Daniel Murphy, Sports and Babies

“J——, this is your pastor.  Now having heard your

confession on the air, will you stop by to receive

penance instructions about being a better father and husband?”

It’s just too easy to weigh in on the comments of Mike Francesca and Boomer Esiason about Daniel Murphy’s decision to take two days to be present for his baby’s birth.

Daniel Murphy, new Dad, plays second base for the New York Mets.
Daniel Murphy, new Dad, plays second base for the New York Mets.

Of course, we live in a time of sportainment.  More and more, as politics becomes hopelessly unresponsive and global problems impinge on every part fo life, sportainment is the way we escape–from real life.  Except that ultimately isn’t an option.

One day I listened in on sports radio–I admit, it’s a guilty pleasure on the way to the hospital or a meeting, in part because I will always laugh at something pretentious, silly or absurd.  And much of what is discussed is fun to consider.  A husband caller complained to Paul Finebaum about a player’s tweet after Alabama lost its bowl game that “it’s only a game.”  His argument was that it isn’t.  He went on, passionately, to say that though he was a member of a church and loved his family, that during the football season he spends more time and money on the sport than on his wife and kids or his church.

My jaw dropped since I am a minister, but why should it?  I like to imagine that I might follow up crazy calls.  What would I say?  Disguised voice: “This is Dr. Hapner Wogwillow.  I am a marriage therapist.  I treat his wife for depression and recognized him in the call.  He needs to go home.  She just left for good with the kids.  I will tell him their names if he’ll call me.  BR-549.”  My other idea was to, “J——, this is your pastor.  Now having heard your confession, will you stop by to receive penance instructions about being a better father and husband?” Continue reading “Daniel Murphy, Sports and Babies”

A Championship for God

I watched all the passion and powerful energy around the football season this year.  I have watched the most 3college football in years.  “What if the church generated such passion?”  I imagined a coach’s assessment at the end of the year.  It went like this:

  1. (At the end of the year banquet)  Great season, people.  We had our MVPs and our Most Improved.  It looks like we have a solid core back this year and that bodes well.
  2. We finished the year with a winning season.  Of course, we had our losses, too. Some major leaders and talent have gone to the next level, which in the kingdom of God is heaven.
  3. We had some transfers to other teams, and more than a few injuries.  In this league, the injuries
    C’mon!

    are harder to see.  Quite a few have torn ACLs, (Attitudinal Christlikeness Lethargy) and more than a few are on suspension for inactivity.

  4. The most exciting news, though, is we had a great recruiting season.  Gifted people everywhere you turn, at every position.  And that’s good.  We have more than a few seniors who are not far from graduation.  They’ve kept the faith and fought the fight for a long time, and our lack of depth has been a real challenge, so they are happy to see these freshmen and sophomores  coming in here to help.  We need them to step up and help right away.
  5. We ought to be motivated to have a championship season.  The big game every week comes when we file into the sanctuary and listen to the Lord’s word, re-tell the story of our team, and get inspired by the great heritage of saints.  That’s our name, you know.  The Saints.  Not the New Orleans’ ones.
  6. And when we all execute our assignment we’ll win every time—blockers removing the obstacles out there and making way for the good news, passers sharing the gospel and kindness, practicing stewardship and pouring out blessings for the world, when our receivers go out and catch the ball and run for daylight, they carry the good news of the gospel to the world, to the lonely, the desperate and the hopeless.
  7. This year, we aren’t settling for a few measly points of improvement.  We are going to the top.  It’s silly for grown men to mope around for months over football games.  We’re about real and eternal things.
  8. 8.      No, the real championship is the Kingdom of God.  Healing diseases, crushing poverty and injustice, helping the illiterate to read, telling the story of Jesus to those who don’t know it.  Loving the unloved, working for reconciliation and forgiveness.  I’m tired of being number one in football, obesity and high blood pressure.  I’m ready to lead the nation in hope and the love of God and blessing little children everywhere.
  9. We have our opponent, of course.  The Bible describes him as a roaring lion, seeking to devour us.  Mostly that happens when we turn in on ourselves, or look at our troubles, or abandon hope and think we’re beaten.  Or responding with hate and fear.  Or worse, start blaming each other and sulking.  Win together, lose together.
  10. If we believe in the One who called us here we can do it!  Just believe in each other, do our assignments, don’t listen to the crowd and the critics, get up when we get knocked down, and always, always play the game with fearless confidence.  Now let’s get out there, and when you walk into this arena of worship on Sunday, come dressed for the fight, come for a victory, come to praise and pray and go forth.  And accept nothing less than the victory of God for everyone.  YEAHHHHH!h

“The Blind Side” Gets Blindsided

We prefer a safe mediocrity to a persuasive truth telling.

Baptist news wires recently carried the story about a successful protest by a Baptist preacher to remove a movie from Lifeway stores.  The movie is “The Blind Side,” starring Sandra Bullock.  It was based on the book by the same name by Michael Lewis, who also wrote, Liar’s Poker and Moneyball.

Michael Lewis

I happened to meet Michael Lewis years ago when he was writing the book, and he told me he was working on a “really interesting story.”  It was about a young man from the meanest streets of Memphis who was adopted by a family and placed in a white private Christian school.  The story is well known by now—Michael Oher went on to be a football star at the University of Mississippi and now plays for the Baltimore Ravens.

I bought and read the book when it came out, and went to see the film.  Football movies are pretty well required viewing in Alabama.  So I was more than amused with all the other moral problems at the moment—debt, wars, racism, the disintegration of families, and do I need to go on?—that a PG-13 movie could cause such an uproar.  According to the report,

LifeWay Christian Stores will no longer sell videos of “The Blind Side” after a Florida pastor proposed a resolution for next week’s Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting protesting the sale of a PG-13 movie that contains profanity and a racial slur…[the stores decided to] pull the movie, an inspirational film starring Sandra Bullock that tells the true story of a white Christian family that adopted a homeless black teenager who went on to play in the NFL, to avoid controversy at the June 19-20 SBC annual meeting in New Orleans.  [The pastor who brought the resolution] said there is much about the film to be commended, but there is no place in a Christian bookstore for a movie that includes explicit language that includes taking God’s name in vain.

I get it.  It’s Baptist to speak your mind.  I know language has become debased and misused.  And, it’s the right of any store and its owners to sell or not sell what it wishes.  Still, it stirred a few thoughts about the mostly non-existent tie between Christians, especially evangelical ones, and the world of the arts.  And why fewer people want to be Baptists.

Walter Brueggemann once said that in the book of Leviticus, which for some odd reason has become a moral center for a lot of people today, there is an emphasis on holiness as “purity.”  There are other forms of holiness in scripture—moral and ethical righteousness, for one, that sometimes comes into conflict with the notion of purity.  Jesus encountered this among the Pharisees, who could not do the deeper right things for fear of disturbing their own ethic of remaining personally removed from what might compromise, taint and violate their ethic of purification holiness.

I have thought a lot about Brueggemann’s distinction since I first read it.  Somehow, a fully biblical notion requires more than avoiding “impurities.”  Yet purity is important.  An obsession seems to lead always to a rather puny moral energy that dispirits more than it inspires.  Inevitably, it ends up with an account of morality that is always boycotting, removing itself from sinners and sin, and circling the wagons.

Continue reading ““The Blind Side” Gets Blindsided”