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SPORT AS CULTURAL ICON: THE WHY AND HOW OF IT

 

By James Wilson

 

High performance sports function as an icon for the larger culture.  What happens to the teams and their competitive members speaks to all of us, which is why we become dedicated, excited, and enraged at the same time when the topic is sports.  That said, it explains nothing.  Why do sports function as cultural icon?  No, really.

 

The 2014 film, When the Game Stands Tall, supplies insight as well as direction. The climactic scene occurs during the championship game when the fictional Chris Ryan, having tied the state record for most touchdowns scored rushing, is poised to break that record with seconds remaining.  His team has possession and can simply run out the clock for the victory but Chris is handed the ball.  Instead of attempting to score and risking a game-endangering fumble he takes a knee.  There is time for one more attempt; again Chris takes a knee.  He explains later he could not put himself ahead of the team that brought him to this place.  He sacrifices his individual interest for the good of his community.  No one makes him do this; it is his conviction and his professed faith in Jesus Christ that motivates him to lay aside his own glory.

 

Human beings are uniquely designed for community.  We are made in the image of a God who exists in Trinitarian community, as mutually submissive and supportive Father, Son and Spirit.  Yes, the Father is Lord who wills sacrificial atonement, but Jesus declares on the eve-of-His-sacrifice He could petition Abba and twelve legions of angels would be dispatched to spare Him the Cross.  He freely decides – instead – to make the sacrifice for which He was sent.  The Father is just as free to sacrifice His agenda should the Son call for help and – of course – the Spirit comes as He intends at Pentecost but only because the Son has sent this ultimate fulfillment of His mission.  Just so, men and women face repeated opportunities to live for themselves – as the serpent successfully urges in the Garden over a piece of fruit – or to live in the image of the self-sacrificing God Who envisions and creates them.

 

High performance athletics of all kinds simply depict and place this reality in clearest perspective, if we will but look and receive.  Athletes make moment-to-moment choices to live for themselves or give of themselves.  They do this on a worldwide stage, adored by fans whichever choices they make.  They stand atop a unique human platform from which they influence their culture well or badly.

 

Animals exhibit virtually all the attributes we claim exclusively for humanity from language to emotion to activity directed toward future achievement – with the exception of covenant.  Persons are uniquely gifted with the capacity for voluntary association with others; animal species may or may not be instinctively social but we make that decision from occasion to occasion and association to association.  Animals react to stimulation in equal force – whether positive or negative – but only humans respond in reciprocal rather than reactive ways.  Animals relate to mates, children, and packmates in uniform and continuous ways; only humans develop and change their character and personality in response to their associations.  These three elements – voluntary association, reciprocal response, and developmental relationships – are the building blocks of covenant community.  Sport is economical and iconic because it exhibits covenant in such stark relief.

 

Take baseball, football (all types), or basketball. Fans – and I am one – thrill to the player who hits the most home runs, pitches the most victories, or steals the most bases in baseball.  We thrill to a long broken-field run in American football, the quarterback who consistently hits his receiver, and the receiver who keeps bringing the ball down in heavy traffic.  We marvel at the basketball forward charging defenders for the perfect lay-up, or the more amazing three-pointer with nothing but net.  But we emote for individual achievements from within our tendency toward self-obsession and self-aggrandizement if we fail to see the reality behind them.

 

Reality?  The structure of the games speaks to the team effort involved.  There are no no-hitters without eight players fielding pitches that are hit, no touchdown runs without the sacrifice of blockers punishing their bodies by colliding with defenders, and no points scored on the court without passers, rebounders and screeningers making place and moment for the shooter.  Every season ends with a championship team lauded as the team that functioned in such harmony and mutual support the players seemed to play as one.  Competitive sports display human beings at their best; they can win – over time – in no other way.

 

James A. Wilson is the author of Living As Ambassadors of Relationships, The Holy Spirit and the End Times, and Kingdom in Pursuit – available at local bookstores or by e-mailing him at praynorthstate@gmail.com

SNOWDEN

 

By James Wilson

 

Given President Donald Trump’s ambivalent relationship with intelligence agencies perhaps he will revisit the case of National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.  If anyone accused of wrongdoing deserves a pardon and invitation to testify before Congress with immunity it is Snowden.

