Dabo Swinney Versus The Freedom From Religion Foundation

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Dabo Swinney’s team lost on Monday night. It was their first lost of the season and it came in the final game of the season – the national title game.

Swinney has done a fine job of representing his school. He has put Clemson back on the map. They are no longer just contenders for ACC titles but national titles as well. Clemson fans are excited and rightfully so.

But the news isn’t all good for Dabo and Clemson. As if losing on Monday night wasn’t enough, it appears that Clemson will soon be taken to court. And it’s all Dabo’s fault.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation plans to sue Clemson University because their athletics program is a little too Christian. And the man who finds himself in the crosshairs of the Freedom From Religion Foundation is Dabo Swinney. If you are a coach who also happens to follow Christ, when all of your wins and losses are tallied, the fact that the Freedom From Religion Foundation came after you just might be your greatest accomplishment.

Swinney is a very outspoken Christian. And that’s okay with the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Just as long as Coach Swinney resigns from Clemson and starts coaching for the Saint Benny the Lesser Christian Academy Fightin’ Crusaders over in Dump Truck County, South Carolina. To put it another way, if you are a Christian and you get a paycheck from any government institution, leave your faith at the door.

A representative for the Freedom From Religion Foundation said, “We still have concerns about how that program is being conducted.” You’d think that he was talking about Penn State. But no, he’s talking about Clemson and their coach who has the nerve to actually live out what he believes, pray with his players, use chaplains and have church day events. Oh the humanity!

Such activity, as the Freedom From Religion Foundation sees it, is parallel with the President of the United States telling everyone in the country that they had better be at the First Baptist Church this Sunday morning or they can expect a visit from the IRS.

Swinney is clear. Prayer isn’t mandatory. When he leads the team in prayer, objecting players are free to daydream or think about something else. Sort of like the rest of us do whenever someone from the Freedom From Religion Foundation starts lecturing about how they want to protect us all from those evil chaplains that are ruining this country.

You would have a very difficult time finding a profession that impacts young students more than a football coach. No one is denying that. Some of those players come from difficult backgrounds. Others have had it pretty easy. But they all share one thing in common. Hardship. Football is a sport of hardship. Sort of like life.

And when that hardship shows itself, it’s always nice to have someone around who cares. Someone with some answers. Christianity is not just truth. It is centered around the Truth, Jesus Christ (John 14:6). That means that all other truths fall under, not next to, Jesus.

Perhaps, deep down, that’s what is really irritating the Freedom From Religion Foundation. If they had it their way, the next time a defensive lineman got killed in a drunk driving accident three weeks into the season, the coach would keep his mouth shut and bring in a government ordained grief counselor who can comfort those grieving hearts about how life is a series of scientific coincidences and that we are all ruled by chaos as we march our way to nothingness. Survival of the fittest, baby. Dry those tears. Sounds comforting, huh?

No one wants to hear that.

But, regardless of what their beliefs are, kids like to play for coaches who care enough to pray with them and parents like knowing that their sons and daughters are under the influence of coaches who actually live out their faith. That’s why men like Dabo Swinney and Mark Richt are so loved, even by people who don’t own a Bible and haven’t been to church since Easter of 1995.

Dabo Swinney says that his team is open to players of all faiths.

If only the Freedom From Religion Foundation was so inclusive. When it comes to government officials, they are only open to people of no faith. How tolerant of them.

Organizations like this one remind us that atheism and agnosticism are religions of their own. Their savior is self. Their church is the mind. Their sacrament is nothingness. Their pulpit is the courtroom. Their hope goes no further than the grave they will be buried in.

So if it’s freedom from religion that this organization really wants, perhaps they should all begin their crusade by looking in the mirror and just leave Dabo alone.

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If I Could Spend Just One Day With Johnny Depp, I Would Prove To Him That Evil Really Does Exist

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Johnny Depp said something stupid. I know, it’s hard to imagine a celebrity doing such a thing but just trust me. The comment came in an interview where Depp was promoting his latest film Black Mass in which he plays murdering crime boss James ‘Whitey’ Bulger.

“Anybody and everybody, especially the families and the victims, can say he is just an evil person. I just don’t believe that exists.”

Before we rip into Mr. Depp, it should be noted that at least he said something. In a world where everything is offensive and no one really says anything worth listening to anymore, at least Johnny Depp spoke what was on his mind. As terribly misguided as his comment was, I’m glad that we still have at least a shred of free speech left in this country. As a sometimes speaker of stupidity, I fully support the right of people to say stupid things.

I just wish that I could spend a day with Johnny Depp. Maybe by the end of our meeting he would change his mind about the existence of evil.

