NYT Religion Writer Throws a Hissy Fit

MARK OPPENHEIMER SUGGESTS NFL PRAYER CIRCLES ARE LITTLE MORE THAN 'CAREFULLY CALIBRATED ROUTINE.' CHRISTIAN FACADE.

MARK OPPENHEIMER SUGGESTS NFL PRAYER CIRCLES ARE LITTLE MORE THAN ‘CAREFULLY CALIBRATED ROUTINE.’ 

So I just got around to reading a tweet from Mark Oppenheimer, religion columnist for The New York Times. 

He was offended by my February 3 post taking issue with a cover story he wrote for Sports Illustrated, “In the Fields of the Lord,” which appeared in the magazine’s Super Bowl issue.

Oppenheimer’s article dissed NFL players who “point to heaven after the big sack, cross themselves after a touchdown and give thanks to Jesus in the post-game interviews.” His hit piece  – which, at one point, jokes about pro footballers attempting to “Christianize the strip club” – suggests that the faith of Christian athletes is unworthy of being taken seriously.

Had a Christ follower authored such an article, I would have disagreed, but I wouldn’t have wondered what secret animus he might bear toward Christianity.

But Oppenheimer is Jewish, as I noted in my post. And I couldn’t shake the suspicion that the cynical tone of his SI essay was attributable, at least in part, to a conceit that his faith is superior to the Christian faith.

Oppenheimer is skeptical of Christianity.

He doesn’t believe that Jesus Christ was the Messiah foretold by the book of Isaiah. That He was born of a virgin. That He performed the miraculous. That He was crucified and rose from the dead three days thereafter. That he was seen by men after His resurrection. And that He sits now at the right hand of God.

In my view, a writer that rejects the divinity of Jesus – be he (or she) Jewish, like Oppenheimer, or Muslim, or Buddhist, or Hindu, or Scientologist or whatever – simply cannot write a fair and balanced article on the Christian faith.

Even when that article explores the seemingly innocuous subject of pro football and Christian athletes.

Oppenheimer didn’t see it this way. The guy who spent nearly 3,500 words mocking gridiron Christians threw a hissy fit because I had the temerity to report that he is Jewish.

“cheers, Christian Diarist,” Oppenheimer tweeted, “to anti-Semitism in attack on my Sports Ill piece abt Christianity + NFL.”

And The New York Times/Sports Illustrated religion writer got a tweet of support from Rebecca Ruquist, one of his twitter sycophants.

 “oy veyyyy,” she sympathized. “The ‘yes,’ (confirming your suspicion) is esp unsavory.”

Well oy veyyyy, indeed, Miss Ruquist. My post anticipated that readers would want to know the religious faith of the author of the Sports Ill piece (for the very germaine reasons I mentioned above). So, I answered in advance: “yes, he’s Jewish.”

Maybe, in Ruquist’s mind, that made my post “unsavory.” Maybe, to Oppenheimer’s way of thinking, that somehow made my post anti-Semitic.

But Oppenheimer protests too much, me thinks. By playing the anti-Semitic card, he clearly is attempting to deflect attention from his SI article, which is artfully written and deviously anti-Christian.

Does God Have a Super Bowl Favorite?

RAY LEWIS PICTURED ON SI COVER, IN IMAGE SUGGESTING BAPTISM OF CHRIST.

RAY LEWIS PICTURED ON SI COVER, IN IMAGE SUGGESTING BAPTISM OF CHRIST.

The decidedly secularist Sports Illustrated – evidenced by the busty swimsuit models it teasingly features on the home page of its web site (alongside the latest sports news, which is what “SI” is supposed to be about) – thought the occasion of the Super Bowl  would be the perfect time to weigh in on the subject of Christianity and football.

The cover of its February 4 issue, still available on newsstands, has a picture of Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, under the headline:  “Does God Care Who Wins the Super Bowl?”

In the cover shot, Lewis is up to his shoulders in water, hands folded as in prayer. It seems obvious the image is meant to suggest the baptism of Christ; as if Lewis, who was at least indirectly involved in the murders of two people the last time his NFL team made the Super Bowl, is some sort of Messianic figure.

