Thursday, December 29, 2011

Baptism

In the Christian faith, baptism is one of the most important events in a person's life.  Usually baptism occurs when a person is an infant, but many times it is done later in life when the individual converts to faith.  Often times the event of a baptism happens during a church service.  I and many of you, I am sure, have witnessed dozens of baptisms during services such as these.  As Christians, we are always taught about the importance of baptism as mentioned above and how powerful and miraculous of an event it is.  I must confess, though, that not knowing the child being baptized or his/her family sometimes makes it incredibly difficult to appreciate the significance of what I am witnessing. 

Today I had to unspeakable pleasure to witness and sponsor the baptism of my goddaughter, Hannah.  Hannah is just a few weeks old and is the second child of my very good friends.  I remember when they told us the they were expecting and how excited my wife and I were when they asked us to be godparents.  I joked that I was going to slick my hair back during the service and wear a suit like Al Pacino.  When we stepped up to the font today to speak for her, an indescribable feeling fell over me.  It is certainly true that God is present all around us all the time, but there are few circumstances in which one can say "I could really feel the presence of God."  Today as Hannah had the water poured on her was one of those times.  I could almost see in my mind's eye God holding her in his arms like a father does his new born child, smiling down at here with sincere and heartfelt eyes.

The feeling that this gave me was twofold: first it made me ashamed that I had taken the baptisms of so many children for granted as I watched from 15 rows back.  It took seeing the miracle up close and personal that made me realize how amazing of an event each one of them were.  Second, it filled me with joy that cannot possibly described in any sentence, in any story, or in any phrase.  To look down on a little baby and know that she is saved is one of the best feelings a person can ever have. 

What all of these things made me think of is something I do not think of often enough: my own baptism.  While none of us who were baptized as infants can remember the day or the events surrounding our baptisms, we can always remember the result of the baptism and that is that we are saved by the washing of our sins away in Jesus' blood.  Whenever I witness baptisms, from this time forth, I will always remember how magnificent of an event it is and how blessed I am to have been washed with the same spirit as the person being baptized.  Finally the phrase "Remember your baptism" has a more profound, serious meaning to me.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Return to Sherlock Holmes

Let me make one thing clear before I begin: I find the new Sherlock Holmes movies with Robert Downy Jr. (Holmes) and Jude Law (Dr. Watson) to be utterly entertaining and well made.  There are weak points as there are in a vast majority of films, but these do not deter my fondness for the movies.  That being said, I shall now unload some new thoughts and criticisms:

A word of advice: if you go see a movie and enjoy it and later find out it was first a book, don't read the book.  Usually I am a proponent of reading, especially in reading of quality literature, and specifically in the reading of books that the literary world labels as "classic."  I, of course, knew of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, but I had not read them.  In fact, I waited until after I had seen the two new movies based off of his characters and after I received a Kindle on which I could download the books for free to begin reading them.  In doing so I have only reaffirmed my stance on reading a book after one has seen the movie: it is simply a terrible idea.

Let me clarify: reading the Sherlock Holmes adventures have not in any way made me less of a fan of the new movies.  In the same way, the movies do not (at least in my mind) hinder my ability to enjoy the literary stories.  In truth, I find them both enjoyable; which is something I can say about VERY few movies based off of books that I have read.  This is perhaps helped by the fact that the movies, to my knowledge, are not based of particular stories written by the original author but rather on his characters and their characteristics.  Some people, known as Sherlock Holmes purists, find this rather distasteful and either will not see the movies or see them and hate them because they do not follow the characterizations as they are presented in the stories.

It is this that I want to make note of and share with my small, limited audience.  I can certainly understand where these so-called purists are coming from.  As I read the stories, I find myself criticizing some decisions made by the movie makers and comparing the characters in the movie with those in the book.  The major criticism I have is not as much aimed at movie makers, but instead upon the culture that watches movies and dictates what kind of story is to be filmed (I myself am among the indicted): Only in a culture that lacks a high aptitude for critical thought and high intelligence can the transformation of a rather simple yet eccentric genius detective into a eccentric genius action hero detective.  Some of the most entertaining scenes in the new movies are the ones where the action slows as Sherlock Holmes anticipates and plans his sequence of punches and other fighting moves right before they film it in real time and the audience is left in amazement how he was able to predict exactly what would happen.  As far as I have read in the book, however, no such scenes take place nor have they come close to the level that they appear in the movies.  The closest an altercation comes to in the stories thus far is when Holmes knocks a criminal's pistol out of his hand with a riding crop.  In books, Holmes is much more of an intellectual detective that relies solely on his wits than on his wits and brawn as he is portrayed in the movies.

