Posts tagged ‘Football’

The National Anthem and the NFL

NFL: SEP 24 Browns at Colts

Credit: Time

I’m not sure I ever thought I’d see the day where more people would be talking about the National Anthem at the beginning of an NFL game than the score at the end of an NFL game.  But here we are.

What began as a one-man protest by Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, against, according to his own words, “a country that oppresses black people and people of color” has been spun up into an all-out culture war with as many rabbit trails as Scylla has heads.  One head continues to protest racial inequality.  Another head complains that a United States president would insert himself into an NFL personnel predicament to call for the firing of football players who kneel.  Still another head seethes over the thought that anyone would dare to disrespect a flag that is so closely tied to the men and women who have laid down their lives in service to our country.  The only thing these heads seem to share in common is that they’re all beet red with anger.

This can’t be good for us.  I agree with Ross Douthat who described this controversy as one in which “mutual misunderstanding reigns and a thousand grievances are stirred up without a single issue being clarified or potentially resolved.”  This is most certainly true.  This is a controversy that is ready-made to stoke the flames of a fight without providing a path to peace.  This is a controversy that encourages us to fester in a self-righteous indignation without having to listen to any side besides our own.  This is a controversy that excuses us from any duty to empathize so that we can hate a villain we refuse to humanize.

Bret Stephens, in a recent lecture, said that far too many of our positions on the public debates of our day “have become the moated castles from which we safeguard our feelings from hurt and our opinions from challenge. It is our ‘safe space.’ But it is a safe space of a uniquely pernicious kind – a safe space from thought, rather than a safe space for thought.”  So, we boo at those who dare to kneel and shame those who want to stand.

One of the things I appreciate about our National Anthem is that it can serve as a reminder of all the things we have to appreciate about our country – our freedom, our entrepreneurial spirit, and our commitment to be “the home of the brave” not only by confronting threats abroad, but also by honestly addressing where we have fallen short at home.  But now, as with so many other things, the National Anthem has become a flashpoint for division instead of a call to brotherhood.  We’ve taken our national motto’s pluribus and divorced it from its unum.  Now all we’re left with is e pluribus odium.

As Christians, we must never forget that even when our country is fracturing, Christ’s Church will not.  The unity that He gives is an example that, especially right now, our nation needs. And the unity that He promises is a hope that, especially right now, we can share.  Fractures can still be healed and many can still be one because of the One who died for many.

October 2, 2017 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

The Baylor Scandal: Reflections on Human Sexuality

He manufactured one of the most remarkable turnarounds in the history of college football.  And now, he’s out of a job.

Art Briles began his career at Baylor in 2007 when the football program was the pitiable laughingstock of the Big 12.  But since 2011, Briles led the Bears to a 50-15 record.  The team went from being the doormats of the Big 12 to being the darlings.  But while he was winning games, Briles was also covering up sexual assaults by his players.

The details of Baylor University’s sexual assault scandal are shocking.  ESPN’s Outside the Lines reports that, in several instances:

School officials either failed to investigate, or failed to adequately investigate, allegations of sexual violence. In many cases, officials did not provide support to those who reported assaults, in apparent violation of Title IX federal law … Baylor did not investigate a sexual assault report made against football players Tre’Von Armstead and Shamycheal Chatman for more than two years, despite the school’s obligation to do so under federal law. They never faced charges.[1]

In another report, Outside the Lines told the story of a victim who, when she reported to university officials that she had been assaulted, was told, “There is nothing we can do, because the assault happened off campus.”[2]  In a particularly disturbing twist, it was also revealed that Baylor recruited defensive end Sam Ukwuachu, even though “officials either knew, or should have known, that Ukwuachu had a history of violent incidents at Boise State.”[3]

All this has led not only to Art Briles’ dismissal, but to Athletic Director Ian McCaw’s sanctioning and to University President Ken Starr’s demotion.  It seems as though a desire to win football games overshadowed the basic moral imperative to make sure the players of the team behaved nobly – both on and off the field.  Human dignity and decency was sacrificed at the altar of winning seasons and bids to bowl games.

It is a tragedy that the university administration did not address these horrific acts of sexual violence quickly and forcefully.  But it is an even deeper tragedy that such acts happened in the first place.  That any person is ever raped betrays the fact that our society fundamentally misunderstands and distorts sex.  It is time for us to remember what sex is and what it is for.  So let me state this as a clearly as I can:

Sex is meant and designed by God to be a servant.

