June 20

From Mo Willems to Thomas Pynchon with Some Pitstops Between

I read constantly. Anything. Everything.

I read for my job – academic articles, nonfiction books, textbooks, literature and lots of student papers in any and all subjects.

I read online – mostly news from the various feeds to which I subscribe: BBC, NPR, ABCNews.

I read to my children – everything from Mo Willems to Jeff Kinney to J.K. Rowling.

Occasionally, I even get to read for my own enjoyment. Between September and May, I usually collect 10-20 books I think would be entertaining. And in the summer I read as many as I can before school starts and I’m back to reading for work.

When I get to choose my own books, I love historical fiction. Caleb Carr’s “The Alienist” and Glen David Gold’s “Carter Beats the Devil” were lots of fun. I also like straight history, though I prefer it on the dark side: “Sex with Kings” by Eleanor Herman (2005) was fascinating.

Comedy and satire are great for the summer as well. The amazing Carrie Fisher has written two disturbingly funny autobiographies – “Wishful Drinking” and “Shockaholic” that I highly recommend. Jon Stewart’s “America: The Book,” Stephen Colbert’s “I Am America and So Can You,” and all the late, great George Carlin’s books made me laugh out loud.

And I’m not one of those literary snobs who turns up their noses at popular fiction. I’ve read some Stephen King, some Anne Rice, and some John Grisham. And my guiltiest pleasure (don’t tell the PhD’s in my literature department!) is Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum novels, all of which are hilarious.

Reading is my life.

So the first time, I picked up a book and simply couldn’t get through it, I felt like a failure.

The book was “The Bridges of Madison County.” A sorority sister had recommended it, let me borrow it, and she was all aglow about how wonderful it was.

I forced my way through the first chapter. It was awful. I put it away for a few days. Tried again. Still terrible. The plot was okay. The characters were mildly interesting, but the style was so overblown and romanticized, I felt like gagging. I gave up, read a synopsis of it so I could report back to my sorority sister, and returned the book to her. I don’t remember much about the story.

The experience of having to abandon a book, however, left an indelible impression. I was in my early 20’s, and I’d never given up on a book before. The very idea of doing so seemed like heresy. I’d grown up in a house full of great books, so I’d never really even considered that some books just weren’t that great.

It happened again about two years later. I was dating a guy who was really into fantasy fiction, and he was aghast that I hadn’t read “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. I’d read “The Hobbit,” and it had been alright, so I picked up “The Fellowship of the Ring.”

I couldn’t get through it.

It reminded me of William Faulkner’s “The Sound and the Fury,” which I’d had to read for a college course, full of so many characters with their own backstories and quests and missions, I needed a chart to keep them all straight. And all the characters’ names started with “A” and ended in “N.” Honestly! There are 26 letters in our alphabet, Dr. Tolkein! Couldn’t you have used some of the rest of them?  And I didn’t even have any markers, any recognizable landmarks I could employ to keep all these characters, places and histories straight because it was ALL make-believe.

I got about a third of the way through before I threw the book across the room. (I think another “A—n” character had just been introduced.) The guy dumped me about two weeks later.

Then there was “The Crying of Lot 49.” I was in grad school and a little embarrassed by my ignorance of 20th-century American literature. I shamefacedly asked my advisor for some recommendations, so I could do some outside reading and catch up to my peers in my cohort. He quickly jotted down some names: Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Steinbeck, Vonnegut, and Pynchon. I powered my way through a couple of each author’s works and came to the conclusion that I was born in the wrong country. (I much prefer British fiction to American, in general.) Then I picked up Pynchon’s “The Crying of Lot 49.”

Yuck.

I hated every character in the first half of that novel. Maybe there was a redeemable human being in the second half, but I’ll never know. I sold it in a garage sale for a quarter.
Many years later, I ran into “Twilight.” Everyone was raving about this series being the “next step from ‘Harry Potter.'” I’d loved the Harry Potters, and I did a lot of graduate work on “Dracula.” Vampires were right up my alley.