My next point is not so much a criticism as it is an observation.  For those of you who have not read Sherlock Holmes, you may not be aware that it is written from the perspective of Dr. Watson.  When you begin to read through the stories, you find that Watson has nothing but praise for Holmes and is anxious to accompany him on his cases and never stops lauding him for his genius wit.  In the movies, Watson is portrayed as a man with a strong desire to leave the world of Sherlock Holmes behind him and is often found cursing him or making jokes at his expense while all the time exhibiting extreme annoyance towards him.  Since the movies are more action-adventure themed than the adventures in the book, the character of Watson needed to change.  A Watson who answers Holmes' every call without question has not place in the new films as their bickering relationship is a major theme in the plot.  What I have found, though, is that both characterizations of Watson are perfect for their intended purpose and I cannot say that I like one better than the other because neither one belongs in the other's stories.

As mentioned at the beginning, I do enjoy the movies a great deal; but if I could do it all over I would have read the books first.  Not because the books are better or worse or that they would have made me enjoy the movie more, but because I would not have felt the need to spend a good 30 minutes of my time writing about it and could have included it in my reviews of the movies when I first saw them.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Why I'm Not Bothered by Jokes Made About Tim Tebow

If Tim Tebow were a Muslim, would secular society be so quick to make jokes and Saturday Night Live skits about him and his faith?  If he were a Buddhist would people make youtube videos of themselves imitating his touchdown celebration?  While this is a question that many sportswriters and Tebow "haters" like to avoid, Christians in America are quick to bring this to the forefront.  Everybody knows that if Tebow believed in any other faith, if he prayed to any other god, anyone who made fun of his religious observations would be blacklisted by the NFL, probably fined by the league, and forced to take some kind of tolerance class as a punishment.  Instead of this, Tebow and his Christian faith fall under the spotlight of ridicule from opponents, analysts, and comedians.  There is a large number of Christians who are offended by the attacks on Tebow's faith, and it is certainly true that they have a valid excuse to feel the way that they do.  However, as a Christian myself, I have found more and more that while I am at first angered by jeers and criticism of my faith, I find an inner peace once I have had to time to allow myself to cool off.  It is a peace I get from the God both Tebow and I believe in.

I am not saying that Christians should not be angry by the insults they have to endure, and I am certainly not saying that it is acceptable to mock people of any faith.  However, Christianity is a very unique religion in that it has many teachings that are not found in other religions (by this, I mean that there are some teachings that can be found in a great number of religions; for example, doing good to others is a command found not only in Christianity, but in dozens of other religions as well).  One of these teachings unique to Christianity is that we [Christians] were told by our Savior, Jesus, that we will be persecuted: "I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.  Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves" (Matthew 10:26).  The message Jesus gives here means that we are going to be persecuted and that we need to be aware at all times while maintaining our innocence that is ours' in Christ.

In another passage, Jesus says, "If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.  If they obeyed by teaching, they will obey yours' also.  They will treat you this way because of my name, for the do not know the One who sent me... In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world." (John 15:21, John 16:33). I like to imagine that these are passages the Tebow reads or recites to himself every day, as do other Christians who face even worse persecution in countries where being a Christian is illegal.  In any circumstance where there are Christians facing prosecution of any kind, they can be comforted with the fact that they are suffering because of Christ and that they will be rewarded for their plight when they are taken to be with God in heaven.

So you see, there is no real need to be bothered by the criticism thrown at Tebow and Christianity.  Yes, the people who heap the taunts and jeers high are wrong and certainly should be stopped if at all possible (making taunting of a religious belief in the NFL would be a good start); and of course Christians have every right to be hurt and annoyed by the ignorance and indifference society shows towards our religion.  However, once we let our human emotions pass our faith in our good and gracious God brings us a peace that passes understanding.  Because of our faith, we know that any hardships we go through because of Christ will bring us more happiness and joy in heaven.  Let all Christians, like Tebow, persevere through faith in Jesus Christ.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Review: Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows

This past Friday my wife and I went to go see the new Sherlock Holmes movie staring Robert Downy Jr. and Jude Law, both returning to their previous roles as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson respectively.  Jared Harris co-starred as the villain in this film, and faced the not-so-desired task of having to follow up a brilliant villainous performance by classic bad guy Mark Strong in the first movie; a task Harris fulfilled to the utmost delight of the viewer.

