Anti-Bullying Bullying Makes Me Barf

Recently, MTV personality, newspaper columnist, gay-rights activist, and supposed anti-bullying advocate Dan Savage was invited to speak at a high school journalism convention.  Through a series of inflammatory remarks and fallacious rhetoric, Savage proceeded to verbally bully Christian students in the audience.  Some of these kids chose to walk out in protest, at which point Savage verbally assaulted them with name calling and claimed it was self-defense.  Not very “anti-bullying” of him, but this sort of special pleading seems to be par for the course where the “tolerance” movement is concerned (as I’ve previously discussed).

Let’s take a look at what Mr Savage had to say on the Bible.  If you watch the video linked below to get the context, you may want to make sure there are no small ears around first, as this fellow doesn’t prefer to stick to societal conventions on etiquette in public discourse.  On the other hand, if you have Jr High or High School kids that are mature enough to watch this critically, I highly suggest viewing it with them to show them what they’re up against.  They’re going to be challenged to be tolerant, all the while being bullied for their beliefs.

http://youtu.be/ao0k9qDsOvs

0:15 – Good start Mr. Savage!  You’re right, the Bible does say homosexuality is wrong, along with a host of other sexual sins, and things like murder, stealing, false gods, arrogance, corrupt conversation, hatred, bitterness, etc.

0:25 – Wait, what now?  The BS about gay people in the Bible?  You mean the part where it says it is wrong?  I don’t mean to straw man Mr Savage’s position, but he seems to be implying that things being in the Bible invalidates them somehow.  Does this mean that the part about murder being wrong is also BS because it is in the Bible as well?  That would just be committing the genetic fallacy.  An argument cannot be dismissed simply in light of its source.  You need to actually make a positive case for your side, otherwise it looks like you’re just ignoring the Bible simply because you don’t want to live according to its standards, not because there’s actually something wrong with the standard.  Simply not liking the claim it makes on your life does nothing for your position.  If he’s not implying it’s position in the Bible is what invalidates it, then it’s simply a foundationless claim, and I have no reason to believe the Bible’s claims that God has high standards for acceptable sexual relationships are BS.

0:37 – Shellfish? Shellfish were covered under the theocratic rule of God over Israel in the old covenant.  It is no longer relevant, nor is this argument (if simply saying a word is an argument).  We’re no longer living under the old covenant, or its dietary restrictions.  Perhaps a Jewish person would like to have that debate.

0:39 – Slavery? You realize slavery in antiquity wasn’t the antebellum slavery we see in the American south, right?  Biblical “slavery” was more of an indentured servitude.  A person might sell himself as way to have him and/or his family taken care of, or for forgiveness of debt, in exchange for his service.  In fact, what you see happening in Israel in terms of Biblical law is vastly different from what is seen in the pagan cultures around them. For instance, in the Code of Hammurabi we see slaves were clearly treated as property.  If you put out the eye of a slave, or broke his bones, you were to pay half the value of the slave to the master.  On the other hand the Old Testament of Israel affirms the personhood of servants.  In the same circumstance in Hebrew culture, the slave would be allowed to go free (Exod 21:26-27).  The servant was given justice in God’s theocracy, not the master.

0:40 – Dinner?  This is a new one to me.  Honestly I’m not sure what he’s referring to here.  If it is having to do with dietary restrictions see the comment above about shellfish.  We ignore those laws because they applied only to Jews living under the theocratic rule of God, not because there is something wrong with them.  At the time, some of them were largely symbolic, and others provided health benefits.

0:41 – Farming?  Presumably this is reference to Deuteronomy 22 where the Israelites were not supposed to plow with an ox and donkey together.  In fact, they had several restrictions about combining differing things.  This is likely symbolic, as a reminder that they were a people set aside for God.  They were not to mix with the pagan cultures, and therefore were given several reminders to keep themselves separate, like mixing seed in the field, mixing fibers in clothing, and plowing with a mixed team.  Again, this was special to Hebrew law under theocratic rule, and does not apply since Jesus fulfilled the old covenant.

