Saturday, December 29, 2012

Makes Me Sick

In the busyness of the Christmas season, I'll be reposting some of my favorite posts and scaling back my original content. Leading up to New Year's I'll be posting a best-of 2012. This particular post was published in January and had the most comments this year (in fact, comments are still coming in!).

The tweet read "this is perhaps the biggest scandal in the history of college football." It was followed by, "Filing this report made me sick to my stomach." Obviously the first tweet caught my attention. The second made this a must-click. The tweets were from Yahoo Sports report Dan Wetzel, who broke the Gary Sandusky story. A simple recap if you're not familiar (and a simple recap does not do this story justice): Gary Sandusky was a former assistant coach at Penn State University who headed up a youth foundation out of an office there. The first break was simply a report of Grand Jury testimony describing how a then-graduate assistant observed Sandusky molesting a young boy in the Penn State football locker room. Like most things of this magnitude, this was only the tip of the iceberg. Eventually, more names surfaced, Sandusky was arrested, and famed head coach Joe Paterno was forced out of his job. Sadly, last week Joe Pa passed away with this cloud still hanging over his otherwise record-setting legacy.

It's a shame really. Just like you cannot say Catholic priest without conjuring up images of that scandal, so it is likely to forever be with Joe Paterno. Never mind anything else he had done over the course of his career, this is too awful to leave as a footnote in his biography.

I'm glad I didn't get around to posting last week, as I really didn't want to pile on. This story disgusts me, and I'm not writing about it just to get more hits to my blog. But the popular public face hiding the seedy underbelly of Penn State football, where Legends and Leaders are more important than integrity and protecting those who cannot protect themselves, kept coming to mind as I was reading the fifth chapter of Kyle Idleman's Not A Fan, "following Jesus or following the rules?" In this chapter, Kyle calls our attention to the "seven woes" in Matthew 23 where Jesus lashes out against the religious elite.

Six of the seven woes begin, "Woe to you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!" While we throw around that word, hypocrite, we usually don't think of what it actually means. I've read both that it means the actors in Greek plays or that it means the masks they wear. Either way, the word is synonymous with, duplicitous, two-faced, masked, or putting on an act. As more evidence of the Penn State scandal it appears that administrators at Penn State, including head coach Joe Paterno, were more concerned about the reputation of their university and football program than exposing, reporting, and prosecuting the truth. Literally, they were hypocrites. (And to be fair, it is still not clear the extent of who knew what, but the dismissals of their Athletic Director and famed head coach indicates that they knew enough to act, but chose not to. Their motives may never be known.)

But like I continue to say through these series of posts, this isn't  a sports blog. Yet we can learn a lot from the headlines around us to cause us to pause and consider our own motives and our own religiosity. Christians are notorious for condemning vice from the soapbox while engaging in that very same vice behind closed doors; putting on our Sunday best while acting differently the rest of the week. It is the contrast between being religious and being faithful. Or in the context of this book, being a fan or a follower.

If we can learn anything from the Sandusky case, it is that not exposing the truth often leads to more hurt as bad behavior is enabled by inaction. We may be tempted to be hypocrites to protect some private sin, but that only allows the sin to grow. In the case of the Pharisees, their hypocrisy hurt not only themselves but also those whose very souls they were responsible for. The Pharisees were guilty of piling on rules upon rules that they themselves did not obey. And when we become more concerned about our spiritual image, we neglect the condition of our hearts.

The hypocrisy of the Sandusky case is stomach-turning. We need to have the same gag-reflex to spiritual hypocrisy. Our sin needs to disgust us to the point of being sick.

"So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to [vomit] you out of my mouth." (Revelation 3:16)

"As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly." (Proverbs 26:11)

This post continues my series blogging through the book, Not A Fan by Kyle Idleman. I encourage you to follow along by clicking on the Not A Fan label to the right. And I urge you to pick up a copy of this book for yourself.


Anonymous said...

Kyle Idelman has a $575,000 house. Page 60 of Not a Fan, "As a pastor I've done some financial counseling over the years and I have noticed a common way that fans will talk about finances. A fan will ask,"What's the most I can spend on my house?" But when it comes to giving they'll ask,
"Does God want me to give out of my net income, or gross income?" In other words, "What's the least I can give to God?" How you spend your money tells a story about what matters most to you." Another hypocrite exposed.

Fatha Frank said...

Thank you for commenting. I don't know Kyle Idelman and I don't know where he lives. While authoring a book and leading a large church opens on up to scrutiny, personally I am indifferent. I'm following Christ, not Kyle. And the same goes for Chan, Platt, etc. I think they would all agree that they have planks in their own eyes, just as you and I do.

But as to your point, it got some wheels turning and I think it warrants a blog post of its own in the near future.

Anonymous said...

You say that you are following Christ, not Kyle, but you are recommending that people buy his book, and promoting his book at the same time. (So is he, by the way, and now I know why). Getting rich off of Jesus makes me more than a bit sick to my stomach, as I understand the Sandusky Scandal made you. Let's just say my eyes are wide open now. I'm just glad I did not buy the book, but got it at my church library. Once I did some research on Kyle, it changed the way I saw the message/image/promotion that goes with it. I am very grateful that you would consider a blog post about this in the future. I am outraged by the hypocrisy because the Christian Community is buying, and there does not seem to be any consumer warnings.

Fatha Frank said...

Thanks for coming back and continuing the discussion; sorry it's taken so long for me to get back.

I was about to defend that I wasn't recommending the book but then I saw the fine print at the end of my posts. You got me there.