I have to admit that my expectations were quite high going into the movie.  I thoroughly enjoyed the first movie and the previews for this one created the impression that it was going to be even better.  My biggest disappointment with the first movie was the character played by Rachel McAdams, (spoiler to follow here) who they killed off early in this new movie, much to my delight (Do not get me wrong; Rachel McAdams is a great actress, but this role for whatever reason was terrible and I cannot figure out if it is because of poor writing or poor acting; in any case, the writers did themselves a figure by getting rid of her).  The first two-thirds of the movie were as action-packed as one could have wished for a movie like this to be.  I was on the edge of my seat during the numerous fighting scenes and was very much impressed by the camera work and effects during them.  Admittedly, the last third of the movie became less exciting and many viewers will no doubt find it disappointingly dull.  I, however, enjoyed the psychological and intellectual, albeit figurative, game of chess that came to a breaking point between Holmes and Moriarty (Harris) in the final scenes.

Unlike the previous Sherlock Holmes film, I did not feel that there were any weak acting performances.  Robert Downy Jr. and Jude Law exceeded all expectations and were surprisingly better in this film than the last (surprising not because I doubted their ability as actors, but because I felt they were so brilliant before).  As mentioned earlier, Jared Harris played an incredible villain as Professor James Moriarty, a highly respected Mathematics professor and whose genius rivals that of Sherlock Holmes.  The tension between the two characters was portrayed perfectly on screen and one could see the determination and desire to defeat the other in both of their faces.  Stephen Fry (known to many as Deitrich in V for Vendetta) was also incredibly solid in his role as Mycroft Holmes, the politician brother of Sherlock Holmes.

Overall, the movie was excellent.  As I said, the last third of the movie was a bit slow and will be a turn off to some viewers.  However, I feel that these scenes serve the purpose of reminding the viewer that Sherlock Holmes is not an action hero, but rather an intellectual (albeit unusual) sleuth whose greatest weapon is his mind.  Without giving away the ending, I will say they left it open for a third film, an endeavor I hope they undertake sooner rather than later.  Sherlock Holmes is one of the most prominent literary figures, even among people that have not read the stories, and seeing new stories portrayed on the big screen is certainly a thrill to any aficionado of classical literature.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Lessons From a Younger Brother

In most brotherly relationships, the older brother is the role model and sets the standard for the younger brother.  This is especially true when the boys are young, but as the age the roles can reverse sometimes.  I experienced this situation myself today, and not only did my brother's actions cause me to admire him, but they also made me ashamed of myself.  He certainly did not intend to make me feel bad, nor does he even know that his actions had this affect on me.  He caused me to reevaluate my motives and attitude just by being himself.

Before I get into what exactly it was that he did, I must introduce a number of important factors.  First, this is a very special Christmas for me this year.  While all Christmases are special in their own ways, this year's celebrations mark some very big firsts in my life: it is the first Christmas my wife and I are spending together as a married couple and it is our first Christmas with her birth mom and family.  Both of these firsts have been on our minds continuously as we prepare for December 25.  Second, this is my first Christmas as a college graduate and professional teacher.  Unlike previous Christmases that saw me going to my parents' house for a couple of weeks, I am now on my own (with my wife, of course) and do not have to go "home" for the holidays.  Third, preparing for this Christmas time has been increasingly stressful for myself and my wife.  We have been focused on getting gifts for everyone in our families and not breaking the bank.  Our attitudes have been one of finding the cheapest gift possible while still being tasteful.  We have found ourselves (or at least I have found myself) watching our back account like a hawk to make sure we have enough funds to pay bills and figuring out where we can cut corners.  All of this, I am sure, is typical for couples who have just been married and are still getting used to life in the real world; but it has made us (or at least me; I should not speak for my wife) lose focus of the true meaning of Christmas and what being the Christmas spirit is supposed to be like.

