Quick Hit: Son of God

sonofgodSorry to rain on your little parade, my fellow evangelicals.  But I am unabashedly ambivalent in my enthusiasm for the latest big-screen Jesus-movie thing.

On the one hand, it is great that the Christian message is getting out there into the larger world via a major motion picture.  But we have to realize that the reason this movie and others like it are now being made is not that Hollywood’s got religion.  Rather, it is that Hollywood’s got us pegged as a niche market that can be sold to, that will enthusiastically consume whatever they put out.  This can’t possibly be a good thing.

Quick Hit: Conference Realignment Revisited

Last year the college football world was all abuzz with talk of a potential realignment that would have the Big 12 imploding with half the league going out to the Pac 10 and the other half joining up with the SEC or Big 10 or wherever, setting off a massive ripple effect that would transfigure the entire college football landscape.  In the wake of that, I noted that this sort of earth-shattering conference realignment seems to happen about once every ten years, and I mapped out the effects of the last two rounds of realignment.

As it turned out, nothing ever came of that.  Nebraska joined the Big 10 and Colorado defected to the Pac 10, but the rest of the Big 12 stayed put.  Texas got a crazy exclusive deal with ESPN to launch its own sports network, but the rest of the Big 12 was willing to go along with this because they were just happy to have a conference home.

But now, there are rumblings that Texas A&M is getting ready to defect to the SEC.  There are also rumors that Oklahoma might be joining the SEC.  AJC sports columnist Mark Bradley gives his analysis of the rumors swirling, especially as far as Texas and Oklahoma are concerned.  AJC sports columnist Jeff Schultz is dead set opposed to this; in his view the fact that the NCAA is willing to tolerate this sort of thing is a sign that they have lost their mission.

What say you, people?

Quick Hit: The Coming Presidential Election

It isn’t very often that we talk about politics here at Everyone’s Entitled to Joe’s Opinion.  Politics can be a very divisive thing; expressing strong opinions of one political persuasion is a sure way to lose friends and readers of the opposite political persuasion.  And we don’t want that here at Everyone’s Entitled to Joe’s Opinion.  Besides, this just isn’t a political blog.  One of my friends from college has a very good political blog called “Marque’s Letters“; I strongly recommend it if you are into that sort of thing.  I don’t stop in there very often for the simple reason that I would drive myself completely crazy if I had to worry about all the things that conservative political pundits worry about.

But every now and then politics creeps up on the radar at Everyone’s Entitled to Joe’s Opinion.  And what better time to discuss it than with a presidential election looming in the next year?

Obama is looking extremely beatable these days, though he has enjoyed a slight uptick thanks to Osama.  Yet Republicans have all but conceded the upcoming election to Obama; for some reason all of the candidates who actually have a shot at beating Obama are avoiding this thing like the plague.  Every day it seems like somebody is coming out with an announcement that they will not be running.

Which leaves us with…Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney.

You remember these guys from the last time around, don’t you?  Mike Huckabee is a crazy old fundy-gelical from over in Arkansas whom my ultra-conservative evangelical friends just can’t seem to stop talking about.

And Mitt Romney is a Mormon.

This can only mean one of two possible things as far as his ability to govern effectively is concerned.  Now a lot of you evangelicals would say that Romney is not a Christian and so God does not listen to him; he does not hear from God and cannot lead out of that.  I hear you.  But you are completely and totally missing the point, and the point is this:  Either (1) he doesn’t REALLY believe all that stuff, in which case he is a hypocrite.  Or (2) he really DOES believe all that stuff, in which case he is completely and totally crazy.  Those are our only two options here.  There may be more but I’m not seeing them so don’t start with me.

And don’t even start with me about Sarah Palin.  I would sooner vote for Michael Palin if he were running on the Silly Party ticket.  Besides, I think he has a much better shot at beating Obama than any of these other guys.

If only the Republicans could get one of these guys to run, they might actually have a chance.

