Category Archives: Sports

Why Jesus loves rugby more than football

By Contributor Daryl Geffken

Daryl Geffken

Someone I admire thinks the demise of traffic safety was ushered in with the Anti-Lock Brake System. In fact, he goes so far as to suggest each car should have a knife affixed to the steering wheel, tip pointing straight at the driver. His reasoning? Cars have become too safe, too able to correct for our carelessness; our lack of responsibility. Extreme? Perhaps. But he gets his point across.

I would suggest many of us have made our environments too comfortable; too safe.  Eighteenth Century pastor Jonathan Edwards is most famous for his sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. However, he made no distinction in Christian duty between saving the poor in spirit and the poor in material wealth and status. In a less cited, but equally powerful sermon, Edwards demanded, “Where have we any command in the Bible laid down in stronger terms, and in a more peremptory urgent manner, than the command of giving to the poor?”

Author Tim Keller argued that Jesus’ teaching was clearly understood by his audience as demanding the sacrifice of one’s social position and material well-being.  Keller explained that Jewish culture during the time of Jesus relied heavily on a patronage system. Social networking was founded upon the material investment of wealthy people into others, who would in turn provide favors and protect the interests of their patron. These networks were often created and maintained through lavish dinners, and though the initial investment was substantial, the return was well worth it.

It was within this context that Jesus made the following appeal: When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind (Luke 14:12-13).

According to Keller, a challenge such as this would amount to “economic and social suicide” for those hearing Jesus’ charge. It contradicted the standard practice of establishing networks with rich and powerful benefactors in favor of creating relationships with the poor and marginalized. Jesus expected his disciples to give without the expectation of being repaid in any way.

In Matthew 6:19-21 Jesus says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Jesus’ basic economic view is simply that we take care of each other, friends and enemies alike. This is driven by compassion and empathy founded upon the Golden Rule of Luke 6:31, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” This may be dismissed as impractical idealism.

Pastor Brian McClaren stated, “Christian discipleship is training for apostleship, training for mission. From this understanding we place less emphasis on whose lineage, rites, doctrines, structures, and terminology are right and more emphasis on whose actions, service, outreach, kindness, and effectiveness are good.”

A scrum during a rugby union game between the Crusaders and Brumbie/Wikipedia

I just watched the World Cup Rugby Sevens Match. Don’t know the rules? Imagine hard-hitting football without pads.  Show of hands: who ever played Saturday football? I did. We didn’t use pads.  There was this one kid (I use the term loosely, because unless he was in a Sumo Dojo, there is no place where would not be in the top fifth percentile of size).  Whoever quarterbacked his team, would run one play and one play only: handoff up the middle. I remember trying to stop this guy. Correct that: I remember up to the point I tried to stop this guy. Then I remember grass. The next time he came at me, I wasn’t sure the risk was worth my broken body.

When you are close to pain, how you risk and what you risk changes. My fear is that many of us have so insulated ourselves from pain and real risk that we make decisions without considering the ramifications. Perhaps many of us think we are pseudo invincible? Perhaps we don’t realize the reality that if we have a privileged life, someone else by necessity is underprivileged. Maybe someday soon, you could invite some people over for lunch that could never repay you.

What a Husky can teach a Cougar about compassion

By Contributor Daryl Geffken

Editor’s Note: This week SpokaneFAVS contributors are exploring the definition of compassion. Read Monday’s panel on this topic here.

Daryl Geffken

I am a Husky. For some, that may have been the last line they read. For you brave enough to continue, I’d like to share a story from a day I recently had.

As you might imagine, I am fairly reticent to share my allegiance to my Alma Mater in a town like Spokane. I have had my UW sticker scraped off my car more than a few times.  I’m proud of the school that provided me opportunity, but I struggle with the snap judgment that comes from some folks with the label, “Husky.” So I have decided I will slowly share my purple pride with people.  I work on relationships first, so that when others become aware of the depth of my Montlake Madness, there is a foundation of friendship. In fact, I am drawn to folks equally passionate about their schools, even if they are rivals.

