Tag Archives: church scandals

The Triumph of Ray Lewis: God’s Work and Glory or Typical Christian Spin?

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“To the family: If you knew, if you really knew the way God works, he don’t use people who commits anything like that for his glory. No way. It’s the total opposite.” Ray Lewis to CBS Sports before Super Bowl

After the Baltimore Ravens won the Super bowl in 2000 Ray Lewis, their Pro-Bowl Linebacker and MVP of Super Bowl XXXV and two of his friends were involved in a fight after a post-super bowl party. The fight turned out to be an ugly affair and when it was done two men lay dead, the blood of one in Lewis’s limo. The suit Lewis was wearing during the party was never found. Lewis ended up taking a plea bargain in which Lewis plead guilty to a misdemeanor count of obstruction of justice in exchange for his testimony against his companions and the dropping of double homicide charges.

Since that time Lewis has distinguished himself on the football field, won many accolades and done much charity and community work. He has been active in church and worked for the benefit of many people. For all of those things he should be commended. He is beloved in Baltimore, not merely because he has brought football glory to the city but because of those acts of charity and community involvement.

At the same time his silence about the murders, in which he is one of three men living to know the truth about what happened on that night is troubling. Even more so when I saw his interview before the Super Bowl as well as other comments made back in 2006 to Sports Illustrated in The Gospel According to Ray http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1108943/1/index.htm as his image rehabilitation efforts had propelled him back into the favor of fans and the league.

Do I believe that people can change? Yes. Do I believe that God loves and forgives sinners? By all means. Do I value Ray Lewis as a football legend, man of great civic charity and even faith? Yes. Do I have questions that are unanswered about the unsolved murders and Lewis’s involvement in them? Yes.

In assessing Lewis and his legacy I agree with Boomer Esiason who at the end of the interview this Sunday commended to Sterling Sharpe, the man who conducted the interview: “It’s a complex legacy that we’re talking about here…Because he was involved in a double murder.  And I’m not so sure that he gave us all the answer that we were looking for.  He knows what went on there.  And he can obviously just come out and say it.  He doesn’t want to say it.  He paid off the families.  I get all that.  That’s fine.  But that doesn’t take away from who he is as a football player.  And I appreciate you going down there and asking him that direct question.  I’m not so sure I buy the answer.”

However, for me the questions are even deeper than Lewis’s individual guilt, innocence and involvement in the murders. That is a big issue of its own but I see a bigger issue and that deals with Christians who are willing to bury the murders because Lewis has found God, been successful on the field and done many wonderful things for his community and the disenfranchised in it.

The problem that I see is not new. It is a problem that has been the bane of American Evangelical Christianity for at least a generation. That problem is the “Prosperity Gospel” which puts a premium on earthly success as a measure of the blessing of God on an individual, business, church or organization. In fact, that message basically has been used and abused by a multitude of preachers who have committed crimes against God and man, adultery, murder, greed, avarice, lies. You name it a prosperity preacher has done it and found a way to excuse their sin based on God’s “blessing” of their ministry and earthly success.

The sad thing it is not just preachers, nor is it limited to the “prosperity” crowd. The banal covering up of crimes in order to protect legacies of preachers, churches or popular “Christian leaders” is epidemic in the life of American churches. The incidents are so many that they have become numbing. One only has to look across the denominational spectrum to see the terrible effects ranging from the Roman Catholic sexual abuse scandals to unseemly behaviors by church leaders in other denominations to see the rot that has been covered with a veneer of righteousness and deception which cloaks their misdeeds under the vail of temporal power, opulence, political influence and material success.

In his interview Lewis made the comment that “if you really knew the way God works, he don’t use people who commits anything like that for his glory.” Actually Lewis is wrong on this. According to scripture God used many unseemly men for his glory, but the key for those that are honored in scripture is that they acknowledged their sins and sought forgiveness.