All too often, sex is treated as an end to itself.  It is a pleasure to be chased.  It is a thrill to be had.  In the case of these Baylor football players, it seems as though it became a right to be demanded.  In the wake of the LGBT movement, sex has become a cornerstone of a person’s identity to be celebrated.  But sex is none of these things.

Sex is meant and designed by God to be a servant.

Sex was never designed by God to be an end all or a be all.  Instead, it was given to us by Him to serve other, greater purposes.  Here are three of those other, greater purposes.

1.  Sex is meant and designed by God to serve unity.

There is a reason why, when the apostle Paul warns against committing sexual immorality with prostitutes, he asks, “Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body” (1 Corinthians 6:16)?  Paul asks this because he knows that sexual intimacy unites people in a powerful way.  Despising such unification by sleeping around before marriage or committing adultery while married does not empower people sexually.  It diminishes their dignity.

2.  Sex is meant and designed by God to serve procreation.

The biology of this statement is self-evident enough, as a bit of reflection on our very existence, in conjunction with a visit to the maternity ward of any hospital, will reveal.  But this biological reality has its roots in a divine creative arrangement.  When God creates men and women, He commands them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28).  God gives sex, at least in part, for procreation.  And though sex does not always result in children, to casually reject sex’s procreative possibility altogether is to reject one of God’s goals for sex itself.

3.  Sex is meant and designed by God to serve your spouse.

This, finally, is why rape is so dreadful.  Rape is heinously and hideously selfish.  An intimacy that is meant to be a way to serve, honor, love, and cherish one’s spouse is taken as a way to engorge and indulge a lustful desire.  Such a use of sex is tragic – and evil.

Ultimately, the Baylor sexual assaults – along with their concealment – are only symptoms of a deeper problem.  Our culture’s view of human sexuality has turned selfish.  We don’t want to serve unity, so we have sex outside of marriage.  We don’t want to be bothered with children, so we go to extraordinary lengths to prevent – or even to terminate – pregnancy.  We don’t even want to serve the very person with whom we are being intimate, so we rape or, at the very least, engage in listless, loveless, mechanical sex.  This is where selfish sex has gotten us.

Baylor’s administration covered up sexual assault.  And now, many in that administration are forced to pay a steep price for their sins with their jobs, their reputations, and their futures.  Perhaps it is time for us, as a society, to stop making excuses for and covering up selfish sex before we too incur a steep price for our sins.  For selfish sex cannot only take a toll on our bodies in the forms of pain and disease, but on our souls in the forms of broken hearts and regret.

Sex is meant for better than that.  And we are in need of better than that.

________________________

[1] Paula Lavigne and Mark Schlabach, “Police records detail several more violence allegations against Baylor football players,” ESPN (5.19.2016).

[2] Paula Lavigne, “Baylor faces accusations of ignoring sex assault victims,” ESPN (2.2.2016).

[3] Jessica Luther and Dan Solomon, “Silence at Baylor,” Texas Monthly (8.20.2015).

May 30, 2016 at 5:15 am 1 comment

Mirror, Mirror On The Wall…

Treadmill 1A couple of weeks ago in Adult Bible Class, I talked about our society’s obsession with physical beauty. Though such obsession is often stereotyped as a female concern, males are increasingly sharing in our culture’s fixation on the physical. Take, for instance, this alarming report by Jeff Beckham for WIRED Magazine:

In a recent survey of 3,705 kids, 11 percent of teens in grades 9 through 12 reported having used synthetic human growth hormone without a prescription. That means that at any high school football game, it’s likely that at least two players on the field will have tried human growth hormone.[1]

In a world where playing well in high school football can mean “a financial scholarship to go to college … the pressures that are put on them to win by any means necessary” are enormous, says Travis Tygart, the CEO of the US Anti-Doping Agency, whom Beckham cites in his article.

But it’s not just success in sports that drives young men to use HGH. Beckham continues:

[A] survey, carried out by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids and funded by a grant from the MetLife Foundation, found no statistically significant difference in the athletic involvement between synthetic HGH users and non-users …

Even for non-athletes, the spike in the reported use of HGH can be tied to societal pressure. A study in the January issue of JAMA Pediatrics found that nearly 18 percent of adolescent boys were highly concerned about their weight and physique. And boys were as likely to feel pressure to gain weight and muscle as to lose weight.