Unfortunately, I don’t believe in glittery vampires. Not that I ever got that far in the book. (I only know Meyer’s vampires glitter because Twilight film fans say so.) Nope, her writing style was what turned me off. If she’d been in one of my composition courses, I’m not sure she would even have earned a C.

And then there was “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” I wanted to like this book. It’s dark. It’s mysterious. It’s weird. The guy who wrote it seems like an amazing man. But it suffers a combination of Lord of the Rings and Thomas Pynchon problems. I can’t keep the characters straight, and I don’t really care if I do. Maybe it’s the English translation, but it feels so aloof, distant, cold and well, boring. I got through three chapters. It’s been sitting there with it’s mocking bookmark for about 6 months now. I might try again.

For me, the worst sin an author can commit is to be self-absorbed, self-important, self-centered. And in different ways, each of these books is the result of that that sin. Some authors commit it through style: “I’m such an amazing writer – just look what I can do with the WORDS! Oh, you can’t follow them? Well, that’s your problem! Stupid reader.”

Some commit it through overkill: “Look at all the fantastical, complicated characters, places and mythologies I can invent! No, I will NOT provide you with any means of anchoring them and keeping them all straight. Stupid reader.”

And some, especially in post-modern American literature, commit it through character development: “I’m going to create all these broken, soulless, irreparable characters to illustrate how ruined our modern society truly is. What? You can’t identify with them? You’re not supposed to! You’re just supposed to appreciate my amazing work, and I don’t care if you don’t care what happens to the characters. If you don’t want to invest time in my brilliant output, then you’re stupid, reader.”

It’s a fine line. I’ve written novels. I don’t presume to be anywhere near Tolkein or Pynchon or Larsson. But I am an excellent reader. I know other writers who have done very similar things and done them better. Tolkein could learn a thing or thirty from J.K. Rowling. (And Meyer, read some Anne Rice, for God’s sake!)

And yet, these abandoned books haunt me. I may have to go look at “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” Just one more time.

June 14

The Myth of Summer

“Summertime, and the living is eee-saaaay.” From George Gershwin to Will Smith, songwriters have extolled the delights of the summer season along with countless poets, playwrights, and artists. But I prefer Bananarama. It’s a cruel, cruel summer.

Summer’s charms are lost on me. Even as a kid, I was never under summer’s spell for very long. Sure, I’d get swept up in my classmates’ excitement that school was almost over, but after a couple weeks, I was over it. I was sick of being hot and sweaty. Sick of allergies and asthma attacks. Sick of my bike and the neighborhood pool and every toy in my house.

As I’ve gotten older, it’s gotten worse. Especially now that I have my own children, I dread summer. Count the days until it’s over. I just can’t help it.

Summer is not easy. It’s not relaxing or even enjoyable. Summer sucks.

SIBLING RIVALRY

I’m lucky that my two children like each other. Despite their gender difference and 4-year age gap, they usually get along. And when I say “get along,” I mean that they don’t fight. But they also don’t agree on anything either.

My daughter wakes up every day and asks, “Where are we going today? What are we going to do today?” She’s a little dynamo, ready to go on the next big adventure. She’s up for pretty much anything. Which would be fine except that her brother is happiest sitting in front of a computer or video game or reading a comic book. No matter what I choose for us to do – swimming, visiting the zoo, going to the park – he’ll be miserable. But if I decide we’ll humor him and stay home for the day, I condemn my daughter to boredom and myself to dealing with her constant need for attention and stimulation.

Today, my son lost the daily toss, and I took them to the water park. Nice, right? Hey, what are you complaining about? You get to spend time at the pool, in the beautiful summer sunshine.

Oh, yes, that’s me. See me? Lounging by the pool, working on my tan, sipping a mai tai? No? That’s right, that’s some childless 21-year-old.

Turn around.