But besides the debate on "the worker is worthy his wages" (which I do want to tackle, so be patient with me) you bring up another important question: at what point does the life of a pastor/writer/theologian discredit what they preach/write/espouse? I think the line is different for each of us- for some it is political stances (or lack thereof), for others it is how they dress (take Francis Chan preaching in jeans for example), and for others it is the size of their paycheck or the value of their home.

Personally, I'm not willing to get wrapped up in Kyle Idleman's lifestyle because I think his message is valid regardless. And as far as endorsement, I'm just using his book as a springboard for further discussion using sports as the context. Yet if what you say is true, it is very disappointing. I can relate- but again that's worthy of its own post. (look for it in about a week, if I can get my other planned posts up before)

Thank you again for stopping by. I do hope you take the time to read some more posts to get a feel for where I'm coming from.

Anonymous said...

I happen to know that Kyle Idleman started a church in Southern CA in 2000 that [last year] was the fastest growing church in America - Real Life Church in Santa Clarita. He started it in an office set up in his garage and in a rented movie theater, with no help, living on a pittance. He wrestled hard in his life with whether God was calling him to the mission field. He is a serious follower of Jesus who can be trusted. Engraved on his heart are the words, 'I die daily!' The difference is, I know him very well and you, anonymous e-critic. don't know him at all. I just love the way you so easily find fault in another for whom you feel jealousy. What ever happened to trusting good intentions? Here is the rest of the story if you are interested: Kyle managed to get into a home in So. CA and rode the market up from 2000-2003. When he was called back to Louisville, KY he had to invest his equity in a comparably priced home in the mid-west or pay capital gains tax. [By the way, once in the home it immediately appraised for $200,000 more than he paid.] Reread Jesus' parable of the faithful and wise stewards and get your heart right. Then I am confident you will get over your self-imposed sickness. You are making yourself sick Bro.

Fatha Frank said...

Welcome, Anonymous(2), I appreciate you adding to the conversation. It's funny, I didn't know that about Kyle- Santa Clarita is right down the road (freeway) from me. Anyway, if you're interested I continue this debate (kinda, anyway) in another post: And if you see or speak to Kyle, tell him I appreciate his book.

Anonymous said...

I noticed that Anonymous #1 dropped out of the conversation when I opened his eyes to reveal the pure heart of Kyle Idleman. He owes you,"Public Christianity" and Kyle and apology, but my experience has been that critics like Anonymous #1 who snipe from a distance, without firsthand knowledge are usually either too proud or too ashamed to apologize. There is a reason why Proverbs warns us not render judgement about a matter until hearing both sides. It demonstrates the wisdom of trusting the good intentions of a brother and not receiving a charge against a Christian leader unless it is confirmed by the testimony of two or more witnesses.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Anonymous #1 - Anonymous #2 here.... Do you have anything to say for yourself? Getting rich off Jesus makes you sick? I would love to be able to measure your generosity towards Kingdom concerns in proportion to your income against Kyle's. If you knew him, you would be so sorry for your thoughtless generalizations.

Fatha Frank said...

When God selected David to be king he overlooked his bigger, stronger and more handsome brothers. Our human nature is wired to focus on the externals, so I was willing to give Anon(1) the benefit of the doubt in his opinion while also respecting Kyle in that he probably didn't know the whole story, and definately not his heart. At the same time, I don't know the whole story with Anon(1). His concerns are perfectly valid and are probably motivated by his own personal experience. Somewhere along the line he likely got burned. It is too bad he found this lightly-trafficked blog to mount his campaign, but I'm not as ready to right off his concerns. While it may not accurately apply to Kyle, I know of many others to whom it does apply. I don't want to mute his voice in this forum. I'm hoping actually he comes back to continue the discussion, not just to take his lumps.

Thanks again for keeping this going

Anonymous said...

On Kyle Idleman, someone posted about the value of his house. While I do not know Kyle, or where he lives, he did say in his book "Not a Fan" that besides his tithe he makes sure that his biggest check he writes each month is to God. A check that is bigger than his mortgage payment. I believe it is in Chapter 4 if you care to check it out for yourself.

Fatha Frank said...

Welcome Anon(3)! I hope you spend some time exploring the site. Since you read the book, I encourage you to click the Not a Fan label to read my other posts.

As to your point, I do remember that now that you mention it. But at the same time I take that with a grain of salt. He may not be paying a dime on his house- the church might (not saying he is, but some churches handle parsonage that way). I also think of the example of Francis Chan. He gives away every penny from his books and speaking engagements, but when he started he lived in a nice house in an expensive area. He ended up moving, but the point is the two do not have to be mutually exclusive.

Patrick Watters said...

Thought and heart provoking stuff here. I was kind of wondering about Kyle and others myself; as to "preaching vs walking" things in general. I think it's wise to be "fruit inspectors", but also to "test the spirits" when it comes to messages (books, articles, etc). Or as a friend likes to say on such things, "Chew the meat and spit out the bones." I've been much to guilty of a judgment, critical spirit in my life, and now in my 60's am trying to be less so . . . "wise as a serpent, but gentle as a dove", so to speak. };-)

Anonymous said...

The leadership at Shepherd of the Hills Church, in Porter Ranch (CA), felt led to plant a church in the Santa Clarita Valley. This became Real Life Church. They hired Kyle, paid him a salary, and provided an office and several hundred attendees. Kyle's dad, Ken, took a one year sabbatical from his job in Missouri to help Kyle get the church up and running. They held services in a movie theater for many years and soon had office space locally in Santa Clarita. Kyle left abruptly not long after the church launched (a year or so) and there was a very lengthy search for a leader to replace him. Through God's power that man, Rusty George, led the church to (1) build their own facility and (2) the dynamic growth to which you refer.