0:42 – Menstruation? Again, I’m not sure Mr Savage has made an attempt to understand the Biblical narrative rather than just reading single phrases and attacking them out of context.  First, a menstruating woman was not morally unclean (if that’s what Savage is getting at), just ceremonially unclean.  There were a lot of other health-related distractions that put both women as well as men in this ceremonially unclean condition.  Second, blood was a symbolically sacred thing to the Hebrews, so there are numerous regulations regarding it. It doesn’t strike me as especially controversial.  Coincidentally, it is the narrative of blood as the source of life via atonement that is taken right up to the last sacrifice made, which was Jesus, the Messiah, on the cross.  The only thing required to be ceremonially clean now, is acceptance of the Messiah as a sacrifice on behalf of all people.  It’s a lot easier!  Again, this sort of ceremonial law regarding menstruation is part of the old covenant that God had with Israel.  There were similar laws that applied to men.  Not really relevant to Mr Savage’s point unless he’s talking directly to Jews who don’t believe Jesus was the Messiah.  It doesn’t seem that way though.

0:43 – Virginity?  See 1:45 when Mr Savage brings this back up, but I think he’s confused about his details again.  Peculiar for a journalism conference!

0:44 – Masturbation? Actually the Bible doesn’t say anything at all about this in and of itself.  Catholics in particular might try to use the account of Onan in Genesis 38 to say it is there (as well as using it to lobby against family planning), but in context Onan was simply punished for being wicked in light of his refusal to obey the law of levarite marriage which protected a family’s inheritance rights in the event of the untimely death of a husband.  A male relative of the deceased, in this case a younger brother, was directed to marry his brother’s widow and carry on the family line.  He stubbornly chose to ignore the law.  Coincidentally we later see a similar law applied successfully with Ruth and Boaz, which eventually leads to David, and finally Jesus.

0:50 – Mr Savage and I can’t agree that what is in the Bible is BS, but we can agree that we do, in fact, ignore things in the Bible about all sorts of things.  This is not the question though.  The question is SHOULD we ignore things in the Bible, and does the Bible contain a real claim on our lives and the way we should live, or just a bunch of ancient made up mythology?  Savage seems only interested in the former and not the latter.  His logic is that because we, as a culture, seem to be already ignoring some things, we might as well ignore them all.  His reasoning, doesn’t seek to determine what is right or wrong, but merely appeals to the culture to define what we should or should not do.  Relativism!  Taken to the absurd like our mothers always did, Mr Savage, if all your friends were to jump off a bridge, sir, would you follow?  This is the logical fallacy known as argumentum ad populum, or the appeal to popularity.  Just because a bunch of people are doing something, it does not follow necessarily that it is the right thing to do, otherwise we’d have to conclude Hitler’s Germany was justified in its actions.

0:55 – The Bible is a radically pro-slavery document because slave owners waved Bibles over their heads during the Civil War?  Again, Mr Savage seems to be a big fan the genetic fallacy.  If Hitler waved a chocolate bar over his head during WWII saying, “Chocolate made me do it!”, would it follow necessarily that chocolate lovers are anti-Semites?

1:02 – Again, since Mr Savage is just throwing out unsubstantiated rhetoric and bald-faced assertions with no explanation, it’s difficult to tell what he’s referring to.  He refers to “the shortest book in the New Testament”, but that is 3 John, which obviously was not written by Paul and has nothing to do with slavery.  I think he must be referring either to Paul’s letter to Titus, where he addresses how Christian slaves should behave, or the 3rd shortest book of the New Testament, Philemon, where Paul request that Philemon release his dear friend Onesimus.  It almost seems like he’s just hodgepodging them together.  In the first case Paul only talks about what Titus should teach slaves, not how Titus should own slaves.  In his letter to Philemon Paul IS clearly asking Philemon to release his friend Onesimus.  Paul is in the position to make demands of Philemon, but appeals to Philemon to consult his relationship with Christ, and his relationship with Paul as a friend, and do the right thing.  Contrary to Mr Savage’s claim, Paul IS asking his friend to set his servant free.  However, it’s quite plausible given the culture that Onesimus owed some sort of debt to Philemon, and so Philemon would be under no obligation to do so.  Paul even suggests as much, and offers to have the debt charged to himself instead (Philemon 1:18) rather than Onesimus, so that Philemon might see Onesimus as the brother that he is.  Further, while ranting from the pulpit about how apparently he doesn’t like the way some Christians tell other people how they should live, Mr Savage is saying Paul should be more forceful in the way he tells other people how to live.  Your circular logic confuses me, sir.  I can’t tell what you really want.