I’m over there – the frazzled, frumpy fortysomething frantically trying to keep on an eye on one kid at the snack bar, one kid in the pool and a canvas bag containing my entire life – credit card, keys and cell phone: “No, Sally, I can’t get in the water right now; I have to keep an eye on your brother. Besides that water’s freezing. Your teeth are chattering. In fact, you’d better get out so I can put some more sunscreen on you. Oh wait, your brother’s coming, and he bought too much stuff at the snack bar. I have to go help him before he spills his soda. C’mon, Sally! Oh, never mind. There it goes. Good-bye, soda. No, Sam, you can’t have another soda; you spent all our cash, and they don’t take cards at the snack bar. No, I can’t get any more cash because there’s no ATM here. No, I’m not going to the bank. Because I don’t want to pack all this stuff up and trek us all the way out to the car, drive across the street, get cash and then pay again to get back into the pool. Stop crying, Sally, or I’ll give you a reason to cry! I paid $20 to get us into this place, so you’d just better enjoy it!”

Fun, fun, fun.

I don’t know how people with more kids do it. Trying to get just two to agree on any activity is like trying to catch lightning in a bottle.

EXTRAS AND STRAYS

I have two children because that’s all I wanted and really all we could deal with financially, mentally or emotionally. What I didn’t count on was that my house would somehow become a magnet for LOTS of other kids.

On any given summer day, I have between 3 and 10 children in my house.

Now they are good kids for the most part. And if they aren’t, I send ‘em away for a few days until they come back contrite and apologetic. I genuinely like them all.

Individually.

But even if you have 10 great children in your house, they’re still TEN CHILDREN! They’re loud and needy. “Can we have a drink?” “Can we have a snack?” “Can we play in the sprinkler?” “Can we play on the Xbox?” “Can So-and-So have dinner with us?” “Can So-and-So have a sleepover?”

Sigh.

DRAMA AND DELINQUENTS

In the summer, everyone’s outside. Our neighborhood has a LOT of kids, so they’re all in each others’ faces all summer long. My kids come home with stories that make my anxiety level go through the roof: “Jimmy told Billy if he didn’t give him back his Nerf gun, he’s gonna punch him the nose!” “Leslie won’t talk to Katie any more, and Leslie told me if I talk to Katie, then she won’t be my friend anymore either!”

The neighborhood teenagers are out in full force too. Ringing-and-running becomes an Olympic sport. Cars get broken into or vandalized. They’re out walking around at 1am, laughing loud enough to wake everyone or shooting fireworks just to be jerks.

SWEAT, CELLULITE AND BODY HAIR

It’s hot. Oppressively so. In Indiana at least, we are just as much prisoners of the heat in July and August as we are prisoners of the cold in January and February. And if we do go outside, we are treated to eye-popping fashion statements.

The obese guy with more hair on his back than on his head – he’s decided to beat the heat by going shirtless while he mows his lawn.

The skeletal teenager in the wife-beater t-shirt and ridiculously huge shorts that hang somewhere around his knees – he has to hold them up to walk, but we have a great view of his boxers.

The plus-size young woman in the hot pants and halter top – both garments straining to keep her rolls of fat covered.

Even good-looking people make bad fashion decisions in an effort to beat the heat.  It’s not pretty.

THE END OF MY KVETCHING

Mosquitos. Bees. Wasps. Astronomical air-conditioning and water bills. Allergies. Constant cooking. Constant cleaning. Playing taxi driver to play dates, summer camps and sports practices. Summer is just NOT the relaxing season everyone pretends it to be.

I know there are moms who claim to love it. I see their joyful posts on Facebook: “YAY! Last day of school! The kids are out for the summer!” I think they’re being disingenuous.  Or maybe I’m just weird. But I can’t wait for September 21st.

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April 12

The Christian Left vs the Christian Noise

Unicorns. Dragons. Gryphons. Liberal Christian Americans. All mythical creatures. Well, maybe a unicorn could exist, but a liberal Christian? In the United States? Don’t be ridiculous.

For many years, I too believed that liberal Christians didn’t exist. I was a Christian; therefore, I must be a Republican. Frances Schaeffer, Jimmy Falwell and the Christian coalition had succeeded so thoroughly that for decades, many Christians just took it for granted: Christian=conservative.

Pro-life.

Pro-death penalty.

Anti-welfare.

Anti-tax.

Pro-gun.

Pro-war.

Anti-government.

I maintained my Republican club status through college, voted for George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole. In fact, in the first 4 elections for which I was eligible to vote, I voted a straight-party ticket – all Republican.