That all leads me up to today.  Earlier this week, my brother had interviewed for a job and was informed last night that he would not be hired.  He has been on the job hunt for months now with no luck.  The money he received from high school graduation has been used up, although not wasted as he was very smart with his spending.  Also, earlier this week our grandma sent each person in my family $50, including my wife which means we were able to add $100 to our bank account.  As grateful as we are for my grandma's gracious generosity, I do believe we were not as thankful as we should have been; our focus was still on the stress present in our lives.  Today I took my brother out to lunch in an effort to cheer him up from his recent disappointment in missing out on a job opportunity, and afterwards took him Christmas shopping.  In years past, he had gotten money from our parents with which to buy gifts and I had assumed that it would be the same case this year; not because he asks for it or is overly dependent, but because he likes the feeling of getting things for others.  When we returned to our parents' house, my mom pulled me aside and asked, "Did he spend a lot of money?"  I said "No" because he really had not spent too much; to which she responded, "That's good.  You know he's using the $50 grandma gave him to buy presents for everyone."

Words cannot begin to describe how small I felt as that moment.  Here I was, thinking that I was doing my older brotherly duties by taking my brother out to take his mind off of his letdown and he is thinking of my family, me, and my wife and how he can use the $50 to get us all something for Christmas.  I immediately felt great pride in him that he was so selfless and thoughtful; I also felt great shame that I had not gotten into the same spirit as he was, the right spirit to be in.  It really made me think of the poor widow in the temple who gave her two mites in the offering, everything she had, and Jesus said that she had given more than the rich pharisees who gave large amounts.

So now, as I reevaluate my Christmas mood, I am going to try to be like my little brother, who is sacrificing almost every dollar he has so that the people he loves can have a present from him.  Even though things have not gone his way lately, he has not let that break his spirit or get in the way of how he feels and thinks about others first.  In the past I was the one showing him how to act; this year he is the one teaching me the lesson.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

One Continuous Celebration

Christmas: a time for celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, the Savior of all mankind.  Understandably, we make a very big to do about this time of year.  After all, the coming of God in human form to live and die for us is the most monumental event in the history of the world.  It is this thought that started me thinking about which holiday is greater: Christmas or Easter?  What is more important, the coming of God to die and rise again or his actual dying and resurrection? 

If one were to analyze how our current culture celebrates each of these holidays, the impression would be given that Christmas is by far and away the most important of the two.  Sadly, Christmas has become more and more of a secular celebration than a religious observance.  Easter also has become more secular as the years have gone by, but is nowhere near the blockbuster commercial season that Christmas is to American consumers.  Instead, Easter has become associated with Spring Breaks and vacations to get away from the redundancy of everyday life.  It can, therefore, be concluded that in order to answer the question of which of these events is more important we must look at it from a purely religious point of view and not through the eyes of modern society.

That being said, let us look at how Christians observe each of these events.  Both Christmas and Easter have Church seasons leading up to them: Advent coming before Christmas and Lent coming before Easter.  In these seasons, Christians are preparing themselves for the celebration.  This preparation is not one of monetary or physical means, but rather one of a spiritual nature.  Before Christmas, Christians spend six weeks reflecting both on the first coming of Jesus the Christ and also look forward to his second coming at the end of times.  In a word, they prepare for Jesus's second coming just as the Jews of the Old Testament were to prepare for His first.  Before Easter, Christians spend six weeks reflecting on their sinful condition, a practice that will help them to appreciate God's sacrifice all the more.  It is so easy to take Jesus for granted because He is ever willing to forgive the repentant heart; this attitude is wrong in and of itself, and Lent's purpose is to help us break that bad habit and realize the magnitude of our sins and the consequence we deserve, but will not receive through our faith in Christ's sacrifice.

Observe the, if you will, the importance both of these events have in the lives of Christians.  Both are of such great preponderance to Christians that they will spend weeks spiritually preparing for them.  Notice also that the time frame of preparation is the same: six weeks for each.  From this we can conclude that the answer to our question of which is more important cannot be answered by looking at the seasons leading up to each event because they are extremely identical.  We must, then, look in a different place.

However, what if that is our answer?  What if neither Christmas nor Easter are more important than the other?  This idea, while not unfamiliar to some Christians, may seem like a new idea to some (and certainly to those outside of the Church who see only secular differences between the two).  Ponder this, if you will: Without Easter, Christmas would have no meaning.  This is a true statement, is it not?  Without Jesus fulfilling the purpose for which he had been sent, Christmas would be worthless.  Christmas is the celebration of the Messiah coming to save humanity from its sins.  What would there be to celebrate if He had not done what He came to do?  In the same way, it can said: Without Christmas, Easter would have no meaning.  This is also a true statement.  How could there be a celebration of the Messiah's saving work if the Messiah had never come?  It is for this reason that the followers of Judaism do not recognize Easter in the religious sense.  There is nothing to celebrate because they believe nothing has yet happened (For that matter, it is the same reason they do not celebrate Christmas in the religious sense; they do not believe the Messiah has come so why celebrate his coming?).

