Today on Blogcritics
Home » Culture and Society » Spirituality » God and Gratitude

God and Gratitude

Please Share...Tweet about this on Twitter0Share on Facebook0Share on Google+0Share on LinkedIn0Pin on Pinterest0Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUpon0Share on Reddit0Email this to someone

Major issues can rise from minor things, and so it is with the Masters golf tournament of a week ago. The winner, unheralded Zach Johnson, stood down blustery winds, benumbing temperatures, and the closest thing to a force of nature in golf, Tiger Woods, to win the first major tournament of the year.

What raised both my estimation of him and the eyebrows of some ever-offended secularists, however, was his mention of Jesus’ name during his post-event remarks. Said an exuberant Johnson, “Being Easter, my faith is very important to me. I felt Jesus, I felt my grandfather, my family, everybody. So it was awesome. Regardless of what happened today, my responsibility was to glorify God. Hopefully I did.”

It’s not unusual for athletes to credit God after victories. It’s always fitting to credit your Maker, but it seems as if flowing adrenaline and perhaps endorphins contribute to a spontaneity that makes one more likely to bear his soul.

Secularists taking exception to it is also not unusual now, and upon perusing the commentary of the faithless, I found a common theme. Dripping with sarcasm at best and contempt at worst, many derided Johnson for, as they perceive it, claiming that Jesus ordained his victory. “Why, God has bigger things to worry about than golf. Why would He prefer you to other players, anyway?” ask many.

Illustrative of this attitude is a comment Bill Maher made years ago while complaining about such athletes on his TV show Politically Incorrect (I’m paraphrasing): “What about when they lose? How come they never say, ‘You know, Jesus, you really let me down out there today?’” Maher was expressing his idea in a comedic fashion, but it really does exemplify the incredulity of many secularists upon hearing godly gratitude. But in their effort to demean people of faith and paint them as simpletons, their own lack of depth is betrayed.

G.K. Chesterton once said, “You say grace before a meal, all right, but I say grace after I dip the quill into the ink.” His point was that a true Christian is thankful for all blessings, great and small. Everything is a gift, and this is his perspective because he is humble enough to accept that he deserves nothing but damnation – something, I should add, he does not have to be visited with because of God’s mercy, which is the greatest gift of all.

Among athletes (although this can pertain to any endeavor) of authentic faith, this understanding breeds a certain mindset. Such a person won’t pray for worldly success but for what is more important, such as peace of mind and, as Johnson said, the grace to be a good witness for Christ. Sure, he will certainly thank God when he wins, but if that is the only time gratitude is visible, it’s only because that’s when the cameras and microphones appear.

He may also thank God when he loses, perhaps for the opportunity to be playing a game; for his abilities; for his competitors; for the capacity to remain calm and enjoy the blessing; for the ability to carry himself in a dignified manner and set a good example for others; and, if he is an especially enlightened sort, for the happiness that was granted to the one who vanquished him.

In another life, I was a professional tennis player and, even after dispensing with my tour ambitions, played competitively on an intermittent basis for a time. I was in a sectional event. In the latter part of a tough match with a young player, I was struck by a profound thought and feeling. In a very visceral way I realized that my happiness was no more important than my opponent’s in the eyes of God. After all, God certainly wasn’t rooting for Selwyn Duke simply because he was Selwyn Duke. (I’ll add that the only conceivable way God might aid such a victory would be if it advanced His will in some fashion. God does work in mysterious ways, as they say.)

Now, mind you, it’s not as if I hadn’t understood this intellectually beforehand, but there’s quite a difference between a cold, cerebral understanding and feeling something on an emotional level. This was the latter; it was spontaneous and brought great peace; there was no nervousness, no fear of losing. It was liberating, and I did thank God for it.

As it turned out, I did lose — a close one — but the attitude I was blessed with never wavered, and I ended up having a long, stimulating conversation with my opponent and his brother about spiritual matters. If that doesn’t sound like a storybook ending, it’s only because the worldly write most of the stories.

As to this, the worldly story about Zach Johnson concerns a Cinderella man who won a major sporting event, struck it rich, and was enough of a rube to effuse Christian utterances. The more important story is of a fellow who was humble enough to refuse to take credit for his crowning achievement. It’s about a player who rose to the occasion when many in his shoes would have folded and the true grace that yielded that grace under pressure.

Would we think more highly of him if he had exalted himself? Do we no longer perk our ears when the righteous triumph and reveal their recipe for success simply because we prefer decadently to divinely delicious? If faith and humility are now thought vices, then no further commentary about Western civilization is necessary.

As for those who discard healthful recipes, I’ve heard them say religion doesn’t belong in sports. So, I have a question for the secularists: Where does religion belong? You say it has no place in the public sphere even though it has always been there, citing a separation of church and state that has no place in the Constitution because it has never been there. You say it shouldn’t be in politics. You say it doesn’t belong in workplaces, and now you say it shouldn’t be uttered by citizens within the context of sports.

So, are you saying that Christianity is now tantamount to what prostitution was years ago, where it will be tolerated, if only barely, as long as it’s hidden away behind closed doors? Is it the only thing that should be in the closet, with churchmen being the new madams and parishioners the new Johns?

Secularists really need to examine their own consciences and biases and ask themselves why someone’s expression of faith offends them so. If they do, I suspect they’ll find a certain kind of bigotry in their hearts, one telling them that a certain segment of the population should be seen but not heard, all because of their own fears.

If Tiger Woods had prevailed and spoke of how Buddhist beliefs brought him peace down the stretch, would they react the same way? What about if an athlete spoke of the thoughts of his favorite philosopher? What about Muhammad Ali, who always praised Allah after bouts and professes his faith unabashedly to this day?

There’s something else secularists can’t understand. Since they don’t consider the possibility that a faith can be an expression of Truth, they tend to view it as akin to a dirty habit, something that should be practiced discreetly, much like going to a certain kind of bathhouse, but if I didn’t view my faith as true, why would I sacrifice for it? If it is true, why would I not want to proclaim it in all contexts?

