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[199] Subtle Politics

Much of the ruckus over Colin Kaepernick’s not being on an NFL roster is not about football.  First, a fact needs to be stated.  There are roughly 100 quarterbacks on NFL teams.  Kaepernick, a Super Bowl quarterback but a few years back, is easily better than half of them.  Hence, the logic is that he is not in the league because owners do not want the baggage of a player who very publically refused to stand for the National Anthem last season.

No matter that Kaepernick has stated he will not persist in this practice.  He is damaged goods in the economy of the NFL.  No team has signed him in a league with many teams in need of insurance at the critically important quarterback position.

Note well that the public clamor over this omission of Kaepernick is not, however, focused on some football injustice, or some attempt by owners to protect their brand against a potentially objecting fandom—the millions who did not approve of Kaepernick’s symbolic protest.  It is focused on race.  And it is more than a scattered group of activists who point to racism as the underlying motive of the owners.  It is an organized attempt by the political left—those who embrace identity politics—to make this about race.  They are “racializing” the matter to advance the identity politics cause.

In the larger scheme of things, the plight of an unsigned multi-millionaire quarterback is not of much consequence in the context of North Korea, Charlottesville, and a health care crisis.  And that is why that narrower matter—football–is not the subject of this blog.  The point here is that those who are committed to identity politics will use very subtle means to make their case.  If they can shift the paradigm from simple alleged unfairness to racism they can turn Kaepernick’s circumstance into one of racism—the unfair treatment of one who identifies as an African-American—a headline grabber, given the unhappy history of race relations in the US.  And that shifts the goal of politics from one of advancing the national welfare to one that promotes the interests of individual subgroups, as they vie with other groups for power.

It is hard to make a case for identity politics from a faith-and-learning perspective, because it is an offshoot of postmodernism—the notion that there is no truth, just personal and cultural perspectives of subjective reality.  More important perhaps, is the need for vigilance; to “see” the subtle workings of ideologies as they visit everything, even football.  DC

[200] Icons

I read a stunningly insightful book recently, entitled Dinner with DiMaggio, soon to be reviewed in these pages. The book caught the essence of what it meant to be an American icon. I reflected on the concept of national icons. From the ‘40’s to the ‘90’s there were so many—DiMiaggio, Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, Billy Graham, and Michael Jackson, among others.

They were so big they were commonly referred to as idols.

But the era of the genuine icon is, for the most part, gone.

The reason is that we are in an electronic age. In the previous era, the media was narrow, consisting mainly of radio, newspapers (literally print on paper), popular magazines, television (limited mainly to three networks), and movies. In short, the modalities were few, such that once a celebrity became nationally marketable he or she would dominate almost all of the layers of media reaching the public. Hence, an icon went deeply into American culture—dominating every point of contact with the public with each segment of the media reinforcing the others.

Two forces have changed all this: Cable TV and the internet. We now have myriad television channels and a world wide web with infinite points of contact. No one person can dominate all these. Hence, we have moved from national icons to what we might call niche icons. In addition, because of the incredibly wide expanse of contact, we are more aware than ever that we are not a homogeneous nation. We are nation of identifiable subgroups.

This makes the spread of the gospel easier and more difficult. It is easier because there are so many more apertures—so many more windows through which we can send the gospel out. It is more difficult because we have no Billy Grahams—icons whose fame and charisma can draw millions to their televisions—all at the same primetime hour–to hear a galvanizing message.

All of this begs the question: Are national revivals a thing of the past? With things moving horizontally rather than vertically, some say it is. Time will tell. We may indeed have to shape the gospel presentation to demographic niches, much as missionaries of the past did, learning the language and the culture of the particular people to whom they were to be sent before leaving American soil. Just as Christian colleges strategize to recruit students from various demographic segments, the church needs to strategize when it comes to evangelism—going to people “where they are,” to paraphrase John Calvin. From another vantage point, there is the concept of “going viral.” We must communicate the gospel knowing it has no boundaries in terms of its appeal, and there is nothing more viral than the Holy Spirit. DC

[199] Mission Statement

A few decades back, the business world was taken by storm with the idea of having a Mission Statement—a simple one or two statement as to its purpose for existence.

Not a bad idea for a business. An even better idea for a Christian college. And better yet for a person. In fact, I would like to see every person engage that task—write a life mission statement. For the Christian, the top line should be to glorify God. Believe it or not, that is the easy part. What comes next? For one thing, each of us can ask if what we are currently investing our energies in is glorifying God. We can also ask how we can take our skills and interests and aim them in that direction.

You get it. Doing these things not only will move us closer to the top line—glorifying God—but it will also make us a lot happier. DC

 

[198] No Consensus

The debate over homosexual behavior and same-sex marriages rages on. I see no consensus in sight on these issues among serious biblical Christians. I think we may have to accept a permanent diversity on these matters.

There are two general ways to look at this. For many, the prohibitions in both the Old and the New Testament are the final word. To mettle with these prohibitions is to mettle with the eternal in unchanging word of God. It is a simple but a compelling position.

The other is to look at the sanctions in cultural context. For example, in Romans, Paul connects homosexual activity to other obvious sins in his description of a truly wicked group of people. Homosexuality appears to be in the context of riotous, promiscuous living, not in a monogamous, committed relationship. Moreover, I doubt Paul knew that sexual orientation is largely if not completely genetic any more than the biblical writers realized the universe is heliocentric, with the earth being oval, rather than possessing four corners. And from there one can shift to other strictures of the past that are no longer in force today—women wearing hats in church, for example, not to mention more liberal attitudes toward divorce.