1:20 – The Bible got slavery wrong?  The Bible doesn’t particularly take a position on slavery itself, only how to treat slaves.  I know I already said this, but I’ll say it again.  It also is definitely not referring to slavery like we think of when we imagine it in the antebellum South, which seems to be where Mr Savage is likely still trying to make a connection.  The Bible merely addresses the master/servant relationship that exists in both ancient near-eastern and then, later, the Roman empire.  Frequently a voluntary contract of servitude, or a necessary contract of servitude to pay off a debt.  I have no doubt that just like other institutions people establish (like high school journalism conventions) that people abused their position of authority.  However, in both cases the Bible defends the servant’s right to be treated with fairness and dignity, which was unheard of at the time.  In Titus 2 he’s addressing Christians who are slaves, not saying Christians ought to take slaves.  In Philemon he’s appealing for the release of a slave.  Mr Savage, again, resorts to logical fallacy by setting up a straw man for use in his rhetoric. He changes Paul’s position to be that Christians support slavery and then attacks that position, rather than addressing what Paul really said.  It’s poor form.

1:25 – Mr Savage’s fallacious appeal to authority with reference to Sam Harris’s book does nothing for his argument.  Sam Harris is a neuroscientist, not an ancient history or Biblical scholar.  Two unqualified people making naked assertions and taking the Bible out of context doesn’t make the position any more defensible.  In fact, to see the weakness of Sam Harris’s position on morality without God, watch his debate with Dr. William Lane Craig.  It’s a couple of hours, but well worth the investment no matter where you currently stand with regards to your view of theism.  http://youtu.be/yqaHXKLRKzg.

1:40 – I don’t agree that the Bible “got slavery wrong, but let’s say, for the sake of argument, that the Bible did get the slavery issue wrong.  How do you arrive at the conclusion that it got sexuality wrong with 100% certainty?  This just seems to be affirming the consequent.  If the Bible was wrong on the issue of slavery, does that mean it follows necessarily that it was also 100% wrong on other issues?  Perhaps because it was wrong on slavery (for the sake of argument) it was also wrong on theft and it is okay to steal from people?  Or perhaps this form of reasoning could be used like this: If a gay person has ever molested a child, then gay people are dangerous.  A gay person has molested a child.  Therefore, gay people are dangerous.  The conclusion does not follow necessarily from the premises, even if we were to accept premise #1 (which I don’t in either example). It’s logically flawed.

1:50 – If a woman is not a virgin on her wedding night she should be dragged to her father’s doorstep and stoned to death?  Mr Savage’s failure to bother with details about the thing he’s so against shows through apparently here, as it appears he is combining two distinct laws from Deuteronomy 22:23-24 and Deuteronomy 22:28-29 in order to create one law of his own.  In the former case, the engaged virgin woman AND the man are both stoned outside the city gate, because they’ve consentually committed evil by violating a marriage under the theocracy of God. A good example of the high regard God has for marriage, and why it should be taken seriously. The latter circumstance is similar, except in this case the virgin woman is not engaged, so there was no marriage that was violated.  In this case the man is to pay a bride-price (50 shekels) to the father of the girl and he is to marry her.  This is for the woman’s protection, as a woman who was not a virgin would likely not be easily married.  Again, neither of these laws apply outside of God’s direct and personal rule over Israel.  If Mr Savage were to take even a moment’s time to attempt understand what is going on in the theocracy of ancient Israel, perhaps he would at least get his facts straight.  If this the sort of accuracy they’re promoting at journalism conferences, its no wonder the media is so inept.

1:55 – I don’t get the reference to Callista Gingrich.  Savage’s faithful seem to appreciate the comment, but I’m not sure what he’s driving at there.  Could somebody please explain this one?

2:10 – There’s no efforts to make stonings legal…at least not yet because we don’t know where the GOP is going?  More ridiculous rhetoric!  Here Mr Savage resorts to the slippery slope fallacy. This can actually be a valid form of reasoning if you can logically tie related events together to arrive at the conclusion, but Savage makes no attempt to do so, because it would not be possible. He’s made the statement based on his previous strawman account of the Biblical text in order to solicit the shock value and get laugh.  Again, perhaps it would be good fodder from a super PAC sponsored political attack ad, but not very responsible reasoning from a public platform.