I think that the most notable of these was King David, a man who killed the husband of a woman that he was conducting an adulterous affair to cover up her pregnancy. David tried to cover it up but was uncovered by the a prophet named Nathan. David repented and Psalm 51 documents that repentance. However endured an awful price from his sin. The baby died and his son led a rebellion against him. He was forbidden from building the Temple, despite scripture’s proclamation that David was “a man after God’s own heart.”

My issue with what has gone on with Ray Lewis is the fact that the records for his court settlements and pleas are sealed as are the records of his out of court cash settlement with the family of one of the dead men. The truth is known by Lewis and is being covered up by him even while he proclaims his own victimhood, in the 2006 Sports Illustrated article that being booed and criticized was like being “crucified.”

But that is par for the course in modern American Christianity. If Ray Lewis’s actions  were an anomaly it might be more remarkable, but they have become all too common, even the now disgraced former Cardinal Archbishop of Los Angeles Roger Mahoney is spinning his cover ups of the sexual abuse scandals and claiming victimhood for himself following his suspension from public ministry. No wonder people are fleeing the Church in droves and that the fastest growing segment of the religious belief are “the nones” or those with no religious preference.

The involvement in and cover up of what happened do not take away from Ray Lewis’s remarkable on field accomplishments. He is one of the most gifted and accomplished football players who ever played the game. However, when it is all said and done is that all life is about and is that all that Lewis or any of us want as our legacy?

Peace

Padre Steve+

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“Rushing” to Whack Weiner, “Revering” Palin and other Loose Thoughts

WARNING: Alan Shore Alert! Yes this will be a tongue in cheek and somewhat over the top observation of American life, religion and politics that you might see in the closing arguments of Denny Crane’s friend Alan Shore (James Spader) from the television series Boston Legal. I guarantee that some will see the humor and some will be mortally offended. Nonetheless one must appreciate the irony in all of these things.   

American life, especially the “Unholy Trinity” of politicians, pundits and preachers has become the theater of the absurd.   In the midst of massive unemployment, rising food prices, falling home values and a possible default on the National Debt at home, three wars a raging with others waiting in the cue, natural disasters in the form of massive earthquakes, devastating Tsunami, epic floods, tons of tornados, winter weather in the California summer and ponies named Wildfire burning across the great southwest our leaders twiddle their turnip-twaddlers and make themselves look like fools.  Of course those that rise up to defend their favorite “American Idol” often look even more foolish, as they cast their loyal devotion upon the waters of betrayal.

Meanwhile the Chicago Cubs continue to implode thus ensuring that a loving God will not pronounce the end of the world until the fans of the Cubbies end the curse and taste a World Series championship.  The Deity is after all very gracious and loving and much more patient than most sportswriters.

Of course the really big news this last week or so has not been that major problems that we face as a nation and for that matter world, but rather the narcissistic behavior of politicians, pundits and preachers.  Let’s face it we could be having grown up conversations about how to make things work again but neither political party seems to be interested. We could hallow the sacrifice of our veterans and our war dead. We could make honest assessments of what our national interests are as current military personnel sacrifice themselves in wars that no-one seems to have thought out.

Instead what do we get? We get Congressman Eric Weiner who leaves his wiener hanging out in cyberspace and then plays the victim and lies about it before making an even more absurd appearance in his “apology.” The Republicans, with the exception of a few pundits have wisely obeyed Napoleon’s maxim “never interrupt your opponent when he is making a mistake” in regard to Weiner’s wiener.  Democrats like Nancy “I think I did go to Catholic School and there is something called sin” Pelosi suddenly discovered her missing moral center and demanded an ethics investigation of Weiner and his wiener as did many of her Democratic House colleagues.  Meanwhile conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart who broke the story showed the picture to Opie and Anthony promised not to release the X-rated pictures and instead showed them to shock jocks Opie and Anthony.  After Breitbart left the set the two miscreants found a screen capture from their show and displayed the image of Weiner’s wiener on the web, but who can blame them? While I have not seen the picture I presume that Weiner did not send out a picture shortly after he came out of the pool or shower so there was probably no shrinkage involved.

