Would Jesus Approve of SI’s Swimsuit Issue?



The annual Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue arrives on newsstands Tuesday. It features three semi-nude babes on the cover.

The issue is eagerly awaited by much of SI’s readership. However, let those of us who are Christ followers not deceive ourselves: the magazine’s swimsuit issue is nothing more than softcore pornography.

Indeed, SI’s cover, celebrating the 50th anniversary of its swimsuit issue, actually is more sexualized than the cover of the latest issue of Playboy, which marks the skin magazine’s 60th anniversary, and which features the model Kate Moss in a bunny costume.

What particularly offends about SI is its hypocrisy.

The magazine’s writers and editors pride themselves in being on the right side of controversial social issues that transcend sport. But they have been silent about the sports media’s shameless exploitation of young women for the lustful pleasure of men (and boys).

To wit: SI recently published a fawning cover story about Michael Sam, the former Missouri college football player who came out of the closet as a homosexual, who hopes to become the first openly-gay player in the NFL.

“America is ready for Michael Sam,” SI declared.

Then there’s SI’s campaign to compel the Washington Redskins to change its team name to comport with the magazine’s politically correct sensibilities. In fact, the mag’s NFL writer Peter King decided last football season he would no longer reference the franchise’s team name.

“It has nothing to do with calling anyone racist.” said King. “It’s just I’m uncomfortable using the name.”

Yet, SI’s writers and editors think it perfectly acceptable to pander to its preponderantly male readership with lascivious pictorials of young women that are seminude or fully nude (save for body paint).

MJ Day, the madam of sorts  who edits the mag’s swimsuit issue, even goes so far as to suggest that the cover shot of models Nina Agdal and Lily Aldridge, “clad in orange thong bikini bottoms,” as the New York Daily News described their skimpy attire, and Chrissy Teigen, in a “barely-there pink bikini,” was perfectly wholesome.

As to the models themselves, who’ve sold their souls for fame and fortune, “They’re really good girls,” Day told the Newark Star-Ledger. “They’re the girl next door.”

Well, really good girls do not take their clothes off for the titillation of millions of men. And girls next door don’t strike come hither poses suggesting that they’re inviting a sex acts.

Of course, most of SI’s male readers look forward to this Tuesday’s arrival of the swimsuit issue. They can’t wait to ogle the scantily clad models therein.

But for those us who are Christ followers first, sports fans further down the list (behind family, country, et al.) we are instructed to be not “conformed to this world,” where soft core pornography has been mainstreamed by the popular culture.

No, we will not go to hell by viewing the risqué photos in SI’s swimsuit issue. But we certainly will be conducting ourselves outside of God’s will.

Indeed, in the Gospel According to Matthew, Jesus declared, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

That’s why the men among us who are committed Christ followers will bring every lustful thought into captivity to the obedience of God. And that means avoiding SI’s soft core porn issue.

Two Super Bowl QBs Christians Can Root For



There is a longstanding Super Bowl tradition among Las Vegas bookmakers to offer the gambling public various esoteric betting propositions.

Among Super Bowl XLVIII props for which sports books in Sin City have posted odds is whether announcers mention “marijuana” during the game, whether any member of the Red Hot Chili Peppers will be shirtless during their Super Bowl performance and whether Erin Andrews will interview Seattle Seahawks corner Richard Sherman live after the game.

But there’s a prop for which Vegas bookmakers didn’t bother to post odds – whether there will be any mention whatsoever that the quarterbacks of both the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks are unabashed Christians during the practically all-day televised coverage of the Super Bowl.

That’s because even the most gullible gamblers would avoid this sucker bet, no matter how generous the odds.

Because, while it was perfectly acceptable for CBS to allow the mass marriage of homosexual couples of its live telecast of this year’s Grammy Awards, while no one is giving ABC grief for having lesbian activist Ellen Degeneres host this year’s Academy Awards, FOX doesn’t want to risk anti-Christian blowback by letting the more than 100 million viewers of today’s Super Bowl know the role Christ plays in the lives of both Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson.

“I committed my life to Christ,” affirmed Manning, in his self-titled book, “and that faith has been most important to me ever since.”

Does the Denver Broncos’ signal caller pray for God’s divine intervention on the gridiron? No, he said, “except as a generic thing. I pray to keep both teams injury free and, personally, that I use whatever talent I have to the best of my ability.”

As to whether the Almighty has a rooting interest in the Super Bowl or any other NFL tilt, “I don’t think God really cares about who wins football games,” said Manning, “except as winning might influence the character of some person or group.”

Wilson, the Seahawks’ man behind center, recently testified at Seattle’s Mars Hill church that Christ has been with him in bad times and good.