As I said about the notion that faith is a private matter in “Faith in the Closet” (Christian Music Perspective, Feb. 2007), “Such an assertion implies that a faith that’s worth embracing, worth depriving oneself for and governing one’s life with, is not worth proclaiming.” To believe this would be stupid, almost as stupid as the assumption that one who thanks Jesus after a victory is thanking Him only for the victory.

As for people of faith, we can learn something here as well. I once wrote a piece titled “What Christians Can Do,” wherein I offered practical advice on combating the forces of secularism. I pointed out that we complain when elements of faith are stricken from our schools, courthouses, city seals, and other public institutions and symbols, but we need to look in the mirror. It should surprise us not a whit if we are willing to strike faith from our lips.

Not guilty of this are the Zach Johnsons of the world, who set the right example with their faithful proclamations. We should be mindful of what the word “proclaim” implies, for if it isn’t stated publicly, it’s not a proclamation. It is then little better than a whisper, something only suited to the relation of secrets.

God doesn’t want faith to be kept secret. I’ll let you guess who does.

Powered by

About Selwyn Duke

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer.php?name=diana+hartman diana hartman

    Me thinks thou doth protest too much.

    Given that you didn’t quote a single secularist’s opposition (by name) to the public thanking of God (the Maher quote is a question, not an opposition,) one wonders if you didn’t make it all up (secular opposition to the public thanking of God) as a way to get your own insecurities about God and your faith into the open.

    Rather than assailing those you’re sure take issue with your faith, would it not be more productive to discuss these issues with those who share your faith?

    The revelation that God has as much vested interest in your win as your opponent’s could also easily be seen as your having realized the world doesn’t revolve around you. If indeed you are of God, wasn’t this already true – on an emotional as well as intellectual level? The realization was at least slow in coming and at best redundant.

    There are many who are both successful and secular. This flies in the face of the assertion that “many in his shoes would have folded…” Maybe those who fold aren’t as dedicated to their goal and don’t invest the time and energy necessary to reach that goal. Maybe they chose a path they aren’t equipped for and would do better at something else.

    Would we think more highly of him if he had exalted himself?

    Why the implication that if one does not thank God, one automatically thanks himself? For that matter, why would one not revel in one’s own hard work and perseverance? It’s not as if God doesn’t help those who help themselves, yes?

    Do we no longer perk our ears when the righteous triumph and reveal their recipe for success simply because we prefer decadently to divinely delicious?

    You’re talking about sports, dude, not someone having saved another from harm or curing cancer. A little perspective, please.

    If faith and humility are now thought vices, then no further commentary about Western civilization is necessary.

    As for those who discard healthful recipes, I’ve heard them say religion doesn’t belong in sports.

    Who thinks them vices? You’ve heard who say what? You didn’t name anyone. Again, reflection of your insecurities; projection of your own doubts.

    Where does religion belong?

    Is your heart not good enough or big enough? If not, that’s your problem, not anyone else’s.

    Secularists really need to examine their own consciences and biases and ask themselves why someone’s expression of faith offends them so. If they do, I suspect they’ll find a certain kind of bigotry in their hearts, one telling them that a certain segment of the population should be seen but not heard, all because of their own fears.

    You are assuming offense and fear where none (that you’ve quoted or cited) have been expressed.

    If Tiger Woods had prevailed and spoke of how Buddhist beliefs brought him peace down the stretch, would they react the same way? What about if an athlete spoke of the thoughts of his favorite philosopher? What about Muhammad Ali, who always praised Allah after bouts and professes his faith unabashedly to this day?

    Perhaps those who would take offense to the public thanking of God would also take offense to any other religious reference on high (although it must be noted that Buddhism does not include a belief in a higher power). What would that prove or mean?

    Subscribing to a philosopher’s philosophy is not the same thing as thanking that philosopher outright for his/her direct contributions to one’s life/accomplishments.

    In this, it is most curious, as Maher noted, that one would thank God for a good thing but not also for a bad thing. No one thanked God (other than Fred Phelps) for Hurricane Katrina – although everyone agrees it was an act of God and a catastrophic event. Given the number of cameras and microphones available at a given sporting event, is it unreasonable to think someone who would thank God for a win would not also seek to be heard thanking God for a loss? Do only winners have time for God?

    There’s something else secularists can’t understand. Since they don’t consider the possibility that a faith can be an expression of Truth, they tend to view it as akin to a dirty habit, something that should be practiced discreetly, much like going to a certain kind of bathhouse, but if I didn’t view my faith as true, why would I sacrifice for it? If it is true, why would I not want to proclaim it in all contexts?

    I, nor anyone else, can answer your questions because they are of you and originate internally. These are questions that need be answered by you, not anyone else – secular or religious. That you would feel compelled to bring these kinds of questions to the table suggests a weakness within.

    Not guilty of this are the Zach Johnsons of the world, who set the right example with their faithful proclamations. We should be mindful of what the word “proclaim” implies, for if it isn’t stated publicly, it’s not a proclamation. It is then little better than a whisper, something only suited to the relation of secrets.

    There is a world of difference between public proclamation of faith and insisting one’s faith into every facet of everyone else’s life.

    God doesn’t want faith to be kept secret. I’ll let you guess who does.

    If it were a secret, neither of us would be talking about it. If you made your assertions weightier, they wouldn’t fly out the window so easily.

  • Baronius

    Very good article, Selwyn. (Much better than the one that Diana seems to have read.)

  • Baronius

    Diana, you wanted Selwyn to back up his claims. I hope this will suffice.

    Robert Philip, The Telegraph:

    I am reliably informed that it was the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche who offered the comment: “After coming into contact with a religious man, I always feel I must wash my hands.” I felt similarly in need of a good scrub down after listening to Zach Johnson’s sermon on the mount behind the 18th green at Augusta when he revealed that Jesus had been “looking after me today” and that the thought which had been foremost in his mind throughout the final round was “regardless of what happened, my responsibility was to glorify God. Hopefully, I did”.