SI’s cover story asserts, “The sport with the biggest Christian presence, most famous Christian athletes and most religious leaders affiliated with teams features a culture that seemingly goes against the values of Christianity.”

So whom did SI assign to write about “the values of Christianity” as they relate to “big-time football?” Mark Oppenheimer – yes, he’s Jewish – religion columnist for The New York Times.

Is it any wonder that a writer who disbelieves the divinity of Christ, who thinks he knows better than the 80 percent of us who identify ourselves as Christ followers, would sneer at footballers who publicly profess their Christ followers?

In his cover story, Oppenheimer mocks what he says has become customary for many NFL players: They point to heaven, pray on their knees and thank Jesus in post-game interviews.

The SI writer’s sarcastic prediction for today’s Super Bowl: Ray Lewis will wear his customary black T-shirt under his uniform that says PSALMS 91 and 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, if successful on a big play, will kiss either his tattoo of the words GOD TO GLORY or the one that reads FAITH.

Well, as a Christ follower who is also a football fan, I see absolutely nothing wrong with NFL players honoring God, giving glory to their Lord and Savior.

In fact, I root for those who are not ashamed to publicly profess their Christian faith – be it Lewis or Kaepernick, one of which will win the Super Bowl, or such past Super Bowl MVPs as Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Kurt Warner.

As to whether God cares whether the Ravens or 49ers win today’s Super Bowl, I think not.

But I do believe He delights in athletes who make full use of the talent with which He has blessed them; who pursue their craft as unto the Lord and not to men; who glorify Him when they  achieve success; and who evince His peace, which surpasses all understanding, even when they fall short of victory.

Broncos Make Tebow Haters Happy

THERE WILL BE NO MORE TEBOWING IN THE MILE HIGH CITY.

Tom Brady got his actress girlfriend pregnant out of wedlock, then promptly dumped her for a new model girlfriend – whom the New England Patriots quarterback married instead of the mother of his child.

Ben Roethlisberger was accused of sexually assault by a 20-year-old college student who said the Pittsburgh Steelers QB followed her into the ladies room of a Georgia night club and had his way with her. That followed a previous accusation that “Big Ben” sexually assualted a 31-year-old casino host at a Lake Tahoe hotel.

As reprehensible the behavior of both Brady and Roethlisberger, neither pro footballer experienced the kind of hateration directed at Tim Tebow because the second-year Denver Broncos QB dared to publicly profess his Christian faith.

Well, now the Tebow haters have something to slap high fives about. The Broncos have decided to replace their gritty young quarterback with former Indiana Colts signal caller Peyton Manning.

Never mind that Tebow took the Broncos from worst to first in the AFC West this past season, orchestrating six improbable late-game comeback victories in the process. Never mind that No. 15 – who had the second-best selling NFL jersey last year – led Denver to the second round of the playoffs, after besting Roethlisberger’s Steelers in the opening round.

Broncos management said it just couldn’t pass up an opportunity to acquire free agent Manning, who had a Hall of Fame career with the Colts, but who is attempting to come back from a neck injury that required four surgeries, and which kept him sidelined all of last season.

Of course, it’s the Broncos prerogative to sign or deal players as management sees fit. But the duplicity with which the club has dealt with Tebow leaves a lasting stain upon the franchise.

Back in November, Broncos owner Pat Bowlen said of Tebow, “I believe he’ll be a great one.

In January, Broncos Executive Vice President John Elway said, “I think Tim has earned the right to be the starting quarterback going into training camp.”

And, just last month, Broncos Head Coach John Fox said of Tebow, “He is going to be a great quarterback in this league.”

I’m sure Bowlen, Elway and Fox will maintain that they meant what they said (when they said it). But the actions of the NFL club reveal what truly was in the hearts of the three men.

So there will be no Tebowing in Denver next football season. If Broncos management reaps what it has sown, the team will return to worst from first in its division.

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