“When we are at the worst times of our lives,” he said, “when we are battling with something, or struggles, whatever it may be…we want somebody to comfort us”

Or, he continued, “when things are going really well, we want somebody to … be there for us and say, ‘Well done.’

That’s Jesus, said Wilson, unashamed of the Gospel. “Jesus has always been there,” he said, “He’ll never leave you, never forsake you.”

Manning and Wilson are espousing a message of faith all too often mocked by the popular culture; scorned by the socially-correct.

Indeed, Christian athletes like Manning and Wilson don’t get invited to the president’s State of the Union address to sit next to the First Lady. That putative honor is reserved for jocks like Jason Collins, the pro basketballer feted last week for coming out as a homosexual.

Neither Manning nor Wilson appear in any way desirous of presidential plaudits.

For these Super Bowl QBs, these Christian athletes, are informed by the Scripture, which declares, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He shall lift you up.”

Tiger Woods Fails to Prove Himself a ‘Better Man’



I’m a huge Tiger Woods fan. That’s why it pains me that he continues to do damage to his once-nearly-pristine image.

Having recently reclaimed his sport’s ranking as World No. 1 – as the Euros put it – Tiger flew this week to Augusta, Georgia as the favorite to win the Masters.

He acquitted himself rather well the tourney’s first two days, save for a mishap yesterday on the 15th hole. He hit an approach shot to the green that, as bad luck would have it, ricocheted off the flag pole and careened into the creek.

After taking a “drop” – which entailed a one stroke penalty – Tiger hit his next shot on the green, sank the putt and rocked on to the next hole. As it turns out, the world’s most famous golfer made an improper drop, for which he should have been penalized another two strokes.

Tiger signed his scorecard without including the two penalty strokes and left the golf course. This morning he learned of his error, which meant he signed his Friday scorecard incorrectly.

In every case I’ve ever heard, a golfer who signs an incorrect scorecard in tournament play is disqualified. Yet, the green jacketed powers-that-be at Augusta National somehow found a way not to disqualify Tiger.

And even though I had looked forward this weekend to seeing whether my favorite golfer could win the fifth Master’s championship of his career, I think Augusta’s green jackets made the absolute wrong decision.

Nevertheless, the Bible advises “that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

I believe the Almighty, in His infinite grace, gave Tiger an opportunity to redeem himself in the eyes of many of those who have not gotten past his serial adultery with who knows how many harlots, which defiled his marriage and left a lasting scar upon his faithful wife, the mother of his two beautiful children.

Oh, how I hoped that Tiger would say that, even though Augusta’s powers-that-be had not disqualified him for his rule-breaking – had tempted him with preferential treatment – he had decided to disqualify himself. Even though doing so would cost him the Masters.

But Tiger did not enter today through the narrow gate, of which the Word of God speaks. He chose the wide gate, the broad way that leads to destruction.

In 2010, Tiger delivered a mea culpa in which he told a national television audience, “I am deeply sorry for my irresponsible and selfish behavior.” He promised “to be a better man.” And he confided he was returning to the Buddhist faith of his youth, which his Thai mother instilled in him.

Well, the events of today suggest that Tiger is not the better man he promised to be. And I am persuaded he will remain a lost soul until, hopefully, he comes to Jesus.

For when a man is in Christ, he is a new creature. The old things are passed away. All things become new.

NYT Religion Writer Throws a Hissy Fit



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?



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.

The Death and Life of X Gamer Caleb Moore



Caleb Moore, the Winter X Games snowmobiler, went to be with the Lord yesterday. He was 25 years old.

The young man crash landed a week ago – much to the entertainment of millions watching on ESPN – attempting a back flip during the snowmobile freestyle finals. Initially knocked unconscious, the X game athlete awakened, woozily, was diagnosed with a concussion and, eventually, whisked to the hospital.

While hospitalized, Caleb’s condition worsened. Doctors found blood near his heart. This past Sunday, the Lord’s Day, the young man’s family issued a statement that his cardiac injury had led to a secondary injury to his brain. Then, the next day, Caleb’s grandpa told a Denver newspaper his grandson almost certainly was not going to make it.

And, yesterday, the young man drew his last breath.

My heart breaks for Caleb’s family. They knew that the young man’s extreme sport was inherently dangerous; that crashes were almost inevitable. Indeed, Caleb had previously broken his collar bone, pelvis, wrist and tailbone on snowmobiles and all terrain vehicles, not to mention sustaining at least 10 concussions.

“You know it can happen at any time,” said Wade Moore, Caleb’s Dad.