    SportsColumn blog:

    Even though we root for Tiger Woods for every tournament, as soon as Tiger hit the drink on 15, we accepted and were almost happy that Zach Johnson, underdog, was going to win the thing. But then a funny thing happened: Zach Johnson pulled out his Jesus card.

    Tom Witosky, The Des Moines Register:

    Johnson’s mention of his Christian faith after winning the Masters on Easter Sunday has stirred discomfort among some believing the separation between church and sport should be as strong as between church and state. “Religion and sport today has become a mutual exploitation society,” said Ray Higgs, professor emeritus of English at East Tennessee State University.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer.php?name=diana+hartman diana hartman

    Mabye next time the substantiation will come with the article.

    Three secular comments doesn’t substantiate the sweeping generalizations. I could pick three Christians out of the crowd and question all Christians based on the actions and words of those three, and it would get me where?

    If all secularists are responsible for what each and every secularist does, it’s high time Christianity did something about Fred Phelps.

  • Another Old Guy

    Bill Maher has a popular television show on HBO and has had a long successful career, all along professing his secularism and disdain for all religions. You would think God would have punished him and wrecked his career.

  • Baronius

    Diana, I found those three quotes in less than 13 minutes online. They struck me because the first one is from a major UK paper, the second one is an anti-religious tirade on a sports blog, and the third addresses the same subject as Selwyn.

    Oldguy, I kinda thought that Maher wrecked his career on his own, but maybe God was behind it.

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    I read this article and while on the one hand, I was agreeing with most of the points of the article, I found myself wanting to throw up at the author’s exclusive use of Christianity as representing all religion, as though any others had no legitimacy.

    In the final years before leaving the States, I noticed lots of athletes making a cross on the field after making a touchdown and other symbols of religious gratitude. But I always had the sense that if the athlete wasn’t a Christian, he didn’t quite belong on a team that thanked G-d for its victories.

    That may have not have been the intent of the athletes – but that is what came across on the screen. Similarly, that may not have been Selwyn Duke’s intent here, but that is also what comes across in the article above.

    A lot of hostility to religion is hostility to one religion seeming to shove itself down everyone else’s throat. In America, that religion is Christianity generally.

    Just something to think about.

    And yes, Diana. If Christians are responsible for one another’s behavior as Christians it is high time that people did something about Fred Phelps and the many people like him…

  • http://musical-guru.blogspot.com/ Michael J. West

    God doesn’t want faith to be kept secret. I’ll let you guess who does.

    Jesus does!

    He said so! In the Sermon on the Mount!

    And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

    (Matthew 6:5-6)

    Did I win the guessing game?

  • http://musical-guru.blogspot.com/ Michael J. West

    Now that I think about it, that brings up another question.

    Selwyn says that God doesn’t want faith to be kept secret.

    Jesus says that God PREFERS faith to be kept secret.

    Geez! In this theological debate, who do I believe? Selwyn Duke or Jesus Christ? They completely disagree on this issue…man, I’m stuck. Whose side do I take?

  • http://www.antequeravillarental.com Christopher Rose

    One of the main reasons for seperating the beliefs of the members of these faithist cults from any access to governance or education is that they simply can’t be trusted.

    When any serious decisions are to be made, they aren’t going to do the right thing on the merits of the situation, they are going to do what their creed tells them to do.

    There were many offensive and frankly unthinking remarks in the article above and here are a few of the most inane:-

    “But in their effort to demean people of faith and paint them as simpletons, their own lack of depth is betrayed.”

    Setting aside the sheer arrogance and conceit of the remark, how exactly does pointing out the simplistic nature of faithists’ views have anything to do with a lack of depth?

    “there’s quite a difference between a cold, cerebral understanding and feeling something on an emotional level.”

    Here we see the presumption that using one’s intelligence is somehow a cold thing, complete with the implicit assumption that that is in someway bad. Personally, I find the use of intelligence to be passionate and exciting and the use of faith in lieu of intelligence to be entirely dispiriting.

    “If faith and humility are now thought vices” – What does faith have to do with humility? It is quite easy to be free of dogma and humble.

    “are you saying that Christianity is now tantamount to what prostitution was years ago” – this is frankly baffling. Christianity does all humanity a disservice because it is based upon the entirely fanciful and unsupported notion that there is an entity responsible for all creation. Prostitution is a situational response to a basic human need.

    “Secularists really need to examine their own consciences and biases and ask themselves why someone’s expression of faith offends them so.”

    That’s easy; apart from blind faith, there is no basis for believing in the existence of gods and therefore these empty cults deceive and mislead, to the detriment of us all and our shared humanity.

    “I suspect they’ll find a certain kind of bigotry in their hearts, one telling them that a certain segment of the population should be seen but not heard, all because of their own fears.”

    Say what? The only bigotry I see is that of the deluded refusing to let go of what they find makes them feel so special, as opposed to taking their share of responsibility for what we as a species do here on this planet.

    The very notion of an afterlife, common to most of the world’s largest cults, is far too often used as a copout or excuse for entirely inexcusable behaviour right here on planet Earth, the one and only possible paradise, at least until it becomes possible to establish colonies on other worlds.

  • http://musical-guru.blogspot.com/ Michael J. West

    Atheistic proselytizing: As obnoxious and self-righteous as theistic proselytizing since 3000 B.C.!

  • http://www.antequeravillarental.com Christopher Rose

    There are a few inaccuracies in your remark, Mr West, which is pretty impressive in barely a dozen words.

    Firstly, I’m not an atheist, which is in itself a religious term which seeks to explain away people who don’t suffer from the god delusion. I’m actually quite willing to believe that gods do exist, but not on the basis of accepting blind faith or unthinking tradition.

    Moving on, my remarks weren’t proselytizing, which means seeking to convert somone to another religious belief. Furthermore, responding to someone else’s remarks, or in this case Mr Duke’s article, isn’t obnoxious, it’s simply a response.

    Similarly, self-righteous means “excessively or hypocritically pious” so I struggle to see how that would apply either.

    Finally, theistic proselytizing has been going on an awful lot longer than 5007 years, so once again I can do nothing but disagree.

