Shoeless Joe Book Club Discussion – Day 6

Shoeless Joe Book Club Discussion – Day 6

Hello and welcome back to our book club discussion of Shoeless Joe!  We only have 1 day left before this ballgame is done and we say good-bye to Shoeless Joe, but I wanted to thank everyone who has been reading and participating in our discussion. I have a lot of fun chatting with you guys and I hope you have enjoyed  yourselves as much as I have.

Today we are chatting about baseball and religion.  In the book, baseball is often portrayed as a religious experience and is spoken of in religious terms. What are your thoughts about how the book blends religion and baseball?

As always, you can leave your thoughts and opinions on the book and today’s questions in the comments here or you can head to the C. S. Literary Jewelry Facebook page and join the conversation there.

Yesterday, we had our catch-up day and I am pleased to say that we have a bunch of new comments on some of my earlier posts. If you still have catching up to do or want to see what your fellow book club members had to say, you can see our full discussion of Shoeless Joe here.

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4 Responses to Shoeless Joe Book Club Discussion – Day 6

  1. Well, the book is rife with religious imagery. A Prophet being told to build something seemingly nonsensical? Noah.

    (Is it still okay to make Bill Cosby references?)

    Preachers and false prophets.

    Ultimately it’abook about faith, the idea that there is more than ourselves.

    • I agree with you, Rob, that Ray is a modern day Noah and that building the ballfield in his corn is a lot like building the ark. I’ll even go one further and point out that building the field helped save Ray and his family when they were drowning in debt. Make of that what you will.

      I also think that Ray is a little like Moses. In the Bible, Moses gets sent out to lead his tribe to the Promised Land by a voice emanating from a burning bush – not that different from a ballpark announcer speaking out over the corn. There’s a point in Shoeless Joe when Ray is heading to get J.D. Salinger when he wishes that the Voice had picked a real salesman for the job, just like Moses complained to God that he wasn’t good at speaking and wouldn’t be any good at bringing God’s message to Pharaoh. And lastly, even though Moses brought the Israelites to the Promised Land, he himself wasn’t allowed to enter it, which reminds me how Moonlight Graham, Eddie Scissons, and J.D. Salinger all join the baseball players on the field (and beyond) but Ray doesn’t.

      But the most fascinating part of the book’s use of religion and religious imagery is Eddie’s Word of Baseball speech. It’s like a old-time evangelical Bible Revival Meeting and it plays around with this Bible verse from the book of John.

      In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

      But instead of God, the word is baseball. It heals and provides salvation and seems, for all purposes, to replace actual religion with this secular faith.

      I am not sure what I make of this, especially considering the disdain that Ray has for the faith of his religious in-laws and how Eddie complains that his joyless daughters are “Bible-thumpers.” I remember Ray commenting early on in the book that any faith worth anything would bring the believer joy – something that all the religious characters seem to lack – and something that the baseball faithful out in the ball field seem to have but you would think that when you have ghostly baseball players, redeemed of their sins, and living out their version of Heaven in your corn, you might be a little more open-minded to the thought of a Higher Power.

      At the end of the day, Kinsella wrote a story about a father, a son, and some baseball ghosts that liberally uses religion to reinforce the story he was telling but seems to have some issues with that religion.

  2. To me, the salient point is that the so-called religious people in the book are joyless and intolerant of joy.
    To them, religion is a set of rules to be followed. Ray’s devotion to baseball and its rules are a parallel belief system that clearly is more nurturing – to him, – and respectful toward its founders than the religion of his relatives.

    • I agree that in the book, anyone who really identifies as religious is joyless and usually very stand-offish and judgmental. It really is a shame that this is how many people see people of faith since I know many people who have found tremendous joy and compassion in their beliefs.

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