In other words, high school guys, just like their female counterparts, are becoming increasingly obsessed with their physical beauty. The study Beckham cites in JAMA Pediatrics also notes that at least 7.6% of young men are willing to engage in unhealthy behaviors in an attempt to attain what they perceive to be an ideal physique.[2] There is not much, it seems, that is too risky for young men when it comes to their attempts to look good.

Of course, something has to change. Our incessant obsession with how we look is not only an affront to the biblical and scientific reality that “beauty is fleeting,” (Proverbs 31:30), it also takes things that, at their best, can contribute to the health of our bodies – e.g., eating carefully and exercising – and twists them toward sadly unhealthy ends.

Who do you hold up as a standard of beauty for yourself? Who does your spouse hold up as his or her standard? How about your kids? If your standard is someone on the cover of a magazine or someone who takes the field for the NFL on a Sunday afternoon, it’s time to switch your standard. Your standard should be Scripture, which says, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment … Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” (1 Peter 3:3-4). Beauty involves much more than how you look. It goes all the way down to who you are. So don’t just look good, be good. After all, being good will bless a lot more lives than just looking good. And, as a bonus, you’ll even be able to eat a cookie every once in a while without worrying about the calories. That sounds like a win-win to me.

___________________

[1] Jeff Beckham, “Growth Hormone Usage Rises Among Teens,” WIRED (12.4.2014).

[2] Alexis Conason, “Eating Disorders in Boys and Young Men,” Psychology Today (12.4.2014).

December 8, 2014 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

ABC Extra – Hey, Jealousy!

One of the things I’ve always wished for is more hand-eye coordination.  From the time I was a child, I have never been particularly adept at doing anything that required my hands and eyes to work coordinately.  This comes out especially in the arena of sports.  A baseball – I cannot hit it.  A basketball – I cannot dribble it.  A football – I cannot catch it.  This is why, to stay fit, I run and lift weights.  There is no hand eye coordination required.

I have always marveled at those who could crush a baseball or swish a basketball or catch a football.  After all, these athletes can do things I could never hope to do.  Honestly, I am more than a little jealous of some of these folks.

Jealousy is a strange emotion.  We usually think of jealousy as a strident yearning of the heart after something someone else has.  We can be jealous of someone else’s talent.  Or we can be jealous of someone else’s wealth.  We can even be jealous of someone else’s piety – his self-control, her gentle spirit, his ability to be content rather than jealous!

In the Bible, the word “jealousy” has both a positive and a negative use.  In its negative sense, it describes “envy.”  Solomon warns, “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones” (Proverbs 14:30).  In its positive sense, jealousy describes “zeal.”  As Isaiah famously prophesies concerning the birth of the Messiah: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over His kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this” (Isaiah 9:6-7).  So what is the difference between sinful envy and holy zeal?  Envy is jealousy of someone while zeal is jealousy for someone.

Envy sees something someone else has and says, “I want it,” and either seethes with resentment because what is desired cannot be had, or uses dishonest or even diabolical means to attain what is desired.  King Ahab is the poster child for this kind of jealousy.  When the king tries to cut a deal with one of his subjects, Naboth, to purchase from him a vineyard, Naboth refuses.  When he is turned down, the story says Ahab “lay on his bed sulking” (1 Kings 21:5).  So Ahab hatches a plan.  He has Naboth stoned and commandeers his vineyard.  Ahab’s envy knows no bounds.

Zeal, on the other hand, is a deep desire and affection for something with which God has entrusted you.  As such, you are jealous for it, desiring to protect it and keep it from harm.  In Numbers 5, the law speaks of the jealousy a man has for his wife.  And indeed, a man should be jealous for his wife.  For God has given a man a great gift in a wife – and he should honor and protect her.  As Solomon says, “He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord” (Proverbs 18:22).

Jealousy is not all bad.  When God prohibits all forms of idolatry in the First Commandment, He explains His reasoning thusly:  “I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep My commandments” (Exodus 20:5-6).  God is jealous for us.  Beautifully, this simply means He loves us.