  • http://musical-guru.blogspot.com/ Michael J. West

    Well, Mr. Rose, perhaps your dictionary is excessively thin or reductive.

    An “atheist,” in the sense that I used it, is a dictionary term that means “a person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being or beings.” This I used based on your statement regarding “the entirely fanciful and unsupported notion that there is an entity responsible for all creation.”

    Your phrasing certainly suggests that you disbelieve in the existence of a god or god; if your thinking is not so simple, maybe the word “skeptic” would be better. This I will grant you.

    You greatly oversimplify the meaning of the word “proselytize.” It actually means “to espouse, in attempt to induce another to join, one’s doctrine, philosophy, cause, or belief.” Religion is merely one possible outlet; one can also proselytize about politics, social issues, workplace etiquette, hobbies, and personal systems of thinking (which absolutely includes atheism). You were certainly espousing; if you were not, in fact, hoping on some level to win someone (an third-party observer if not Selwyn Duke) over to your viewpoints, one wonders why you would take the trouble to craft such a long and detailed response in Comment 10.

    You do the same with the term “self-righteous”: “confident of one’s own righteousness, esp. when smugly moralistic and intolerant of the opinions and behavior of others.” E.g., “The only bigotry I see is that of the deluded refusing to let go of what they find makes them feel so special, as opposed to taking their share of responsibility for what we as a species do here on this planet.” That comment certainly suggests that you feel confident of your moral superiority to those to whom you refer as “the deluded.”

    Finally, my choice of 3,000 B.C. – the approximate time around which Hinduism, the world’s oldest extant organized religion, began – was figurative, as you well know. The basic point was that atheistic and theistic proselytizing have been around, and roughly equal in temperament, for the same amount of time.

  • http://musical-guru.blogspot.com/ Michael J. West

    Now, if you wanted to say that I was equally guilty of proselytizing in comments 8 and 9, you might have a valid argument.

    But it did seem reasonable to point out that Mr. Duke, who proudly considers himself a Christian, is baldly opposed, both in thought and behavior, to the doctrines of Christ–that the entire point of this essay, in fact, is to directly contradict Jesus’ biblical teaching that one SHOULD, in fact, keep his/her faith private and closeted.

  • duane

    Definitely a thought-provoking piece of writing, Selwyn. Juicy arguments in the comments, as well.

    I found myself watching the final round of the Masters (an impossibly difficult course), and I caught the baby kissing and the Jesus thanking, and my eyes went to rolling. But after reading your piece, I remembered my ‘philosophy’ that says (I’m paraphrasing myself), “If I were a believer (assuming Christianity here), I would want to share my beliefs with everyone. If I thought there was an Eternity of either total joy or interminable suffering, all worldly affairs would pale into insignificance, and I would feel compelled to convey this overarching reality to everyone who hadn’t adopted it. I would pray in private, in accordance to Jesus’s teachings, but I would not keep my beliefs a secret. I would ‘witness’ for all I was worth.”

    So, given that, at least I find Johnson acting in a manner consistent (by my ‘philosophy’) with his professed beliefs. I can respect that. But I would tend to side with Rose, and say that I still think his beliefs are misguided. But that’s somewhat beside the point. Moreover, if I was ‘on fire’ with religion, I don’t see that I would have time to practice my chip shot four hours a day.

  • http://www.antequeravillarental.com Christopher Rose

    Mr West, sorry but I must maintain my position. Those definitions are the results that come up when using the define:xxx function of Google, though of course there are other meanings by extension, such as those you quote.

    I don’t feel any superiority to anybody, I just follow the evidence, regardless of where it may lead, but I do feel great sorrow for all the harm done in the name of god. I believe in ethical behaviour not morality, which may be somewhat of a fine distinction but an important one nevertheless.

    Whilst Hinduism may or may not be the oldest extant religion, the suggestion that we as humans should be personally and directly responsible for our actions is not the same as the god doctrines, for the simple reason that there is zero evidence for the existence of gods at all.

    In the context of the earlier remarks you made, I take your point, although I can’t actually see the benefit of debating whether one should keep one’s faith private or not. I do however see a strong case for keeping such faithist mysticism out of political life.

  • http://musical-guru.blogspot.com/ Michael J. West

    Reasonable enough, Mr. Rose. We need not nitpick over semantics any longer, and I apologize to you: My accusation that you were being obnoxious was, in fact, quite obnoxious of me.

    The reason I chose to introduce the subject of whether one should keep one’s faith private was to counter Mr. Duke’s insinuations about the “secularists”: that they regard religion as “akin to a dirty habit,” that they really only have a grudge against Christianity, and that they are opposed to God in that God doesn’t want faith to be kept private.

    So I pointed out that Jesus teaches in the Sermon on the Mount that God actually likes it better when you keep faith private, and that thus it is those who DO publicly express their beliefs that are going against the will of God.

    I actually have no personal objection to anyone in sports or anywhere else (independent of government function) mentioning Jesus or God. It doesn’t harm anyone, and it’s not against the law or regulations or even common etiquette.

    It is, however, against their religion.

    In other words, the benefit of the debate is in pointing out that Mr. Duke’s credibility in this matter is in serious jeopardy, as he disobeys the Christian God, then castigates the “secularists” for, in effect, endorsing obedience to the Christian God.

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Mr. West, you give up too easily. While Mr. Rose is certainly entitled to his views, and certainly has the right to propagate them (within the limits of civility, of course), attempting to bury words like “atheist” and “atheism” as though he himself were an English language academy and label all believers with the term “faithist,” a term dished out with a certain amount of contempt, is the height of arrogance.

    I must congratulate you on this sentence, “Well, Mr. Rose, perhaps your dictionary is excessively thin or reductive.” You have done better than I in your description, and you did so with an understatement I could not achieve.

    As for your debates whether faith should be kept private or not, I would suggest that this observation in the Christian book, “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you,”[Matthew 6:5-6] which targets Jews standing and saying the Amida, and suggesting that by doing so in a minyán they are being hypocrites, is, at best, akin to the condemnations by the Hebrew prophets of sacrifices that were offered impurely. I’m being charitable in that description.

