Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Legacy

Chuck Colson passed away over the weekend. Christian conservative, founder of Prison Fellowship, former Nixon aide and Watergate conspirator... the reflections on the man, his faith, and his legacy take many different views depending on where one falls on the faith and politics spectrum. Here's just a small sampling:
  • Frank Schaeffer: An Evangelical Homophobic Anti-Woman leader passes on
  • Christianity Today: Remembering Charles Colson, a Man Transformed (among others)
  • The Christian Post: Christian Leaders Remember Their Hero Chuck Colson Among Media Skepticism (among others)
  • Get Religion: On Chuck Colson: Can Reporters See Past Watergate?
  • Internet Monk: Eulogies and Dyslogies for Charles Colson

I don't really have much to add; I didn't know the man and was born in the aftermath of Watergate. My politics in general aligned with his, though I bristle at the notion of a Religious Right. I included Schaeffer's controversial post above to point out that not everyone sees the man the same way and politics often cloud our perspectives.

The legacy I want to focus on however, has nothing to do with politics per se. I knew the name, and associated it with the Religious Right, but it wasn't until I started to listen to his daily radio program, Breakpoint, that I really began to take notice. When I started this blog, Colson's words from his program and from his colleagues on his website, were in the back of my mind when I named it Public Christianity: The Opposite PC. You may have disagreed with Colson's politics, but it would be hard to argue against his ministry to engage the culture around us with our faith. In fact, I kept links to his website alongside Sojourners to encourage that engagement, regardless of political affiliation. (And I'm sad to see that SoJo has yet to post anything on Colson's passing)

So Colson has passed on. Eric Metaxis, author of the best-selling book Bonhoeffer: Paster, Martyr, Prophet, Spy now takes on his radio program. Fitting, as Bonhoeffer is another who felt the fire of the Holy Spirit to engage his culture with his faith. So that torch has been passed to the next generation. How will we engage our culture in Colson's wake? Will we protest and picket? Will we "get out the vote"? Or will we live out our faith actively in our daily lives, exhibiting the love of Christ and his call to discipleship to those around us through ministries such as Prison Fellowship? Will Colson's legacy ultimately be political, or will it be transforming?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Dangerous

Love this new song from KJ-52. Key lyrics that hit me every time I hear it:

Can't forgive, or forget
We hold on, and it's dangerous
dangerous...

It's obvious that you're hurt
That's the role you play
The one where you blame
and push everybody away

Friday, April 20, 2012

Gladiators

"You will never give your approval to those foolish racing and throwing feats, and yet more foolish leapings. You will never find pleasure in injurious or useless exhibitions of strength. Certainly you will not regard with approval the strivings after an artificial body that aim at surpassing the Creator's work." -Tertullain (c. 197)

"In the chariot games, who does not shudder at the madness of the people brawling among themselves?" -Mark Minucius Felix (c. 200)

"Yet they call these "sports" in which human blood is shed!" -Lactantius (c. 304-313)

*Quotes from A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs, David Bercot, ed. More thoughtful insight from our Church Fathers can be found at this blog post from the Vatopaidi Greek Orthodox Monastery.

"Are you entertained?" -Maximus (Gladiator, 2000)

As I write, I'm watching Sportscenter on ESPN as they discuss the upcoming NFL draft. Ironically right after debating the characters and checkered pasts of prospective draftees and whether that will affect their draft positions and potential career they continue the story of the "bounties" that the New Orleans Saints paid out to their players based on how vicious the hit and/or the star status of their victim. The NFL came down strong on the Saints, suspending just about everyone in the front office and coaching staff and the question now is not if, but how hard, the NFL will penalize the players involved. Meanwhile we cheer on convicted felons (Michael Vick, Ray Lewis, et al) and alleged felons (Cam Newton) so long as they help our fantasy football team.

Two days ago in the NHL playoffs, Phoenix Coyote winger Raffi Torres laid out the Chicago Blackhawks Marian Hossa, who had to be taken off the ice in a stretcher. Torres is suspended indefinitely (his third suspension of the year). Media outlets like USA Today question if the on-ice violence has skated out of control. (Since the start of the playoffs, the NHL has suspended 8 players and fined two more, not including the pending judgment on Torres.) The Governor General of Canada (Canadian proxy to Queen Elizabeth II, yes I had to look that up), David Johnston, calls the violence this season anti-Canadian and undermines Canadian culture. Serious words considering that hockey flows through Canadian blood.