What we can conclude from this is that Christmas and Easter are not only equally important, but are also major events that should be part of a singular celebration.  Since neither could exist or have any real significance without the other, shouldn't both be held in equal esteem?  The fact of the matter is that this is how it should be, and that the religious preparation that occurs before each of these events should be part of a Christian's everyday life; not just something that happens in one Church season throughout the year.  There is a song that states, "If you have love in your heart and your mind, it will feel like Christmas all the time."  A more accurate lyric would be: "If you have Christ in your heart and your mind, it will feel like Christmas and Easter all the time."

Can you imagine how wonderful the world would be if people did not reserve their religious thoughts and observances for only once or twice a year?  The simple truth is that Christmas and Easter are both part of the ongoing celebration that should be a continuous part of every person's life.  Everyone is quick to proclaim how much they love Christmas or Easter because of the feelings those times of year bring with them.  What they fail to realize is that Christmas and Easter are really one continuous celebration that can last their entire lives if they truly desired it to.  Christ creates that desire, making him the reason for all seasons, not just this one.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Letter to Public Teachers and Schools

Dear Public Teachers, Schools, and Families:

For nearly a year you and I have not been friends.  I voted for Scott Walker and support his budget fixes while you will hear none of my reasons for doing so.  Instead you choose to focus solely on yourselves and how you personally are affected by these new laws.  Since I cannot express these thoughts without you rudely interrupting me or shouting over me, I have chosen a route of expression that you can choose to listen to or quit reading at your convenience without either of us becoming irrational.  From this point on, if you do not agree with me or do not like what I write, stop reading.  I am going to try to be as calm and civilized as is humanly possible, but I cannot make any promises.

First qualm I have with your protests and complaints: your unwillingness to pay small portions towards your health care and retirement plans.  You and I both know that before these budget fixes, your health care and retirement were paid for by the tax payers of this state, whether they could afford their own plans themselves.  Now you are asked to pay 5% of your retirement and 12% of your health care (or the other way around; I have lost track of it in my constant contemplation of your ridiculous logic).  Do you not realize that those numbers are still BETTER than anyone else is paying?   Don't you understand that while you are paying the basic bare minimum of both of those plans, you are saving the rest of us millions of dollars?  You still have it better than anyone else!  I myself pay 20% of my health insurance and 100% of my retirement fund; and I am lucky to only have to pay that much of my health!  Most Americans do not have the luxury, and all you care about is the access money you are losing out on.  Money that has turned our state's debt into a surplus. 

One commercial you and your schools continue to run states that these changes never would have had to have been made if everyone would have just paid their fair share.  The question I have in response is this: "What were you paying before?"  You were taking and taking and taking more and more of my tax dollars and were still demanding more benefits and more money!  From your perspective, everyone should pay their fair share except you.  I don't know about you, but when I was young my parents taught me that things do not always work out that way and that I had to contribute like everyone else.  If your parents neglected to teach that lesson, then your schools should have.  And if they did not, then I am sorry for you.  I am sorry that you have lived so long in the real world without actually being part of it.  I understand that your ignorance has made this transition difficult.  Please understand, though, that now you are the ones paying your fair share.  The rest of us have been doing so for a long, long time.

To schools and parents, please cease insulting my intelligence by claiming that Scott Walker is responsible for your schools being overcrowded and your teachers losing their jobs.  Every informed and logical Wisconsin citizen knows that all school districts that accepted Walker's budget fixes saved money and jobs.  Those who did not accept the fixes had to make cuts and teachers were fired.  If your schools are overcrowded and the class sizes are too big, the only ones you have to blame are yourselves.  In addition, parents, you of all people should be outraged if your school did not accept the fixes.  More and more districts that did apply Walker's plan have announced a decrease in property taxes while maintaining the same faculty as they had before.  By going on television and speaking out against Walker, you are implying that you want to pay more taxes and do not care about those of us who may not be able to afford it.  By labeling Walker and Republicans as greedy and ignorant, you are actually identifying yourself as those things.

