Monday, November 30, 2009

Tiger Woods is in the Rough

In case you haven’t heard, Tiger Woods was involved in a little incident this past weekend.

Click here for the story from Fox News.

I want to comment on this because I’m interested in both sports (although not golf, particularly) and pop culture – and Tiger Woods has a commanding presence in both. I find that I’m torn in my opinion of the coverage this story is getting. Let me work this out in the ever-popular blog format of bullet points:

  • The accident. This was a small accident. Just a little fender bender involving a pricey Cadillac Escalade, a fire hydrant, and an innocent tree. And an emotional woman with a golf club hovering over a bloody international sports icon who's floating in and out of consciousnesss. Not newsworthy if it happened to anyone else.

  • The celebrity. Seeing how his fame transcends the sports world, Tiger Woods is easily one of the most recognizable celebrities in the world.

  • The time. It happened at 2:25 am on Friday, November 27th. This alone raises the public eyebrow – where was he going at this time of day? Is it even anyone’s business?

  • The rumor. It happened two days after the National Enquirer published a story alleging a little romantic tryst with pop-tart Rachel Uchitel (which both Woods and Uchitel have denied). We can scoff at the reputation of the Enquirer, but remember, it was this publication that broke the news of Rush Limbaugh’s drug addiction in 2003, and John Edwards’ affair and subsequent love-child in 2007.

    Here’s a quote from the FoxNews story:

    Celebrity Web site TMZ claimed Woods was confronted by Elin (his wife) with the report that he had been seeing New York night club hostess Rachel Uchitel.

    The argument grew heated, and according to TMZ’s source, she scratched his face up.

    He then beat a hasty retreat to his SUV, with her following behind with a golf club. She reportedly used the club on the golfer's vehicle. Woods, then, reportedly became distracted, causing the car crash.

  • Here is where I’m conflicted:

    Is it anyone’s business? On a personal level – no. I hear people talking about the public’s right-to-know, but I don’t think we have any such right when it comes to a celebrity’s personal life. They are entitled to their privacy as much as any other person. However . . .

    Tiger Woods is the first ever billion-dollar athlete, and he makes 10 to 100 times more off the golf course than with a club in his hand. When a celebrity uses his or her image and reputation to endorse products, and sell the public on those products, said celebrity is held to a higher level of scrutiny than the average Joe Citizen.

    What are your thoughts?

    Sunday, November 29, 2009

    The Audacity of Forgiveness

    Lately, God’s been dealing with me about forgiveness – both seeking it and offering it. I had no idea how challenging it would be. Forgiveness is never easy. In fact, it can be, as one commentator said, “the most difficult thing in the universe.”

    Making it doubly difficult is our culture, which mocks at the idea of forgiveness. We are constantly encouraged to exploit our “right” to be offended at everything and exact vengeance on those who cross us.

    Forgiveness, however, is a fundamental pillar of Christian character, and perhaps the one that is the most easily neglected. But to neglect it causes great harm. It can turn the Christian into the very things he hates: harsh, rigid, and bitter. This, in turn, leads to holding grudges and elevating pride.

    As uncomfortable as it is, it is absolutely essential in Christian relationships. Though we hate to admit it, the church has its share of sins, imperfections, errors, misjudgments, and wrong attitudes, and these occur among the church leadership as well as the congregation.

    John MacArthur:

    The church needs to be filled with forgiving people because in this life people are always going to do things that irritate others or cause problems. If you’re willing to forgive an offender, you’ll be free from the bondage of bitterness. You’ll also be free to be forgiven by God and experience blessing from Him.

    In the next few posts, I’ll share what I’ve been learning about forgiveness from the Scriptures.

    Sunday, November 22, 2009

    The Hypocrisy of Forgiveness

    It's easy to preach forgiveness when you're the offender; not so much when you're the offended . . .

    Now, don't misunderstand me, forgiveness is an integral quality for a healthy life. It is indespensible in relationships with our fellow man as well as with God.

    But, in my considerable ministerial experience, I've seen forgiveness applied with both hypocrisy and cruelty. How?

    It goes something like this:

    You realize you've offended someone. You apologize and then (humbly) demand that they forgive you. Sometimes you don't even have to apologize - you just stress the fact that they need to forgive even if there is no apology forthcoming (it's helpful if you're able to do this from a position of power, like a pulpit).

    If there's still no discernible forgiveness on the part of the offended party, it's time to pull out the big guns. Scare them into submission by belaboring the point that God is on your side, and if they don't forgive you, He won't forgive them. If you're crafty, you can make this threat ambiguous enough so that they aren't sure if you're saying they will lose their salvation, or just be afflicted with some sort of malady that will make them a little less comfortable - like gout, or or a hellacious case of gas.

    You can then rest easily, knowing that the person you have wronged has been properly warned against holding any kind of grudge against you. Furthermore, any retaliative action on their part will be further confirmation of their lack of forgiveness, and will get them in even deeper trouble with God, who - as has been previously stated - is on your side.

    Now, put the shoe on a horse of a different gander (or something like that). You're the one who has been horribly offended. I mean, some low-life slob has debased himself and sunk to an all-time low in an attempt to hurt you.

    And it did hurt, too.

    And let's say, for kicks and giggles, that the offender has offered a public, heartfelt apology.

    What do you do? Do you forgive and forget? Or do you launch a campaign of your own to further sully the scum's name and ostracise him or her?

