Monthly Archives: August 2012

Tainted Truth: USADA vs Lance Armstrong

Rick Reilly: Armstrong still worth honoring – ESPN.

Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” (John 8:32)

This situation with Lance pulls on so many strings I can’t decide what I think about it.

I can say he inspired me massively. I had so much fun watching him win. I shared his “story” as an example of being an overcomer.

I can say what Lance has done for cancer patients seems like a lasting good thing.

I can say I have no faith in the USADA. It’s hypocritical of them to do this. And interesting that they’ve waited so long to do it.

I can say if his vaulting to best-athlete-ever fitness level was drug-induced, then it taints the whole story of It’s Not About the Bike, where he specifically says his cancer experience eliminated the possibility that he would ever consider using performance-enhancing drugs.

I can say if he was angrily attacking and threatening his accusers with lawsuits all along, like Greg LeMond, even though they were correct, then he’s not really a good guy. I mean he decimated LeMond and got him booted out of Trek. LeMond may still be the only American who won the Tour 3 Times legitimately. If Lance is the good guy here, then he should defend it all the way. Somehow the fact that he used the legal system to rigorously defend himself and attack accusers causes me to want him to finish the job.

Lance has spent $5 million fighting this. I guess I don’t understand why he won’t go to arbitration after all. I think if he’s innocent he owes it to all of us who have believed in him and supported him to fight it all the way. He could expose the inequity of the arbitration setup and force the USADA to continue defending their “hearsay” case. The longer that was in the press, the more likely someone would break down if USADA is truly lying or on a witch hunt. If they are the corrupt ones they need to be exposed and dismantled.

For me, the “wear yellow on Friday” thing is tainted even as part of me wants to. I wish he’d chosen a different color for Livestrong. It’s the color of the yellow jersey of the leader/winner of the Tour de France. It’s too bad Livestrong is forever linked with the tainted Tour in that way.

Part of me thinks Lance was strong enough to win the Tour (His VO2 Max numbers, tested at age 16 by the University of Texas, are among the highest ever recorded) even without the drugs after he found more of a purpose to live in his fight with cancer.  I wish we’d had a chance to fully know that to be true.

Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” I’m not free to form a final opinion or to completely set aside the USADA’s ruling because after all this time I still don’t know the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

VBS, yes!

This was just a great week of ministry. I’m so glad our church still does VBS. Kids are dealing with so many heavy concerns these days. And their parents have less time to help them sort it out. A whole week of many caring people surrounding them with support and faith does a world of kingdom good. It reminds the church just how much life change is possible when we come together to focus on the next generation. We get a clearer picture of our community as well. Everything else we do this year will be better because of this focused ministry week. It’s that important. Other stuff is important too, even more important. But this was a very good thing once again.

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A Commandment, A Commission, and Sandwiches

Matt. 22:36-40 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Right now it seems that we are surprising each other with how different our perspectives can be on political and spiritual/moral issues. It can be shocking and uncomfortable to realize how differently others view the same things. I fear it drives us apart because we crave commonality. But sometimes we’re mistaken if we assume that our faith is more genuine because we came to a conclusion with which we’re more culturally comfortable. Others may be diminished in our eyes if we find we don’t agree. We assume that the way we processed a question is “the Christian way”. Different conclusions must come from false or worldly methods. But is that really always true? I’m not suggesting there’s no right or wrong. But maybe the good news can’t fit into one political perspective. Maybe it’s bigger than that.
In the case of the Chicken controversy we’ve split things even more. It’s not your view on marriage, it’s whether you totally support or strongly oppose the political activities of a restaurant chain. This is now the litmus test for both “sides”. “Eat mor Chikin” vs boycott the chicken. As I said in an earlier post, I’m putting the chicken on probation. Ate there a few days ago, but not on the big chicken day. Probably gonna wait a bit now to see how they handle the new attention. Dan Cathy and I agree on the definition of marriage. I support what I’ve seen of his interview. But I don’t support absolutely everything about what he’s done. And I’m not going to be pressured into doing so.
Matt. 28:18-20 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
I for one wish the Christian community was half as organized for the Great Commandment and Great Commission as we are for culture war responses. I’m glad we care about something. Do we care enough about the most important things? Have we reconsidered “who is our neighbor”, lately? How do we live truth before them? What’s the BEST way to show the world what we value? The goal is not a world with more fried sandwiches and fewer comfortable gays. The goal is more truly transformed Christ-followers serving up the good news to their neighbors. It may seem more fun to eat mor Chikin to make a statement. It takes a lot more than that to make a disciple. We have one commission. We are under one holy commandment to love. Truly, it’s not about the chicken. Let’s please not make it about the chicken. There’s so much more to be and to do.

