Auto Blame

Nothing says summer time like baseball, and nothing says baseball like Field of Dreams.

Yes, my dad has already written a reflection on the film. Yes, I structured a sermon around its iconic voice a few weeks ago.

And yes, the mark of a great movie is to learn something new with each viewing.

I’ve viewed Field of Dreams plenty of times, and it’s especially easy to find a channel with it during the summer. While I see more every time I watch it, there are also those scenes that stand out as favorites. For me, one of those moments is the drive back to Iowa from Minnesota, where baseball-field builder Ray Kinsella opens up to author Terrence Mann about Ray’s relationship with his late father. Ray shares that at the age of 14 his love for playing baseball began to wane, and he quit wanting to play catch with his father. Terrence Mann asks, “Why at fourteen?” Ray hesitates before confessing that he’d read a book by Terrence at that age which affected him. Terrence’s reaction is immediate.

You see, that’s the kind of crap people always try to lay on me. It’s not my fault you wouldn’t play catch with your father.
— Terrence Mann (played by James Earl Jones)

Ray tries to calm him, but Terrence speaks from a history as the object of auto blame—people blaming his writing for their attitudes and actions. Personally, the whole scene makes me laugh, but Terrence isn’t laughing yet, and Ray’s laughter is hesitant.

Blame is easy to toss around but difficult to carry. Some people become automatic targets of that blame, like Terrence. Because of words he wrote, people toss words of blame back on him. We do the same thing in our everyday lives. Sometimes it’s easier to push blame onto someone else based on the past rather than to let the blame go for the good of the future.

The apostle, John, devotes over forty verses of a chapter to a story that begins with the question, “Who is to blame?” Jesus and his disciples encounter a man blind from birth, and they wonder out loud who is to blame for the blindness: the man or his parents?

Neither this man nor his parents sinned...
— John 9:3

Jesus opens the man’s eyes to see, which is where the story should end, but the blame game has not ended. The religious authorities enter stage right demanding who is to blame for the sabbath violation that led to the man’s healing. Then the man’s parents appear. And the story becomes an endless game of “Tag, you’re to blame.” This is what happens when we thrive on blame: an endless cycle of naming who is at fault rather than trying to repair the faults.

As Terrence and Ray arrive at the "field of dreams,” they witness miracles. They enter another time zone. Terrence begins to smile, and laugh, again as he follows Shoeless Joe into the magical corn. Ray shakes diamond dust off his feet and blame off of his heart to have his own eyes opened to one of the players on the field. When they move toward their dreams, auto blame becomes auto praise.

Blame easily blinds us from all God wants to reveal to us on the field of life. Let us stop dwelling in such a place of darkness and enter into the light-filled diamond of God’s presence.

all good things to each of you,

Pastor Darian