    As for myself, I would be overjoyed if the sports teams in Israel did not play on the Sabbath and thanked G-d for their victories as do so many Christian athletes in America. It is sickening to see yet another example of “Hillúl hashém” (cursing G-d) perpetrated here in an empty imitation of the Europeans.

  • http://www.antequeravillarental.com Christopher Rose

    I’m glad we’ve managed to clear away some unfortunate misunderstanding there, Mr West, and I appreciate your calm and measured thoughtfulness.

    Ruvy, using words with care isn’t arrogance, it’s intelligence. Your intelligence is partially disabled because you believe blindly. It has nothing to do with being an academic, it has to do with a respect for words and the truth.

    I’m sorry if I came across as arrogant or contemptuous but your constant and undiscriminating abuse and hatred towards parts of the human race with whom you disagree, mostly based around your zealous belief in the dogma of your faith, are actually deeply offensive. I would imagine even your own god, if it existed and deigned to interact with you, would be disappointed…

  • http://absent-mind.blogspot.com/ Jet in Columbus

    Oddly enough, I posted this editorial in the Culture section of the BC forum on the 16th, one day before this article was published…

    I hope it wasn’t something I said?

    Editorial:

    By praying to god, you are saying he has the power to change things, to create things at his whim, at your request and behest, in order to transform things per your idea of what they should be, over his wishes..

    That means he had the power to create and stop Katrina-That means that by praying to him, you’re defying and questioning his very decision to allow it to happen and its aftermath.

    That means that you’re saying he had the power to smite the hijackers before they plowed into the World Trade Center killing thousands of good christian souls… but God didn’t… it was God’s decision to allow it to happen.

    God had the power… He is God… isn’t he?

    That means that all good christians that prayed for the safety of their loved ones that day were wasting their time… If God could really hear them and act on those prayers, he would’ve stopped it… Right?

    God had the power to stop the gunman from killing the students at Virginia Tech.

    He is God… How could he not?

    God oversaw the creation rather than abortion of the life of that gunman-knowing what direction and course that life would unavoidably take.
    God knew the aftermath of the killings of those students, knowing who would die and who would be spared.

    He is God… How could he not?

    By praying to him, aren’t you asking him to change his mind, concerning his created, designed and wise outcome of the event?
    Aren’t you questioning his sacred wisdom that he chose even to allow the event to occur?

    President Bush and others have said that an all-loving God will be looking after the families of the victims… This is the very same all-knowing, all seeing and loving God that allowed the events to take place as they had!

    This is the same God the president prayed to, to spare the miners from being killed, and the same one in the shuttle disaster above Texas… the same God who has allowed the taking of thousands of lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. Every time Bush offers prayers for someone or for our nation I want to wretch knowing Bush’s past track record and outcomes of his apparently trivial and useless prayers.

    I sometimes question the feeble sanity of people who refer to petitioning a “loving God” to help victims of disasters that the almighty allowed to happen – indeed created in the first place.

    My God is a uniter of families and people, not a Santa Clause, or a parent you run to for solice when the other won’t cooperate.

    As if God would wave his mighty hand and turn back time and undo his own decisions, and admit he was wrong at the pleadings of us mere mortals who judge what he’d done wrong, and then demand he set them right again.

    My faith isn’t weakening by the acts God chooses to create, or allow to happen.

    My faith is shaken by the pious morons, who claim to speak for God and claim to know and speak for his motives.
    and
    who claim that they can change God’s mind, to bend to their wishes.

    It was god’s decision to allow those students to die at Virginia Tech, he knew well in advance of these events….
    He is God… How could he not?

    It was god’s decision not to strike down the killer before he killed them even though he knew what was about to happen…
    He is God… How could he not?

    It was god’s decision to knowingly allow all of those families to suffer, aware of how much and for how long…
    He is God… How could he not?

    Who are we to question that?
    Who do those who do question our diety think they are?

    He is God… isn’t he?

  • http://musical-guru.blogspot.com/ Michael J. West

    Ruvy, my friend, I gave up easily because I genuinely don’t care all that much. My primary beef was with the article itself, and I didn’t want to get bogged down into a tangential-at-best argument. Besides, I was rather obnoxious, which is a problem when calling someone else out for being obnoxious.

    I’m not sure I understand your point in the second paragraph. Is it a suggestion that Jesus (a Jew) was anti-Semitic? If so, that makes little sense. Unless he was afflicted with intense self-loathing.

    Either way, however, if Christianity is a religion founded on the teachings of Jesus, it does seem rather heretical to ignore one of these lessons and to chastise those who advocate its implementation, does it not?

    I don’t personally share your wish for a more religious homeland, but then, your homeland is not mine, so it’s of little consequence.

  • zingzing

    you know, i despise christianity at some level (and, ruvy, judaism–not forgetting to hate your religion!), but i really could care less if some fucking golfer named zach thanked god after winning some tournament. i’d bet 99% of the “secularists” out there had no fucking clue, and that 99% of those that did have a clue had no fucking opinion on the matter.

    i’ve read some of the comments here, including diana’s and baronius’ and the mjw vs cr argument… (cr is on a anti-crusade today, eh?) i know this comment is rather shallow.

    but, i must ask… duke, where in the hell did you pick up the idea that anyone would be offended by an athlete thanking god for his victory? have you never seen a basketball game? a football game, a baseball game, a snooker tournament? is this zach guy white? is that where this comes from? because a white guy thanked god after winning something? THIS HAPPENS ALL OF THE TIME AND IT NEVER MATTERS ONE BIT. what’s up?

    i don’t get it.

  • SHARK

    “Secularlists” are trying to wipe out Christianity. That’s why they’re in such a majority in this country. Christianity is under attack.

    Wait. [Shark spits out window, hits Christian fanatic.]

    Gotta run! President of US is on TV praying at Virginia Tech post-Second Amendment celebration/consolation party!

    PS: [yall miss me? “Fuck you, yer wrong!” …there, ya feel better?]