 

Edward Snowden was a twenty-nine-year-old computer geek of astronomical intelligence in 2013.  Medically discharged from the army rangers he went to work for the CIA and later for the NSA.  He resigned from both agencies when his ethics balked at participating in certain agency activities, but his essential patriotism drove him back to them as a contractor in the War on Terror.  Receiving one merit promotion after another, he found himself deeper and deeper inside the most massive gathering of personal information in history.  At some point – the recent film of his adventure depicts it as the moment he realized his girlfriend was under active surveillance – he realized he could not live with himself unless he revealed to Americans what their government was doing under cover of thwarting terrorists.

 

Several points should be stressed.  One is there is no legitimate philosophical connection to be made between Snowden and Bradley Manning.  Manning was an American soldier who betrayed many Americans to death when he released military secrets in Afghanistan and whose sentence was commuted by the same Barack Obama who relentlessly pursued Snowden while in office.  Nobody died as a result of Edward Snowden’s behavior; on the contrary, he triggered a national debate over the legitimate limits of government surveillance.  He revealed only that the culture of surveillance had assumed Orwellian proportions.

 

Another is that Snowden carefully couched his revelations so that his loved ones never knew what he knew or intended; he did this to ensure the hammer would fall on none but himself.  There was no benefit to him other than recovering his integrity.  He sacrificed a good job and professional – albeit secretive – honor few could hope to attain.  He was a power broker who gave it all up for the intense love he bore and still bears for his country and people.  Living in a Russian airport is hardly the way to enjoy ill-gotten gains.  While he has better accommodations today reality remains he lost far more than we can imagine when he became a fugitive from the American government.

 

Finally, he makes no effort to defame the patriotism and motives of those seeking to destroy him as they destroyed others.  To the contrary, he contends it is the very authenticity of their patriotism – stripped of ethical boundaries – that makes them so dangerous.  Their motives are good and noble, but they have lost their moral compass; not even pure motives can redeem the 1984ish world this culture of surveillance creates.  As Oliver Stone got it right with his picture Snowden gets it right with his rebellion.

 

These patriots he cites are what I call true believers. They are the stuff of which cults are made.  They believe something true – that America is the greatest nation on God’s earth and well worth defending against all comers – but they add to that (like the Pharisees of old) the notion of “by any means necessary.”  They forget America is both the gift and creation of Almighty God, as the Founding Documents, Fathers, and every president prior to Barack Obama proclaim.  That truth makes us accountable to Him and to His methods for our preservation, not the idol of emergency.

 

Of course, it is the American people who are beneficiaries of the promises of God and accountable for obedience to His commands for organizing our national life and culture.  Polls taken show a substantial majority of us believe him an American hero.  But a similar majority believe he should be prosecuted under the Espionage Act.  We cannot have it both ways.  He cannot be both hero and criminal; yet many seem content with both answers.  It is the government we need to hold accountable, not the voice crying in the wilderness.

 

Benjamin Franklin famously said, “He who gives up freedom for security deserves neither freedom nor security.”  Albert Einstein shortened it to, “deserves neither and loses both.”  But God has the last and best word.  He simply says – whether through the Old Testament’s Jeremiah or Jesus’ Luke 18 parable of the widow and the unjust judge – He has wonderful plans for us and to access them we need only seek His face as a lifestyle – or a turnabout leading to a lifestyle.  God’s offer has no expiration date, but time is running critically short.  Snowden’s story is a modern parable sounding this trumpet.  He ought to be honored rather than prosecuted.

 

James A. Wilson is the author of Living As Ambassadors of Relationships and The Holy Spirit and the End Times, and Kingdom in Pursuit – available at local bookstores or by e-mailing him at praynorthstate@gmail.com

HACKING TO THE APOCALYPSE


By James Wilson

 

The shockwaves passing through the bodies of progressive Americans – and their brethren throughout the western world – at the victory of Donald Trump over Hilary Clinton was so earth shattering it demanded an answer other than that ordinary Americans are fed up with decades of their self-identified betters charting their course.  The answer was of course available – it was the Russians.  This writer thought we had done enough blaming the Russians for any trouble we had during the Cold War – when it was Republicans who thought them the root of all evil – but I am wrong again.

 

Don’t misunderstand me.  It appears the Russian government did indeed hack the email accounts of Democratic Party leaders and the result was thousands of emails released via WikiLeaks.  These burglarized messages revealed the degree of ugliness and duplicity that have always been the Clintons’ stock-in-trade and are now typical of the party they have remade in their image.  There is still debate over whether or to what degree these revelations may have tilted the balance of voter power toward Trump.  What no one is debating is whether or not the information was fabricated – by the Russians or anyone else.  All they did was turn on the lights and watch the cockroaches scramble.

