Carrie Prejean's Koufax Moment

Carrie Prejean, Miss California and the runner up in the Miss USA Pageant, was asked a question about her view of marriage.  She recited what her faith believed -- marriage is between a man and a woman -- and as a consequence she may have lost the title of Miss USA.  What Ms. Prejean had was a Koufax Moment or, perhaps, a Myerson Moment.

Sandy Koufax was one of the greatest baseball pitchers of all time.  His persona was nice, serious, and mild.  Baseball was his game, and he did not go around preaching to other people.  Koufax was also Jewish.  In 1965, Sandy Koufax led the Dodgers to the World Series.  The first game of the series was on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year.  Any major league baseball pitcher would have loved to be the first pitcher for his team in the World Series, and that certainly included Sandy Koufax.  But if that meant violating the greater spiritual fidelity which Koufax felt as a Jew, then he would not play.  He did what he, not public opinion, thought was right.

When Bess Myerson competed in the Miss America Pageant, the easy thing to do would have been to conceal her Jewishness.  Why not change "Myerson" to something less ... provocative?  She, of course, did not.  Like Prejean, Myerson faced hatred because of her faith,  but today all but the narrowest of minds and tiniest of hearts see that not running from her Jewishness was courageous and good.  Then, perhaps a less bigoted era, Bess Myerson earned and won the title of Miss America. 

When Carrie Prejean answered honestly the question put to her, she had her Koufax Moment.  When she refused to renounce her faith to please the mob, she had her Myerson Moment. Carrie no more wanted to be asked about her concept of marriage than Sandy wanted the first game of the World Series to fall on Yom Kippur.  She was simply forced to choose between what she thought was right and what the Hollywood crowd wanted her to say. 

Some people may have thought Koufax wrong for placing faith about his team or above the game of baseball.  Some people may have thought Myerson foolish for not adapting a less obviously Jewish name.  Some people may have though Prejean wrong for placing faith about the Miss USA Pageant or the sensibilities of gay couples.   If Koufax and Myerson offended us for living lives as Jews, and if Prejean offends us for living life as a Christian, then we are in thrall to a sickening evil.

Sandy Koufax, Bess Myerson, and Carrie Prejean did not choose to fight religious wars.  All they asked was to be able to compete in the mainstream of American life without having nasty haters mutilate their opportunities.   They asked simply to be faithful to their faith.   Should major league baseball have punished Sandy Koufax for spoiling the World Series?  Should Bess Myerson have been denied the Miss America Crown because she was Jewish?  Surely forcing Koufax or Myerson to sell their Jewishness at the price of competing fairly in America would have been wrong.  Just as surely, asking Prejean to sell her Christianity (or instructing Prejean that her version of Christianity was improper) as the price of competing fairly in America is just as wrong.

Eric Liddell, one of the two remarkable runners portrayed in the magnificent film, Chariots of Fire, would not run in an Olympic event that was held on Sunday, this devout Christian's Sabbath.  Liddell, like Koufax, was prepared to sacrifice something that he had worked his whole life to reach for something he held greater than any prize that man could give.  Liddell, like Prejean, would not twist his Christianity into something that pleased the crowd.

If we are wise, then we will see that Eric Liddell was right to follow his conscience.  If we are good, then we will grasp that Bess Myerson was honorable in honoring her people.  If we seek tolerance, then we will bless Sandy Koufax for placing his faith above his fame.  And if we care about a future of peace, justice, and love, then we will applaud Carrie Prejean for saying what she thought was right, whatever the cost.

Beyond that, we must say that the haters of old are the haters of now.  The bigots who disparaged Myerson are the bigots who mock Prejean.  The narrow minds and narrower hearts who cannot endure different beliefs to speak an honest opinion are the true enemies of real tolerance.  

