Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Jesus as Radical Social Activist

I came across these words from the brilliant Greg Boyd today with the help of my good friend Matt Allen. Over the past few years I have found myself disinterested with the whole game of politics. I bought into the hype of the Obama campaign, but have since repented of my naive hopefulness, coming to see the political world as relatively fruitless and unhelpful for the common person. Boyd's thoughts so beautifully encapsulate my own in a way I could have never written myself, so I thought I would pass them along to you. I hope you enjoy.

In my view, followers of Jesus are to be concerned with everything Jesus was concerned with – and Jesus was obviously concerned with more than people having a relationsip with himself.

Jesus was a revolutionary on social issues, so his followers are to be revolutionaries on social issues. Jesus entered into solidarity with the poor, so his followers are to enter into solidarity with the poor. Jesus revolted against racism by the countercultural way he treated and spoke about non-Jews , so his followers are to revolt against all forms of racism. Jesus revolted against classism by the way he embraced social and religious “rejects,” so his followers are to revolt against classism. Jesus revolted against sexism by the counter-cultural way he treated women — even women of ill-repute — so his followers are to revolt against sexism. Jesus revolted against legalistic religion that oppressed people, so his followers are to revolt against legalistic religion that oppresses people.

Jesus was a radical social activist, so his followers must be the same. It’s just that Jesus never once placed any trust in the government of his day to address social issues. He rather just addressed social issues by how he lived and taught. So too, we who are Jesus’ followers are to place no trust in government to address social issues. We’re simply called to address them by how we live.

Following Jesus’ example, we’re to place our trust in the power of the cross – the power of self-sacrificial love – not the power of the sword. We’re to trust the power of Calvary, not Caesar. And this is why I believe those who spend their time and energy trying to control the political arena “in Jesus’ name” are profoundly missing the point. Our job is to love, serve and sacrifice for sinners – not argue about passing laws against them. For we are to know that, whatever sin we see in others, our sin is much worse (Mt. 7:1-3).

Friday, June 17, 2011

Climbing as Spiritual

For those who know me well, you know that my am addicted to the drug/sport of rock climbing. It has consumed me and I doubt I will ever kick the habit. Climbing has even become a type of spiritual practice for me. I could say more, and I eventually will, but I don't have time now. So for now, I will let this paragraph from the climbing magazine Rock and Ice suffice in capturing a part of why climbing is so important in my life.
Boulderers know that the sport transcends mere amusement when you find a line of holds that you simply cannot climb unless you change in some meaningful way. You have to be better--physically, mentally, or even spiritually. Transformative problems like these are more than climbs. They are thresholds between existential planes. To borrow a term from anthropology, these complex problems are liminal states complete with the "ritual death" of repeated failure, the "strictly prescribed sequence," and the "post liminal rites" where you feel like a new being--if only for a moment.
--Jeff Jackson, editor of Rock and Ice

Friday, June 10, 2011

A Nation of Haters

As an avid sports fan I am fascinated by the current hatred being spewed out in the direction of LeBron  James. We are in rare territory here. I'm not sure we've ever seen the best player in a sport also be the most disliked player in that sport. LeBron may be the first...and I don't really understand why. Now I must first begin with a confession...I actually like LeBron James. I have for a while. I don't have a team I cheer for, I enjoy LeBron's style of play, and I slowly found myself cheering for him. I didn't intend for it to happen, but it happened anyway. I cheered for him when he was a Cavalier and I'm cheering for him now as a Heat player. Sorry...I know that's not popular to hear, but there it is.

As I "witness" the barrage of criticism aimed at LeBron, I feel I need to make a few comments. Firstly, I'm with the rest of America in HATING the way he made "The Decision." That was just a terrible way of announcing his decision to sign with Miami...just terrible. That said, however, I don't think his actual decision was wrong. He had given Cleveland seven good years of his career and they had 'thanked' him by giving him NO legitimate teammates. I would leave too if in seven years the best they could do was a Shaq well past his prime and Antawn Jamison. Really? That's it? In seven years? No wonder he bolted. No one in the league could have done better than LeBron with the supporting cast they gave him. The fact that he led that team to the league lead in wins two straight years, in addition to a trip to the Finals, is a miracle in itself.

Along those lines, I don't really have a problem with how Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, and LeBron James orchestrated their current roster. Every championship team has more than one superstar player. You have to. Kobe didn't win until he got Shaq, then had years of bad teams again until he got Pau Gasol. Boston was terrible until they somehow got three future hall-of-famers to join forces. David Robinson couldn't win until Duncan came along. I could go on and on. And while its usually the General Manager of the team that is putting together the roster, I don't really see a problem with the players making it happen, especially if their respective GMs aren't getting the job done (as with LeBron).