    Been missing in action since the editor DaveNalle/VOX POPULI fake name fiasco. I left the Politics section on principle and because, unlike Davey, I have personal integrity — meanwhile, found out Blogcritics is a sick, life-wasting addiction.

    PPS: Also found out I have cancer. I’m in the fight of my life. No time for Blogcritics. This shit is all meaningless. Love you all.

    Fuck “God”. Fuck “prayer”. Fuck “petitioning the Lord”. Fuck you if you think He had, has, or WILL HAVE anything to do with my illness. Seriously. And fuck yer limp “There are no atheists in foxholes” bullshit. This athiest is in a foxhole up to his philosophically consistent ass.

    And somebody tell D’oh (gonzo marx), Troll, Duane, Eric O, and all of my past readers and cultural/political allies I send my love.

    Send good vibes or cash. I still believe in them.

  • SHARK

    BTW: “God and Gratitude” — I thought this a highly appropriate place to make my little announcement. ahahaha.

    Picture me like Beethoven on his deathbed: lightning strikes outside his window; he lifts himself up and waves his fist at the heavens.

    Yep. That’s me.

  • zingzing

    shark, i’ll pray to the clouds for you. woop. i think i see the face of jesus in that one over there. he shaved! it’s beautiful…

  • MCH

    “Been missing in action since the editor DaveNalle/VOX POPULI fake name fiasco. I left the Politics section on principle and because, unlike Davey, I have personal integrity…”

    Shark,
    I knew that was one of the reasons you left, in spite of editorial claims to the contrary. Been missing you on here, ol’ pard, you’re one of the few who can keep the war-wimps honest.

    Good luck versus the Big C…you need to overdose on some of that Shark Cartilage, eh…

  • http://www.soundclick.com/jcmosquito JC Mosquito

    Why does God let bad things happen to good people?

    For the same reason He lets good things happen to bad people.

    For the same reasons these good or bad things would happen if there was no God – because any interference by a supernatural being would make free will null and void. Essentially, our choices wouldn’t matter.

    So God has to let the world work as if there is no God, so that people can choose for themselves.

    I don’t have anything to add to the quarterly debate on bc about the nature of God other than to say don’t overthink this one. Like Mick once sang, “I don’t wanna talk about Jesus / I just wanna see his face.”

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer.php?name=gonzo%20marx jaz

    SHARK – you’ve been missed, olde Friend…

    all my Best for your battle…yer far too mean to be taken down by some unrestricted Growth

    underscore between my olde first and last names at the hotmail place to touch base

    luv,
    gonzo/D’oh/jaz

  • Baronius

    Michael, this sermon you keep refering to: why did Jesus deliver it on the Mount? Why not in a closed room? There’s nothing wrong with praising G-d in public; Jacob and David and Peter did it. The warning is against hypocrisy. I don’t think that Johnson was being hypocritical or seeking attention for himself. If he was, he was wrong for doing so, but there’s no reason to assume he was.

  • zingzing

    baronius, are you really going to take michael to task for taking a quote from the bible and interpretting it literally? and then rail against hypocrisy? (not saying you’re a hypocrite… but it does beg the question, eh?)

  • http://www.templestark.com Temple Stark

    diana hartman said what I would say. Agenda outrage is always coupled with fake outrage or imagined outrage like the writer of this piece here.

    Religion doesn’t make sense – except to those who want it to, because otherwise they’d have to stand on just doing good for sake of not Godness, but goodness itself.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Shark,

    Not sure who has the nastier sense of humor – you or the Landlord in the Sky. I suspect that the Landlord in the Sky is holding back a bit on the laughs.

    Damn it, Shark, you always provide entertainment value, more than the rest of us seem to be able to. So start sharpening your teeth and use the jaws of your mind to get rid of the Big C. We can’t afford to lose the best entertainer we have on the site.

    Go to my e-mail address at my blogsite to give a holler.

    Reuven

  • http://musical-guru.blogspot.com/ Michael J. West

    Michael, this sermon you keep refering to: why did Jesus deliver it on the Mount? Why not in a closed room?

    AHA! That is an interesting question. I don’t have a good answer for that – at least, not one that will satisfy….

    There’s nothing wrong with praising G-d in public; Jacob and David and Peter did it. The warning is against hypocrisy.

    It’s true, Baronius, that the warning is against hypocrisy. However, Jesus says that you will know the hypocrites by their public praising of God.

    I don’t think that Johnson was being hypocritical or seeking attention for himself. If he was, he was wrong for doing so, but there’s no reason to assume he was.

    Well, except that Jesus says that you will know the hypocrites by their public praising of God.

  • duane

    Shark, you old carnivorous curmudgeon with your finely-tuned BS detector. I didn’t know. I’ve been “away.” I’m stunned. Best to you and your big white multi-rowed teeth.

  • SHARK

    Duane, Ruvy, Temple, Jaz, et al.

    Thanks for the kind words and good vibes. I’m gonna beat this thing, but as I’ve mentioned to a few people, a concrete taste of one’s mortality tends to change one’s attitude about WASTING TIME.

    And — sorry, kids — BC is a waste of time.

    =====

    Dear Jaz, Doh, and all other cosmic manifestations of the digital buddha,

    I sent an email. If ya don’t get it, somethin’s wrong.

    Lemme know.

    xxoo
    Mark the Shark

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    “Fuck ‘prayer’. Fuck ‘petitioning the Lord’.”

    I see you’ve been listening to The Doors “Soft Parade” again. Best of luck with your health. And while I understand how BC seems like a waste of time, the laughs I’ve gotten from your responses haven’t been. Hope you return soon because the people have more than one voice.

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    I understand theres a pretty good review of that album in BC’s music section.

    -Glen

  • Rio

    Diane-your first comment is a good example of the type of person Mr Duke was speaking of. You do protest too loudly.

    Michael-Jesus never said we are hypocrites if we praise God in public, in fact, He said just the opposite. See Mt 5:15; Mk 4:21; Lk 8:16 & 11:33. We’re to be a light in a dark world.