 

Again – don’t misunderstand.  I am not okay with what the Russians did and no American should be.  No foreign nation has right or excuse to tamper with the American political process.  But for the losers of 2016 to feign righteous indignation over election tampering when they made an art form of such tampering in Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, and San Francisco – for example – for over a century is laughable.

 

It is widely believed the Chicago machine of Richard J. Daley gave the 1960 election to John F. Kennedy by tilting battleground state Illinois through fraudulent votes and vote counting.  There is ample reason – and documentation – behind the adage that in Chicago one votes early and often.  It is history that Richard Nixon considered legal action and decided to avoid traumatizing the nation by graciously conceding.  It is appropriate to say of the Russians – as Joseph said to his brothers in Genesis 50:20 – “You meant it for evil but God meant it for good.”

 

One more time – please don’t get me wrong.  I believe in a God who works all things together for good – ultimately – for those who love Him and are called according to His purposes.  JFK himself was never implicated in election fraud and I am convinced he inspired our nation as Nixon could not have done.  I am glad he was the one taking the oath of office, but I deeply desire to see an end to the routine manipulation of elections by the powerful who think themselves better suited to reign.  The best way to begin that ending is to laugh at the self-righteous who whine about those who call American electoral integrity into question.  Give me a break!

 

Let’s remember how just days ago Americans laughed at President Trump after Pew researchers assured us this election was clean of fraud – other than what those pesky Russkies did.  Trump had called for studies of the popular vote disparity – about 2.8 million – between himself and Hilary Clinton, a disparity sparking renewed calls to dump the electoral college for giving him victory despite trailing in the popular vote.  Now the studies are in and they reveal – per The Washington Times – some two million illegals registered to vote.  (How many of those should we reckon voted for Trump?)  Adding in the registered dead and people registered in two states, fraudulent votes easily tips the pendulum.

 

This kind of corruption is not a recent phenomenon.  Democrats were legendary for machine politics in the 19th century from Andrew Jackson to Boss Tweed.  Republicans showed their flare for it in Philadelphia for decades and across the nation during the Grant and Harding Administrations.  No party has a lock on corruption, although Democrats have been the primary beneficiaries in recent decades while loudly accusing their rivals of suppressing voters for racial reasons at the same time.

 

Reality is the man was right when he said power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  The issue is as old as the serpent in the garden.  It adds nothing to the debate when National Security Adviser James Clapper – asked to show evidence of Russian hacking – tells then-president elect Trump to take his word for it.  This is the same national security adviser who asked the nation to take his word for it that Iran would negotiate a nuclear treaty in good faith and ISIS was the JV team of terrorists.  Donald Trump can be forgiven if he pulls a Cuba Gooding – from the movie, Jerry Maguire – saying, “Show me the money.”

 

The rest of us Americans can be forgiven if we too pull a Cuba; yet it is far more important for us to become people of repentance, regardless of which side we take in a partisan debate.  The first act of repentance should be a commitment to seek and follow the truth – wherever the pursuit may lead.  If Republicans or conservatives we need to be as outraged as any Democrat over foreign interference with our electoral process – at the same time praising God that no real harm came from it.  If Democrats or progressives we need to grow up and show some grace – having lost fair and square whatever the Russians have done.  Both sides need to remove logs from our eyes before we do eye surgery on others.

 

Donald Trump won the election because the American people are fed up with the culture of death – iconized by Planned Parenthood selling baby body parts and terror attacks our government refuses to call terror attacks.  He won because we have lived in that culture too long and are tired of government being the most lawless constituency in our land – iconized by citizens forced to choose between exercising freedom or faith in daily life.  The next act of repentance would be a re-commitment by ordinary Americans to hold ourselves accountable for the culture in which we live – Donald Trump is neither Messiah nor anti-Christ any more than was Barack Obama.  The only thing hacking America to Armageddon is American self-righteousness coupled with rampant tribalism.

 

The third and most important act of repentance would be to embrace the reality that we are capable of neither sustained accountability nor pursuit of truth on our own.  Jesus Christ claims to be the Way and the Truth and the Life.  Our history shouts that we prosper when we submit to Him and see hard times when we do not.  The truth leaps from its pages when we contemplate the three Great Awakenings that united us as a nation in the 18th Century, forged our national character in the 19th, and restored our ideals in the 20th.  We can marvel at the times Washington’s army was miraculously saved when its general prayed, or how the Civil War turned at Gettysburg mere weeks after Lincoln called the nation to repentance and prayer, or the tank traps exposed by a sudden dust storm in Iraq, but we cannot honestly imagine these things happen because we are so good.  They happen because God – in Christ and through His Spirit – is so good.  We need a radicalized re-commitment to Him – beginning in the churches – if we would become the people we are created to become.

