Elevation Bounces Boy with Cerebral Palsy

Today I would like to direct your attention to an item that has come across my desk which strikes near and dear to me, for reasons which should be obvious to those of you who know me well.

Elevation Church in Matthews, NC (a suburb southeast of Charlotte), asked a boy with cerebral palsy and his mother to leave their Easter service.  At the end of the opening prayer, the boy reportedly voiced his own special “Amen”.  He and his mother were approached by a church volunteer and, in her own words, “were very abruptly escorted out”.  They watched the remainder of the service from an overflow area in another section of the church.

You can read about the incident here.

I won’t say what I really think about this.  Elevation has been taking it on the chin because of this incident, and I don’t want to be guilty of piling on.  Also, at this stage, I might get penalized for a late hit.  I would probably get enough personal foul penalties to get myself ejected from the game.

Instead, I will refer you to Skye Jethani to read his take on the incident.  He is perhaps more generous to Elevation than I would be.  He concludes his post by describing how a similar incident was handled in a congregation where he preached.

I will also refer you to Rachel Held Evans’ post “Blessed Are the Un-Cool”, a reflection on church life inspired by this incident.  While you’re at it, check out the rest of her blog too.  It’s great stuff.

And I will say this:  Elevation markets itself as “an explosive, phenomenal move of God–something you have to see to believe.”  It is sad to see that there is a disconnect between these words and their treatment of people with special needs in this instance.

I will also say that this incident is part of a larger problem affecting all of evangelicalism:  a crisis of priorities between entertainment and hospitality.  In many evangelical churches, the service is a full-on production and they want the audience to experience it without any distractions.  But in the process of working to provide a distraction-free environment, they erect barriers to many of the people whom God has specially called to Himself.  Think about blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52) or the little children in the marketplace (Mark 10:13-16) or the paralytic lowered through a hole in the roof (Mark 2) or the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15:21-28).  Would these people be welcome in our churches?

We need to talk about this.

The Monday Melange 06.27.11: Clarence Clemons, Paul Simon

–Those of you who were Bruce Springsteen fans back in the day no doubt remember Clarence Clemons.  Clarence Clemons was the saxophone player in Springsteen’s band, and he played memorable solos on songs like “Born to Run”, “Bobby Jean”, and “I’m Goin Down”.  He played with other artists as well; he played the saxophone solo on Aretha Franklin’s “Freeway of Love” and even played with Lady Gaga within recent memory.

Alas, Clarence Clemons is no longer with us.  He died of complications from a stroke on June 18.

In his honor, I leave you with his most well-known work apart from Bruce Springsteen, in which he teamed up with Jackson Browne on the 1985 hit “You’re A Friend Of Mine”.

–While we’re looking at videos, let’s check out this song by Paul Simon from his new album So Beautiful or So What that came out back in April, called “The Afterlife”.  This song presents a tongue-in-cheek, bureaucratic vision of the afterlife (“You’ve got to fill out a form first / Then you wait in line”).  Paul Simon shows that even after all these years, his songwriting chops are still fully intact.  Enjoy.

Skye Jethani: Redefining “Radical” Christianity

Last time I linked a post that I wrote over at Life in Mordor where I critiqued the prevalent evangelical use of the story of Joseph:  to say that if you remain faithful to God you will achieve success even if you have to take all sorts of crazy detours to get there.  Today I wish to draw your attention to another post that critiques the evangelical idolatry of success from another angle.

Over at Out of Ur, Skye Jethani critiques the kind of Christianity that we consider “radical”, that says you must be completely sold out to Jesus Christ and show it through a life dedicated to full-time ministry, missions, or Christian activism.  This view elevates the work of the full-time minister or missionary while demeaning the ordinary vocations of those who are not involved in full-time ministry or missions.

Jethani challenges us to redefine our understanding of “radical” Christianity as being firmly rooted in knowing God wherever our situation in life happens to be and whatever we happen to be doing.  (After all, “root” is the original meaning of the word “radical”.)  And if we feel God calling us to leave what we are doing and go do something different, then by all means we should do it.  But this should only come out of knowing God deeply and profoundly, hearing His voice and following the leading of His spirit.

The Monday Melange 06.20.11: Lebron James, Harold Camping

–Aloysius, our Executive Director of Sports Information here at Everyone’s Entitled to Joe’s Opinion, wants all of you out there to know that at the end of the day, you have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life you have today, with the same personal problems you have today.  He says he is going to continue to live the way he wants to live and continue to do the things he wants.