    I've been on both sides of this debate, and I can tell you - it ain't easy. At times I've responded well, and at times I've failed miserably.

    How aboout you?

    Tuesday, November 10, 2009

    Article: Did Christianity Cause the Crash?

    For years I have decried the bad theology and inherent cruelty of the prosperity gospel. I even earned myself some pretty serious reprimands from the leadership I was under at the time for publicly calling out some of the more egregious Ministers of Mammon.

    So, I was fascinated when I ran across this article over at The Atlantic that examined the role this teaching may have played in the recent financial crash. I'd heard thoughts on this before, but journalist Hanna Rosin really goes into great detail explaining the prosperity movement, its appeal, and its likely impact on our country's current financial malaise.

    It's a pretty long article (3 whole pages - a virtual War and Peace to this 140-character twitter generation!), so here's a quick quote that sort of encapsulates the whole:

    . . . critics have begun to argue that the prosperity gospel, echoed in churches across the country, might have played a part in the economic collapse. In 2008, in the online magazine Religion Dispatches, Jonathan Walton, a professor of religious studies at the University of California at Riverside, warned:

    "Narratives of how 'God blessed me with my first house despite my credit' were common … Sermons declaring 'It’s your season of overflow' supplanted messages of economic sobriety and disinterested sacrifice. Yet as folks were testifying about 'what God can do,' little attention was paid to a predatory subprime-mortgage industry, relaxed credit standards, or the dangers of using one’s home equity as an ATM.

    In 2004, Walton was researching a book about black televangelists. 'I would hear consistent testimonies about how ‘once I was renting and now God let me own my own home,’ or ‘I was afraid of the loan officer, but God directed him to ignore my bad credit and blessed me with my first home,’' he says. 'This trope was so common in these churches that I just became immune to it. Only later did I connect it to this disaster.'

    You can read the entire article by clicking here.

    Just two quick thoughts:

    I think it's sad how people in this time were taught that their loan approval was a blessing from God, when it was only at the behest of a bad government program.

    And finally, this is what happens when the church gets away from its true mission and begins dabbling in the flesh.

    Monday, November 9, 2009

    Are You Being Emotionally Blackmailed?

    I ran across this interesting theme in a book I was reading today: the idea of being emotionally blackmailed.

    The book is Why Men Don't Have a Clue and Women Always Need More Shoes: The Ultimate Guide to the Opposite Sex by Barbara and Allan Pease. It's a fascinating and often hilarious look at relationships and the inherent differences between men and women.

    The book goes into the topic of emotional blackmail in dealing with husband/wife or boyfriend/girlfriend relationships, but it also points out that the abuse can (and often does) extend to friendships and even work-related relationships.

    I did a little reasearch on the topic and found this article that is actually a review of the book Emotional Blackmail by Susan Forward. In her book, Susan Forward uses the acronym FOG to stand for fear, obligation, and guilt - the tools of the blackmailer's trade. Here are a few more snippets from the review of this book:

    The author says, "Emotional blackmail is a powerful form of manipulation in which people close to us threaten, either directly or indirectly, to punish us if we don't do what they want…

    Blackmailers pump an engulfing FOG into their relationships, ensuring that we will feel afraid to cross them, obligated to give them their way and feel terribly guilty if we don't."

    You can read the entire review by clicking here.

    It occured to me that this kind of behavior can even be seen in *gasp!* the church. From Sunday School classes to board meetings, anytime you have people gathered together to push their own agenda, emotional blackmail is not far away.

    That's why it's so important to make sure that in all we do we are seeking first the kingdom of God, and not our own kingdoms . . .

    Monday, November 2, 2009

    The Bible: Taking on A Classic Argument for Divine Inspiration

    I believe the Bible is the Word of God. I also believe that the current sixty-six books we have fully constitute the inspired Scriptures - nothing should be added, none should be left out. But lately I've been thinking critically about an argument we Christians have been trained to use to help prove the inspiration of Scripture.

    For years I have believed, and taught, that one of the greatest testimonies to the divine inspiration of the Bible is the incredible unity it contains. We tell students that the Scriptures were written over a 1500 year period, on three different continents, and in three different languages. We say that it was written by over 40 different authors in all different walks of life: farmers, kings, judges, poets, tax collectors, priests, doctors, etc.

    And we like to point out how, in spite of these vast influences of time, culture, and geography, the Holy Writ is amazingly consistent in dealing with such controversial topics as the nature of God, the nature of man, death, eternity, personal ethics, worship, etc.

    Finally, we conclude this proves that One Divine Hand guided the writers as they wrote. But, I have to wonder . . . does it really? I mean, all of that is true, but is it a valid argument for divine inspiration?

    Plain and simple, the sixty-six books of the Bible are so remarkably consistent because way back in 393 AD, a standard was recognized to weed out books and letters that just didn't fit in.

    This standard is called the “canon” – an architectural term referring to a standard measuring rod. In 393 the Council of Hippo (no giggling!) recognized the canon for the Bible.

    From (emphasis mine):
    To be recognized as canonical, a book had to be Apostolic, fit in with the other scriptures, and have been of fruitful use throughout the church up to that time.

    So, claiming that the unity of Scripture is indicative of divine inspiration is simplistic and misleading – mundane steps were taken to insure they were unified.

    Yes, the Bible is the word of God, but there are much better reasons to believe.