Confirmation Bias

Matthew 20:1-16

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; 4 and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. 5 When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. 6 And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ 7 They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ 8 When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ 9 When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. 10 Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. 11 And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, 12 saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 13 But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? 14 Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Sermon Confirmation Bias

Good morning! I heard a really interesting story on the radio a while back. The story was about Hank Greenberg, a baseball player who played most of his career with the Detroit Tigers. I was reminded of this story because this past Friday was Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the new year on the Jewish calendar. This is one of the holiest days of the year in Judaism. The other high holy day is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, which will be celebrated on September 28th this year. These holidays always pose a problem for Jewish athletes.

In 1934, Greenberg’s second full season in the major leagues, the Tigers were in the hunt for the pennant, and Greenberg was their star player. In fact, Greenberg was the first Jewish superstar in all of sports. There were other Jews in professional sports, but many of them changed their names so that their religion wasn’t front and center.

This sounds so strange now; it’s hard for us to fathom how much public anti-Semitism there was in this country. It really was a powerful force in our society before World War II. From 1919 through 1927, Henry Ford published a newspaper called The Dearborn Independent. Ford used this paper to distribute his anti-Semitic views. Ford believed that Jews controlled international finance and were responsible for starting wars so that they might profit from those wars:

International financiers are behind all war. They are what is called the international Jew: German Jews, French Jews, English Jews, American Jews. I believe that in all those countries except our own the Jewish financier is supreme ... here the Jew is a threat.[1]

Anti-Semitism was everywhere in the 1930s. A Catholic priest named Father Coughlin had a very popular radio program that was syndicated across the country. It’s estimated that his broadcasts might have reached as many as 30 million listeners a week.[2] Coughlin used that program to attack communism and to attack Jews. Later he would support fascism in Europe. His show was finally canceled in 1939, after the outbreak of World War II. All that time, Coughlin served as a parish priest in Royal Oak, Michigan, just outside of Detroit. So, Hank Greenberg was quite the unlikely hero in Detroit.

On September 10, 1934, the Tigers were in first place, four games ahead of the New York Yankees. There were 20 games left in the regular season. That’s a decent lead, but remember, this was the Yankees with Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, in their prime. No lead seemed safe. Greenberg was faced with a difficult decision:

Jewish holidays aren’t just family gatherings or celebrations — instead, they come with a long list of ritual prohibitions. Traditionally, these include driving