Three Degrees Of Ric Flair

When I was a kid I hated Ric Flair.

Saturday nights at my house were devoted to wrestling. It started at 6:05 on WTBS and ended at 2 in the morning on channel 36. I saw the Von Erich family of wrestlers from Texas, I heard a young Jim Ross from Oklahoma and I cheered on the Rock and Roll Express in Atlanta. I was there for all of it. I can even remember the lady in charge of the Christmas play at my church coming up to me at one Saturday night practice and saying, “Don’t worry Jay. You’ll be home in time for wrestling.”

And I was.

Most of my childhood was spent hating Ric Flair because he was the loudmouth who beat all of the guys that I liked. As I grew older I started to appreciate and even admire him. The fact that he made me hate him so badly meant that he did his job well. I guess it’s sort of like how we all hated Darth Vader when we were kids but started to like him as adults.

On Tuesday night, ESPN’s 30 for 30 series covered the life of Ric Flair. Watching it didn’t make me hate Ric Flair again nor did it reinforce my appreciation for him. It made me feel sorry for him.

Ric Flair is really Richard Fliehr, a college drop out who figured out a way to turn a fascination with alcohol and women into a moneymaking lifestyle. That lifestyle turned out to be as fake as the wrestling matches Fliehr participated in almost every night during the prime of his career. He had a jet but he wasn’t really jet setting. He wore nice clothes but isn’t as rich as we were all led to believe. He was around a lot of women but didn’t know how to be with just one woman.

Fliehr wasn’t wrestling. He was running. He was running from the shame of disappointing his parents. He was running away from any form of commitment. He was running to an acceptance and satisfaction that could never be found in the places where he was looking.

Many broken lives were left in the wake of the Nature Boy’s lifestyle. There were four broken marriages. There were four broken children, each suffering in their own way because of their father’s absence. Perhaps none of them suffered more than his son Reid. Ric Flair brags about binge drinking in hotels every night for most of his career. His son Reid followed in his father’s footsteps, not just in the wrestling ring but at the hotel bar as well. Only Reid went further. He added pills and heroin to his diet. On March 29, 2013, Reid Fliehr was found dead, in of all places, a hotel room.

In the 30 for 30 documentary, director Rory Karpf asked Ric Flair what he would say to his son if he were here today. A crying Fliehr said that he would apologize for being his son’s friend instead of his father. There was a lot of pain in those words. And wisdom too.

Honestly, I don’t think I ever really hated Ric Flair. I just wanted to be Ric Flair and I knew it wasn’t happening. I dreamed of putting the playground bully in a figure four leg lock or of walking to my desk in a robe while the Space Odyssey theme played. I think that Richard Fliehr wanted to be Ric Flair too. It wasn’t happening for him either.

Ric Flair always said, “To be the man, you’ve got to beat the man.” But rather than trying to be a man, Flair settled for some other version of manhood. And it ended up beating him.

Now, no one wants to be Richard Fliehr.

But if we’re not careful in discerning truth from reality and what’s really important from what feels really good at the time, we could all end up just like him.

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We Chose The Clowns

A lady who worked for CBS said online that she had a hard time sympathizing with the victims of the Las Vegas shooting because most of them probably were against gun control.

Pat Robertson, a televangelist who has made a career out of saying things that are unbiblical, linked the massacre to NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem.

These statements were made by people with completely different worldviews but the root of their words are the same. Both statements are grounded in self-righteousness.

Jesus addressed this mentality during his ministry on earth. For everything that has changed in 2,000 years, not a lot has changed. We still like to think of ourselves being better than we really are.

A tyrannical government official had used his power to conduct his own massacre. While a group of people were worshiping, he had them killed. In response, people came to Jesus with the same basic mentality as the girl from CBS who had no sympathy for the victims and the televangelist who had no biblical clarity.

Self-righteousness is nothing new.

The thinking in Jesus’ day was that if anything bad happened to you it was because you had it coming and God was punishing you. So the group that was not massacred was somehow better than the group that was. That was the way that many people saw it, at least.

But it wasn’t the way that Jesus saw it.