Quick Hit: The NFL Labor Dispute

Normally, my default position in professional sports labor disputes that involve people who make more money in one hour than I will see in my entire life and are whining because they can’t figure out how to equitably divide all that money is “I don’t care.”

But in this case, I have to go with the players.


Think of it like this:  Suppose you were a waiter at Nava or Paul’s or whatever your nightspot of choice happens to be.  Now, suppose that the owner told you he was going to take 10 percent of your tips every night.  “Don’t worry,” he says, “we’re going to invest this money in the restaurant.  We’re going to make big improvements here:  a bubble wall, marble countertops at the bar, etc.  More people are going to want to come here, and that means more money for you out of all this.”

How would you feel about that?  Not very good, I take it.  Well, that is more or less what the owners are trying to do to the players in this labor dispute.  Not cool.

On top of that, the owners are screaming about how they are losing money and they need the additional cash flow.  The players have responded by asking the owners to open their books and let them see where the money is going.  A reasonable request:  if I were being asked to give up part of my salary, I would want to know how the money will be spent.  Yet the owners have refused.

Not cool.

Quick Hit: Rob Bell

Rob Bell is coming out with a new book.

But you knew this already.  Unless you have been living under a rock the size of Georgia, you have heard the buzz that has been going all around the Christian blogosphere lately concerning Rob Bell’s new book and how he is really a universalist.

A masterful stroke of genius on the part of Bell’s publisher, HarperOne.  They wanted to generate a buzz surrounding the release of Bell’s new book, and so they released blurbs and video teasers to the internet which were calculated to create the impression that Bell was advocating universalism, knowing full well that certain segments of the Christian blogosphere would be all over it like white on rice.

Kinda like former Louisiana governor Huey Long’s approach to political campaigning, summed up in this quote:  “Keep them talking about you.  In a couple of weeks no one will remember what you said, all they’ll remember is that you said it.”  (I can’t swear that this is the exact wording.  Would those of you who have better knowledge verify that this is true or set me straight if I am in error?)

And that is exactly what happened.  John Piper, Al Mohler, Justin Taylor, Kevin DeYoung, and others picked up that ball and ran with it.  And from there it went viral through the evangelical blogosphere.

HarperOne wanted a buzz surrounding Bell’s new book.  And a buzz is exactly what they got.

Somewhere out there, Ashton Kutcher is watching this whole thing unfold and laughing his head off.  Why?  Because WE JUST GOT PUNK’D!!!!!!!!!!!!!

That’s right, my fellow evangelicals.  We just got punked.  Just like Y2K.  Just like that Da Vinci Code flap back in 2006 which all came to nothing when the movie came out and was a complete and total flop.

And now for something completely different…

Who made Rob Bell an apostle?  Where does he, a lone wolf, get off wielding the inordinate amounts of influence that he has acquired through his writings?  Who gave him the authority to pontificate on matters of Christian belief?

And who made Piper, Mohler, Taylor, DeYoung, etc. the gatekeepers and guardians of sound doctrine?  Who appointed them to the magisterium and gave them the authority to denounce Bell, a fellow Christian, before the entire watching world–heedless of the fact that such behavior places a thermonuclear device directly into the hands of Catholics who criticize us Protestants for our seemingly incessant divisions and contentiousness?

This is a prime example of the authority boondoggle in evangelicalism that has caused many evangelicals to defect to Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy over the last two decades.

Yet for all my issues and struggles with the authority thing, I do not believe that this is an issue of central importance for us.

There are two distinct ways in which Catholics and Protestants come at a situation like this.  The Catholic approach is to ask questions such as “Who commissioned Rob Bell?  What is his relation to the apostolic succession and the authority structure of the Church?  Does he speak with the approval of the Magisterium?”  If the answer to these questions is no, then don’t believe a word he says.  But if the answer is yes, then you are conscience-bound to believe and obey.

Protestants ask a different set of questions.  We look at what Bell is saying, rather than at Bell himself, and ask questions such as “Does this line up with Scripture?  Does this affirm the core doctrines of the Christian faith, as revealed in Scripture?”  In my view, these are the questions that need to be asked.