2:15 – People are dying because we can’t clear this one last hurdle?  Really?  That’s weird.  I’ve never agreed that homosexuality, nor any form of heterosexual sin was right, yet I’ve never killed anybody.  That would seem to suggest to me, that the problem is not the belief that a certain action is objectively morally wrong, but only that there is another objectively morally wrong action being perpetrated that is the root of the problem.  Let’s say I hate the hiccups (I do)…a lot (really)…and perhaps I murder my neighbor because he has a bad case of the hiccups. Does anybody, even for a second, believe that my problem was really that I disliked the hiccups? This is a red-herring. Nobody is being harmed because of a belief that homosexuality is sinful. They’re being harmed because people believe it is okay to harm somebody verbally or physically with whom they disagree. That is the fundamental character flaw in play. Moreover, this is not unique to people who try to hide behind the Bible for their moral crimes. Some people might try to hide behind, for instance, the cover of a high school journalism convention to harm people they disagree with. That doesn’t make high school journalism conventions objectively wrong.  It just means somebody abused their understanding of its purpose.

2:50 – Beatings justified by the Bible?  I could also attempt to justify beatings using, say, the words of an anti-religious zealot from MTV.  That however, would not necessarily be his intent.

2:55 – More name calling from the speaker who is there to present on anti-bullying.

3:00 – Snarky apology fixes his rhetorical bullying.  Yay!  He’s just defending himself, but the kids that removed themselves from his assault are “pansy-assed”?  He’s just pointing out the hypocrisy of being “anti-gay”, while spewing anti-Christianity during a supposed anti-bullying speech?  Sneaking in yet more fallacious reasoning to wrap it up by throwing in some special pleading: it’s okay for him to be a bully from the stage because he’s been bullied, but Christians ought not do it or they’re hypocrites. Reality check Mr Savage – hypocrisy is wrong from all sides!

3:14 – Don’t even get me started on calling people who disagree with you bigots!  That’s just more straw men!  It’s perfectly reasonable to disagree with people’s positions without attacking them personally. Not everybody who disagrees with you is out to get you. Sure Ford and Chevy truck owners can’t relate to each other in this way, but I see no reason why people can’t disagree on other important things without the name calling.

Conclusion:  Listen, I’m no pastor, or Bible scholar, or historian.  I’m simply another random internet dude trying to make the best sense of reality as it appears to me.  It takes me only an evening of effort not only to figure out what Mr Savages obscure references are supposed to be too (since he doesn’t want to point them out specifically, or even get their literal gist accurate), but to also discern some real meaning within the context of those passages’ place in scripture and history.  Make an effort!  Both theists and atheists need to quit with the rhetoric and actually try to understand the other side’s position.  Dan Savage clearly doesn’t have an accurate view of the Bible, but then again, neither do many Christians so how would he!  This type of fallacious reasoning is rampant on both sides.  Get rid of it and have a real discussion!  Also, take some time to understand the context of these difficult parts of Scripture that people throw around carelessly.  I recommend a book by Paul Copan called “Is God A Moral Monster?”  It addresses many of the issues skeptics have that Savage brings up here.  Clearly much of his position is based on misinformation and/or misunderstanding of the text and/or history.  In the end, many people are going to reject the Bible outright, simply because the don’t like the claim it might have on their life if it were to be true, or their pre-supposition that supernatural events do not occur and never have.  This is the precarious position Mr Savage finds himself in.

Finally, our kids need to understand that no matter what the claims of the opposition, Christianity is not the unreasonable nonesene that some skeptics claim it is.  Even though they claim it with certainty, the claims are typically laden with poor logic, poor facts, and grand rhetoric.  It will be our kids’ job to defend their faith (1 Peter 3:15) respectfully, but diligently, and bring the dialogue back to reality.  This sort of rhetoric isn’t unique to the growing militant side of atheism.  Christians fall into it frequently as well.  Teach your kids to be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem.  Regardless of our beliefs, we’re all able to disgree without resorting to personal attacks.  I’ve heard plenty of atheists who are very good at this sort of constructive dialogue.  They need to be encouraging their brethren to do the same, perhaps starting with Mr Savage.  Jesus used sound reasoning to debate his opponents, we need to do the same.

I heard one discussion recently between a Christian and an atheist, where they agreed on the central tactic of interactions with other people.  The theist presented it as Jesus himself presented it…”Love they neighbor.”  The atheist’s way of summing up the same sort of thought, though lacking the active quality of love, was also quite good…”Don’t be a jerk!