 

Are we hacking our way toward the Apocalypse?  We are indeed.  The word means revelation.  It means to encounter what is really real – and ultimately good.

 

James A. Wilson is the author of Living As Ambassadors of Relationships, The Holy Spirit and the End Times, and Kingdom in Pursuit – available at local bookstores or by e-mailing him at praynorthstate@gmail.com

DEFUNDING THE UN: AN IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS COME

 

By James Wilson

 

American taxpayers contribute four hundred million dollars yearly to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine.  The funds buy school textbooks for Palestinian children.  The textbooks – supplied for all ages – call the founding of modern Israel a disaster of biblical proportions and look forward to the “end of days” when Muslims will eliminate Jews from the earth.  They are shot through and through with incitements to extermination Israelis in particular and Jews in general.  Hitler would be proud of his spiritual children.

 

The issue is not whether Palestinians are entitled to teach their children whatever they wish, however disgusting that may be to civilized people.  The issue is co-opting people who do not share these views to fund them.  The vast majority of Americans are repulsed by the hate with which these books and their teachers indoctrinate the children under their control.  There are now several initiatives navigating Congress; some would defund the UN altogether while others would do so until and unless the organization backs off its most egregious anti-Israel activities.

 

The notion of defunding the United Nations has been around since the fifties.  It has gained and lost traction over the years, depending on how outrageous this or that UN act is perceived and by how many people.  Until recently its popularity was limited to fringe groups within the American public but it is now an idea whose time has come.

 

The United States gives not millions but billions each year to the United Nations.  We are the most generous supporters of UNICEF, the UN’s educational and relief agency that just declared – against all logic, history, archeology and anthropology – that Jews have no connection to Jerusalem, its Temple Mount, or any other sacred sites in their homeland of four thousand years.  The monies we give to UNWRA fund more than textbooks; the agency has been exposed multiple times for storing Hamas weapons in its Gaza facilities.  America provides the free use of prime Manhattan real estate and the buildings we built on it to house the UN; we supply one quarter of the budget for this collage of some two hundred nations who collectively supply the remainder.  The simple math is we give roughly seventy times the average assessment.

 

The trigger for this latest move is the incredible Security Council Resolution 2334 that declares Israel in illegal occupation of Judea, Samaria, and Jerusalem.  The Obama Administration instructed its ambassador to abstain from the vote, allowing the measure to pass with a 14-0 margin.  The resolution cites features of the Geneva Convention that do not even exist – I read it – as its justification.  It ignores the fact that Israel simply re-took land it had owned for millennia after those who occupied it at that time attacked Israel.  A month earlier the General Assembly adopted six resolutions condemning Israel and claiming – like UNICEF – she had no historic ties – again defying logic, history, and science – to lands claimed by Palestinians.  America’s current government – Administration and Congress – are signaling they have had enough.

 

I am a proud supporter of Israel, as are most Americans.  However, Israel’s interests are not – standing alone – sufficient grounds to defund the United Nations.  The long history of a UN living rent free on land belonging to a nation of whom a majority find UN values repugnant and UN behavior arrogant beyond belief is more than sufficient grounds.  The American Congress and her new administration are coming to this stance for the first time.  They see the United Nations turning a blind eye to honor killings and using children for soldiers and wives against their will at the same time they allow one party to a conflict to store weapons in UN facilities while denouncing the other side for protecting its borders and civilian population.  They see that body catering to military dictators and totalitarian theocracies while ganging up on the only democratically elected government – the jury is still out on Iraq – in the Middle East.

 

The UN was conceived in great promise as a guarantor of peace on the earth.  Unfortunately for the believers in a secularized peace the organization has come to symbolize not hope for peace but the rage of the biggest bully on the schoolyard.  The lesson to be learned is that the sole guarantor of peace on earth is the One who gave His life to procure it.  It is imperative that humankind understand there is no peace on our own terms; alternatives are idols that lead only to the chaos we currently see.  Let us sacrifice our sacred cows – our idols – today, beginning with the United Nations.