Now my ultra-conservative uncle (who married into the family AFTER my escape from the GOP) always insists that it must’ve been grad school and becoming a college lecturer that turned me into a liberal. Those ivory-tower, academic elitists brainwashed me!

In fact, I kept voting for Republicans through most of grad school. No, it wasn’t the academics who turned me around. It was the ultra-right-wing conservative Christians with whom I worked at an insurance company.

When I left my little shrinking bubble of intelligent, fiscally-responsible Goldwater-type Republicans and entered the world of finance, I was appalled to see what conservative Republicans were becoming: greedy, homophobic, militant, theocratic, paranoid, hypocrites. The men I worked with had horrific conversations in loud voices they felt no need to keep down; they talked about how to avoid paying claims to people who’d paid their insurance premiums for 50 years. They talked about how to sell insurance policies to migrant workers who could barely buy food, couldn’t understand the contract in English and whose agents convinced them insurance was kind of like winning the lottery. They talked about adding questions to the applications so they could make sure they weren’t selling to any gay men who were going to get AIDS (because that’s God’ punishment for being gay, of course) and die before the insurance could make a profit. They worried constantly about what the government was going to do that might cut into their enormous paychecks. They passed company rules that no children could be brought into the office. They went golfing and went to Vegas and Hawaii and Orlando on the company dime and paid the women (the employees were about 65% female though all the VPs, CEO and board members were male) who actually did the work next to nothing.

But they all went to church.

And they encouraged all of us to do the same. One VP’s standard Monday morning question to everyone in his section was, “How was church yesterday?” I sat outside his office for four years. He never bothered to learn my name.

So I left. Not just the company, but also the political party. For a while, I tried being an independent. I voted for some Green Party candidates. That felt hopeless. Then I thought I’d try Libertarian. I read Ayn Rand. She made me nauseous. So I tried being a *GASP* Democrat. That was certainly easier than any of the others, but the Democrats did (and still do) stupid things that upset my need for fiscal responsibility. Plus, I felt like I was abandoning my faith. As my Republican family and friends reminded me, “Good Christians are not Democrats!”

And I think they’re right. Good Christians are not Democrats. Nor are they Republicans. And CERTAINLY not Libertarian! (Have YOU read Ayn Rand?!)

Good Christians try to follow Jesus. And Jesus didn’t belong to a political party. So neither do we.

But Jesus did have some things to say about many of the points on the political agendas of our two major parties:

Forgive each other. (Matthew 18:22)
Love each other. (John 15:9-17)
Heal each other. (Matthew 10:1)
Pay your taxes. (Matthew 17:24)
Let God mete out the punishments. (Matthew 5:39)
Don’t be violent. (Luke 22:51)
Politics and government are necessary in this world, but this world is temporary. (Mark 12:17)
Don’t be greedy.(John 2:15)

None of those things were coming out of the mouths of any Republicans I knew. The Christian Right (and it’s a fairly new phenomenon whose advent has been brilliantly chronicled by Frank Schaeffer, one of its founders) is full of angry people. Militantly angry. They have guns. They love their guns. They hate abortion doctors and women who have abortions. They don’t like gays. They don’t like Democratic politicians (somehow their hatred of the government dials WAY down when their party has power). They don’t trust anyone with darker skin with theirs, especially if those people can speak Spanish! (Never mind if they’re bilingual – it’s the Spanish they hate.) They don’t trust anyone with more education than they have. They want their money – all of it. Taxes are a criminal imposition on their hard work. (I guess they don’t drive on tax-funded streets, ever need help from a police officer or care if we’re invaded by another country.) Their voices are loud. If you try to point out an inconsistency in their logic (and there are many) or an hypocrisy in their faith, they’ll just talk louder.

And there’s the rub.

They’re loud. They talk in cute, glib little sound bites that are easy to remember. (And they have guns.) So they get the microphone. They get heard, and everyone assumes that the people in the Christian Right who are making the most noise must represent all Christians. They say they do. Actually they shout it. And wave their guns. Better listen.