Freedom of Speech and Marriage, and Sandwiches…

I made a Facebook post today about freedom of speech. I said, “Publicly supporting traditional marriage is not a hate crime. Supporting organizations that work for the cause of traditional families is not bigoted. Aggressively attempting to ostracize people who do the above is bigoted. An America where one is actively persecuted for gently expressing one’s beliefs is not a worthy America.” One friend took issue with it and challenged me to look at it differently in the Chick-Fil-A case. I was trying to keep it broader than that one case, but obviously it was the reason for my statement coming at this time. I was basing my comments on the rather tame recent comment by Dan Cathy, CEO of Chick-Fil-A which was originally quoted in the media to the effect that the business supported the traditional view of the family and that they were a family business who tried to live out the values in their family. That was enough to set off a firestorm. I still say that shouldn’t be.
Yet, in the meantime, other information has come to light about the company and its political involvement. A friend made me aware that at least one of the groups they have donated to, the Family Research Council, has a great sounding name, but some questionable tactics “…which has been identifed as a hate group by the SPLC for publishing inaccurate claims which attempt to link homosexual men to pedophilia. the SPLC has been considered a resource for hate crime research by the FBI since at least the George W. Bush administration (George W Bush being a president who attempted to pass an amendment defining marriage the same way Dan Cathy/Chick Fil A would like). So there is some relatively objective evidence that their money has, in fact, supported hate crimes.” Then, I saw Dan Cathy went on to make other more bold statements in public settings and previous statements came to light. As an individual, this is fine. But it starts to change when he begins making it a public agenda item as a CEO and giving company money to more radical groups. And this is a very tricky subject area. But Christians can end up shooting themselves in the foot if they start trying to make their own conscience the law of the land. Even Jesus did not run for political office. In fact, he avoided it saying His kingdom was not of this earth. I think he meant not limited to an earthly political domain. He didn’t go around telling non-believers how they should live. He spent more time trying to draw them toward God’s love, while telling believers to clean up their act! He thought it was better to win the hearts and minds of the people, rather than just seeking to change laws.
What followed on Facebook was a great discussion with some friends from High School, one of whom agreed with me about my moral convictions on marriage and the other who didn’t, but handled himself in such a positive and respectful manner that it was a beautiful sight. I concluded along the way that Chick-Fil-A is completely awesome at making sandwiches and running a business where Christians are a little freer to live their conscience of worshiping on Sundays. But the blurry lines about business funds and personal convictions come into play. And in the end, I can’t fully support them. I’m glad they’re Christians who have conviction, but that doesn’t automatically get my vote. How we live that out matters, both for me and for Dan Cathy. I have been able to fully support his sandwiches however. I’ll be watching closely what they do in the next few months. Hopefully, I haven’t had my last chicken sandwich with a Diet Dr. Pepper. (Why doesn’t anyone else have Diet Dr. Pepper?). But, even though I’m a conservative Christian, maybe I have…

Church Spokesman: No Charges Expected

A quick follow-up to yesterday’s post. The details seem quite fluid in this developing story from the Hammond church. First Baptist Church spokesman Eddie Wilson is quoted in the NWI Times today by reporter Chelsea Sneider Kirk as saying, “the church does not expect there to be charges filed in the incident.” However, Sheriff John Buncich is reported to say that an investigation by his department and the FBI against Schaap is ongoing. Age of consent laws seem to be the issue. As a father of teenagers I’m shocked to learn that an adult who isn’t a public school official can engage in sex with a 16 year old as long as it’s “consensual.” These laws seem antiquated. Knowing what we know today about psychology and living in a culture of extended adolescence, who thinks a 16-17 year old is truly capable of giving consent to her 54 year old pastor? The power ratio in the relationship is heavily skewed. And what scenario exists where it’s legitimate for a 50-something aged person to seek such consent from a 16-17 year old?
I wish no ill on the pastor involved. He should be considered innocent until all evidence is carefully examined. People are often quick to judge religious leaders harshly when there’s even a hint of a problem. And sometimes other religious leaders quickly come to the attack as well. So I want to avoid that.
I will leave it to others to prosecute existing laws, especially in this particular case. But I hope these laws will be reexamined to protect minors better. In Indiana, you can’t be licensed to drive a car until you’re 16.5 and can’t have passengers until you’ve held that license for 6 months. You can’t vote until you’re 18. You can’t drink until you’re 21. So how on earth can you consent to sex with a much older adult at age 16? Next, if others would be involved in arranging for the two to be together in other states, would that not constitute manipulation, reducing the power of the teen to give consent? Separate these questions from this particular case. This kind of scenario, if it were to exist, should be against the law.
I also would not completely rule out that an adult might target a high-visibility leader to lure them into this kind of entanglement. It would be theoretically possible to manipulate both the young girl and the pastor. Of course, that’s no excuse. And there’s no evidence of it here that I’m aware of. But this also would seem to be a form of crime something like human trafficking.
So many potential issues are raised in a case like this. It gives us an opportunity to reflect and learn. Like the case of David and Bathsheba in 2 Samuel 11, the biggest issue isn’t really sex. It’s the abuse of power. Somehow current consent laws need to take this into greater consideration. What do you think?