Bruce Walker is the author of two books:  Sinisterism: Secular Religion of the Lie, and his recently published book, The Swastika against the Cross: The Nazi War on Christianity.
Carrie Prejean, Miss California and the runner up in the Miss USA Pageant, was asked a question about her view of marriage.  She recited what her faith believed -- marriage is between a man and a woman -- and as a consequence she may have lost the title of Miss USA.  What Ms. Prejean had was a Koufax Moment or, perhaps, a Myerson Moment.

Sandy Koufax was one of the greatest baseball pitchers of all time.  His persona was nice, serious, and mild.  Baseball was his game, and he did not go around preaching to other people.  Koufax was also Jewish.  In 1965, Sandy Koufax led the Dodgers to the World Series.  The first game of the series was on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year.  Any major league baseball pitcher would have loved to be the first pitcher for his team in the World Series, and that certainly included Sandy Koufax.  But if that meant violating the greater spiritual fidelity which Koufax felt as a Jew, then he would not play.  He did what he, not public opinion, thought was right.

When Bess Myerson competed in the Miss America Pageant, the easy thing to do would have been to conceal her Jewishness.  Why not change "Myerson" to something less ... provocative?  She, of course, did not.  Like Prejean, Myerson faced hatred because of her faith,  but today all but the narrowest of minds and tiniest of hearts see that not running from her Jewishness was courageous and good.  Then, perhaps a less bigoted era, Bess Myerson earned and won the title of Miss America. 

When Carrie Prejean answered honestly the question put to her, she had her Koufax Moment.  When she refused to renounce her faith to please the mob, she had her Myerson Moment. Carrie no more wanted to be asked about her concept of marriage than Sandy wanted the first game of the World Series to fall on Yom Kippur.  She was simply forced to choose between what she thought was right and what the Hollywood crowd wanted her to say. 

Some people may have thought Koufax wrong for placing faith about his team or above the game of baseball.  Some people may have thought Myerson foolish for not adapting a less obviously Jewish name.  Some people may have though Prejean wrong for placing faith about the Miss USA Pageant or the sensibilities of gay couples.   If Koufax and Myerson offended us for living lives as Jews, and if Prejean offends us for living life as a Christian, then we are in thrall to a sickening evil.

Sandy Koufax, Bess Myerson, and Carrie Prejean did not choose to fight religious wars.  All they asked was to be able to compete in the mainstream of American life without having nasty haters mutilate their opportunities.   They asked simply to be faithful to their faith.   Should major league baseball have punished Sandy Koufax for spoiling the World Series?  Should Bess Myerson have been denied the Miss America Crown because she was Jewish?  Surely forcing Koufax or Myerson to sell their Jewishness at the price of competing fairly in America would have been wrong.  Just as surely, asking Prejean to sell her Christianity (or instructing Prejean that her version of Christianity was improper) as the price of competing fairly in America is just as wrong.

Eric Liddell, one of the two remarkable runners portrayed in the magnificent film, Chariots of Fire, would not run in an Olympic event that was held on Sunday, this devout Christian's Sabbath.  Liddell, like Koufax, was prepared to sacrifice something that he had worked his whole life to reach for something he held greater than any prize that man could give.  Liddell, like Prejean, would not twist his Christianity into something that pleased the crowd.

If we are wise, then we will see that Eric Liddell was right to follow his conscience.  If we are good, then we will grasp that Bess Myerson was honorable in honoring her people.  If we seek tolerance, then we will bless Sandy Koufax for placing his faith above his fame.  And if we care about a future of peace, justice, and love, then we will applaud Carrie Prejean for saying what she thought was right, whatever the cost.

Beyond that, we must say that the haters of old are the haters of now.  The bigots who disparaged Myerson are the bigots who mock Prejean.  The narrow minds and narrower hearts who cannot endure different beliefs to speak an honest opinion are the true enemies of real tolerance.  

Bruce Walker is the author of two books:  Sinisterism: Secular Religion of the Lie, and his recently published book, The Swastika against the Cross: The Nazi War on Christianity.