Those of us on the Christian Left tend to talk more quietly. Sure, we get angry too. But because we really are trying to follow Jesus (you know, the guy who let people treat him terribly and never lost his temper except that one time when he got mad at – who was that? Oh, yeah! Moneylenders!), we try to keep our tempers. (And most of us don’t have guns. Jesus didn’t either.) We don’t get much attention in a loud, garish American society where loud, garish people like Donald Trump and Ted Nugent gobble up the spotlight.

But we’re here. Liberal American Christians do exist. We love everyone. We want to help as many people as we can. We don’t want to hurt anyone, even if they disagree with us, speak a different language from us or worship differently than we do.

We’re quiet, though. You may have to come close to hear us over the noise.

Category: Purely Political | Comments Off
March 2

The Rise of “Generation Me”

I ran into one of my favorite former students on campus a couple days ago. It was an unnervingly warm day for February in Indiana, so we sat outside in the Quad, eating our lunches. After a while, our talk turned to politics.

ME: Are you following the GOP debates?

HIM: No. It’s a freak show.

ME: I thought you were a conservative.

HIM: (shrugging) More of a libertarian, really. I like Ron Paul, but there’s no way the GOP’s going to nominate him. Gingrich is an a**hole. Santorum scares me with all his Jesus-speak, and Romney’s okay, but he keeps moving right to cater to the base. Plus he’s inconsistent.

ME: So who’re you going to vote for in November?

HIM: No one. I mean, Obama’s cool. He’s a great speaker, and I think he probably has good intentions, but he’s tanking the economy. I can’t vote for that. And I’m not voting for anybody the GOP’s got right now. Maybe Chris Christie will jump in. That’d be good.

ME: You could always write in Ron Paul.

HIM: Waste of my time on a perfectly good Tuesday.

I like this student a lot. He is smart. He thinks for himself and looks at things from multiple perspectives before he comes to a conclusion. I actually enjoyed reading his essays. And our conversation yesterday summarized a phenomenon I’ve noticed in many of the smart twenty-somethings I know.

Neither current political party appeals to them.

The generation that is currently in college is intriguing. Despite the bad press they get, I like them. Generally speaking, they are savvy in many ways that previous generations have never been. They read and write constantly, even if it is only in Facebook posts and text messages. They have high expectations of everyone, including themselves. They recognize hypocrisy and inconsistency pretty quickly. They are comfortable with technology, but they truly appreciate frank, one-on-one interaction. In fact, they lap it up like thirsty Labradors!

Now they certainly have their flaws. They are impatient. They are jaded. They are distracted. But they know they are. Almost to a man, they are highly self-aware. In my freshman composition classes, I use a book by Dr. Jean Twenge called Generation Me that is basically a 300-page criticism of these students, and they readily admit that most of her points are completely valid. “Yep, that’s us. We’re a hot mess. What’s next?”

Personally, I will be fascinated to observe what this generation makes of the world they will inherit. Many of them do not remember a world before 9/11. In their minds, the Soviet Union, the Berlin Wall and Ronald Reagan are equivalent to Prussia, the War of the Roses and Henry VIII, historically speaking. They have grown up on the Internet. Many of them have never looked anything up in a printed encyclopedia. Where will these kids take us? What changes will they make? Perhaps more importantly, how will the rest of us adapt to THEIR world?

One thing is for sure, the current two-party American political system leaves them cold. Here is a summary of what I hear from them:

DEMOCRATS=high taxes, high debt, empowering lazy people

REPUBLICANS=Bible-thumpers, bigots, homophobic war-mongers

In short, neither party offers these young people the things they value. This generation will likely have the largest percentage of college graduates in history. They will be educated, and they will expect to be financially independent. And as I said, they have high expectations of others too. They have been raised by Reagan Republicans who taught them that poor people are just lazy and don’t deserve help. So this generation has little to no appreciation of public subsidies, certainly not welfare. But here’s the rub: they also don’t care much for Social Security. They know they’ll never see a dime of it. Why should they pay taxes so the Baby Boomers can retire in relative comfort? If the Tea Party heard my students talk, they’d be quaking in their boots. These kids will yank it all: Medicare, Social Security, disability, welfare, food stamps. You want to talk about Death Panels? These kids will pull Grandma out on the streets: “Hey, she should have saved while she was young like we are!”