Wisconsin is a great state with a great many opportunities to offer people and businesses.  Walker's plan, while forcing schools and teachers to actually pay THEIR fair share, have made Wisconsin a destination for businesses searching for a venue in which they can make a profit.  The profit these businesses will make is not only going benefit them, but our own economy.  In a time where the federal economy is in recession, having a thriving state economy is that much more important.  If you can open your eyes and look past your greedy, self-centered interests then you will be able to see that.  I do not blame you for being upset; I would be to if my gravy train was suddenly taken away.  But let's also be realistic; in a time where everyone is hurting, no one can be exempt from paying their dues.  I realize this sounds socialist, but isn't that the kind of ideology you people love?  And when you think about it, this isn't really that socialist of an idea (maybe that's why you hate it); rather, it is a logical idea, one that has the best interests of everyone in mind.  You see, it is possible to provide for the common good by using capitalist methods.  It just takes some sacrifice from everyone.  We have all been making the sacrifice for many years.  It is your turn to help us out too.

Sincerely,

A 7th Grade Teacher

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Criticism of Tim Tebow

No, this is not a post that is dedicated to criticizing Tim Tebow; rather it is a post that is dedicated to the criticism of Tim Tebow.  Tim Tebow: Heisman Trophy winner, National Championship winner (twice), NFL quarterback (7-1 as a starter this season), and outspoken Christian.  All of these descriptions of the Denver Bronco's quarterback have earned him many headlines throughout his football career (including college); however, it is the final description in the list that makes him the target of bad publicity.  The simple fact of the matter is that our society does not want Christians to succeed, and if they do then they better not talk about their faith.  It (Christianity) is politically incorrect and overwhelmingly strict.  In the same way, Christians are close minded and incredibly ignorant.  Seeing a Christian who is proud of their faith succeed the way Tebow does is just as detestable as watching a pedophile walk away, without remorse, from a trial in which he was acquitted by a technicality.  It just makes your stomach turn.

Here are five irrevocable, non-arguable facts: Tim Tebow is a Christian; Tim Tebow does not have the best quarterback mechanics; Tim Tebow has six come from behind victories this year and is 7-1 as a starter in the 2011 season; Tim Tebow gives thanks to God for all of his victories; and, finally, Tim Tebow is trashed in the media for being too vocal about his faith and for not being a good quarterback.

Now here is a subtle, controversial fact that almost every sportswriter who trashes Tebow will never admit to: The reason they hate Tebow so much is because he is not the typical alpha-male athlete.  He does not think of himself first and does not attribute his success to his own hard work.  Instead he attributes all his blessings to his God and publicly thanks Him for his continuous goodness.  Why is this so annoying?  Because he is not supposed to win!  It is true, his quarterback skills are far below average; ever since he was in college experts have said that if he wanted to win in the NFL he would need to alter his mechanics.  His delivery is too slow and his accuracy (or lack there of) makes Aaron Rodgers look like football's version of  Robin Hood.  Despite of all this, though, he keeps on winning!  He won two national titles in college, a Heisman trophy, and is well on his way to leading the Denver Broncos to the playoffs. 

While in college, Tebow was known to accompany his dad on mission trips to the Philippines during his spring break while other people his age either went home or on binge drinking party vacations with their friends.  While some players wrote stats in their eye black before games, Tebow wrote Bible passages (a practice that prompted the NCAA to create a rule banning the writing of anything in players' eye black).  In his final year of college, Tebow created a huge buzz by appearing in a pro-life commercial during the Super Bowl, thanking his mom for choosing not to abort him even though her doctor's advised her to do so.  All these things made news, but until the Super Bowl commercial had ever garnered him any substantial negative publicity.  College football, after all, is a world apart from professional football; quarterbacks like him are made to fail on the big stage and all of this Jesus stuff was supposed to go away.

For a while, it looked like the critics were right.  Even though Denver took him the first round (a move they were highly criticized for), he was the second string quarterback at best.  When he did get the chance to play, he showed the exact inability to play like a typical NFL quarterback that all the experts predicted.  Up until this season, the Jesus Freak was just a man on the sidelines.  But then John Fox became the head coach; replacing the pass-happy Josh McDaniels, Fox decided to try an obscure offensive strategy using Tim Tebow as the quarterback.  All of sudden, after a 1-4 start, the Denver Broncos are on their way to the playoffs thanks to the late-game dramatics of Tim Tebow.