And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” Luke 13:2-3 (ESV)

In her own way, the media executive was putting herself above the victims because of her progressive views on gun control. And the televangelist was elevating himself because he has done such a stellar job of respecting the president.

Jesus’ words, as usual, give us cause for self-reflection. Rather than asking why a loving God would allow the massacre in Las Vegas to happen, we need to ask a different question. But it is a question that we’ll never ask in our self-righteousness. This question requires humility.

I don’t love God like I should. I certainly don’t always love my neighbor as myself. And yet, I woke up this morning and got out of bed without the assistance of anything other than my alarm clock. I had a great breakfast with my wife and sons. I arrived safely at a men’s Bible study where I taught without fear of persecution. So here’s the better question.

Why would a just God allow someone like me who routinely breaks the Great Commandment to carry on as I do?

We are no better than the Galilean victims, the victims of the tower in Siloam that fell (Luke 13:4) or the victims in Las Vegas. We deserve much worse than what they endured. The fact that we haven’t received our just rewards is a testimony, not to our complete moral purity but to the grace of God.

Grace.

That’s something that we can always count on when tragedy hits.

Whenever disaster strikes, grace strikes with it. Always. You just have to be humble enough to slow down and take a look.

In the case of the murdered Galileans, grace was seen in Jesus’ compassionate call. There is, he was saying, a way to be rescued from perishing. But it comes through repentance. It requires laying aside our self-righteousness and taking on the perfect righteousness of Christ. No amount of political progressivism or religious babble can save us from our impending doom. We aren’t righteous enough. Jesus is. That’s what Jesus was telling his misguided inquisitors. And his message is just as true for us today.

In our world where everything is offensive, being told to repent or you will perish isn’t exactly the best way to win over a crowd. People are drowning in a sea of self-righteousness and they’re too comfortable in their despair to even consider the drastic changes that are necessary and the hope that can be found in Christ.

All of my life I’ve been told that Christians are self-righteous. I can’t disagree with that. We are. But it doesn’t stop with us. There are those who seek to atone for themselves through political action, violent action, or no action. There are those who claim to be compassionate and loving and are willing to prove it to you by demonstrating how cold and hateful than can be to people on the other side.

We all need to repent.

We all need Jesus.

Otherwise, we will all perish.

Jimmy Kimmel, we are now told, is America’s conscience. That should tell you how far we’ve gone in the wrong direction. When a nation abandons God and absolute truth, it looks to a comedian for direction. TV critic Hank Stuever writes, “Lacking leaders, we look to class clowns to guide us.”

It’s like we’re living in the Upsided Down of Judges, the book that begins with people asking, “Who will lead us?” and ends tragically with, “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

Our eyes are telling us that our righteousness is enough.

Our words and actions are proving our eyes wrong.

We don’t need more politicians, money grabbing TV preachers or calloused crusaders hiding under a thin veil of faux compassion. At some point in the future, when an honest account is given as to what went wrong with our society, two simple sentences will suffice.

We needed a Savior.

But we chose the clowns.

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Would Jesus Stand or Kneel?

Pick a side.

It has to be one or the other.

That’s what we’re always told. It has to be Coke or Pepsi, Ford or Chevy, Republican or Democrat, stand or kneel. There are no other options. To choose a third option is to condone the most evil of the only two real choices. And we call this freedom.

Even Jesus was told to pick a side. He had the wonderful privilege of choosing between the lifeless Saducees and the graceless Pharisees. He had the wisdom to denounce both groups. He rejected the Pharisees with his welcoming call to, “all who are weary and heavy laden.” He rejected the Saducees with his resurrection from the grave. Neither party, in their purest form, exists today.

Jesus is doing just fine.

We made it through the first two weeks of the NFL season without much controversy over people kneeling during the national anthem. Sure, some were still doing it and ESPN was still reporting on it but it was rapidly becoming a non-issue.