So they’re ultra-conservative, right? Good news for the right-wing Republicans! The next generation will usher in a new GOP majority!

Not so fast.

These kids hate the right-wingers too. Especially the Christian Right.

A dwindling percentage of my students have ever attended a church with any regularity, and they resent being told that they live in a “Christian nation.” They’ve been raised by working moms who make less than men in the same positions, and they’ve heard all about gender inequality. They’ve grown up with “Will and Grace,” “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” and Ellen DeGeneres as a Cover Girl; gay people are cool. They’ve idolized LeBron James, Jay-Z and Shakira. They’ve seen a black Secretary of Defense, an Hispanic female Supreme Court justice and a black president; racism is passe. These young people also aren’t big on the idea of being sent off to fight and die just because old white guys in suits tell them, “Those brown people are bad!” What’s more, these kids don’t really trust the Republicans’ claim of fiscal responsibility and small government. They grew up watching George W. Bush blow that myth sky high.

They are libertarians, although some of them may not know it yet. And it will be very interesting to see which party blinks first, but one thing’s for sure: something is going to change in our political system. Maybe the Democrats will stop their tax-and-spend nonsense to cater to this upcoming voter bloc. Maybe the Republicans will back off their aggressive, outdated, social fascism to bring these kids into the GOP.  Or maybe we’ll end up with a viable third party. (Which would be HEAVENLY to most of us in the middle!)

As the Baby Boomers die off, though, this group is eventually going to be the biggest voting bloc, certainly bigger than my generation. And change is coming. It will be fascinating and scary and, perhaps, a very good thing for our country.

Or not.

Category: Current Events, Purely Political | Comments Off
January 10

The Tim Tebow Cult

Help! I’m being attacked by Christians in Denver Broncos jerseys!

Okay, maybe I should start at the beginning. In the beginning, there was a kid in Florida who was really good at football. So good, in fact, that he got a scholarship to play at the University of Florida. He was also raised as a good Christian boy; he was actually born in the Philippines while his parents were serving as missionaries there. While he played for the Florida Gators, he liked to write the words “John 3:16″ on his eye-black. He also liked to kneel in prayer after big plays. Although he lost the SEC Championship game in 2009, he led his team to a Sugar Bowl victory in 2010. And it was good.

Then, Tim Tebow graduated from college. He entered the NFL draft and was picked up by the Denver Broncos. Much to his fans’ dismay, however, he wasn’t the starter. The Broncos stuck with Kyle Orton, with Tebow coming off the bench. In his rookie year, he played 6 games as a back-up before starting the last 3 of the season. Orton was still the starter for the first few games of the 2011 season. In the sixth week of the season, though, Tebow got the starting job. He went 5-0 before losing to the New England Patriots.

Tebow’s fans were ecstatic.

But on January 8, 2012, in the first-round playoff game against the dreaded Pittsburgh Steelers, Tim Tebow threw for 316 yards, leading his team to a come-from-behind victory.

And that’s where my story actually begins.

Because that’s when the fans lost their minds, especially the Christian fans.

If you’ve read my blog before, you know I’m a Christian. You may also know that I’m a football fan. I guess I’ve never had much call to say it before, but I’ll say it now: my faith and my football don’t really mix. Oh sure, I make jokes about Bill Belichick being the anti-Christ. I may laughingly beg God to give my poor Colts a victory, but I think He has much more important things to do than watch football.

Sunday night, though, my Facebook page was lit up with posts about the miraculous Tim Tebow and his 316 yards, his 31.6 yards per completion.  Surely, God was showing His favor. Surely, it was a sign from Heaven, a reminder of the John 3:16 verse that the NFL won’t allow Tebow to paint on his eye-black!

Oh my.

I’ve followed Tebow’s career since his first Sports Illustrated cover in 2008, which I discovered in a bachelor friend’s house one day. The story was sweet. The kid seemed like a positive role model, which Lord knows we sorely need, especially in sports. I do not like the Florida Gators, but I liked him.

His public displays of affection for God bothered me a little. They reminded me of Matthew, chapter 6: “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.”