Political Correctness Makes Me Barf

It’s been a couple of weeks since I last posted anything.  I guess mostly because I was on vacation, but also because I guess I feel like I don’t think anything new lately.  My mind runs in circles around relativism lately.  The more I think about it, the more I notice it, the more I think about it…ad nauseum.  As we head into the hardcore political season, as if there hasn’t been enough nonsense already, we’re set to see the informal logical fallacies and relativism galore from all sides.

Earlier this week we saw Rick Santorum bow out of the race for the Republican nomination after his daughter, who has ongoing medical issues due to a genetic disorder, was hostpitalized with pnemonia.  I’m not a big fan of either of those characters, but I guess Santorum’s withdraw from the race was big news.  However, what caught my attention was what the Romney camapaign did when Bella Santorum was hospitalized.  Apparently it is okay to run these so-called “attack ads” so long as everybody’s kids are healthy, but if somebody gets sick, then it’s no longer okay, because the Romney campaign pulled them off the air, “out of deference to Senator Santorum’s decision,” to spend time at the hospital with his sick daughter.  Really?  So it was no longer proper to run those ads?

What I want to know, is why?  Why is it okay to run these kinds of ads when an opponent’s daughter is in the hospital, and why is it okay when everybody is healthy?  Relativism!  It’s absurd.  If it is okay to do, then it is okay to do.  If it is wrong to do, then it is wrong to do.  Don’t pretend like what is right and wrong changes like you’re taking some sort of moral high ground.  That’s not to say that morality is necessarily absolute.  Certainly a police officer must take a life to save many at times, but even then that is the objectively right thing to do.  In the case of politics it doesn’t usually take much effort to discern the objective morality.  In this case the circumstances don’t change the end result.  If slanderous ads were wrong to run while Bella Santorum is in the hospital, they remain wrong to run to run when she is out of the hospital.  The hospitalization of a little girl doesn’t change the content or purpose of the ads.

Politicians, all of them, are the worst offenders of this sort of political climate relativism.  I’m not looking forward to the upcoming Obama v Romney ad lunacy.  I expect they’ll both spend most of their time on how terrible the other guy is, rather than putting forth any demonstrable evidence that their either of their own ideas are any better.  Whichever guy denounces relativism is the guy I will vote for.  I guess I won’t be voting this cycle.  Let’s shoot for objective correctness, not political correctness.

Barfing Up SOPA In The Shower

I was taking a shower last night and I noticed this conditioner bottle of my wife’s. She likes this “Burt’s Bees” stuff. Not sure if it is made from the distilled guts of the world finest honey bees or what. In any case, the bottle was turned around backward and I noticed on the back it had this slogan: “Personal care products for the Greater Good”. It’s a nice slogan, but what does it mean exactly? Is the “greater good” making sure you’re not contaminating my airspace with your poor personal hygiene? I think that would probably be a pretty great good to aim for. However, I suspect, based on the little green leaf next to the slogan, that what they’re really suggesting is that the contents of their products are somehow environmentally friendly. What makes that the greater good though?

At the same time I’ve been hearing all this talk this week about the proposed SOPA and PIPA legislation. In general terms, this legislation essentially gives the government power to shut down web sites that are in any way, shape, or form connected to any sort of copyright infringement. Even simple things like DNS servers, which turn names (like mikesmindbarfs.wordpress.com) into IP addresses (like 72.233.2.58) could be held accountable for the wrong-doing of some unrelated site oversees (for a complete rundown on SOPA try this video). Outrage ensued over how “evil” this legislation was because of the innocent bystanders that would potentially become victims of the wrong-doing of others. Luckily there is new legislation on the table that only seeks to hold only actual willful copyright infringers liable for their actions. The new act is lovingly called OPEN.

What makes SOPA “evil” though, and what makes Burt’s Bee’s self-proclaimed responsible stewardship of the planet “good”. If some rich corporations can get richer by taking control of the country, why shouldn’t they? Survival of the fittest, right? Why isn’t that the “good” thing. Similarly, why isn’t the saving of the earth the “evil” thing. Perhaps extinction of all human life on the planet is the “good” thing. On a materialist view we’re no more special than a fly, so why shouldn’t we just be maggot food?

Of course, this sort of suggestion seems absolutely and universally preposterous doesn’t it? However, without some universal moral truth about what is good and what is evil, why can I not just decide for myself what constitutes good? If I think it is good to do whatever gains me the most power and money, regardless of who gets in my way, what is it to you? You might not think it is good, but that is just your version of good against mine.