We would start out by taking some time watching a replay of last night’s presidential debates where one or two evil men tried to convince us that they really are good. That would be Mr. Depp’s first lesson. Evil likes to dress up in good clothes.

After that, we would take a drive to the Wal-Mart in Griffin, Georgia. Really, any Wal-Mart will do but the one in Griffin, Georgia can’t be beat when it comes to displays of evil. I would introduce Mr. Depp to the lady driving in the wrong direction through the parking lot, the guy who took up three spaces because he didn’t want anyone to scratch his gently used Toyota Celica and the guy who stole The Fall Guy’s truck and likes to use it to try to run people over as they walk into this fine establishment. Through all of this, I would do my best to honestly share my thoughts with Mr. Depp so that he could learn the second lesson about evil. You don’t have to be a dictator or a mobster for the evil to be brought out of you. All it takes is a drive through the Wal-Mart parking lot.

After a few minutes of watching women beat their children with rolls of toilet paper and standing behind 57 people as we wait for the only one of the 100 cash registers that are opened that day, we would make our way back home. By then, my kids would be waiting for us. I’d explain to them that daddy had spent the day with Captain Jack Sparrow. I would then give each child seven packs of Fun Dip and ask Captain Jack if he would mind babysitting while a took a nap for an hour or so. By the time I woke up, Johnny would have learned the third lesson of evil. Kids don’t have to learn how to be evil. It just sort of comes out. But Fun Dip sure does speed up the process.

Finally, before saying our goodbyes, I would pull up an old You Tube clip to seal the deal for Johnny Depp. The minute he sees the orange and blue and hears the chant of, “War Eagle!” he will learn the final lesson about evil. Being evil never pays off in the end. It might get you a college scholarship to play football at Auburn but it never pays off.

War Eagle, Mr. Depp.

War Eagle.

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The Monday Morning Quarterback

There’s an unwritten rule about family conflict. You don’t let other people say honest painful truths to your family. Only you are allowed to say honest painful truths to your family.

This week’s edition of the Monday Morning Quarterback is written in that spirit. I am a Georgia Bulldog fan. They are my family, if you will. So that gives me the right to say a few honest, painful truths to the Bulldog Nation. Here goes.

If Georgia Bulldog fans devoted half as much energy to holding the federal government accountable as they do to trying to get Mark Richt fired, the last four U.S. Presidents would be in jail right now.

Remember this, Bulldog fans. Georgia was an average football team before Mark Richt showed up. The only thing that kept them from being below average was the fact that they somehow managed to recruit really good players. Really good players that played on 7 win teams in college and went on to win Super Bowls on their way to the Hall of Fame.

Several years ago, I watched an AFC Championship Game that looked like a UGA scrimmage. Players on both sidelines had formerly worn the red and black. And some of them were about to play in the Super Bowl. One of the commentators even wondered aloud how such talented players didn’t play on more successful teams in college.

I’m not trying to put down Georgia. I’m a fan, remember. All that I’m trying to do is bring Dawg fans back to reality. Take away the few years that Herschel Walker was terrorizing college defenses and Georgia is on level with Ole Miss. We are not Alabama. We never have been. Maybe one day we will be. But for now, we do more harm than good when we finish every year acting like our life, liberty and pursuit of happiness has been stolen just because we have to play Nebraska in the Outback Bowl again.

Sometimes winning takes time. Especially if you do it without giving Corvettes and cocaine to new recruits. But all of the Georgia fans who are demanding Mark Richt’s head don’t care about that. They just want a championship. Well sure, they care about the, ahem, student athletes too. Just as long as those student athletes play for Georgia. And as long as those student athletes don’t approach them on the street once their playing days are over.

Just be honest, angry Dawg fans. You don’t care about the players. You don’t even care about the University. If you did, you would be thrilled to see the continuity that we have enjoyed and the improvement that we have seen. But what you really care about is yourself and being able to tell the Georgia Tech fan in the cubicle next to you that you won a national title more recently than he did. You. As if you were in on any of the planning or the plays.

I hate losing. Obviously you do too.

But settle down.

Take a nap.

Hug your wife.

Play with your kids.

And leave Mark Richt alone. He’s better than anything we’ve ever had in Athens.

But if you must get angry and stir things up, please allow me to point your attention to that big white house in Washington D.C.

Go Dawgs!

The Monday Morning Quarterback

It wasn’t a good weekend for my favorite college football team. With that in mind and in order to prepare you for the time when defeat comes knocking at your door, I give you seven ways to tell that your favorite team is about to lose.