 

James A. Wilson is the author of Living As Ambassadors of Relationships, The Holy Spirit and the End Times, and Kingdom in Pursuit – available at local bookstores or by e-mailing him at praynorthstate@gmail.com

THE PRESIDENT ON IMMIGRATION: A LITTLE CONTEXT PLEASE — AND A BIT OF HONESTY


By James Wilson

 

The temporary ban on immigration from seven predominantly Muslim nations: Is it a signature act of fulfilled promise or the end of civilization as Americans know it?  Before deciding we ought to actually read the order (I have) and place it in its context.  A little honesty would be a helpful starting point.

 

The order says nothing about singling out one religion or another, detaining legal residents at airports, or denying entry to greencard holders and dual citizens – all of whom are lawfully entitled to enter the country.  There was overkill on the part of some consular and immigration agents – inevitable in the first chaotic days of a policy sea change – all now acknowledged and corrected.  It stresses that nothing in its contents should be construed to alter, over-ride, or ignore existing law.  That is its content within the context of multiple terror attacks by both legal and illegal immigrants; the new president seeks to address this bloody context.

 

It says nothing about preferring Christians for refugee resettlement, although it does say refugees will be prioritized depending on their risk status.  It is well documented that Christians in these nations are at higher risk and with fewer alternatives for resettlement than their Muslim neighbors; acknowledging the facts does not constitute favoring one religion over another.

 

In the honesty department, the record shows mainstream media continuing to report all those people now being admitted – as both law and the order expect – are still being denied entry; such reports are completely false.  The record currently shows reports of an angry president hanging up the phone on Australia’s Prime Minister Turnbull are fake news; both Trump and Turnbull have said so.  That same record shows Barack Obama declared that same travel ban regarding the same seven predominantly Muslim nations between 2011 and 2016.  There was no public outcry – especially from the film community – when it was their anointed one doing the banning-for-national-security purposes.

 

Speaking of the film community – I believe as strongly as anyone in the First Amendment; I cheerlead for film stars speaking their mind, whether or not they speak as I would.  However, I am a bit weary of the hypocrisy of these same film stars surrounding themselves with their friends and then applauding themselves for their courage in speaking out when no reaction is anticipated other than that applause.  Let these fearless ones welcome to the platform someone from their midst who follows a different drummer – a conservative or even a Christian drummer – and there will be reason for applause.  There are such in their community, but they are rarely given a voice at awards events.

 

Still in the honesty department, let me say I can find no historical precedent for an outgoing president working to systematically derail an incoming leader – I refer to last minute rules to hamstring Mr. Trump’s promise to defund Planned Parenthood and dig out from under Obamacare; I refer as well to December’s attack on Israeli sovereignty in the United Nations.  It is an equally unprecedented spectacle when a one-week-out-of-office former president verbally attacks the new guy; no former president has ever shown such a lack of class.  Yes, Barack Obama has the same first amendment rights as Meryl Streep and David Harbour, but persons of integrity stay silent – at least temporarily – from his position.

 

Let’s get real – Ronald Reagan tried and failed to fix a sick system thanks to the dishonesty of the progressives owning the Congress at that time and led by Rep. Thomas “Tip” O’Neill.  Succeeding presidents of both parties pledged to fix it and did nothing.  The system is broken on multiple levels from letting illegals in like Noah’s Flood – a small percentage of whom account for a large percentage of America’s most violent crimes – and legal immigrants – not properly vetted – a small percentage of whom account for bloodbaths from the Boston Marathon to the Orlando, Fort Hood, and San Bernardino massacres.  Donald Trump made it a keystone of his presidential campaign to remake the immigration system from top to bottom.  Even someone with an agenda must be willing to give him a chance to do that if his motive is honest.

 

Let’s get even more real.  So far as I can discover, Judge Robart in Seattle cited no breach of law in granting his restraining order; Washington State’s attorney general complained of no breach of law when he brought suit.  Attorney General Ferguson claimed his state was hurt in its ability to operate its universities and collect tax revenue from the restricted visa holders.  Since when does a state’s need for tax revenues and university staffing supercede the president’s constitutional authority to conduct foreign affairs?  Yet the judge agreed the state had a legitimate grievance.  He went on to say visa holders’ constitutional rights were violated due to religious discrimination, ignoring reality that no religious test was given and visa holders (as opposed to green card holders) have no constitutional right to enter the United States.  He finally declared the visa holders – and Washington State – demonstrated to his satisfaction they might suffer serious and irreparable harm if the travel ban stands.  The problem with his declaration is the serious-and-irreparable harm test only applies where laws have been broken; they have not.  The capstone of this legal sham is the judge’s application of his order across the United States; he finds in favor of people who have not participated in the lawsuit his court has heard.  This judge makes Barack Obama’s extra-legal orders seem tame by comparison.

