Month: November 2015

Exit 83. I salute you, but you might want to stop dating supermodels.

Yesterday I was reading my Facebook news feed, and it caught my eye that Tim Tebow was a trending topic.  I wondered why he was in the news now, since that name has mostly disappeared from my consciousness, and I was intrigued by what the rest of the blurb said.

Let’s get a few things straight here.  First of all, “trending” is not a word.  “Trend” is a noun.  I’m using the term here because that’s what Facebook calls it.  Also, some of you probably never had the name Tim Tebow in your consciousness in the first place.  For those of you who don’t follow American football–and especially for you hypocrites who make a big deal of calling football “handegg” or “sportsball” and then get all butt-hurt when someone makes fun of one of your passions–Tim Tebow is a football broadcaster and former player.  A few years ago, he won two national college championships with the University of Florida Gators football team.  He was drafted by the NFL’s Denver Broncos shortly after that, and he became another in a long string of overly-hyped college football stars who fail to deliver at the professional level.  He had a brief run of successful games during his two seasons in Denver, then after being traded he never again really got his career on track.  But he gets a lot more attention than most college athletes who haven’t made it in the pros five years later, mostly because of his outspoken Christian beliefs.

The reason why Tim Tebow showed up in my news feed yesterday is because Olivia Culpo, his beauty queen girlfriend, broke up with him because he refused to have sex with her.  His Bible-based desire to honor God through abstinence and chastity are more important to him than dating a model.  After noticing something about the headlines, I read a few of the linked articles and blogs, and, like the headlines, they were all written in a pretty universally mocking tone, essentially making fun of Tebow’s beliefs with childish insults.  Some of these appeared to be from credible news sources, not just random blowhards and ignorami with blogs.

I’m not particularly a fan of Tim Tebow.  For one thing, he never played for my team.  And as much as I admire his outspoken faith and his philanthropy, I have to admit that at times he has been so outspoken as to make Christians look bad.  Saturday Night Live did a hilarious bit where Jesus appears to Tebow in the locker room and tells him to tone it down a little.  And it’s kind of annoying the way a bunch of teen and young adult Christian girls who never knew crap about football suddenly turned into Gators and Broncos fans because of him.  But I have to say I’m on his side on this one.

Some Christians tend to complain too much about persecution whenever they come across situations that involve the fact that some people don’t share their beliefs.  The fact that public schools do not lead students in Christian prayers is not persecution, for example.  I also wouldn’t call the media’s reaction to Tim Tebow persecution, but it certainly does expose the double standard and the anti-Christian bias in the mainstream media.  If these same journalists aimed the same kind of childish insults at a Muslim celebrity who made a big deal to stop what he was doing to pray five times a day, or a Jewish celebrity who made a big deal of not eating bacon, the journalists’ careers would immediately end in disgrace.  But it’s perfectly acceptable to make fun of a Christian, especially when it involves one who chooses to go against the secular humanist gods of sexual liberation.

Good for you, Tim Tebow, for sticking to God’s word and your values.  I salute you.  But you might want to stop dating celebrities and supermodels.  That’s just my advice.

I don’t mean to criticize Mr. Tebow’s life choices, though.  Let’s look at this from his perspective.  I’m speculating a bit here, I haven’t done a lot of in-depth research into his personal life, but, especially considering that his parents were missionaries, I’m guessing he probably grew up in a bit of a Christian bubble where most of what he was taught about dating and sex was simply “don’t.”  From the time he was in college, he was in the national spotlight for his athletic prowess, and now, at 28, he probably still doesn’t have everything figured out when it comes to dating and relationships.  I’m 11 years older than Mr. Tebow, and I’m still figuring it out.  I wrote recently about how I’m learning that the Christian bubble doesn’t work for me anymore, so I need to explore life outside of the Christian bubble, and figure out how to reconcile non-bubble socializing and dating with my Christian values.  Maybe Tim Tebow is doing the same thing right now, except in his world, socializing outside of the Christian bubble involves celebrities and supermodels.  At this point in my life, if I were in his place, if I were schmoozing with a celebrity woman and she acted like she liked me, I’d probably go on a few dates with her, and I’d eventually find some important issue on which our values were absolutely incompatible, and we’d have to go our separate ways.  I’d learn something from the experience, and I’d be glad that I tried and didn’t chicken out.