Aloysius was not all that crazy about Lebron James’s little stunt last year when he went on ESPN for a full hour to tell the nation that he was “taking his talents to South Beach”.  So when Lebron James dropped his latest bomb after the Heat lost the NBA championship, Aloysius really took offense.

The quote in question?  “All the people that were rooting me on to fail, at the end of the day they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life they had before. They have the same personal problems they had today. I’m going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things that I want with me and my family and be happy with that.”

Just shows that Lebron James doesn’t really care about playing hard and winning.  Well, maybe he does, but it sure seems that he cares more about making money and using it to do the things he wants to do.

Harold Camping just had a stroke.  Maybe October 21 will be his last day, ya think?

If you listen to him speak, and if you listen to the kinds of things he says, it certainly seems as if he’s already had a stroke or two somewhere along the line.

–I am certainly thankful for Harold Camping.  Thanks to him, all of my friends will remember my birthday every year for as long as I live.

Les Miserables 65: Foliis Ac Frondibus

After describing the house on the Rue Plumet where Valjean and Cosette landed, Victor Hugo takes some time to describe the garden out in the front.  This garden was carefully cultivated while the judge who originally owned this house lived there, but it since fell into disuse and reverted back to its natural state.

It seemed as though this garden, first made to conceal licentious mysteries, had been transformed and rendered fit for the shelter of chaste mysteries.  It no longer had either bowers, lawns, arbors, or grottoes; a magnificent disheveled obscurity fell like a veil on all sides; Paphos had become Eden again.  Some secret repentance had purified this retreat.  This flowergirl now offered her flowers to the soul.  This coquettish garden, once so compromised, had returned to virginity and modesty.  A judge assisted by a gardener, a man who thought he was a second Lamoignon, and another man who thought he was a second Lenotre, had distorted it, pruned it, crumpled it, bedizened it, fashioned it for gallantry; nature had taken it over again, had filled it with shade and arranged it for love.

Before we continue, allow me to share with you how Victor Hugo concludes this chapter.  Just sit back and enjoy.

Algebra applies to the clouds; the radiance of the star benefits the rose; no thinker would dare to say that the perfume of the hawthorn is useless to the constellations.  Who could ever calculate the path of a molecule?  How do we know that the creations or worlds are not determined by falling grains of sand?  Who can understand the reciprocal ebb and flow of the infinitely great and the infinitely small, the echoing of causes in the abyss of being and the avalanches of creation?  A mite has value; the small is great; the great is small; all is balanced in necessity:  frightening vision for the mind.  There are marvelous relations between beings and things; in this inexhaustible whole, from sun to grub, there is no scorn; each needs the other.  Light does not carry terrestrial perfumes into the azure depths without knowing what it does with them; night distributes the stellar essence to the sleeping plants.  Every bird that flies has the thread of the infinite in its claw.  Germination includes the hatching of a meteor and the tap of a swallow’s beak breaking the egg, and it guides the birth of an earthworm and the advent of Socrates.  Where the telescope ends, the microscope begins.  Which of the two has the greater view?  Choose.  A bit of mold is a pleiad of flowers; a nebula is an anthill of stars.  The same promiscuity, and still more wonderful, between the things of the intellect and material things.  Elements and principles are mingled, combined, espoused, multiplied one by another, to the point that the material world and the moral world are brought into the same light.  Phenomena are perpetually folded back on themselves.  In the vast cosmic changes, universal life comes and goes in unknown quantities, rolling everything up in the invisible mystery of the emanations, using everything, losing no dream from any single sleep, sowing a microscopic animal here, crumbling a star there, oscillating and gyrating, making a force of light and an element of thought, disseminated and indivisible, dissolving all, save that geometric point, the self; reducing everything to the soul-atom; making everything blossom into God; entangling from the highest to the lowest, all activities in the obscurity of a dizzying mechanism, linking the flight of an insect to the movement of the earth, subordinating–who knows, if only by the identity of the law–the evolutions of the comet in the firmament to the circling of the protozoa in the drop of water.  A machine made of mind.  Enormous gearing, whose first motor is the gnat and whose last is the zodiac.

From here we transition to Cosette.  First, a few words about the relation between Eponine and Cosette would be in order.

Eponine is a foil to Cosette:  this means Eponine is everything Cosette is not and vice versa.  Through this contrast, Eponine helps Cosette to shine all the more brightly.