One more thought:  Anytime someone is preaching the true Gospel, it is going to sound like universalism to a lot of people.  This is a problem in evangelicalism–it is part of our DNA to think more in terms of who is OUT of the kingdom rather than who is IN.  We spend more time and energy criticizing those whom we believe are too lenient in their view of who gets into heaven than those who are too stringent.  A prime example:  There are people running around out there who would say that Mother Teresa is in hell right now because she had an inaccurate theology of justification by faith or because she never prayed a “sinner’s prayer”.  If that’s you, then shame on you.

Quick Hit: “Here For You”?

The latest Passion album is out now, and it is called “Here For You”.

What is meant by that title?

There are two ways they could go with this.  The first is “We are here for You, Lord.  We are thoroughly committed to You, sold out to You, on fire for You.  We love You more than life itself, more than the air we breathe.”

Evangelicalism is rife with these big, bad, bodacious declarations of faith.  We just can’t say enough about how committed, how dedicated, how sold-out we are to God.  But is it true?  I may have my moments where I feel like that once in a while, but if that is the standard for where I am supposed to be in my Christian life all the time, then I am fucked, and I’d like to meet the person who isn’t.

The other is this:  “Jesus is here for you.  Even when your heart has wandered far away, He is still here for you.  Even when you’re not committed enough, not dedicated enough, not sold-out enough, and don’t even want to be, He is here for you.  All of the benefits that Jesus gained through His death on the cross are here, and they are for you.”

I honestly hope it’s the second, and not the first.

Quick Hit: The Tennessee Game

Here, a couple of days late perhaps (deal with it) are my thoughts on the Tennessee game this past weekend:

This was a textbook example of what happens when a team with a bad record and good talent meets a team with a bad record and bad talent:  Usually the team with the bad record and good talent wins.

If you have seen any of the games this year, you know that whatever Georgia’s problems may be, they certainly do not stem from a lack of talent.  Our players are just as big, just as fast, just as athletic as their opponents.  The problems Georgia has faced are strictly the result of coaching:  offensive playcalling that fails to maximize the available resources, a new defensive system that is not a good fit for the personnel currently on hand (Didn’t Ray Goof have this problem with one of his defensive coordinators?), and the overarching problem:  a head coach who is not setting the right tone for his program.

But even the worst coaching on the face of the earth cannot keep good talent down forever.  Sooner or later, all that talent is bound to shine through and have its way.  You do not want to be on the opposing team when that happens.

Now, some positives that Georgia has going for it as we look ahead to the remainder of the season:

–Aaron Murray.  He’s a gamer.  Though his offensive line has not blocked a lick for him, he has been anything but overwhelmed.  In four games without A. J. Green, he managed five touchdowns to two interceptions and a 61 percent completion rate.  Not bad for a freshman quarterback with no game experience prior to this year.

–A. J. Green.  Having your best player in the lineup always helps.  We saw that this week, and during the brief time that he played at Colorado.

–The defense is improving, all the blown coverages notwithstanding.  Don’t look now, but after six games Todd Grantham’s defense has surrendered a full 51 fewer points than Willie Martinez’s defense at this point in the season last year.  What’s more:  Only once has anyone scored 30 or more points on Todd Grantham’s defense (Arkansas scored 31).  After six games in 2009, Willie Martinez’s defense had given up 30-plus points three times and 40-plus points twice.

Quick Hit: Guess Who Said This?

“And I think also understanding that, you know, that Jesus Christ dying for my sins spoke to the humility we all have to have as human beings — that we’re sinful and we’re flawed and we make mistakes, and that we … achieve salvation through the grace of God.”

Sounds like a straightforward articulation of the Gospel and a solid profession of Christian faith, wouldn’t you say?

But if you knew who spoke the above words, I would be willing to bet good money that because of this person’s political leanings, an awful lot of you would say that this person is lying through his/her teeth and that there is no possible way that this person can be a Christian.

Since when has politics become the litmus test of whether or not someone is a Christian?

Come on, people.  You are better than that.  Christianity is better than that.