As aghast as we make ourselves out to be over these trends, our eyes are glued to ESPN's "Top Plays" which highlight the hardest cross-check in hockey or tackle in football. We were just as complicit in baseball's steroid scandal, as we drooled over highlights of "back-to-back jacks!" "walk-offs" and "bombs" made more frequent by the use of performing enhancing substances. And our money lines the pockets of basketball millionaires who complain about playing for certain coaches (Dwight Howard, who has his own post coming), having to feed their family (Latrell Sprewell and many others), or not getting paid to play in the Olympics (Dwyane Wade) as we wear their jerseys, buy their shoes, and pay tickets to watch.

At what point are we going to pay to watch "athletes" try to kill each other in the arena as was the case in ancient Rome? Oh wait, the popularity of boxing, "the gentleman's sport" or the "sport of kings", is being usurped by Mixed Martial Arts. (interestingly it is argued that the popularity of professional boxing began to wane when in nationally telivised bouts a year apart two fighters died. Benny Paret went into a coma after sustaining 29 straight hits, with 18 blows coming in six seconds, from Emile Griffith before the referee called the fight in 1962. A year later when Davey Moore lost to Sugar Ramos by knockout, he hit his neck on the bottom rope as he fell damaging his brain stem.)

And it's not even isolated to sports. Cross "The Running Man" with "Battle Royale" and you get this year's biggest box-office hit, "The Hunger Games".

So where's the line? How violent do sports need to become to turn us away? How much more can we tolerate overbearing parents fighting at Little League games before we're disgusted to the point of not participating? How much more corruption do we need to see in amateur athletics (I'm looking at you college football) before we say enough is enough and turn of the major networks who pay out billions to broadcast athletes that don't get paid.

I can't cast stones as I'm as guilty as anyone. But the recent headlines have caused me to pause and reflect on what I value and why I'm such a sports addict. Truth be told, I haven't had cable or satellite in nearly ten years. I always say if I were to subscribe, it would be for sports. As I've noticed my interest wane just by not watching as frequently, I wonder if it wasn't for the internet if I'd even care at all. But I still want my fix. Last year I swore off college football over the absurdity of conference realignment. But I couldn't stay away. I've lost interest in the NFL as I no longer spend all day Sunday watching games. Yet I participated in a fantasy football league last year. When is enough going to be enough? I'm not asking you, I am asking myself. Am I entertained?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Homecoming

A few weeks of insanity at work (wish it was the workout plan, I could stand to lose a couple of pounds) and a couple of trips later, I'm home and at peace. Of course, Monday means back to the grind, but I need a reminder that this is not my home. Even though after being away my own pillow and bed feel great, it is nothing compared to the home God has prepared for me. Some favorites from Switchfoot, Mercy Me, Building 429 and The City Harmonic:







Friday, April 06, 2012

Two Thieves

What do your prayers sound like? When the pressures of life are pressing you down, when it feels like there is no hope at all, when there is no other place to turn do you pray, "aren't you the Messiah? I need to you get me out of this. Save me"? Or instead do you simply pray, "Jesus, remember me"?

I don't know why, but when I read the account of Jesus on the cross in Luke 23 and reflected on the words of the two thieves crucified with him, I couldn't help but think of myself. I thought about how I approach God with the attitude, "you created the universe, you can fix this!" as though God owes me something. It convicted me to think of the second thief and his response, "don't you fear God?" (v 40) as I ask myself the same question. I thought about how Jesus instructed not to pray by rambling on and on and how simple a prayer it is to surrender what I want and just say "Jesus, remember me." (v 42)

I thought of how God is just and by his grace he saves me from all that I deserve. Yet there are times I deserve what I get. When I make my job the most important thing in my life and am later all stressed out. When I stop being giving to my family and act surprised when my children stop obeying. When I fail to ask the simple request for Jesus to remember me and wonder why life seems so hard. Then the second thief replies, "we are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man [Jesus] has done nothing wrong." (v 41)

No, Jesus did not deserve to die like he did. And he does not deserve to be treated like a cosmic vending machine, or some strip mall self-help guru. Sure, he can get me off this tree, but I need to be honest and ask myself do I want this for me, or for him?

Lord Jesus, remember me.