Outspoken atheist, philosopher, and neuroscientist Sam Harris, much to the dismay of some of his colleagues, admits there seems to be some sort of objective good and bad built into the universe. When pressed to explain such a thing Harris defines “good” as being whatever generally leads to the flourishing of sentient life, making “evil” be whatever leads to the suffering of sentient life. But why? Crocodiles were here before homo sapiens, so why shouldn’t “good” mean that we ought to feed human babies to crocodiles so they can flourish. Humans are just screwing up the planet anyway. Perhaps Burt’s Bees should put poison in their bottles to try to rid the planet of human life because that would be the even greater good. Why for that matter is animal life good at all? Why shouldn’t we work to exterminate all animal life, including ourselves, so that plant life can flourish? Maybe that’s really what is good.

It would seem clear to me that all mentally stable people have some basic sense of what constitutes good and what constitutes evil though. There is a such thing as objective good and objective bad. I just think some people have a harder time than others identifying how or why they have this objective truth built into them.  Some people don’t want it, and they openly choose to defy, redefine, or otherwise bury parts of it, but they know at least on some level that there are lines that ought not be crossed.

Looking at legislation like SOPA, or any legislation, and evaluating it in terms of good or evil is definitely important. The more important life question to ask though, is not what legislation is good or evil, but what qualities makes it good or evil, followed by why are those qualities “good” or why are they “evil”.  Without some objective foundational source of good and evil neither concept can exist.  All that remains is being slaves to our own biologically driven selfishness.  In that case Burt’s Bees might as well use the distilled guts of every last honey bee to make every last dime they can, and forget about anything called the “greater good”, because neither the honey bee’s life, nor yours or mine, have any intrinsic value.

More Footbarf: Footbarf Miracles?

Well, I guess I was wrong about Tim Tebow last week.  He had what it took, thankfully, to eliminate the villainous Pittsburg Steelers.  He did it in spectacular fashion as well, with an impressive team effort after a slow start to run, pass, and kick the Steelers into overtime, and then sending them to the offseason with a single snap and a single pass to Demaryius Thomas.  If you missed it, it had to be one of the all-time best NFL games I’ve seen.

The debate continues though.  I think you’d be hard pressed after that game to say Tim Tebow isn’t qualified to be an NFL quarterback.  He might be unorthodox, and he might not last long because he’ll get beat up trying to play both QB and fullback, but he’s got skills.  Is that all he has though?  Last week I was certain God didn’t care about football.  I also admitted a couple of days ago that my own skepticism is usually the first obstacle that needs overcoming on the way to any conclusion.  Most people on all sides of any debate have personal agendas that I want stripped away.  In the case of Tim Tebow, from the very beginning you had a genuinely nice young man, who was an excellent role model for kids, thankful for his gifts, and unashamed of his faith.  Christians latched onto him and began ascribing him some sort of sainthood that he could never live up to, while atheists (and football fans who had already gone to church that morning and didn’t want anymore) jeered him for forcing his religion on them.  Both sides are absurd.

Tim Tebow was just being who Tim Tebow is.  If you don’t like it, turn the channel, or complain to Roger Goodell.  Good luck removing all controversial personalities from the NFL though.  If you’re holding him up on some sort of pigskin idol who has come to save mankind, you need to stop (Rom 1:23-25).  God is plenty capable of taking care of that himself, and I’m guessing Tebow doesn’t need or want you putting him there.  He knows the path he’s on, and he knows that he’s merely a tool in God’s toolbox.

The question isn’t whether or not Tim is a tool of God, because if you subscribe to the traditional Jesus Christ, anybody who follows Him is a member of the same body (1 Cor 12:12-26).  The question is whether God miraculously helps Tim Tebow win football games or not.  It’s extremely difficult not to notice Tim’s passing stats last week, during the most attention getting game of his career thus far.  He threw for 316 yards and averaged 31.6 yards per pass.  Recognize those numbers?  You’ve seen them under Tim Tebow’s eyes before, and on the sign of some enthusiastic fan at just about every football game ever broadcast.  John chapter 3 verse 16 is the most recognizable passage in the New Testament that succinctly sums up the offer: follow the lead of this guy called Jesus in exchange for eternal goodness.