I urge Christians to avoid the one thing that is among the common and easiest to do when engaging explosive issues such as these: To attack rather than reason, to demonize those with opposing views rather than working out their differences in the love of Christ. DC

[198] Jessica Mendoza

What is Jessica Mendoza doing analyzing major league baseball games? She has no business in the booth. She has never played baseball. She has never coached baseball. She has never managed a baseball team, and she has never been an administrator in baseball.

Jessica Mendoza is a softball player—a very good one—but she has no meaningful background in baseball.

What Ms. Mendoza is, however, is very attractive, classy, charming, Hispanic, and female. And like so many of the foxy newscasters that populate virtually every channel, that seems to be quite sufficient to be passed off as an expert.

If MLB wants a female, it might want to look at the front offices. Commissioner Selig’s daughter, Wendy Selig-Prieb, was in charge of the Brewers. There must be other women with some valuable front office experience out there.

If this is read as an attempt to denigrate Ms. Mendoza, I am not making myself clear. The offender here is ESPN and MLB, in their desire to serve up the viewer with a plateful of identity politics and diversity rather than incisive baseball analysis.  In an oh-so-subtle fashion, matters like these remind us that the secular culture continues to pour itself into a politically correct mold, one that all but silences any contrary voices.  In the big scheme of things, baseball is rather innocuous, but as we regularly discuss here it is but an ornament on a much larger cultural tree.

DC

[197] Xian Scholars

Do our Christian colleges and universities have Christian scholars, or just scholars who happen to be Christians?

You can find plenty of the latter at Christian colleges, and more “under cover,” at mainline Christian-unfriendly universities. All you need to do is deliver a competent academic job and have a faith confined to a personal level to be one of these faculty. Keep your mouth shut and your word processor silent when it comes to the things of faith and you can enjoy a cozy tenured existence in either setting.

When your faith informs your work, provides a context for your work, is a lens through which you see all of life, giving you a Christian worldview, then you are a Christian scholar. Then you are out there, in the Christian intellectual arena.

So how many of these can you identify?

DC

 

[197] Open Borders

Scarcely a week goes by before we hear of another terrorist event somewhere in the world. For many, it begs the question of why there is so much political energy in support of open borders. Almost none of Trump’s policies provoke more rage and resistance than his pronouncements involving keeping certain people (illegals, those from terrorist-compromised countries, etc.) out of the US.

Why?

Because such policies collide head-on with identity politics. The latter sees the nation, not through the lens of shared common values, but as a collection of interest groups—gender, nationality, income, legal/illegal, etc., all of whose worldviews are to be equally respected. To slam the door in the face of any of these interest groups is viewed as a form of disrespect for the rights and wellbeing of that group, and hence, all the other groups.

Identity politics is dangerous, as it has a postmodern streak to it, one that rejects uniformly accepted values and laws. It removes the adhesive that binds a nation together, particularly one as diverse as ours. In many instances the goals of one group openly conflict with that of another. Therefore there needs to be legal context in which interactions take place, and those laws have to be respected, not because they are divinely inspired or emanate from Moses, but because without them there is no nation at all. DC

[196] Narcissism

I was expecting more from Hillary Clinton than narcissism. But that is what we are getting. Whether in an interview, a commencement speech, or virtually any other venue, Hillary continues to talk about how the election was taken from her—by James Comey to the Trump-colluding Russians and everything in between.

Clinton regularly professes she entered politics for the public good. The key word in that sentence is public. Her sour grapes spitting rhetoric does not align with that profession of intent. It suggests a self-centered, I-can’t-believe-I-lost mindset. Worse, she seems constitutionally unable to see her defeat in the context of her own failings. I am not going to recite those. The right wingers never tire of doing that. But what is of concern is that she seems to be engaging in narcissistic self-protection rather than sober introspection. As Fox’s Greg Gutfeld stated, she and Bill have become the acid reflux of the Democratic Party. It is time for both to go away—at least for awhile. It may be healthy for them to do so. It will certainly be in the public good for now. DC

[196] Appraisal

When you buy a building you often need an appraisal as to the soundness and quality of the structure. I suggest Christian colleges do the same in determining the soundness and quality of their Christian foundation.

An assessment might include a number of items. Here are some possibilities.

How are we doing in hiring people who can communicate a Christian worldview that can be integrated in their classes?

How are we doing in evaluating our faculty on expressing a Christian worldview in their classes?

How are we doing in encouraging our faculty to write and do research from a faith and learning perspective?

How are we doing in developing a faith and learning reputation for our institution among students and the public at large?

How are we doing in creating avenues for our students to write and speak from a Christian worldview?

How are we doing in linking with other Christian institutions to find new and fresh ways to empower our faith and learning stance? DC

[195] 1st Amendment

Remember the good old days, the time when people marched against porn and porn theaters? Remember when the purveyors of porn wrapped themselves in the red, white, and blue First Amendment blanket?

Remember that? Now Christians seem headed to do the same. It is clear that the First Amendment is not very popular in many of our colleges and universities. The mere expression of conservative political views will imperil the speaker (or in the case of the student writing a paper, the writer).

But what of the faith? How welcome would any of us be, expressing a Christian worldview on non-religious radio or television? Try a talk show. How comfortable? If you say, “not very,” you are also saying the First Amendment is under siege.

We may soon be asking the porn peddlers if they have any extra blankets. DC

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