First, read or skim this.
Every sports fan and his dog is talking about Albert Pujols right now, in light of his extended contract negotiations, potential divorce from the St. Louis Cardinals after the season, and his demand (or his agent’s, possibly) that he become the highest-paid player in the game (a potential contract upwards of $300 million).
An interesting angle is developing for 21st Century Christians, who are increasingly wary of extreme personal wealth in an “age of hunger.” Pujols is a pretty outspoken evangelical and started the Pujols Family Foundation, which supports Down’s syndrome research (Pujols’ adopted daughter has the syndrome). But now, Christian baseball fans are going to have to reconcile Pujols’ genuine religious faith with his outright demand for lots and lots of money.
GetReligion.com’s Mollie Ziegler cites St. Louis Post-Dispatch religion reporter Tim Townsend, who wrote this about Pujols:
The Rev. Darrin Patrick, pastor of The Journey, a church in St. Louis that counts a number of professional athletes as members, said Jesus warned against greed.
“Nobody really confesses to that sin,” Patrick said. “Lust, anxiety — sure. But very few people say, ‘I’m greedy,’ and I absolutely think that (Pujols) should be on guard for that.”
But also this:
The Rev. Scott Lamb, a Baptist pastor, formerly with a church in St. Louis and co-author, with Tim Ellsworth, of a new Pujols biography called “Pujols: More Than a Game” that focuses on the first baseman’s faith, said the contract talks have opened up an interesting debate in Christian circles that goes beyond baseball to the uncomfortable intersection of the New Testament and capitalism. […]
“I reject any idea that a person’s Christianity should cause them to step away from what the market would demand for them,” said Lamb. “Albert will go down in history as one of the great ones — someone who grabbed the money, and gave it away at the same time.”
These two thoughts (shying away from extravagant material gain and intentionally getting rich in order to be generous with it) are not necessarily mutually exclusive. It’s perfectly reasonable to be strongly against the idea of a Christian hoarding the money he makes (regardless of the size of his paycheck, I might add) and still rejoice that a Christian freely gives away most of that income (again, no matter how much that might be — Pujols could give away 95% of his $30 million a year and still have 1.5 million for himself. Also: uh, wow).
It’s a touchy but important question. And there aren’t really easy answers. But Pujols has shown extreme generosity before, even when he was an impoverished nobody seventh-round draft pick from the Dominican Republic. Who’s to say that will suddenly change when he goes from rich to richer (or maybe richest)? As Zeigler says, “Some groups stand to do very well if Pujols lands a major contract.”
Could it be that the best thing for everyone is for Pujols to become the highest-paid baseball player, knowing that he’ll likely give most of it away? Is that a better alternative than, say, Alex Rodriguez making all that money—given that Rodriguez likely won’t give a dime to Christian organizations? Or should we—and Pujols—shun all that money because it gives the wrong impression? Talk to me.