Are these passing stats a miracle?  Doubtful.  Miracles are reserved for the supernatural, and this was definitely a natural occurence.  Is it just plain old dumb luck?  Maybe.  As a fan of Tim Tebow’s faith, and a guy that doesn’t lightly use the term “miracle”, let me offer a third alternative though.  The Bible talks about works of God as not only “miracles”, but also “signs” and “wonders” (Heb 2:4).  What’s the difference?  That gets a little bit tricky, and they seem to be used interchangeably, but I’ve always thought of it this way.  Miracles tend violate the laws of nature and physics (at least as far as we know them).  Given modern society’s aversion to the supernatural, if you or somebody you trust fully don’t experience a miracle, you probably won’t believe it.  Tim Tebow’s single play overtime victory and resulting yardage are definitely no miracle.

Signs and wonders are a little different though.  They’re something amazing, but not necessarily operating outside the bounds of natural phenomenon.  The “wonder” being the center of attention that people marvel over, the “sign” being an indication of, or leading to, something amazing.  The “sign” indicates the potential involvement of God in an event.  As one who’s worldview allows for signs, miracles, and wonders, I will skeptically suggest, that I will not fully reject that it is possible (is that non-commital enough?) that Tim Tebow’s 316 yards for a 31.6 yard average, which resulted in the term “John 3:16” shooting to the top of Google’s top queries, could potentially, maybe, possibly, be…a sign.  Maybe God is a football fan afterall, or maybe He just sees a big flock with potential.  I don’t think it means God helps Tim Tebow win football games other than with the skill he was created with, it just means I think that the Broncos could have won with 326 yards passing and a 15.3 yard average just the same, but nobody would have thought anything of that.

On to the Patriots!  GB2!

Tune in next week to find out why I think if God is going to continue being a football fan, he should switch to the Seattle Seahawks…just kidding…mostly…

Are You Ready For Some Footbarf?

This weekend marks the beginning of the NFL playoffs.  My beloved Seattle Seahawks and other NFC West teams were trampled by the San Francisco 49ers in the 2011 regular season, which means if I’m going to stay engaged in the remainder of the NFL season, that I must pick another pony.  I’m also a fan of the Green Bay Packers.  I’m not sure why.  Probably mostly from the years of watching Brett Favre just have fun playing football.   I think I also have a sort of admiration for the Packer fans.  You see those nutbars that make up the Packer faithful, sitting out there in the stands in the middle of winter freezing their butts off.  That’s dedication to the team.  We should all have that kind of commitment to something.  Same goes for Chicago fans.  I think in the NFC, the Packers are always the team I’d rather see make the Super Bowl if it can’t be the Seahawks.  I suppose the 49ers would make a viable alternate, as any year an NFC West team can make it into the Super Bowl, it forces the the naysayers to shut up about the NFC “Worst”.  I wouldn’t mind seeing Detroit make a run either.  I think that area of the country has been beat down the last few years and they could use the pick-me-up.  In any case, there are a few NFC teams I can get behind.

This brings us to the AFC.  There are a lot of teams I don’t like in the AFC.  Don’t really care for the Patriots and Tom Brady.  I think that guy has a some kind of Messiah complex.  It might not even be him.  It may just be the way the commentators talk about him.  We know he wins game, but a quarterback alone doesn’t win games so try giving some of the rest of his team some credit.  I don’t care for the Ravens or the Texans much.  Mostly just indifference.  I used to like the Bengals until they got so messy with drama with Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson and the Carson Palmer fiasco.  It looks like they’ll fall to the Texans at the time of this writing anyway.  All of those options would be better than the one team I know I can’t stand…the Pittsburgh Steelers.

As a Seahawks fan, the Steelers will be forever infamous as the team that was handed Super Bowl XL by the officials.  Hmm, so let’s see who that matchup is against.  Turns out it is none other than Denver Broncos.  This is the first matchup I’m highly looking forward to this post-season.  Even if you’re not a football fan, unless you’ve been hiding out in a cave recently, you know Tim Tebow is the quarterback of the Denver Broncos who wears his faith on his sleeve.  He’s the guy people love, or people love to hate.  He’s always demonstrative by kneeling and thanking his God (known now as “tebowing”) any time he’s thankful, wearing scripture under his eyes, always vocal about where he gets his motivation to be a leader, and never apologetic about any of it.  You get what you get.