    Seems many need to learn the difference between prayer and praise. Webster’s Dictionary has a good definition for both as revisionist have yet to put their erasers to those words.

  • http://ruvysroost,blogspot.com Ruvy in Jerusalem

    This came to me from Aish haTorah (Fire of the Torah) This is specifically for Shark, who is battling cancer and senses he has a limited time with us, but has very much to do with both G-d and with gratitude.

    by Sara Yoheved Rigler The idealism and faith of Israel’s Army.

    During the war in Lebanon last summer, while walking in my Jerusalem neighborhood, I ran into a friend whose 20-year-old daughter had been killed in a terrorist attack. The news that morning had reported four more Israeli soldiers dead. When I saw my friend, I paled. “I hope none of your sons are in Lebanon!” I exclaimed. Her family, who had made aliyah from South Africa, had certainly paid more than its share for the right of Jews to live in Israel.

    My friend frowned. “Well, Tzvi is almost finished with the army, but my second son is serving now. He wanted to join a combat unit. You know, the law is that when a family has lost a child, the remaining children can’t join a combat unit unless both parents sign.”

    “Well of course you’re not going to sign!” I blurted out.

    She shook her head. “I really didn’t want to sign. But these kids are raised on the ideal of fighting to defend Israel. If I don’t let him live out his ideals, he’ll resent me for the rest of his life.”

    “Let him resent you!” I implored, remembering how totally devastated this family had been by their terrible loss.

    She shook her head resolutely and tears came to her eyes. “I signed this morning.”

    SELF-ACTUALIZATION VS.SELF-SACRIFICE

    Much has been written about “Post-Zionism” — the rejection by many Israelis, especially academics and the elite, of the ideal of creating a Jewish state in the Land of Israel. According to the latest statistics from 2006, some 25% of secular Israeli youth who are qualified to serve in the Israel Defense Forces (I.D.F.) avoid serving. Rock star Aviv Geffen, an icon of Israeli pop culture over the last decade, not only refused to do his army stint, but called for other youths to leave the country rather than serve.

    Much less is written about those who, like my friend’s son, view serving the Jewish nation in the land of Israel as a sacred ideal. While religious Jews constitute a minority of Israel’s population, they have become the majority in I.D.F. elite combat units, and a growing proportion of officers comes from their ranks.

    On the surface it seems that what divides post-Zionists from religious Israelis is politics and ideology: left vs. right, universalism vs. nationalism. In truth, their most trenchant difference is the value they assign to self-actualization vs. self-sacrifice for the collective. The Jewish ideal of mesirat nefesh refers to giving up what is dear to you. Mesirat nefesh is a continuum from simple dedication (such as giving your time to a worthy cause) to total self-sacrifice (such as giving up your life).

    A glowing example of the latter is Major Ro’i Klein. His platoon was inside a building in Lebanon last summer when a Hizbullah terrorist tossed a grenade in the window. Ro’i knew that there was only one way to save his men. He threw himself on the grenade, shouting, “Shema Yisrael,” [the basic core statement of Judaism “Hear O Israel! HASHEM is our G-d, HASHEM is ONE!!] and let his own body absorb the force of the blast, saving everyone else in the room.

    The opposite of mesirat nefesh is the “Me first” culture of the West, which has penetrated the discos of Tel Aviv but not the army of Israel. During last summer’s war, more reservists showed up to fight than the number called. Not all of them returned.

    THE LAST FIVE SECONDS

    Among the Jewish reservists killed in Lebanon was Lieutenant Colonel Emanuel Moreno, age 35. Emanuel and his unit were sent into Lebanon to stop the flow of arms to Hizbullah from Syria and Iran.

    When Emanuel’s wife and children were sitting shiva for him, a non-religious I.D.F. officer came and recounted a conversation he had had with Emanuel just before they embarked on the helicopter that took them into the war zone.

    The two officers were sitting and discussing all the possible eventualities that might occur during the imminent battle, and how they would respond to them. Two weeks before, a Hizbullah missile had hit an I.D.F. helicopter and killed the five soldiers in it. As the officer recounted the conversation:

    Emanuel asked me, “What would you do if, God forbid, our helicopter is hit by a missile and you have only five seconds left to live before it explodes?”

    I answered him, “I don’t know. I guess I’d be very sad and scared. I would close my eyes and wait for it all to be over as fast as possible, with the least pain.”

    Emanuel thought a moment and said: “What I would do, and that’s also what you should do, is say Shema Yisrael.”

    I looked at him and said, “Okay, say Shema Yisrael, but what good does that do you? Anyway a moment later the helicopter will explode and we’ll all die.”

    Then he answered with a statement that has stayed with me until now, and I believe that it will stay with me my whole life: “If a person has five seconds to live and he believes there’s still purpose to his life and is driven by the eternal consequences in the World to Come, then it means that his life has meaning. But if a person has five seconds left to live and he doesn’t understand the importance of those last five seconds, then it appears that his entire life had no meaning, because we don’t live only to fulfill our physical desires or to just have a good time. Rather, life is one stage on the way to the next.”

    As Rabbi Noah Weinberg puts it: “If you have nothing you’re willing to die for, then you have nothing you’re willing to live for.”

    DIVINE EMISSARY

    In his new book, Am Yisrael Chai [Hebrew, published by Todah Tzahal], Reserve Major Moshe Kenan relates a story that gives us a glimpse behind the scenes of the Jewish army at war last summer.

    Near the end of the war, in a particularly fierce battle three kilometers into Lebanon, four Israeli soldiers were killed and over 30 wounded. Major Moshe Kenan was the leader of the paratrooper rescue squad that brought the dead and injured and some of the materiél back into Israel. When the operation was over, they realized that they had left behind one dead soldier.

    It was Sunday. They had been notified that a ceasefire with Hizbullah would go into effect at 8 AM Monday. They had scarcely 18 hours left to go back into the war zone and retrieve their fallen comrade, as well as the considerable arms and munitions left behind. As Moshe writes:

    In the platoon, opinions were divided. Some of the officers held that there was no reason to go back in. Hizbullah was just waiting for the rescue force to return and would fire on it. It was not worth jeopardizing the lives of other soldiers to rescue the materiél and one dead soldier.