Photo courtesy of the University of Washington

My office is a great spot. I work at a place where Cougars, Zags and Huskies all seem to get along. We share a friendly rivalry in sports.  More than that, we share our lives together and a growing friendship. So the other day, I blurted from my office door to my Cougar friend that Cal lost over the weekend, thereby putting the Husky men’s basketball team in first place of the Pac-12 for the moment. My timing sucked. Royally. I walked into the common area and into a conversation between my friend and a few others I did not recognize.  They looked at me quizzically and it was explained that I was a Husky. And then it happened — the look; a scornful look on the face of a person I have never met, but who had somehow sized up me or my affiliation to a brand name and decided that she knew me, all of me, and it was found lacking. “Cheaters,” she spit. And that was it.

My last post talked about compassion as sharing life with others, collecting their stories to the point that we walk with them rather than talk about them. We must connect ourselves with the lives of others — others we would typically not choose.  I believe our compassion grows in relation to its direct contact with suffering. We must find ways of engaging and deeply listening to the stories of others and then finding creative ways to allow those stories to find a larger voice. I also suggested that Jesus refocused people on what was important to God, not what had become acceptable to them.  Jesus and his followers frequently challenge an attitude of privilege. One of Jesus’ main emphases was to treat people with value, so much so, that Jesus personally identified himself with the marginalized. The very manner of Jesus’ life reveals a literal identification with the poor and marginalized.

Jesus was born to migrant parents out of wedlock. The stigma this carried with it in Jewish culture at the time was severe. Tradition holds that he was born in a cave meant for feeding livestock and was celebrated by shepherds, some of the country’s lowest-class citizens, and foreigners that practiced astronomy — a taboo in Jewish society. At his circumcision, his parents offered a sacrifice of two pigeons — a Levitical concession offered to only the poorest class of citizen (Leviticus 12:1-8). Jesus and his family fled their nation as political refugees (Matthew 2:13-18), seeking asylum in a foreign country.

Jesus was homeless (Luke 9:58), and relied solely on the contribution of others to maintain his itinerant call (Luke 8:1-3). He was declared a state criminal and arrested. His trial displayed a flagrant abuse of the justice system of the day, having been tried in secrecy and without defense, physically beaten during the proceedings, disregarded by a politician that caved to popular sentiment despite finding no sufficient grounds for condemnation and tortured before his execution. He died without a single possession and was laid to rest in a donated grave. In “Generous Justice” Tim Keller said, “In all these ways, Jesus identifies with the millions of nameless people who have been wrongfully imprisoned, robbed of their possessions, tortured, and slaughtered.” The Bible records even after his death and resurrection Jesus continued to identify with the marginal. According to the gospel of Luke, Jesus chose to first reveal his resurrected self to women; those so discounted that in legal matters their testimony had no merit.

Judith Butler suggested that judging people is a form of emotional violence. By assuming you know another person denies them the ability to change, develop or grow beyond your expectations. Here’s my point:  Jesus could have come into the world in any way imaginable. He chose this lowly status, and lived it out. He chose not to disdain others but looked at them with hope of a redeemed future.

Is it too far a stretch to attempt a connection between an interaction based on a sports rivalry and the manner by which Jesus entered into creation? Probably.  But at the risk of reversing my initial title, you want to know what this Husky learned from his Cougar friend when she stepped into my righteous indignation towards the woman I felt had belittled my existence by judging me? am wrong to dismiss another person on the basis of one action.

Fat Tuesday; “Catholic” Glenn Beck; Southern Baptists’ name

By David Gibson
Religion News Service

Lent started a couple days early for the ESPN editor who wrote a headline about Knicks phenom Jeremy Lin that recalled an ethnic slur against Chinese.

Anthony Federico, 28, was fired on Sunday for the gaffe, which he said had no racist intent. “ESPN did what they had to do,” said Federico who, like Lin, is a devout Christian.

“My faith is my life,” Federico told The Daily News. “I’d love to tell Jeremy what happened and explain that this was an honest mistake.”

Speaking of J-Lin, his pastor tells the WaPo what he’s really like. It’s all good, don’t worry.

New York archbishop Timothy Dolan, who was the “rock star” of the Vatican consistory that created 22 new cardinals, may need a bit of self-denial: he fell off the diet wagon while in Rome, and now can’t take off the new gold ring Pope Benedict XVI gave him on Saturday.

Read full post here.

It’s time to root for the real underdogs

By Contributor Daryl Geffken

Daryl Geffken

America loves an underdog win.  Last night the New York Giants completed their fantastic run through the playoffs to once again hand a “superior” team, in the New England Patriots, a come-from-behind loss.  To many people, the Patriots represent the superlative in professional football.  A machine built to win.  Dare I say it?  A dynasty.  An empire.  We Americans love to see empires fall.  And we love to see underdog heroes lead the way.  If you don’t believe me, read this saccharine story by ESPN’s Ian O’Connor that emphasizes the hero’s tale of Eli Manning’s dramatic drive.