 

Zechariah was a Jewish prophet writing six centuries before the birth of Christ; he wrote some awesomely good news for his people returning from exile in modern-day Iraq and Iran.  Specially noteworthy is Zechariah 9:8-17.  The prophet quotes God the Father as declaring these exhausted and impoverished Jews are going to be a blessing to themselves and the whole world if they simply hang in there with the Father.  He says their prosperity will exceed anything they have known before – and it will be shared with all who are in need.  There are things these Jews must do to receive these blessings.  They are required to tell the truth, render fair and peace-making judgments in their courts, and bless rather than curse one another.  God promises to do the heavy lifting, but only for those who obey in their treatment of one another.

 

Here is the good news for anyone who has a stake in a healthy immigration system – not to be confused with a politically correct one.  The God served by Donald Trump – the One who gifted all Americans with America regardless of their origin – claims His promises are for all mankind because of the love of His Son and the power of His Spirit.  There is just the one catch – He expects us moderns to meet the same requirements as those long ago Jewish refugees if we would receive their benefits.  Modern Israel is the fruit of that ancient covenant – and the guarantee of what we can expect if we respect Him and one another.

 

It begins with context – and a little honesty.

 

James A. Wilson is the author of Living As Ambassadors of Relationships, The Holy Spirit and the End Times, and Kingdom in Pursuit – available at local bookstores or by e-mailing him at praynorthstate@gmail.com

DOCTOR FRANKENSTEIN IS ALIVE AND WELL IN CALIFORNIA

 

By James Wilson

 

Ian Malcolm – the Jeff Goldblum character in Jurassic Park – famously said something like, “You spent so much time asking whether you could that you forgot to ask whether you should,” as things began to fall apart in the visionary-idea-turned-monstrosity that introduced deadly dinosaurs into our world by patching the holes in their DNA with genetic material from frogs.  The question of whether you should has obviously escaped the notice of scientists at California’s Salk Institute.  They announce they have successfully joined human cells with pig cells in a sow’s womb.  The perverted enormity of what they have done defies the limits of my vocabulary.

 

Dr. Jun Wu, lead researcher, gave an extensive interview to National Geographic in which tries to normalize what he terms “hybrid life” with the claim “what some call angels” are really just hybrid creatures in which birds are joined to humans.  He calls the creature produced by his team Chimera – after the hybrid creature from Greek Mythology.  Jun explains the chimera had a special calling to stand guard over humankind, just like angels.  The only trouble is everything he says is just oats the bull has already processed.

 

I take the Bible for my authority on angels, but most – if not all – traditions include angels in their lore and nobody ever thought they were some kind of hybrid until Jun came up with it.  The chimera of the myths is a fire breathing monster – a hybrid indeed – that leaves no human alive if it can help it.  National Geographic was at one time a factually based journal; the journalist who interviewed Jun either does not know how or does not care to google angels and/or chimera.  I don’t know whether Jun is that dishonest or just that ignorant, but what he has created is indeed a monstrosity and his comments are for those willing to drink the Kool Aid.  A man that cavalier – or that careless – with well and generally known facts from other disciplines can scarcely be trusted to get it right within his own.  In any case, Dr. Frankenstein is alive and well in California – on the campus of UC San Diego – and supported with taxpayer monies.

 

Okay, but why am I so energized about an experiment that injects one in one hundred thousand human stem cells – the ratio of human to pig – into an animal womb?

 

One thing is that the only conceivable source for the human cells – described as obtainable in non-invasive ways – is the bodies of unborn children.  Planned Parenthood has already been busted for trafficking in human body parts; non-invasive removal of human cells can only occur if the human is dead.  Equally well documented over the past two decades are cases – rare to date – of human parents literally conceiving and birthing children in order to harvest organs – such as a kidney – needed by already living siblings.  Each further step down this ghoulish path that began with abortion-on-demand is justified by humanitarian need – transplant patients are waiting – on the one hand and the promise that safeguards are in place – Planned Parenthood is living proof of that falsehood.  Reality is this: Once we permit human beings in whole or in part to be thought of as resources instead of persons of inherent worth there is no necessary stopping place.  To paraphrase an old aphorism, if we don’t want to arrive in Minneapolis we should stay off the train that is going there.