There are also echoes of the story of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) here.  In this story a rich man lived lavishly and enjoyed the good life while a beggar named Lazarus lived at his gate, living in misery and longing to eat what fell from his table.  Lazarus died, and was carried by angels to Abraham’s bosom.  The rich man died and went to Hades (I believe it was Sheol in the Jewish tradition).  There the rich man was in torment and he longed for Abraham to send Lazarus to touch his tongue with cool water and lessen his agony.  But Abraham would not do so:  ” ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’ ”  (Luke 16:25-26)

Like the rich man, Eponine received good things while she was growing up with the Thenardiers, while Cosette, who shared the Thenardiers’ home with her, received only bad things.  Eponine certainly could have shared with Cosette the blessings that she received from the Thenardiers, or sought to mitigate the abuse that Cosette received, but she did neither.  Then Valjean, an angel (or certainly an angel in the making, at least), came and took Cosette away.  Now Cosette is comforted while Eponine is in agony.  Cosette receives good things from her adopted father Valjean, while Eponine has received nothing but bad things from the Thenardiers ever since their inn failed.  And on top of that, Cosette (who does not yet even know Marius) has won his heart while Eponine, who loves him immensely and even sacrificially, does not receive any affection or even attention from Marius.

The Monday Melange 06.13.11: Joe Alleva, The NAGAAA

–Aloysius, our Executive Director of Sports Information here at Everyone’s Entitled to Joe’s Opinion, is very big into Pac-10 football.  He is a bear, and he does have some pretty strong California ties.  But at the end of the day, he will grudgingly admit the superiority of SEC football.

But every now and then he likes to talk smack to me about it, like when some SEC coach or school administrator says something stupid, something so stupid that it causes you to shake your head in bemusement and perplexity and say, “He didn’t just say that, did he?  Oh snap, he did.”  Like, for instance, when Lane Kiffin accused Florida of cheating a couple of years back.  Like when Nick Saban called agents out as “pimps” last year.  Like when Gordon Gee spoke out in defense of Jim Tressel and said he hoped Tressel wouldn’t dismiss him.  (Whoops.  Wrong conference.)

This week’s monumentally stupid comment comes from LSU athletic director Joe Alleva.  Speaking in defense of the practice of oversigning in college football (which I roundly criticized here a few weeks back), he offered this little bit of moronic-ness:

You’ve got to understand, the elementary education and secondary education in the state of Louisiana is not the best in the world. So we have kids coming out, and we don’t know if they are going to qualify or not. We don’t know if they’re going to get through the NCAA Clearinghouse and be eligible. Same for the states of Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas. Now, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan (the last three being prime Big Ten recruiting pools), they have much better public educational systems for those kids. Kids are coming out better prepared. So a lot of times, you may need to sign 28 to get to 25.

He didn’t just say that, did he?  Oh snap, he did.

OK, so Louisiana’s public education system is not the best in the world.  We knew that already.  I grew up in Louisiana, so I know a lot about that.  Those of you who are from Louisiana know about that as well.

So this guy wants to use that as an excuse to justify the pathetically lame practice of signing more players than you have scholarships for, with the idea that some of them won’t make it academically?  Wow.  What ever happened to just not signing kids who were at risk of not qualifying academically?

This guy used to be athletic director at Duke.  He should know better.

Apparently there is something in the water down in Louisiana that causes people to get stupid.  How else do you explain Huey Long, Edwin Edwards, David Duke, Ray Nagin, the Landrieus (kids: Wikipedia), and all the people who voted for them?

–While we’re on the subject of people saying and/or doing monumentally stupid things:

We here at Everyone’s Entitled to Joe’s Opinion do not condone homophobia in any form or fashion.  But when gay people do stupid things, we can’t help but sit back and laugh.  So when this little item came across the wire here, we just couldn’t help rolling on the floor, kicking our feet up in the air, going into contortions, and laughing like maniacs.

The North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance has this rule which limits how many people who are not openly gay can play on teams in the Gay Softball World Series.  And a federal judge up in Seattle has ruled that they can keep this rule in place.

How did this come about?  Three bisexual men brought suit against the league because they barred them from playing in the Gay Softball World Series.  One of the opposing teams filed a protest and they were kicked out, based on the rule limiting the number of non-gay members that each team can have.

In other words, they were kicked out because they WERE NOT GAY ENOUGH!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I wish I could say I was making this up.  I wish I could say Aloysius was making this up.  Alas, we are not.