And then the President of the United States decided to share his opinion. The one who so many evangelical leaders have told us is, “God’s chosen man” called NFL players a name that I will not repeat here because of their refusal to stand during the national anthem. He did not, by the way, use such strong language toward the tiki torch mob in Charlottesville. Some of those were good people, remember? And then, the man who has told us that he has never needed to ask for forgiveness, lashed out at an outspoken Christian for refusing to visit the White House with his NBA championship team.

And, just like that, guess what dominated NFL coverage on Sunday. Can we just watch a game without the government getting involved? The president’s answer over the weekend was a resounding “No.”

For reasons that I’ll likely never understand, some Christians are okay with the president, “telling it like it is” and cursing people who take a knee during the national anthem. The same group that stages silly protests against the IRS on Pulpit Freedom Sunday has no problem with that same government condemning protestors who land on a different end of the political spectrum than they do. The same group that rightly has a problem with President Obama’s tyrannical reach into the consciences of bakers has no problem whatsoever with President Trump’s tyrannical reach into the consciences of professional athletes.

I do not agree with kneeling during the anthem. I always stand and take my hat off and I teach my sons how and why they should do the same. I also teach them that those who refuse to stand have a right to do so and, whether we end up agreeing with them or not, if we’re ever going to get over our divisions, we would do well to listen to them rather than obey the marching orders handed down to us by the president and his talk radio spokespeople.

Jesus did not die for us so that we could pick a side in some ridiculous culture war. He rules over such things and his followers represent him best when they are motivated by the command to love God and love neighbor rather than the desire to tell it like it is and stick it to the folks on the other side.

It can be so much fun to tell it like it is and stick it to the folks on the other side.

It’s just too bad that so few people, including the president, see how it is destroying the fabric of our nation and the credibility of the Christian witness.

The voices on both sides are loud.

Coke or Pepsi.

Ford or Chevy.

Republican or Democrat.

Stand or kneel.

Yet over all of them there is the still small voice that spoke creation into existence, sent Satan away in the wilderness, calmed the winds and the waves and will one day strike down the nations and rule them with an iron rod.

We would be wise to listen to that voice.

Because one day soon there will be no Coke or Pepsi, Ford or Chevy, Republicans or Democrats, and standing or kneeling during the national anthem.

There will still be Jesus however and he’ll still be doing just fine.

 

So you do have a choice.

But there are more than two options.

Choose wisely.

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Why Christians Should Boycott A Beauty And The Beast Boycott

Earlier this week, it was revealed that the soon to be released live action version of Beauty and the Beast would be the first of its kind. The trailblazing has nothing to do with special effects but rather sexuality. The film will feature Disney’s first ever openly gay character, LeFou, played by Josh Gad.

Bill Condon, the director of the film, said in an interview that, “LeFou is somebody who on one day wants to be Gaston and on another day wants to kiss Gaston.” Condon went on to say that Gad portrayed LeFou “deliciously” and that there is a “payoff” at the end that he described as, “a nice, exclusively gay moment in a Disney movie.”

No doubt, there have been plenty of Disney films in the past, even those marketed toward children, that have insinuated that certain characters were gay. However, the “exclusively gay moment” comment lets us know that the insinuations are no more. This updated version of Beauty and the Beast will leave nothing to speculation.

Yet another shot has been fired in the culture war.

And you can be sure that many Christians and social conservatives will be quick to fire back. Their weapons of choice will be boycotts and hashtags.

But before that happens, there is something that followers of Jesus Christ need to remember.

The culture will not be won by a massive Twitter campaign or #stopgaydisney movement. It will not be won by angry Facebook posts in ALL CAPS demanding that Disney bring back the movies from the good old days, as if those ever existed. The folks at Disney won’t suddenly decide to embrace traditional marriage because a few people vow to never attend their parks again. None of those things will win the culture war.

The culture war has already been won.

That happened when Jesus rose from the grave.

Sure, there are still numerous skirmishes. And as the church navigates its way through those battlefields, it must do so knowing that its victory is secure rather than continually playing the role of victims. Leave that to the disgruntled political junkies.

You’re kidding yourself if you think that a difference will be made in some digital arena with your clever hashtags. The real difference is made in your own home.