And no, I will not tell you who spoke the above words.  You have to click the link if you want to find out.

Quick Hit: The South Carolina Game

No matter where I am in the world, I can always tell whenever Georgia has taken a particularly distressing loss by looking at my blog and seeing how many people find it by using the search term “fire mark richt”.

It has taken me a few days to think this one through, but here is where I come out:  Come on, people.

What happened this past weekend was not a failure of coaching.  It was not a failure to scheme properly.  It was simply superior athleticism from the other team.  It happens sometimes.  Deal with it.

Georgia’s defense looked pathetic with all the missed tackles.  But let me tell you a secret:  Marcus Laddimore is going to make a LOT of defenses look pathetic by the time it is all said and done.

Todd Grantham had his players where they needed to be, doing the things that needed to be done in order to make plays.  But the plays would not be made; Marcus Laddimore refused to allow that to happen.  It happens sometimes, and a defensive coordinator can live with that.

And despite all the missed tackles, we must not forget that the defense kept Georgia in the game all the way until the very end when South Carolina got that last field goal.

Aaron Murray was not the most effective, but what do you expect from a freshman quarterback starting his first ever SEC road game?  There is a HUGE difference between playing in front of 90,000 of your fans and playing in front of 90,000 of theirs.  Aaron Murray had to learn this the hard way.

The offensive game plan was overly conservative, and if you wish to criticize that, you might have a legitimate argument.  Still, it is a sensible thing to do when you are trying to break in a freshman quarterback who is starting his first ever SEC road game.  On the other hand, at some point you do have to take the training wheels off.  Let your freshman quarterback go out there and step up like a veteran and make the big plays to win the game.  I think you can be pretty sure that Mark Richt and Mike Bobo are thinking long and hard about that this week.

To sum up:  This was NOT a failure of coaching, or a failure of schemes.  It was simply two very good teams who figure to do a lot of damage in the SEC East this year, going at it in a close, hard-fought game.  In such an instance, one of those teams has to lose.  This time, it was Georgia.  It happens sometimes.  Deal with it.

Quick Hit: The Ground Zero Mosque

I love it when people get all jacked up about a story before checking to see if they have their facts straight.

If you have been tracking with the news lately, you know that there are plans to build a mosque near Ground Zero in New York, that the whole Republican establishment is all up in arms over this, and that a threat by a pastor down in Florida to burn copies of the Koran has been tied to this.

Okay.  I believe that the idea of a mosque at Ground Zero is completely and totally inappropriate, especially considering that it is Muslims (granted, an extremist branch of Muslims, but still) who are responsible for there being a Ground Zero in the first place.  And I would be completely and totally up in arms about this as well.

Except for one thing.

There is no Ground Zero mosque.

That’s right, people.

THERE IS NO GROUND ZERO MOSQUE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the figure behind the project that people refer to as the Ground Zero Mosque, has been demonized as a radical with ties to extremist groups who is embarking upon this project to demonstrate the supremacy of Islam.  In reality, he has been praised by both high-ranking Democrats and Republicans as a moderate and reasonable voice of Islam, and he has been quite critical of many aspects of Islam.

The project which Rauf has in mind is a thing called 45-51 Park Place, located about two blocks north of the northern edge of the sprawling World Trade Center campus, and roughly half a dozen city blocks from anything that can be called Ground Zero.  It will be an Islamic community center, intended to make a statement against terrorism, housed in a building that was damaged on 9/11 that is already being used as an overflow site for the al-Farah mosque on Broadway, about twelve blocks north of the WTC campus.

Don’t believe me?  Check out this report from the Associated Press.

Sarah Palin has referred to the area around Ground Zero as “hallowed ground”.  Really?  Check out this pictorial of stuff in New York that is the same distance (or less) from Ground Zero as the proposed “mosque”.  Then see if you still agree with that assessment.

Finally, read Clark Bunch’s take on the Ground Zero “mosque”.

Come on, people.  You know better than this.  Get your facts straight before you go shooting off at the mouth.