To quote from a Seattle Times article on the case:

During the game, the manager of another team filed a protest under the rule that limits the number of non-gay players. The men contend they were brought, one at a time, into a room containing as many as 25 people and questioned about their sexual preferences.

The panel members then voted on whether they men were gay or “non-gay.” Several ballots were held, and the men said the process was humiliating.

Can you imagine what it would be like if we were to try to start a straight-only softball league with strict limits on the number of gay players who can participate on each team?  Or if any of the professional sports leagues, which for so long have preached tolerance and handed out massive fines for anything remotely resembling an anti-gay slur, were to suddenly reverse field and say “Sorry.  No gays allowed here”?

Come on, people.  Aloysius says that what’s good for the goose is also good for the gander.

Now Playing at Life in Mordor: Joseph and the Amazing Evangelical Obsession

Because I am all about shameless self-promotion, I would like to direct your attention to another post that I have up over at Life in Mordor.  This one is called “Joseph and the Amazing Evangelical Obsession“, and it is all about how evangelicals are infatuated with how Joseph remains faithful to God despite all the crazy detours of his life journey and achieves success (or blessing, or breakthrough, or whatever you care to call it) at the end.  This is not a proper understanding of this story.  The proper understanding is that God has a plan for the redemption of humanity, Joseph had a unique part to play in that plan, and he played it.

While you are over at Life in Mordor, check out the writings of Mike F and Clark Bunch.  They are every bit as good as, if not better than, what you find here.  Look under “The Fellowship” at the top of the right sidebar, and it will show you the last three posts of each author.  If you click on their names, you will see a list of all the posts they have written.  And if you want to see more of what I have written over there, click on my name and you will see all the posts I have written there.

GetReligion: Do Born-Again Evangelicals Have Smaller Brains?

Some of you may have heard about the study that came out recently which said that born-again evangelicals have a smaller brain size.  This study was done on a couple hundred people and it showed that mainline Protestants have a larger brain size than Catholics, evangelicals, or unbelievers.  But that is probably not at all the impression you got if you read the headlines in the media announcing this little bit of research.

Mollie Ziegler Hemingway over at GetReligion.org critiques the way in which the media has covered this study.  She notes that the headlines focused almost entirely upon evangelicals, and some even got the impression that it showed that unbelievers are smarter than believers.

Read more about the research itself

Now Playing at Life in Mordor: Can You Find God in Nature?

Today I wish to direct your attention to a post that I have up over at Life in Mordor, the blog of Mike Frizzell where I have the opportunity to appear regularly as a guest contributor.  I do this because, as you surely all know (if you didn’t know it before then you know it now), I am all about shameless self-promotion.  Doesn’t one have to have a certain amount of the shameless self-promotion gene in order to pass muster as a blogger anyway?

At any rate, the post is called “Can You Find God in Nature?”  This post is directed at those of you who say that you commune with God through nature or that you feel closer to God in nature.  Question:  What about earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, pestilence, etc.?  All of these are part of nature too.  The heavens declare the glory of God, but what sort of God do they tell of?  There are as many different answers to this as there are people, and if you sit around just looking at stars or pretty flowers or majestic mountain splendor, you will not get a straight answer to this question.  It takes faith to see the goodness of God in nature.  This faith does not come about as a result of anything you do; it is entirely a gift of God.

Urban Meyer to Ohio State? Don’t Rule It Out

So Jim Tressel is now out at Ohio State.  Here is a coda to that story:  Urban Meyer may be his successor.

Urban Meyer has been bandied about as a potential replacement for Tressel since long before this day–ever since Tressel was first implicated in the tattoo parlor thing and Gordon Gee went all Henny Youngman on us (Kids:  Wikipedia) by treating us to a shameless assortment of one-liners on how he hoped the coach would not dismiss him.

Would Urban Meyer take this job?  Don’t rule it out.

Despite the presently tattered state of the program, Ohio State remains one of the top five coaching jobs in all of college football.  What’s not to like about that?

Conventional wisdom holds that Urban Meyer, as any other decent head coach, would want to avoid Ohio State like the plague because of the NCAA probation which is all but certain now for Ohio State.  Yet Urban Meyer might be attracted by the challenge of rebuilding a tattered program at Ohio State.  He might also be attracted by the prospect of lower expectation levels during the early years.

Michigan fans:  If this happens, then if you get the urge to bum rush the field after scoring a touchdown against Ohio State, then I would strongly advise you to reconsider.  Take it as wise advice from someone who’s been there before:  That sort of thing does NOT go over very well with the Urbanator.