That could be what Tebow is doing right now, and it’s unfortunate that the drama has to be played out in front of journalists and paparazzi.  So give him a break, and let him stick to his beliefs and live out his faith, even if you don’t agree.  Tim can do better than Olivia.

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Exit 82. Take nothing for granted.

Thanksgiving is this week, at least here in the USA.  This always lends itself to thoughts and conversations about thankfulness, people sharing what they are thankful for and the like.

I’ve been going to a new church (new to me, at least) the last two weeks, much smaller and a bit different compared to most of the churches I’ve been to before, but not in a bad way.  At one point, the pastor asked us to get into small groups of four or so and discuss what we are grateful for, and tell about experiences that gave us a new perspective on gratitude.  (The sermon tie-in, besides Thanksgiving, was to Job 42:6, where Job essentially repents from all his complaining to God.)

I always find this kind of conversation humbling.  I can be like Job at times, focusing on everything that has gone wrong without remembering that I actually am a lot better off than so many people in the world, even than so many people around me.  The first thing that came to mind in this discussion is that I’m grateful that I am relatively healthy, and this is something I tend to take for granted.  This was on my mind because of a relative who I’ve just gotten to know in the last few years.  I hope it isn’t too awkward that I’m mentioning her here, because I know she reads this.  It isn’t my story to tell, but basically she is seriously ill and doesn’t have much time left.  She is around my age, late 30s.  I think of people like her, faced with an illness in the prime of her life, with a family to take care of… or like Alpheratz, the student from the school where I work who has never known a normal life because of the brain tumor she got in first grade, yet who is always upbeat and cheerful about life (I wrote about Alpheratz here)… and I realize that I really don’t have any right to complain.  I have a roof over my head, I have a job, I have food, and while I may not have a wife or children of my own, I have a lot of friends and relatives who care about me.

So wherever you celebrate Thanksgiving this year, take nothing for granted.  Remember what you are truly thankful for, and do everything you can to reach out to those less fortunate.  I’m just going to leave this here now.

Exit 81. If everyone feels this way, then the terrorists have already won.

The news this week hasn’t been good, for the most part.  Lots of terrorist attacks, drive by shootings, and other tragedies that have become all too commonplace in the world of today.  In response to this, a younger college student friend posted on Facebook that it was crazy that we have to be afraid to go anywhere these days because of terrorists.  She said that every day in class, or every time she goes to a movie, she wonders if someone is going to shoot everyone there.

I don’t mean to be harsh in my reply to this, but if everyone feels this way, then the terrorists have already won.

I’m not trying to say that we shouldn’t take these incidents seriously.  We should.  I’m not saying we should forget that they happened.  We shouldn’t.  There are a lot of people still out there who have lost loved ones in incidents like this.  They are suffering in a way I can’t imagine.  But I, for one, refuse to capitulate to fear.  Terrorists want to spread terror.  That’s why they’re called terrorists, not murderists or explosionists.  They want us to be afraid and capitulate to them.

I grew up in Salinas.  Historically, my hometown’s claim to fame is being the birthplace of Nobel Prize-winning author John Steinbeck.  But more recently, Salinas has been earning a dubious distinction as a gang battleground.  A few years ago, I was visiting my family there, and one of the major local news stories was that a young child had been killed as an innocent bystander in a drive-by shooting.  In response to that incident, some sort of youth sports team based in nearby Monterey cancelled a tournament appearance in Salinas, fearing for the safety of the kids on the team.  A columnist for the Salinas newspaper wrote a brilliantly sarcastic column that I wish I had saved.  (If the author of this column happens to read this, I’m sorry I didn’t give you the proper credit, or if I got anything wrong.  And I’m going to use masculine pronouns, because I remember it being a man who wrote this, but I could be wrong on this as well.)  He wrote about how his nephew (or possibly some other kid he knew, I don’t think it was his own kid; as I said, I may be getting details wrong) had recently had a baseball game in the same neighborhood where the shooting occurred.  He explained how everyone around him was watching the game, not fearing for their lives, and when his nephew’s team scored, everyone cheered so loud that he couldn’t hear any shooting.  He said that if anyone from “crime-free Monterey” (a phrase he repeatedly used with proverbial tongue in cheek) had attended the game, they would have had just as much fun as if they’d been attending a game in crime-free Monterey without the threat of gunfire.  He concluded on a serious note, that someone can choose to live in fear whenever tragedies like this happen, but he and the families from his nephew’s baseball team chose to stand up for their neighborhood and not be afraid to live their lives.