The problem is, commentators, fans, and even other players can’t stand the attention Tebow gets.  Simply put, they think it is interfering with their football games.  Not only that but where other players are concerned, the problem they have is that Tebow is taking their air time with all of the debate.  Tim Tebow is cramping their style.  They complain he gets too much attention when there are other football matters to be talked about, namely themselves. They resent him for getting attention he neither asked for, nor necessarily wants.  “Once again God had to save Tim Tebow and the Broncos,” quipped Terrell Suggs of the Baltimore Ravens after the Broncos lost their way into the playoffs.  Chad Henne of the Miami Dolphins said of Tim Tebow, “My judgment is that he’s not an NFL quarterback. I’ll leave it at that.”

Now, let’s be clear Tim Tebow isn’t the most impressive football player in the NFL when it comes to football skills.  Further, if you ask me, God likely has no interest in football games.  It’s a silly game of back and forth.  I think He’s got more important things to deal with.  Who knows though, maybe a game or two could fall into His master plan.  I’m not smart enough to know that.  However, I think people are missing the point.  I don’t think Tebow is trying to get God to help him win games, and I’ve never seen him say that God has helped him win a game.  All I’ve seen him say is that he is, “thankful to his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”  I would be too.  How could a guy with his worldview not consider himself blessed to be able to play a game for a living!  Why shouldn’t he be repeatedly thankful if he thinks his God enabled him to be where he is by endowing him with certain abilities?

Further, this is a guy who by all accounts, is very responsible with the resources given to him, and seems to enjoy doing good.  Upon his signing, Tebow burned through his signing bonus by dropping $2.5 million dollars in 24 hours, giving it all away to charities focusing on famine, education, and providing housing.  Critics like to say he is just as irresponsible as other young players who squander their money, and just as bad a financial role model for doing so.  The only difference is he didn’t spend the money on himself!  Sure it is a lot of money to jettison in a short amount of time, but there is a big difference between using it to change the world, and using it to acquire cars, women, and bling!  Naysayers who admonish Tim Tebow in regard to this kind of selfless behavior, are clearly materialists who believe creature comforts are the best use of money.  I don’t think that’s the way the young Broncos QB thinks though.  My guess would be that Tim Tebow doesn’t require the money for his happiness, and if his NFL career ends tomorrow, he’ll carry on doing what good he can in some other way just like he did before the NFL.

I think maybe this is what drives the commentators and naysayers crazy.  No matter what they say about him, Tebow has responded with nothing but kindness and dignity.  He’s a whipping boy that couldn’t care less about the barbs, imitations, and name calling.  He’s just thankful to be playing football.  This is in stark contrast to what you see from most NFL players that get the press.  Sunday after Sunday I cringe when I see NFL players celebrating themselves after big plays.  They flex their biceps, point to their own numbers, and taunt the opposition.  Let’s be real.  Demonstrative players are all over the NFL, but instead of demonstrating a humbling of themselves, they demonstrate their conceited self-promotion and all the glory they believe they deserve.  Tebow is a frequent target of this taunting and glory-hounding, and he never repsonds.  I think it is admirable.  Regardless of what you believe, I think this is the example of sportsmanship I think our kids deserve.  Playing your hardest with whatever skills you’ve got, showing genuine concern for people on both sides of the ball, ignoring the naysayers, and having fun!

So, when I said I’d have to pick a new pony, this Sunday it will be the most literal pony possible in the NFL, in the form of the Denver Broncos.  The commentators will probably frame it as a matchup of good (Tim Tebow and God) vs evil (Ben Rothlisberger and his drunken womanizing), but it’s really just football.  I think columnist Bill Livingston put it well when he described the biggest problem with the Tim Tebow debate.  He wrote, “…a problem also arises in the excessive zeal with which fundamentalists view Tebow. He has become a transcendent figure to them, God’s Quarterback.”  God doesn’t have a quarterback.  I think Tim Tebow knows that.  This being the case, it is highly likely that the Broncos will fall to the Steelers tomorrow.  If this happens, a barage of media and comments will follow, attributing the loss to a God that didn’t care about Tim Tebow or the Denver Broncos.  Do you think Tebow will feel like God let him down and he just didn’t have enough faith?  I don’t.  I think he’s just genuinely thankful to have the opportunity, and will express that, and only that; the same way he’s done all along.

Tomorrow I expect Tim Tebow will do his best, be himself, ignore the taunting, and display nothing but the finest example of sportsmanship.  He’ll likely do it all the way to a Denver Broncos loss, at which time I’ll have to pick another pony.  I’ll pick any pony other than the Steelers!  Until then, in the words of Tim Tebow… GB² (God Bless, Go Broncos)!