That’s where you, I hope, regularly sit down at an actual table for a meal with your kids and explain to them what the Bible says about men, women and sexuality. I get it. It seems a little strange for a father to talk about sexuality with his kids over dinner. It makes so much more sense to leave that up to a P.E. teacher who can tell them everything they need to know by simply using a condom and a banana as props. And we wonder what’s wrong with our kids.

In your kitchen, your kids see that real manhood is demonstrated not by romantic conquests, feelings or trucks but when their dad joyfully and lovingly serves their mother.

It’s in your home, not on a movie screen, where your kid’s worldview of marriage and family should be shaped.

If you think that you’re going to protect your kids from evil by keeping them from seeing a Disney movie, the devil laughs at you. Ban, boycott and hashtag all you want but until you take the time to teach and demonstrate biblical manhood and womanhood before your children on a daily basis, you’re planning your own destruction.

My family will not be seeing the new Beauty and the Beast movie. But we also won’t be taking part in any boycott. I don’t want my kids growing up thinking that Christianity is basically boiled down to being against stuff.

I want them to know that we are for truth, we are for love, we are for obeying God’s word and leaning on God’s grace when we fail. I want them to learn the delicate balance between standing against certain aspects within the culture while simultaneously loving the people consumed by that culture.

Hopefully Christians will see that there aren’t enough hashtags or boycotts in the world to change sick hearts. Hopefully, instead of trying to win a culture war and stick it to Disney, Christians will focus on raising up disciples, starting with the little ones in their own homes.

Hopefully, I’m not asking for too much.

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Why Stand For The National Anthem?

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I can relate to Colin Kaepernick. Not because of the color of my skin. Not because I wear socks ridiculing the police or shirts sporting dictators like he does. I can relate to Colin Kaepernick because there are things in this country that I don’t like.

I don’t like that the murder of babies is a multi-million dollar, government funded industry in our country.

I don’t like the fact that we have lost anything resembling a moral compass.

I don’t like the division.

I don’t like the slow decline of religious liberty.

But, when the national anthem comes on, I stand up. And I make sure that my two sons do as well. Heres why.

I stand up because of Leman Sanders. He dodged bullets and caught malaria in the South Pacific during World War II.

I stand up because of Wynsol Smith. He’s still carrying wounds from time spent serving his country.

I stand up because of Marcel Tayamen. His family left the Philippines for the United States long before anyone had ever heard of Colin Kaepernick. He served his country in the Air Force during Vietnam and carried on with that service long after the war was over.

To me, even in a world of aborted babies and leaking religious liberty, taking a knee during the national anthem would seem like spitting in the face of Leman Sanders, Wynsol Smith, Marcel Tayamen and countless others who served their country.

Just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should do something.

I support Colin Kaepernick’s right to take a knee or sit down during the national anthem. We lose something very valuable in the country if we lose the right to peaceful protest, even if we don’t happen to agree with the protesters. The problem is that now, taking a knee has become all the rage.

I’m sure that there will be high school and college players doing just that during the national anthem as the season wears on.

U.S. Women’s Soccer player, Megan Rapinoe has refused to stand when the national anthem is played before her games. She’s doing it to raise awareness for LGBT rights. Forgive me for my ignorance here but I’m having a hard time figuring out exactly what rights the LGBT community are missing out on. The right to shut down even more bakeries?

And now the Seattle Seahawks have announced that the entire team will sit out the national anthem for their opening game of the season. That opening game of the season just happens to be on the 15th anniversary of 9/11. They’re calling it a “big surprise.”

Remember, just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should do something.

We’ve lost something. In an effort to have our voices heard, we’ve forgotten to go through the trouble of actually examining what it is our voices are saying. It’s like everyone wants to be Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat but no one wants to be the Rosa Parks who spent the rest of her life living in humility and on principle.

The government should not make Kaepernick, Rapinoe or the Seahawks stand during the national anthem. The employers of those athletes should. Their employers should remind them of people like Leman Sanders, Wynsol Smith and Marcel Tayamen. Brave men who served, even though they probably didn’t agree with everything their country was doing. Their employers should remind them of the little eyes who are watching them and who are likely to imitate their protest.