 

Another thing is the false dichotomy set up around embryonic stem cell harvesting versus the medical research and use of adult stem cells.  Professor Alan Mackay-Sim was recently honored as Australia’s Man of the Year for his groundbreaking research into adult human nasal stem cells.  At least one quadriplegic man is now walking due to transplanting such cells; the professor’s role was to prove the therapy safe in clinical trials conducted a decade ago.  Reality is more than one hundred successful therapies now exist from this kind of research using voluntarily given cells.  These cells, by the way, display greater facility for becoming whatever cells are needed than the faux promises of their embryonic cousins.  There has never been so much as a glimmer of actual fruit from the cells of aborted babies; billions have been spent with nothing to show except the shame of using human beings as objects for experimentation.

 

When the hybrid story broke in Australia medical professors compared it to the work of Mackay-Sim and – by so doing – revealed only their own colossal ignorance.  Human beings at any stage of development are not crops to be harvested, and no real benefit will ever come of it.

 

Yet the biggest reason for alarm – or it ought to be – is the worldview that makes such experimentation conceivable.  The culture of death in which we live did not begin with embryonic stem cells, Roe v Wade, or the slave trade.  It is as old as a couple in a garden who blame each other for the consequences of playing God.  It is explicitly expressed in Judges 17:6 to the effect that when Israel had no king everybody did as they pleased.  A king represented a standard of accountability; in its absence there was no standard and anarchy reigned.  The chronicler thought this important enough he repeated it in the last verse of his book.

 

Truth is once we dare designate one life – any life – as more valuable than another it does become every man for himself in pretty short order; the higher value is always claimed by the one who can.  In our culture the rich keep getting richer and government keeps getting more arrogant – and lawless.  And there is always one more crazy to shoot up a theatre, an elementary school, or a church for reasons seeming good to him.  The answer is not more laws.  The answer is to acknowledge the King we have – the One Who sacrificed Himself for each of us when He could have sacrificed us for Himself.  The first step will be to ask if we should before we ask if we could.

 

We are a long ways down the road to Minneapolis when we can rejoice over mixing human DNA with that of pigs and rationalize it by saying that is what angels do.  It is a long way back.  The trip back – it is called repentance – needs to be a lifestyle for a critical mass of us before we can hope to approach home.  The reward – for those of us who hang in there for the journey – is nothing less than the restoration of the real life that has always been the gift of God for those who love Him, their neighbors, and their selves – in that order.

 

Should we?

 

James A. Wilson is the author of Living As Ambassadors of Relationships, The Holy Spirit and the End Times, and Kingdom in Pursuit – available at local bookstores or by e-mailing him at praynorthstate@gmail.com

BRUCE BOCHY MODELS EXCELLENCE OVER PERFECTION

 

By James Wilson

 

Bruce Bochy is one of the most successful managers in major league baseball history.  He arrived at his true destiny along the roadway of being one of her less spectacular players.  A back-up catcher for the San Diego Padres during much of his career he batted below .250 and showed no spectacular skill behind the plate.  Set free to manage upon his retirement he has so far won nearly eighteen hundred games and taken his teams to four world championships.  He has managed two teams and taken both from loser to winner in his first season at the helm.  He knows well the difference between the pursuits of excellence and perfection.

 

In pursuing perfection a person devotes all efforts to the pinnacle of one dimension of personhood, i.e. professional achievement.  In honoring excellence persons seek the best of all the facets of their personalities with – typically – central focus on the reality we are creations-in-progress of a loving God.  Bruce Bochy is no exception.

 

Bochy is not the only faith-based seeker of excellence on his team.  Jeremy Affeldt, now retired, was one of the heroes of the Giants’ 2014 march to a third world championship on Bochy’s watch.  In addition to pursuing excellence on the field, Affeldt is a crusader in the fight against child poverty and writes a weekly blog witnessing his faith.  Jake Peavy, another championship pitcher, gives frequent interviews extolling His Lord as the source of whatever he has gained.  Other faith-filled players include all-stars like catcher Buster Posey, outfielder Angel Pagan, and pitchers Sergio Romo and Madison Bumgarner.  Together they project an atmosphere more geared to excellence than mere perfection and it shows in every dimension of their personalities.  They do not preach; they just live their faith.

