’t accept that, cringe when exposed to, or only want accounts of those who conquer it, are living a lie.
Your son doesn’t need encouraged, he needs told the truth. If he goes pro, he’ll be heading into a world where he’ll be the minority. Worse still, he’ll run into people like you who will tell him he’s not doing it correctly even when he’s doing it his best. Trust me when I say that is more debilitating than running into people who just don’t share the same belief.
Your son will be around people who swear constantly. Sex offenders, drug users, cheaters—sinners! And all this in and not of the world stuff will be a big, blurry mess. He’ll stumble and he’ll fail, and through it all God will remain who He is. Your son will see the people that play the sport for who and what they are, not just sins or chances to glorify God, and not just points to be scored on the salvation board in Heaven. And when that moment comes, he will have to choose whether he wants to love them, or reject them as part of the world. He will have to choose whether he wants to be useful with his faith, even if it doesn’t look like what he’ s used to. He’ll have to decide if he wants to learn more of the world’s ways, or only associate with the saved and hope that, by avoiding all association with the world, some how those other poor bastards will just convert through osmosis.
Real Christians don’t need to be encouraged, Steve. They have Jesus. Instead, what they need is to quit worrying about forks in the road, or being knocked from their faith, or screwing up because they love the people in the world so much they make mistakes trying to be there for them. If your son loves the lost like Christ did, Athletes in Action is a waste of his time. He’ll be around the healthy. He’ll be sheltered from sinners. He’ll get more of the same, and those who come to him will come because he’s an athlete first who is also a Christian, and most will be looking for more of what they already believe as validated by a believer in sports.
Go where Christ isn’t the majority. Get beat up by the world. Weep with the abused, laugh with the drunks, and smack the ass of the meathead in the bullpen. Love them, the way they need to be loved, the way someone else who wasn’t a Christian couldn’t. Then you’ll see the face of God.
Keeping close to the pockets of the world that are already on their way to a Christian Utopia is not success, and being exposed to sin and honest sinful people is not damaging to the faith. Accept the world as it is. If we are ever going to do anything productive with our faith, we’d be better off dropping this useless semantical bullshit and jumping into the mud, ready and willing to help the lost get found. .