And their employers should remind them that just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should do something.

A short while back my sons were getting ready to watch a soccer game on television. I was in and out of the room but I could hear what they were hearing. It was the national anthem. I couldn’t, however, believe what I was seeing.

They had gotten up off of the couch where they would be camped out for the next 90 minutes and stood with hands over their chests, just as if the singer of the national anthem were in our living room. It was a proud dad moment.

While they were standing, I didn’t see two sheep, mindlessly following the masses.

And I didn’t see all that was wrong with our country.

For that short moment, I saw two little boys who stood, not because they were made to but because they felt that it was the right thing to do.

Maybe, in spite of all of our differences, our country can get back to that point.

Maybe.

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The Offended Olympics

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There’s nothing like the Olympics to remind Americans of our favorite sport. No, it’s not swimming or gymnastics or track and field. It’s getting offended. And, so far, we’re leading in the medal count.

The good people at CNN were kind enough to remind us of the latest thing we’re supposed to be mad about. Women athletes, it appears, just aren’t being treated fairly by the sports media. No, Rowdy Gaines, NBC’s ultra enthusiastic swimming commentator, didn’t say that Katie Ledecky was a dumb broad who needed to get out of the pool and in the kitchen. But he did commit the sin of mentioning another swimmer’s husband and the role he played in helping her win a gold medal.

Gasp!

That swimmer’s husband, by the way, also happened to be her coach.

Double gasp!

Others are jumping in on the supposed injustices. Like when a gymnastics commentator dared to imagine that one of the young girls on the dominate US gymnastics team might be at a mall if it weren’t for the Olympics. The leftist, activist side of the Internet went nuts over the idea that a teenage girl might be at a mall. Here’s a tip, Mr. Gymnastics Commentator. The next time one of the girls on the gymnastics team wins gold, say something like this.

“Wow! What an accomplishment. And to think that she would be using her own bare, calloused, large hands to dig wells for orphaned transgendered penguins if it weren’t for the Olympics.”

One journalist committed the unpardonable sin of making the link between a female Olympic athlete and her NFL playing husband. How dare a writer even think about trying to make us connect with a female athlete who won a bronze medal in a sport which, until about three minutes ago, we didn’t even know existed by informing us that her husband plays for a team that even non-sports fans are vaguely familiar with?

All of this leads me to the following conclusion. We aren’t just watching the Olympics. We’re in the Olympics. The Offended Olympics. These games are different. Rather than jumping over hurdles, we have allowed our feelings to become hurdles that others must figure out how to navigate their way around. Oh, and our hurdles are connected to land mines so good luck. Instead of shooting at targets with bows or rifles, we set our digital aim on anyone who dares to question the narrative or break off from the reservation. Our dream team doesn’t have names like Kevin Durant or Gabby Douglas, athletes who excel to such a degree that they make other really good athletes look average. No, our dream team is made up of CNN and some blogger from the Huffington Post or Salon who in their continual victimhood make everyone else look like cavemen. Just as Durant and Douglas can be counted on to come through in the clutch, the members of this dream team can always be relied on to remind us of what should be offending us and of how evil we are for not already noticing.

Well, I’m sitting this Olympics out. Not the real Olympics. I’m still into those. I’m talking about the Offended Olympics. Sure, there are things I see that I don’t like. For example, on Monday night while watching the games with my wife and sons, there was a Nike commercial praising a transgendered athlete. Rather than starting up a boycott against Nike or going on a hunger strike until they release a new line of Bible-based footwear, I used it as a teaching opportunity to remind my boys that the world’s ways are not God’s ways and to encourage them to think critically rather than merely consume. I want them to be the type of men who question why it is that a gay man is validated by biology because, “he was born that way,” but a transgendered man is validated in his actions because he was born the wrong way.

But most people will continue to play the games. Rather than using their power to keep scrolling or change the channel or just forget about it, they’ll moan and ache and complain and fight until they get their way.

And then there will be no more games left to play and no words left to say. Sooner or later, everything will be too offensive.

In the Offended Olympics, everyone loses.

But hey, we all get gold medals.

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