 

So what’s wrong with pursuing perfection?  It’s not wrong so much as it is deficient.  Bochy managed the San Diego Padres into four playoff seasons and one national league pennant in the twelve seasons of his tenure.  Dick Williams, the only other Padres skipper to bring home the pennant, got them to the playoffs once in the four seasons of his leadership.  Bochy’s strategy for dealing with dysfunction in the clubhouse is to invite the team to his home for a barbecue.  Williams was famous for refusing to speak to players who displeased him.  Bochy is no pushover, but he does recognize each player as a person and he seeks to manage and develop the fullness of the person living inside each of his players.  He drew the best from his players across the board and the fruit is evident.  Williams knew baseball like few others, yet after one glorious season with the chronically troubled club it all fell apart and Williams was shown the door.

 

Excellence and perfection are not necessarily coterminous; if they were Bochy’s teams would win the World Series every year.  But perfection can only be achieved when it is there to be had.  Excellence is within reach of anyone and nets far greater fruit.  A Dick Williams will get the best baseball his players can give but will never achieve what they do not already have.  A Bruce Bochy will get the best person his players can become and that will net more and better baseball alongside every other aspect of personality – better than what they had to begin with.  The only catch is that a pursuer of perfection goes after what he wants to be; a seeker of excellence must ask who he is called and created to become.

 

Okay, but why insist pursuit of excellence is limited to people of Christian faith?

 

I insist on no such thing.  Theoretically anyone with a brain can see a bigger picture than a player’s stats reveals.  The point is well made in the baseball movie, Trouble With The Curve, when the aging baseball scout portrayed by Clint Eastwood arranges for a slumping hitter to visit with his parents.  With his morale problem solved the player begins to perform, and the scout gives no indication his insight might be the product of faith.  But truth is truth and it is true we do not create ourselves.  Any insight that makes a better person is logically the result of revelation from the Creator – Who else knows us inside and out?

 

My own favorite ball player of all time is the late Tony Gwynn.  Although not a Christian until late in his life, Gwynn pursued excellence throughout that life.  When pressured to hit for more power he laughingly replied that he knew who he was – a contact hitter.  He accepted mentoring from Ted Williams, but this enabled him to hit to all fields.  A poor fielder when he made All American at university, he refused to pigeon-hole himself as a hitter only.  He worked on fielding skills until he earned his first Gold Glove award in 1986.  A fifteen-time all-star he was never selected as his league’s most valuable player.  He laughed that off too, saying MVP voters loved the home run; he was somebody else and content to be that person.

 

Exposed to dugout racism, he showed class, even coming to the aid of one who bullied him when the latter went bankrupt some years later.  He remained with the San Diego Padres his entire career – a rarity in modern times – making a good deal less money but providing stability for his family in the community in which they were born and raised.  His batting average of .394 in 1994 was the highest for a national leaguer since 1930 and the closest anyone has come to the magical .400 since Williams did it in 1941.  Was he a gifted hitter?  Absolutely, but the work habits he learned from his father made him much better.  Was he a man who chose to enjoy life and give to others, never expecting the bowing and scraping so often associated with sports icons?  He most certainly was, becoming a mentor to others during his playing career and even moreso as head coach of the San Diego State Aztecs – his alma mater – later.

 

And, oh yes, the man who always professed to know it was grace that landed him a starting baseball role at university finally gave his heart to Jesus Christ not long before his death.  In his lifelong pursuit of excellence Tony Gwynn simply took the logical next step toward becoming who he was.

 

While accepting Christ is not a pre-condition for pursuing excellence or perfection, there are consequences for those who chase self-development for its own sake.  Dwight Gooden was arguably the most talented power pitcher of the 1980s; more than half his wins came before he turned twenty-five and his career was derailed by cocaine and alcohol addiction.  His New York Mets team-mate, Darryl Strawberry, and one of the premier hitters of that era, also saw his career short-circuited by addiction.  Both men admit to having been full of themselves before undergoing successful rehabilitation.  Gooden still suffers occasional relapses; Strawberry found the living God-in-Christ and has stayed sober.  He now devotes his life to offering the help he so desperately needed to other athletes – his peers.  In so doing he is becoming all he was meant to be…he is becoming excellent.

 

Christian believers are no more free of pitfalls and catastrophic weakness than their pre-believing brethren.  It is likewise possible to pursue excellence without a prior commitment to King Jesus.  But the grace to transcend our default narcissism comes from but one source; it flows much more freely when we acknowledge and choose to serve that Source, and there does come a time when that choice can no longer be postponed.  In the iconic world of high performance sport I know of no more iconic representative of this reality than Bruce Bochy.

 

James A. Wilson is the author of Living As Ambassadors of Relationships, The Holy Spirit and the End Times, and Kingdom in Pursuit – available at local bookstores or by e-mailing him at praynorthstate@gmail.com