Hammond Baptist dismisses pastor for ‘sin’

Hammond Baptist dismisses pastor for ‘sin’ : Lake.

Wow. A lot of thoughts swirl through my mind. Then I’m speechless. Then I’m theological. Then I’m sad. Then I’m judge and jury. Then I imagine how his family and the young girl and her family feel and the cycle starts again. Who is Pastor Jack? How do you go from called to preach to sneaking into other states with an underaged girl? (I don’t actually want to know!)
But as I prepare a previously scheduled sermon on the Lectionary passage of 2 Samuel 11, I’m amazed by the timing. I was scheduled to preach the first half of the story last week, but felt led in a different direction at the last minute. (A fairly rare thing for my ministry). But this story reads like a modern parable on David’s sin. And the Sandusky and Philadelphia scandals cry out for this passage to be unpacked. So perhaps the Lord didn’t want me to begin until this bit of news broke.
I don’t know Jack personally, so I have no starting point to judge his case. But if what has been alleged is true, every church and pastor will be somewhat affected. I’ve had my doubts (since the 1980’s) about how Hammond First Baptist has operated. I have to be honest. Yet, I also have often pointed out that they have a homeless shelter and good people do amazing good through several of its ministries. Pastor Jack helped a lot of really good things happen. But he apparently lost his way in a devastating way and is alleged to have taken actions no one can condone. The temptation is to judge harshly and distance oneself from “guys like him” with angry words, maybe even gloating a bit. But these are dark temptations in themselves and would be a mistake. Stone throwing? Nope.
There should be no joy here. There should be much prayer for all involved. Every church should re-examine procedures and policies. Christian leaders should examine their own hearts, seeking to be filled with more of God’s holy love and less of the world.
Penn State. First Baptist Church. Both great institutions with great potential where things that could happen anywhere started to happen a while ago, but an environment of tight control ironically unleashed chaos. Rather than looking down our noses, we should hit our knees and look up to heaven. What changes could be implemented to decrease the likelihood of a leader to stray? Are there helps that could be put in place to help struggling leaders overcome temptation? What safeguards should be revamped to protect innocent children more? How can we cultivate environments where only holy love is shared and where purity of heart wins the day? I’m glad the congregation I serve has always taken child safety seriously. But you can bet we’ll be reviewing all of the above for improvements! Lord, may your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven. Amen.
Our series on David just became strikingly relevant. I’m sad for the circumstances and pain but thankful I know where to turn to find direction. (Even more glad I was already turning there.) Through it all, God is amazing! Young preachers, take note that the Lectionary can sometimes be amazingly relevant. (Even if sometimes, not!) Take note also that you should listen when the Lord guides you in various directions to override your plan. Take note finally that everything you build under God can go down in flames in an hour if boundaries and safeguards are neglected.

Theo and Jed’s first Cubs trade deadline: Whadddya Think?

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Theo and Jed’s first Cubs trade deadline: Ryan Dempster finally moved, Matt Garza stays | Big League Stew – Yahoo! Sports.

One thing’s for sure. The Cubs won’t be in the playoffs in 2012. Are they making brilliant moves that secure a better moneyball future? Or, did they scramble to look busy since this year was in the tank and they had no idea how to get a great deal done? I’m really hoping for the former and trying hard not to see the latter. Reaction runs from mixed: Yahoo! Sports to mortified: Greenberg
Tuesday’s 1-hit wonder outing didn’t do much to change anyone’s sense of the future.
Part of me wonders if Soto and Dempster could have been enough. They must have seen some promising Vizcaino x-rays!
But at this point I’ll trust the Epstein magic and ride out 2012 with Rizzo-fever. He’s the symbol of a Theo-future that might be…could be…it…

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