If it were any other man or if Tebow was a believer in any other religion, this would not be big news.  In any case, it certainly would not be the kind of big news it is today, the kind that makes football writers and fans claim they want to hurl and scream whenever Tebow pulls off another victory.  Remember the last quarterback who was more of a runner than a passer?  His name was Michael Vick and until he ruined the first part of his career by hosting dog fights, he was praised as the quarterback who would revolutionize the position.  Before him were Donovan McNabb and Steve McNair, two quarterbacks who were more dangerous running over defensive backs than throwing to the wide receivers those backs were covering.  None of these men were outspoken Christians; but even though they lacked the traditional quarterbacking skills, they were praised.  Tebow, while admittedly his skills are even less than the three men mentioned above, is having a spectacular year; not with personal stats, but with wins.  The last time I checked, being an NFL player was about winning, not racking up the stats.

This is not the ramblings of a Christian writer demanding that everyone layoff Tim Tebow.  I know, and Tebow knows this too, that all Christians are going to be criticized and persecuted because of their faith.  The One we have faith in told us that Himself.  Instead, this is a challenge: if you do not like Tim Tebow, that is fine; but do not let the media blind you.  Tebow is far from being the best quarterback in the league and may not be the best quarterback on his own team; but he wins, and that is what he is paid to do.  People who do not like the Bronco may not like him for that reason, but not liking him for any other reason, to me, seems ridiculous.  The secular media has created a stigma surrounding him that makes people hate him.  I asked someone why they hated Tebow, and they said: "His mechanics are awful and he keeps on winning."  Since when is this a reason to not like a player?  There are numerous examples throughout sports of athletes with unusual techniques that achieve success.  I don't think it's time for Tebow's critics to rethink their criticism of his skills, but I do think it's time that they rethink why it is even that big of a deal.

Friday, December 2, 2011

I Need To Be Right

I am going to try to present this idea without expressing too much bias or opinion.  I tell you this right away because it is going to be very hard for me to avoid going on tangents that have nothing to do with what I am trying to say.  That being said, let me get into this observation: our society is intolerant.  While we can point to any political group or any individual and say they are intolerant of a specific religion, race, sexual orientation, or any other belief system, I believe it goes much deeper than that.  Our society is intolerant of being told that it is wrong.  Every person without exception has an extraordinary desire to be right, no matter what.

Take for example what is happening in Wisconsin (and these are the facts, not opinions): Governor Scott Walker swiftly took away collective bargaining rights for public teachers, an action that created many angry school districts, parents, and, most of all, teachers; the school districts that went along with Walker's plan saved millions of dollars and laid off very few, if any, teachers; school districts that did not go along with the cuts fired more teachers and are still in financial trouble; the budget cuts have helped Wisconsin go from a $3 billion deficit to a surplus.  Again, these are facts; no one can refute that these things are true.  On the other hand, though, Walker's tactics have been depicted as bully-ish and irresponsible.  There is now a movement to recall him from office and restore a democrat to the governor's office so that public workers can get their benefits back.  Both sides believe they are right and are willing to do anything to defend their belief, including berating, harassing, and verbally assaulting each other.  This is not something that only one side is guilty of; both sides partake in senseless arguments that do nothing but ostracize the other side.  In America we believe and have fought for the freedom of speech; but when someone states an opinion or belief about the situation in Wisconsin, it does nothing but spark a fight because no one respects that opinion.

Do not get me wrong; along with the freedom of speech we also have the freedom to disagree.  However, this freedom to disagree does not mean that one has the freedom to be rude and distasteful.  This attitude to being told you are wrong or finding opposition to your belief, in my opinion, comes from our society's current treatment towards young children when they make mistakes in school.  When I studied Eduction in college, I read many articles and studies that claimed that it is detrimental to tell children they are wrong; that we need to make them feel positive all the time.  While I agree that it is important to build children up, current behavior by young people in today's culture show that this idea is not working.  We may have made students feel more positive, but we have taken away their ability to handle and deal with rejection and opposition.  Instead of teaching them that everyone makes mistakes and that they can use them as learning experiences, we have babied them and made them overly sensitive.  Instead of teaching them that there will be people that will disagree with them and how to respectfully debate or discuss issues, we have left them lacking in these skills and they revert to immature bickering and tasteless insults.

How can this be fixed?  It needs to be fixed first and foremost in how we treat young children.  It is imperative that children know that they will not always have their way and not everyone is going to agree with them.  To reiterate, this is something that people on both sides of the political spectrum are guilty of to one degree or another.  If someone is told that they are wrong, they must be respectful even if the person who told them they are wrong is not.  It is time that everyone takes the higher road.  It's time to be civil.