Of course leading conservative pundit Rush Limbaugh weighed in and while whacking Weiner’s display of said wiener was asked by a caller about his own attempt to bring Viagra back across the border without a prescription. I don’t think that El Rushbo was married at the time and since the primary use of Viagra is to enhance sexual pleasure I assume that the paragon of virtuosity was using said Viagra for a little extracurricular sex.  Not that there is anything wrong with that between consenting adults so long as you aren’t holding others to a higher standard than yourself. Anyway Limbaugh took umbrage to the caller and exploded in a fit of what might be called “Rod rage” making himself look like a big angry wiener.

Speaking of pundits, Glenn Beck has decided to charge people to watch his videos on his website. I figure since his audience had dissipated on the Fox News Channel and that he is leaving that venue that he figures that the people that don’t want to watch him for free will not want to watch him for money.

Of course while this was going on former Senator and Vice Presidential candidate John Edwards was busy being indicted in Federal court. Edwards you might remember got caught in a bit of a Hollywood style tryst by the National Enquirer while his faithful and longsuffering wife Elizabeth battled terminal cancer, really classy if you ask me… not. So Edwards says the actions that he was being charged with were wrong but not criminal. And he was an attorney?  Can I go challenge the North Carolina Bar? I know that I can do better than that.

Meanwhile in Massachusetts, former Alaska Governor, Republican Vice Presidential candidate, reality TV show star and darling of the future ruling theocracy totally messes up history regarding the tale of Paul Revere. Instead of gracefully saying “I goofed” after being called on this she called the question that she answered a “gotcha” question and made herself the victim of the evil “lamestream media.”  Three days later she defended her answer in an interview with Fox News Sunday’s Chris Wallace who listened incredulously, probably wondering how she gets paid to be a Fox News commentator. Of course that hard “gotcha” question was this “What have you been doing on your visit to Boston?”  Despite this her supporters have attempted to edit the Wikipedia article on Paul Revere to make it comply with their idol’s twisted tale.  But to quote Napoleon again “In politics stupidity is not a handicap.”

Of course the politicians and pundits can have their fun but they have plenty of company from preachers far and wide. Out in California Harold Camping has revised his prediction regarding the details of the end of the world, but that like Harold is “old” news. Since according to Carlos Zambrano the Cubbies are playing at triple-A level that there is no chance of them winning the World Series this year making Camping’s prediction as close to reality as Sarah Palin’s history and Anthony Weiner’s denials.

Down in Georgia anti-gay mega-church pastor “Bishop” Eddie Long continues to defend himself from accusations that he had “intimate relations” with four male congregants who were teenagers at the time even after reaching an out of court settlement.  The contents were not made public unlike Weiner’s wiener but one can bet that a huge payout with lots of zeros in it was made to settle the case before a jury got hold of it.

Of course Camping and Long are just new chapters in the history of salacious scandals involving American church leaders across the denominational and even religious spectrum.  In our religion rich environment the charlatans and criminals of every denomination and place on the theological spectrum give every good clergyman and woman a bad name and even sully the name of God.

Speaking of not wanting to sully the name of God I had to get a lawyer to get me out of another speeding ticket incurred back in April courtesy of a North Carolina State Trooper. There is a reason that I have not so much as a Jesus fish on my 2001 Honda CR-V.  I don’t want God getting the blame for anything that I do behind the wheel.  I thought that just being a combat vet with lots of military and baseball team stickers on my back windshield would protect me.  Maybe I need a North Carolina National Guard bumper sticker and start giving to the State Trooper Association. When I was in college and in the California Army National Guard I had a Guard bumper sticker. Half of the senior NCOs and Officers in my unit were California Highway Patrol or LAPD. Despite constantly breaking the speed limit in front of cops I never got a ticket while people going slower than me got pulled over.  The question is can it work here?

As for me I won’t be throwing stones my glass house. After all I’m not a sociopath I was a history major.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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