    But the majority favored the opinion that they had to go back in, no matter what the cost, so that the body wouldn’t be captured and the materiél wouldn’t fall into the hands of Hizbullah.

    In the evening, the decision was made: We’re going back in.

    Shlomi, the assistant platoon commander, was skeptical about the operation, but Moshe forged ahead with the preparations. He requisitioned and received special night vision equipment, sappers trained to defuse landmines, and a hunting dog to sniff out the body easily and quickly, since they would be under Hizbullah fire throughout the mission.

    Late that night, just before setting out, Moshe gathered his soldiers for a briefing. He explained the goal of the operation—to bring back the dead soldier for proper Jewish burial. “About the importance of the operation, there was no need to speak,” Moshe recalls. “I could see in the eyes of the pure soldiers the spark of faith.”

    He concluded the briefing: “We’re going in to bring our comrade to Jewish burial. His pure and eternal soul sees and knows your mesirat nefesh (self-sacrifice). We, the nation of Israel, are not afraid of Hizbullah. They are exactly like Amalek, who fought with the Israelites after the Exodus from Egypt…”

    Moshe went on to tell how Moses had led the Israelite army to victory. He sat on hill in the battlefield, and when he lifted his hands heavenward, Israel prevailed. When he dropped his hands down, the enemy prevailed.

    A skeptic in the platoon asked how Moses’ hands could determine the outcome of the battle. Moshe answered that Moses had pointed out to the soldiers, “Look upward to God! The physical battle is important, but in order to win the battle one needs to subjugate the heart to our Father in Heaven. When Israel looked up and subjugated their hearts to God, they won. With God’s help, we will go out and we will win.”

    As they started to move out, they were notified that Hizbullah had been identified in the precise area they were going, and therefore they could not take the dog. A single bark would reveal their whereabouts.

    At the border fence, Moshe blessed his soldiers with the Priestly blessing from the Torah.

    I am not a kohen, but I felt such strong love for these soldiers. I really felt as though I were blessing my sons on Shabbat night.

    I did not think about my family. It’s forbidden in war to think about one’s family. To me, the soldiers were my children…

    Then I took a minute to raise my eyes to Heaven and prayed from the depths of my heart, “Master of the Universe, please prove to all the soldiers of the platoon that you love us. Thank you.”

    As soon as he took his first steps into Lebanese territory, Moshe saw out of the corner of his eye something run across his path. It was a small, gray cat. The cat hovered close to his boots, despite Moshe’s attempts to shoo it away. As the platoon marched deeper into Lebanon, the cat accompanied them.

    After an hour of movement, their scout noticed two shadowy figures to the east. The platoon hit the ground and pointed their weapons toward the terrorists. Moshe was about to open fire when the cat jumped next to him and brushed him with its tail. Startled, Moshe lost his concentration. By the time he regained it moments later and again prepared to fire, the two shadowy figures were identified as Israeli soldiers.

    The cat accompanied them the entire three kilometers to their destination — the hill where the soldier’s body lay somewhere in the darkness. Hizbullah fire rained down on the whole area. “We recognized the smell of war on the hill, and from afar we saw the missiles we had left in the area, shining from the dew and the light of the moon.”

    Shlomi, the assistant platoon commander, sent forces to retrieve the materiél. Then he called to Moshe’s rescue force to quickly ascend the hill and find the body. Just then, a Hizbullah missile landed next to the hill. Stalwartly, Moshe’s forces made a horizontal line and, treading carefully, started to comb the area.

    At one point the soldier on the right of the line said, “Look at this!” They stopped and saw that the cat stood next to an Israeli helmet. Moshe whispered, “Apparently, this is exactly where he fell.” They began to search the ground with their hands, but all they found were grenades and shrapnel from the battle. Then Moshe noticed the cat.

    “Suddenly, from a distance of three meters, we saw the cat trying to drag something. We advanced and saw that the cat stood on the soldier we were searching for.”

    They removed the body to the bottom of the hill and headed south. During the withdrawal, Moshe radioed his unit: “There’s a small cat with us who helped us find exactly what we were looking for. Don’t chase it away.” When Moshe glanced behind him, the cat had disappeared.

    On the way back to the border, one of the officers fell in next to Moshe and whispered to him, “Did you see? The army couldn’t help us with a hunting dog, so God sent us a hunting cat.”

    Fortunate is the army of Israel, that their mesirat nefesh draws down miracles from God.

  • http://parodieslost.typepad.com Mark Schannon

    Shark, we sort of missed each other in your leaving BC & my getting more involved, but I’ve missed your caustic wit & ability to cut through the shit that sometimes threatens to overwhelm us.

    On some level you’re right–the battle you’re living through now puts BC in a different perspective–but there are so many who are praying or (for those of us for whom prayer is bizarre) hoping you beat this, maybe the perspective isn’t that BC’s a waste of time…maybe we’re one of the largest fucking disfunctional families in the history of the world.

    Gonzo’s been leaving tire marks all over my bald pate trying to explain the reason you & others left…and I still don’t get it. Like on a professional level it’s so important to win on BC…who besides us reads this shit?

    But on a personal level, I’d guess there’s still a BC hook into you or you wouldn’t have posted. Just like there is in Gonzo et al….and, frankly, in me, who, even as an editor, sometimes gets so frustrated I just want to go back and write my little words on my little blog & forget BC forever.

    It’s not a bad addiction, Shark–and having people around who care can’t hurt.

    And, while I’m at it, remember what else can’t hurt…

    In Jameson Veritas

    …and best of luck…you’re right–fuck God…but don’t fuck yourself…

  • MCH

    “I’m gonna beat this thing, but as I’ve mentioned to a few people, a concrete taste of one’s mortality tends to change one’s attitude about WASTING TIME. And — sorry, kids — BC is a waste of time.”
    – Shark

    I understand, Shark. And I’ll always fondly remember your ability to write circles around Populi/Nalle.