We thrill in this type of story-line, yet often fail to realize that it is myth.

We wrongly highlight individual effort, not honoring the multiplicity of factors that contribute to this type of success.  Never mind that (according to Manning himself), the entirety of the Giants team was responsible for the unprecedented 7-game winning streak as well as last night’s victory.  Think of the incredible defensive play by Tucks and Pierre-Paul.  That throw was mediocre, until it was caught (by a receiver known for his dropped-balls, by the way).  Interviewers sought to give him the credit for the offensive game plan, even while Manning deferred to his coach’s scheme.

But when all is said and done, through media sound bites and analyses Manning becomes the reason the Giants won.

Eli Manning during a 2007 training camp/Wikipedia

Manning is no underdog.  No one gets access to this stage without an amazing amount of talent, support and drive.  Even the halftime entertainment represents the best of the best (I concede that last year’s Black Eyed Peas performance can derail my argument, here).  Manning is a product of many forces that allowed him this opportunity: family dynamics (his dad and brother both are noteworthy NFL quarterbacks) and the megalithic industry known as the NCAA.  Clearly, Manning has had to work to attain the status of elite quarterback in the NFL, and this should not be diminished.  What I know of him makes me like him as a player and as a man.  He is no underdog, however.  And I get the sense he would agree with me.

King David was perhaps the quintessential underdog.  As the man who killed the warrior-giant with the single shot of a sling he is the very source-tale of a “David meets Goliath” matchup.  This is a man who through skill and integrity rose from the outsider status of shepherd to become king.  Yet David is also the powerful and lusty king that has an adulterous affair with another man’s wife and then attempts to cover it up to the point of murder.  Nathan, the prophet, the only man in the kingdom to call him out does so with great skill, telling the honorable a story of a wealthy man who steals a poor family’s only sheep to serve a visitor, rather than use one of his own. Incensed, David condemns the man as selfish and worthy of severe punishment.  Nathan lays his indictment heavily on David, “You are the man.”  At this point, David realizes his guilt and works to set things right.

What if we realized who the real underdogs of the world were?  Would we still root for them?  What if we discovered that much of America is the empire we all love to hate? What if underdogs were those that we exclude from a system of value because they can’t buy in?  What if underdogs were those who were legitimately angry that Americans, who represent the wealthiest fifth of the world’s people, consume an astonishing 86 percent of all goods and services, while the poorest fifth consume only one percent?  Are they wrong to despise us because we are complicit in preventing them from caring for their families and communities?  It seems to me that we hold more in common with the imperial David than the underdog David.  It seems to me that we steal from those who cannot stop it in order to serve our out of control desires.

An ad campaign that justifies spending 3.5 million dollars for a 30-second ad spot during the super bowl seems a heinous misuse of resources.  The rise of sex-trafficking that occurs during the super bowl reveals a dark side of gluttony and excess at the cost of human value, as does the indication that incidents of spousal abuse rise 10 percent in households where the favorite team loses shows a disgustingly disproportionate set of priorities that links personal value to a team brand rather than a life-partner.

“Loyalty that hides problematic conduct is a false loyalty, for it elevates reputation over reality, and esteems image over character. Though we may believe we are acting to protect the institution, in reality we do the institution and individuals far greater damage …,” said Rev. John I. Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame, in an e-mail sent to students and employees reminding them of their obligation to report cases of suspected abuse and other questionable conduct.

Perhaps a few more of us can realize that our loyalty to the excess of the sports industry perpetuates some of these horrific issues.  Perhaps lobbying against the consumerist agenda that undergirds the industry could bring back some of the humanity lost.  Perhaps we could root for the real underdogs.  I’m just not sure where I can find the team jersey.

Local woman a standout volunteer, athlete

Latter Day Sentinel

Trudy Reese has lived in the Spokane Valley area for 35 years. She currently serves as the Humanitarian leader in the Evergreen Ward of the Spokane East Stake. Contributed Photo.

Perhaps someday there will be an event that combines the challenge of a cross country ultra-marathon with the unique rigors of volunteer work. Participants would stride down forest trails and check in at designated stations, gathering supplies and rallying support for nonprofit causes along the way. Winning would be based on a calculation of time and overall community impact.