1. If your team, on more than one occasion, is less than five yards away from scoring a touchdown and comes away with zero points, it’s going to be a long day.

2. If, at any point during the game, even if you’re team is winning by 13 touchdowns with one second remaining, the defensive coordinator even whispers the words prevent defense, your team will find a way to lose.

3. If a player, coach, fan or distant relative of a fan from the opposing team has been recently murdered, diagnosed with a rare disease or lost his foot in a tractor accident, your team will lose. Heart warming stories always beat talent. Always.

4. Was a player for your team seen conversing with Jameis Winston just before kickoff? Was Winston heard using the terms spread, cover and bookie? My deepest sympathies.

5. While watching your favorite team’s pregame warm-ups, did your son ask you why you were watching the WNBA? Good luck. But it won’t do you any good. You’re going to lose.

6. Does your favorite team have a blue star on the side of their helmet and play on Thanksgiving every year? If so, they’re done.

7. Is your favorite team being cheered for by the owner and operator of this very site? If so, you’re team will most certainly lose.

Maybe I should start cheering for Georgia Tech after all.

Until next week, happy footballing.

 

The Monday Morning Quarterback

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As a pastor, there’s nothing like having to compete with a big game between two highly skilled teams that happen to be playing just as church starts. I’d like to begin this week’s Monday Morning Quarterback with a word of thanks to the NFL for making sure that two highly skilled teams were not playing Sunday morning at 9:30 EST. Instead, it was just the Falcons and the Lions. We had one of our larger crowds at church yesterday morning.

By the way, the NFL is scheduling games in London each year to try and introduce the sport to an international market and get new fans. So which genius in the NFL front office decided to use the Falcons and the Lions to represent their product? It’s sort of like trying to introduce someone to country music by giving them a Rascal Flatts cassette.

The Pittsburgh Steeler’s throwback uniforms are officially uglier than any other uniform in the history of mankind. Losing to the Steelers while they are wearing those uniforms is more embarrassing than getting pulled over and ticketed by a police officer on one of those Segway Scooters. The Colts lost to the Steelers while the Steelers were wearing those uniforms on Sunday. The Colts should just stop having a football team until they can talk Mr. Manning into coming back.

College Football

Let’s stop kidding ourselves and go ahead and make the college football playoffs as they should be. We could call it the Superior Entertainment Championship or SEC for short. Here’s how it would work. At the end of each season, you take the top three teams from the SEC West and the top team from the SEC East, make them play a couple of games and the last team standing is the winner. Just to keep everyone involved, the winner of the Big Ten would get to play Vanderbilt in the Outback Bowl every year.

One of the big problems in college football is that too many fans think that their team is better than it actually is. Here’s a quick test that I developed to help you to see if your team is bad.

1. Is the television play-by-play for your favorite team done by that same lady who does play-by-play for women’s volleyball?

2. Do the play-by-play announcers for your favorite team routinely start rambling on and on about their kids about midway through the second quarter?

3. Is your team a part of the ACC?

If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, your team is bad and should be forced to wear the Pittsburgh Steelers’ ugly uniforms.

Quick Hits

Somewhere in America, a man who looks just like Super Creepy Rob Lowe can no longer watch football games in public.

Georgia 24, Florida 14.

Until next week, happy footballing!

 

The 2014 Pastoral Ramblings Football Predictions

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Football season is officially underway. That means that you can quit pretending to care about baseball. It also means that it’s time for the 2014 Pastoral Ramblings Football Predictions. Here are 10 things that you can count on happening this year.

1. Glen Steward Godwin is number one on the FBI’s Most Wanted List. He’s escaped from prison a couple of times, he’s murdered and he’s trafficked drugs. Sometime within the next week, he’ll be caught. By mid November he’ll be playing for Auburn. In December, he’ll win the Heisman Trophy.

2. Michael Sam will be cut by the St. Louis Rams. By executive order, President Barack Obama will charge head coach Jeff Fisher with a hate crime and name a bridge after Michael Sam. ESPN will have wall to wall coverage.

3. Steve Spurrier will throw things. Judging by last night’s loss to Texas A&M, he’ll be throwing a lot of things.

4. An Ohio State fan will say the following statement at least four times this year.

“I hated to lose that game to ________________ (insert: Akron, Ohio University or Mercer). But we play in the Big 10 so we still have a shot.”

Somehow, a 4 loss Ohio State team will end up playing a 7 loss Notre Dame team in a New Year’s Day bowl.

5. At some point in the season the quarterback of your favorite team will say the following statement word for word.

“Well, you know, it was a tough loss but it is what it is so we’re just gonna have to take it one game at a time.”