Living in fear is easy, but you miss out on so much that way.  Yes, I could get shot tomorrow.  I could also die in a car accident through no fault of my own, or a crashing airplane could fall out of the sky on me, or a building could collapse on top of me or with me inside, or I could have a heart attack.  Bad stuff happens.  Jesus predicted that the world would plunge into chaos before he returned (Matthew 24).    There are plenty of reasons to be afraid, and living in fear like that gets me nowhere and do nothing about it.  I’ve learned that the hard way, and I’m still not always very good at it.  But living in fear isn’t going to help me grow.

Lord Jesus, I pray for Paris, and Sacramento, and the regions in the Middle East experiencing unrest, and for the whole world, as we cope with tragedy.  I pray for healing.  I pray that we will come together to support each other in difficult times, and I pray that we will love each other to the point that potential future terrorists don’t feel a need to turn to that life anymore.  And I pray that those who are afraid or hurting will be comforted and find peace.

Exit 80. The bubble has popped.

(Those of you who are my friends on Facebook have already read this.  I wrote this three days ago as a friends only note, because I was going to include some things that weren’t appropriate to share with the general public, but all of those details got edited out of the final version anyway, so I’m sharing it here too.)

I’m realizing some things about myself. I’m a lot more judgmental than I thought I was. It’s in my nature. I became a Christian at 19, and I’m sad to say that part of the attraction to me for the first few years was being part of the community derisively labeled “the Christian bubble.” Here, in Christianity, I found a community of like-minded individuals who shared my beliefs about God and Jesus, and many of whom shared my right wing political views as well. I quickly discovered that there was a Christian culture in which I could immerse myself, a culture of DC Talk and VeggieTales and Left Behind and WWJD bracelets where I could be part of a secret underground movement that knew the secrets to living right. Although I would never say it out loud, deep down inside I seemed to have this attitude that being part of this movement made me superior to those who weren’t. And the best part about it was that it was all approved by the God who created the universe… or so I thought. I aspired to a future in the Christian bubble. I would live a life of purity and celibacy until I met a woman who was also living in the Christian bubble, and we would raise kids in the bubble whose social lives would revolve around AWANA and Sunday school and church activities, and I could teach my kids implicitly that we were better than the heathens around us because we knew Jesus.

In my early 30s, I started spending a lot of social time around a new group of friends who I did not meet at church.  It was rather eye-opening for my social life to move outside the Christian bubble, but I always thought the best place for me was to live with one foot in the bubble and one foot on the outside. That way, I could pretend like I was reaching out to people outside of Christianity while still safely enough in the bubble that I could go about knowing that I was living better than the ways of the rest of the world, which just don’t make sense to me. And someday I’d find my way back to the bubble; this was my true identity, after all.

There are, of course, a lot of problems with this. For one thing, in the Christian bubble, you have to get married pretty young and start having kids right away, because that is how the bubble culture is perpetuated. That hasn’t been the path my life has taken. And life is changing. The bubble has popped. I gradually became less involved at church, as my peer group grew up and moved on. My demographic isn’t very well represented in most churches, and now I’m not even sure which church is mine anymore. I’m not going to find my way back to the bubble. And, more importantly, I know that the bubble should not be my destination. Jesus did not live in a bubble. He reached out to those on the fringes of society. And, while he spoke the truth, he also loved people where they were instead of judging their lifestyles. But many Christians want to keep their bubble. I don’t. That isn’t the path to maturity.

It’s scary, though. Being judgmental and staying in a safe Christian bubble, where everything makes sense and things that don’t make sense aren’t tolerated, is easy. But that’s not life. The bubble hasn’t worked. I’m not saying Christianity itself doesn’t work for me anymore, just the bubble. Life is changing. There are beliefs that I always thought I held that have never been tested, and they’re going to be tested now that I’m out of the bubble. It’s scary. But at this point in my life, the bubble is holding me back, and moving out of the bubble has been good. And it’s a move in the right direction. And it’s a move toward seeing the world the way Jesus does.