If that event ever does take place, chances are that Trudy Reese will be on the medal stand.

From visiting prisoners at the Eleanor Chase Halfway House to organizing clothing drives for homeless shelters, Reese sets an inspiring pace on the pathway of service.

Read full story in the LDS Sentinel.

Examining the Gospel, Tebow and success

By Contributor Ernesto Tinajero

Ernesto Tinajero

Now that Tim Tebow’s team has lost it’s time to take a theological look at “Tebowing.” For those unfamiliar with the term, it is a posture of prayer used after a successful play, made popular by the Denver Broncos’s quarterback Tim Tebow. It became a topic of debate as he and his team won a series of games in the last second.

Tebow, to his credit, has not claimed that God has intervened and given him his last-minute victories. But that has not stopped others from making that claim.

People are mad at the young Tebow for his public prayer. Charles Barkley threw a long, long bomb of his own, calling Tebow a “national nightmare,” as if having a young evangelical praying on the sideline was a larger horror than having 15 million people still looking for work. There are many who are frustrated with Tebow for not taking advantage of all the girls, cars and partying that comes with stardom. On the other hand, many hold up the last-minute antics of Tebow on the brutal football field as proof of God’s power. Tebow’s success, and not his faith, is what is admired and held up as the power of the Christian God.

So, did God intervene and give the Broncos victory over its opponents? If so, why not intervene earlier? Does God really like the theatrics of a last-minute win? Would not a blowout win by the Broncos, with Tebow throwing for 800 yards, be just as effective as a last-second comeback? Of course these question lead to more uncomfortable ones, like why is God concerned with football games when many in Thailand and Malaysia are fighting floods? Now that Tebow and his Broncos have lost, does this prove God’s ultimate powerlessness?

These are questions of theology. They are also flawed in terms of Christian theology. They actually reveal not the God of Jesus, but show the idols of our culture. The only reason we are talking about a football quarterback is because he was succeeding. His team had more points than his opponent’s at the end of a game and Tebow happens to pray and give thanks for playing the game. We admire him because he wins by our standards and by the rules of our game.

Now, Jesus, within the same rules of our world, was an actual failure. Jesus lost his life humiliated in a death common to criminals and traitors, abandoned by those who followed him and became no political leader. Throughout his ministry most of his followers had trouble understanding what he was doing. Three times he rejected the offer of success by Satan — he same success we would jump to accept. Who would not want their desires met, riches and powers and the power of the miraculous? Yet Jesus was after something bigger than success. He was out to be with us as friend and companion. Jesus is Emanuel, God with us.

God exposes our idols. We Americans have a fondness of keeping score, of valuing success and loving winners. God loves sinners. Here is the questions for all those who see Tebow’s winning ways as proof of God’s power: what happens now that Tebow has lost? Christians know God loves the football star despite his winning or losing, despite his walking the straight and narrow, and God will be with the young Tebow regardless of the final score. God does not measure us the way we measure each other. Many of us define life like a Hollywood movie; in the end everything workouts in a happy ending without suffering, without the cross. Without the cross, what’s the chance of resurrection?  God defines us in life, through our life defined by the cross and resurrection of Jesus.  God is with us even when we lose, especially when we lose.

Friday’s Religion News Roundup: Pink Bibles, Tebowing and Gingrich on celibacy

Christopher Hitchens, the acid-tongued atheist and lovably roguish essayist, has met his maker (or not) at age 62. SaithRabbi Shmuley Boteach, a friend and sparring partner: “He was religion’s most vociferous enemy but you could not help but develop an affection for him due to his warmth, wit, and, bizarre as it may sound, humility.”

WaPo sits in on a choir practice at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, where the “gleaming flaxen bob” in the alto section belongs to none other thanCallista Gingrich. Speaking of, Newt says that if Catholic priests can choose to be celibate, so can the gays.
POTUS will be speaking to the nation’s largest Jewish movement this afternoon in Washington, and our own Lauren Markoe profiles the new president of the Union for Reform JudaismRabbi Rick Jacobs.

Howard Friedman’s Religion Clause is reporting that Congress passed a Pentagon spending bill that includes a line that military chaplains cannot be forced to officiate at same-sex weddings.

In Foggy Bottom, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hosted a summit this week on protecting religious minorities; it was a work-around to the resolutions against the “defamation of religion” that the U.S. finally managed to derail this year at the U.N.

Read full post here.