And finally, a few thoughts regarding this current NBA Finals and LeBron's inability to close games. Firstly, we are such creatures of the moment, constantly asking the question "What have you done for me lately?" If you can remember back to a couple weeks ago, LeBron DOMINATED the Celtics and the Bulls, carrying his team into the Finals with relatively little help from Wade and Bosh. He was phenomenal in most of the fourth quarters of those series, but yet we continue to think of him as someone who cannot close out games.

Secondly, I will freely and openly admit that LeBron has not played as well in the fourth quarter during the Finals. That's obvious. But the way the commentators are talking, you would think he's the worst player in the league. I watched every minute of the fourth quarter last night and I think LeBron is getting unfair criticism. He is getting killed in the media for only having 2 points in the fourth quarter last night, but I actually thought he played really well. He was really aggressive with the ball throughout the period, but just didn't score much because he was constantly finding his teammates for wide open shots. He finished the game with 10 assists, but I think 5 or 6 of them were in the fourth quarter alone. He also scored a huge basket and got fouled, only to have it taken away on a terrible offensive foul call. The defender (Tyson Chandler, I believe) was clearly within the circle where you cannot take a charge, and his feet were not set anyway. LeBron also had a huge block that saved a layup, and he altered a number of other shots that weren't blocked, but were definitely missed because of LeBron's defensive presence.

LeBron and the Heat by no means lost that game last night, the Mavericks just won it. They played great, hit clutch shots with Heat defenders right in their face, and deserved the victory. I don't think that means that LeBron can't close out the fourth quarter. I would hope these basketball 'experts' that we see on TV would have more sense than to judge someone's performance based solely on points scored. That simply isn't a true and accurate representation of quality of play. Should LeBron have scored more? Yes. Should he have made some of the shots he missed? Of course. Did he play up to his potential? By no means. But is he some terrible player who shrinks under the spotlight and can't finish a game strong? Definitely not. He finished the game with a triple-double for goodness sake. But what can you do...haters gonna hate!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Tim Tebow On The Daily Show

As much as I would like to dislike Tim Tebow, I am finding it very, very hard to do so. Trust me...I've tried! As someone who is trying to follow Christ, I want to hate him because of his over-the-top Jesus-talk in every interview and press conference he gives...but yet, he actually seems to be legitimately faithful and a genuinely nice guy. I want to hate him for how the Conservative Right has latched onto him as their poster child, but it's tough when he's frickin' running and sponsoring orphanages in the Philipines. It's like trying to hate Oprah!
In the area of football, as a lifelong Denver Bronco fan, I was crushed on draft day two years ago to watch our idiot coach throw away three draft picks to trade up and take Tebow in the first round of the draft. While he had been a very successful college quarterback (perhaps the greatest ever), most football experts were convinced he would never amount to much in the NFL. I agreed with them...and perhaps still do. He had thrived in college on his speed, heart, and will to win, despite his terrible throwing mechanics and inexperience in a pro-style offense. Those kinds of players are fun to watch in college, but typically do not transition well into the NFL.

But nevertheless, my team has invested much of its future into this young man, so I am trying to be supportive and hope for the best with Tebow as the leader of the Broncos. And so far he's doing all the right things to win my approval (not that he really needs or wants it). As last season was drawing to a close and 'missing the playoffs' was a foregone conclusion for the Broncos, Tebow was given the opportunity to start 3 games and actually played pretty well. And now, during the lockout of this terrible offseason, Tebow has taken the intiative to fly his receiving corps down to Jacksonville (where he lives) and put them up in a hotel so that he can practice with his guys and begin to develop report and timing. As a fan, you've gotta love that!

All that to say, it felt appropriate to write a few thoughts on Tim Tebow in the wake of him appearing on Jon Stewart's The Daily Show last night. I thought Tebow did a great job. He was witty and sharp and sarcastic. He didn't allow Stewart to bully him around, but also didn't try to fight back with Stewart as many guests do, which doesn't go over well because 1) the guest ends up looking mean, and 2) Stewart is brilliant and will most likely win any debate he is in. So congratulations Timmy Tebow: congrats on your new autobiography that was just released, congrats on probably winning the starting quarterback job for the Denver Broncos, and congrats on beginning to win me over to your side. The latter may be the most difficult of all.

P.S. It is pictures like this that make it hard for me to like Tebow as a Christian. And it's not even Tebow's fault. Come on people...I'm positive that Tim would not endorse you making this kind of weird picture, trying to turn him into some sort of messiah figure. Unbelievable. Just quit it!