What kind of jealousy marks your life – jealousy for someone or jealousy of someone?  Do you seek to honor and protect those you love or do you seek to take that which you do not have?  One kind of jealousy flows from love.  The other flows from greed.  May you, as God’s child, be jealous with a “godly jealousy” (2 Corinthians 11:2).

Want to learn more? Go to
www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com
and check out audio and video from Pastor Tucker’s
message!

March 5, 2012 at 5:15 am 5 comments

ABC Extra – Not Just Mighty, Almighty

My Thanksgiving started out well enough.  Melody and I hosted our family’s Thanksgiving dinner this year, complete with turkey, dressing, and all the trimmings.  The food was delicious.  In fact, everyone had to loosen their belts a couple of notches when we were finished.  Thanksgiving success!  But the most exciting part of my Thanksgiving was yet to come.

After having to turn down tickets three times this season because of previous commitments, I was offered some tickets to go see my Texas Longhorns play the Aggies on Thanksgiving night in Austin.  I could hardly wait.  It didn’t matter that I was full and tired.  It didn’t matter that a cold front was blowing through, dropping temperatures to near freezing.  I was ready for some football!  And so, I arrived at Darryl K. Royal Memorial Stadium, decked out in orange, ready to watch the Longhorns run, pass, and tackle their way to victory in a last ditch effort to get a bowl bid.  And we almost had it…until that interception at the end of the game.  Final score:  24-17.  Aggies win.

It was a long drive home that night.  Last year, the scenario of a losing season seemed impossible.  After all, less than a year ago, we were playing in the BCS Championship game.   We were the mighty warriors of the gridiron.  But what a difference a year makes.  Oh, how the mighty have fallen (cf. 2 Samuel 1:25)!

Even the mightiest of men can fall.  Isaiah puts it well:  “Even youths shall faint and be weary; and young men shall fall exhausted” (Isaiah 40:30).  This is demonstrated time and time again in the pages of Scripture.

In Joshua 10:2, we read about the city of Gibeon:  “Gibeon was a great city, like one of the royal cities…and all its men were warriors.”  The Hebrew word for “warriors” is gibor, meaning “mighty.”  And yet, even the mighty men of Gibeon are no match for the Israelites. For the Gibeonites “fear greatly for their lives” (9:24) because of the Israelites’ success in their campaign against the nations of Canaan and even seek to make a peace treaty with the them.  The Gibeonites’ mightiness fails.

Then, in 1 Samuel 17:51, we read about the Philistine fighter Goliath:  “David ran and stood over the Philistine and took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him and cut off his head with it.  When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled.”  The Hebrew word for “champion” is again gibor.  With a smooth stone and a sling, David does what a whole Israelite army cannot:  he slays the mighty man Goliath.  And Goliath’s mightiness fails.

The mightiness of men, be they warriors or football players, fails.  The mightiness of our God, however, does not.

Some 725 years before the birth of Christ, Isaiah prophesies concerning Him:  “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).  “A child will be born,” Isaiah says, “and he will be called, ‘Mighty.’”  The Hebrew word for “mighty” is, once again, gibor.  However, this mighty One is unlike other mighty ones in the Bible.  For when the word gibor is used, it is often used in conjunction with the word ish, the Hebrew word for “man.”  But when it is used in Isaiah 9:6, it is used with the word el, Hebrew for “God.”  And this makes all the difference.  For when the Scriptures talk about the mightiness of men, time and time again, we watch their mightiness fall, falter, and fail.  But when the Scriptures speak of the mightiness of God, they speak of it in eternal and unfailing terms.  As Nehemiah explains, “God, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, keeps covenant and steadfast love” (Nehemiah 9:32).  God’s keeps His mightiness going, as demonstrated through His faithfulness to His covenant promises and His steadfast love to you and me.

Finally, our God is not just mighty, He is Almighty.  That is, He is the supreme Mighty One.  For this reason, we trust that His mightiness will never fail.  So trust not in your own strength!  Trust not in your own gibor!  For you have someone much mightier than you.  And He’s lying in a manger.

Want to learn more on this passage? Go to
www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com
and check out audio and video from Pastor Tucker’s
message or Pastor Nordlie’s ABC!

December 6, 2010 at 5:15 am 1 comment


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