6. Stanford will beat Cal on a last second hail mary only to have the touchdown overturned by the American Atheist Society for using offensive religious terminology.

7. The Dallas Cowboys will lose seven games this year. You won’t be able to turn on your television or radio without hearing about the Dallas Cowboys.

8. A Georgia Tech fan will lose 75% of his Facebook fans simply for saying, “This is our year,” after the Jackets beat Presbyterian by three touchdowns. The remaining 25% of those Facebook friends will keep sending him Farmville requests.

9. There will be one week where the most interesting game on television will be Hawaii versus Army. You’ll watch your very first WNBA game that day. And then you’ll wish that you had watched Hawaii versus Army instead.

10. Georgia will go undefeated and win the national championship. Some Georgia fan will still want to fire Coach Mark Richt.

Enjoy the football season, everyone.

Oh, and Go Dawgs!

Settle Down, Sport

Earlier this week the Atlanta Falcons played the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football. In an absolute shocker to the experts on ESPN, the Falcons won. For once, I was proud of my favorite team.

I had a blast watching the game, not just because of the outcome but also because of my conversations with friends on Facebook and Twitter.

There were jabs from my friend Shane, who would cheer for the Taliban if Peyton Manning was their quarterback.

There were the usual shots from my friend Stormy, a guy who finds the most evil team in any particular sport and makes them his favorite.  He would cheer for the Taliban even without Peyton Manning.

And my friends Dave and Jamie who, although they didn’t have a dog in the fight, were just enjoying a good game.

During a big game like this, there’s always another group of people who are using social media. These are the people who are appalled that NFL fans paint their faces and carry signs to games but do not paint their faces and carry signs to church.

Their status updates read something like this.

Donnie Dravecky When’s the last time you gave someone a high five at church? Oh, but you’ll do it over a field goal?!!!!  SMH

Patricia Sullingham I’ll bet 80,000 people wouldn’t show up for a church service on Monday night.  :\

There’s no doubt that sports is an idol in our culture.  People spend too much money on it, athletes are worshiped and kids are brought up believing the false gospel of sports that says a scholarship will bring salvation. I get that things are out of whack. But is it just sports? Isn’t family, or even church an idol for some people too?  While we’re blowing up sports, should we aim our social network nuclear arsenal at those two institutions as well?

Patty Samson Donaldson Oh, so you’re taking pictures of our food again. And I see you had chicken. If only we would feast on the Scriptures instead of fowl.

TaylorAnd Trevor Thornbury So you had fun at the park with your kids, huh? Well, while you were playing Christians were being persecuted. But have fun.

Instead of using nukes, Jesus used a scalpel.

In John 12, Jesus is enjoying a meal with friends. His friend Martha was doing her usual serving while Lazarus was sitting with Jesus. Another friend, Mary, did something crazy.  She took some really expensive ointment and used it to clean Jesus’ feet. Jesus’ disciples were there and one of them responded in a way that, on the surface, seemed very missional.

But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?”  John 12:4-5 (ESV)

“Yeah,” we might have tweeted along with Judas, “doesn’t she realize how many mouths she could have fed if she sold that stuff instead of pouring it all over the floor?”

SMH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 🙁

But John clues us in on the motive behind Judas’ attack.

He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. John 12:6 (ESV)

Judas didn’t care about the poor and he wasn’t being missional.  He was trying to cover up his own sins by accusing Mary.  The same thing can happen when we use big sporting events as our own personal platform for reminding people of how much they don’t love Jesus.  But where does it all end?  How many people went to hell in the time it took to tweet, “How many people went to hell during that last touch down?”  And why even bother with Facebook and Twitter anyway?  Shouldn’t the Internet just be used to watch Billy Graham clips on YouTube?

Jesus, with scalpel in hand, tells Judas to back off by digging beneath the surface to the source of the problem.

Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”  John 12:7-8 (ESV)

Jesus knew that there was more to the story than perfume, money and the poor.  He knew that Mary was worshiping him. And he knew that it is possible to talk a good game about helping the poor and still not worship him.

We can try as hard as we want to remove idols but unless we’re replacing them by worshiping Jesus they will simply sprout back up in a different form. This is why Paul tells us to “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you” (Colossians 3:5) as well as telling us to, “put on the new self” (Colossians 3:10). And then he tells us, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17).

If you’re not a football fan, have a great weekend doing what you do and do it for the glory of God.

If you are a football fan, enjoy this weekend’s games for the glory of God.

Unless, of course, you plan on cheering for Denver.

This post was originally written on September 20, 2012. It was updated on August 29, 2013.