My Christian friends, however, kept coming back to that old standby argument: He’s a good role model. He’s bringing people to Christ by testifying.

Yes. That’s very nice. If Tim Tebow’s Biblical eye-black and public kneeling can convince a few people that Christianity is the way to go, great.

For me, it is far too simple. The people who might be persuaded by Tebow’s actions must be blank slates, perhaps young people, who simply haven’t heard the word of God. Tebow’s testifying may be all they need. Wonderful.

Those people are pretty rare these days, though, especially in the U.S., where Christian teachings and scriptural references are everywhere already. An American who is watching football is highly unlikely to hear the word of God for the first time from Tim Tebow.

So that leaves us with two other groups: the Christians and the more mature non-Christians. Most Christians LOVE Tim Tebow, almost to the point of idolatry, as evidenced by the posts on my Facebook wall.

And the more mature non-Christians? The people who have been hardened against Christianity by what they see as proof of God’s non-existence because their lives have been brutal? The people who have been hardened against Christianity by Christians who professed one thing but did something completely different, completely awful? How do they feel about Tebow and his rabid followers?

I can tell you they are not impressed. I know this because I do not live in a Christian vacuum as many of my friends do. I’m married to an agnostic. I have many atheist, Jewish, Muslim friends. And they are completely indifferent to Tim Tebow. What’s worse – the crazy hero-worship and superstitious numerology currently swirling around Tebow right now is actually driving some of these souls further away from Christ. Like the sad, misguided folks who see Jesus in a piece of toast, the Tebow maniacs are leaving non-believers shaking their heads.

Christianity is supposed to be about bringing others to Jesus, but Christians are so excited about what they perceive as God’s chosen team winning against the Steelers, they are blind to the damage they are inflicting. God is not a football fan. Statistics do not prove the existence of His hand.

But don’t tell them that.

They will attack you. They will surround their precious Tebow idol and swipe at you angrily. The numbers don’t lie! The numbers tell the truth! John 3:16! John 3:16!

Okay, so I’ve got questions then.

  • The Bible warns us against superstition. Is Tebow numerology an exemption from this restriction?
  • If I see the number 15 (Tebow’s jersey number) on a potato, am I allowed to eat it?
  • What if my team is playing the Broncos? Am I still allowed to root for my team or is that now against my religion?
  • What if Tebow loses? Does that mean he has lost favor with God? Does it mean the opposing team is evil? Or does it mean there is a better Christian on the opposing team?
  • What if the next big football star is a Muslim? What if his stats correspond to some important verse in the Koran? Will all the folks who started following Christianity through Tebow now start following Islam?
  • What happens if Tim Tebow messes up in his personal life? If he gets a girl pregnant out of wedlock? If he is arrested for domestic abuse? If he becomes an alcoholic? What then?

I’m reminded of Jeremiah 17:5: “A curse on the man who puts his trust in man, a blessing on the man who puts his trust in the Lord.” This empty, pop-culture version of Christianity is dangerous stuff. The numerology being tossed around by my fellow Christians is even scarier. Tim Tebow is just a nice kid, doing what he was raised to do. I hope he doesn’t fall. I hope he lives a long, wholesome life. But I’m not going to follow him as a spiritual leader, ordained by God through invisible eye-black as evidenced by his passing percentage.

Several years B.T. (before Tebow), there was another NFL quarterback. Another good Christian soul who played football – Kurt Warner. He too prayed and professed his faith publicly. But he grew up and matured and realized that he might be alienating some fans through his less-than-subtle approach. In November, Warner had some advice for Tebow:

“There’s almost a faith cliche, where (athletes) come out and say, ‘I want to thank my Lord and savior.’ As soon as you say that, the guard goes up, the walls go up, and I came to realize you have to be more strategic.

The greatest impact you can have on people is never what you say, but how you live. When you speak and represent the person of Jesus Christ in all actions of your life, people are drawn to that. You set the standard with your actions. The words can come after.”

My hope is that Tim Tebow will learn the lesson Kurt Warner learned before him. But even more, I hope my fellow Christians will learn it too.
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