Yet, I have no doubt that the Moore family is grief stricken today. For even if you know that a loved one has a dangerous job or avocation, you still don’t expect them to be taken from you suddenly.

Especially when that loved one is only 25 years old.

Caleb’s tragic death is a cautionary tale to all the young people reading these words: Tomorrow is not promised to you. Every day you spend above ground is a manifestation of God’s amazing grace.

Indeed, when Caleb awakened a week ago yesterday, he had no idea it would be the very last week of his young life. My prayer is that he was a Christ follower; that he spent yesterday in paradise with his Savior.

By the same coin, I hope that the young people who either watched Caleb’s fateful crash on ESPN or saw it on the news do not make the mistake of the thinking they have all the time in the world to get right with God.

Most of those young people can indeed look forward to a long life. But some, sadly, are destined for a premature death, like young Caleb Moore.

Only God knows how many years each of us have on this side of the grave. But we all, old and young alike, can guarantee that we will spend eternity with – rather than without – God by giving our lives to Christ.

Lance Armstrong’s Fall From Grace


Seven-time Tour de France cycling champion Lance Armstrong has long rejected the idea that God has dominion over his life.

He has refused to accept that his Creator saved him from testicular cancer (“If there was a God, I’d still have two balls,” he once sneered).

He has refused to credit the Almighty for his exceptional athletic prowess (“One of the redeeming things about being an athlete is redefining what’s humanly possible,” he once declared.)

The Bible warns that “God opposes the proud.” And Armstrong’s stunning fall from grace offers proof that God’s Word does not return void.

The disgraced cyclist has lost almost everything that mattered to him.

This past summer, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency charged him with having used performance enhancing drugs, stripped him of all his cycling titles and banned him from every competing again.

Yesterday, Nike announced that it was severing its ties with Armstrong, going so far as to remove his name from its corporate fitness center (just as it removed the name of the late Joe Paterno from its corporate daycare center).

That prompted other Armstrong sponsors to follow suit, including Trek (which made Armstrong’s bicycles), Anheuser-Busch, 24 Hour Fitness, FRS and Honey Stinger to follow suit.

Then, perhaps, the biggest ignominy of all, the scandalized cyclist was forced to step down from his own Livestrong Foundation.

Were Armstrong a man of faith, now would be the time for him to drop down on his knees and humble himself before God; to ask the Lord to have mercy upon him, according to His loving kindness, and to blot out his transgressions.

But Armstrong believes he is master of his own fate. He doesn’t believe he is accountable to God.

“If,” wrote Armstrong, in his 2000 autobiography, “there was indeed a God at the end of my days, I hoped he didn’t say, ‘But you were never a Christian, so you’re going the other way from heaven.’ If so, I was going to reply, ‘You know what? You’re right. Fine.’”

That’s the kind of pridefulness God opposes.

It led to Armstrong’s fall from grace. And, unless he gets right with the Almighty, it will lead to his eternal damnation.

Can a Good Christian Girl Be a Cheerleader?


The start of football season prompted me to visit several sports websites to get an idea of how the putative “experts”expect my favorite college and NFL teams to fare this year.

(Not particularly well).

What struck me is that almost every one of the sites I visited has some sort of photo gallery of cheerleaders, often ranking them not on how well the squads perform their sideline routines, but how “hot” they are.

If that is what cheerleading has come to for many, if not most, male football fans – ogling the young women between plays on the gridiron field – that raises the question:

Can a young woman be, at once, a faithful Christian and a cheerleader?

Ariann Denison believes so.

She was a Miami Dolphins cheerleader from 2005 to 2009, before becoming the squad’s choreographer. She also owns a dance studio that not only offers classes in ballet, jazz, tap, lyrical and “pro cheer,” but also a liturgical class that combines dance with Christian music.

Ariann says that her background as an NFL cheerleader and choregrapher, and her position as owner of a successful dance studio, has given her the opportunity to share the Gospel with young women who may think that cheerleading and following the Lord are mutually exclusive.

“My testimony shocks them,” she told The Good News, a Christian newspaper. “I tell the older girls that I didn’t have my first drink until I was 25. I never went to a club in college. And I kept myself pure until marriage.”

And like the dance students taking Ariann’s “pro cheer” class, there are many young women throughout the country who aspire to be cheerleaders at the high school, college or even professional level, but who refuse to compromise their Christian values.

Indeed, there are more than 500 Christian cheerleading camps and clinics around the country. The girls that attend the camps learn all the yells, the stunts, the acrobatics, the dances that are taught at secular camps.

The difference is that Christian cheerleaders are not about wearing skimpy costumes and performing bump-and-grind dance moves that are more appropriate at a strip club than on a football sideline.

Christian cheerleaders, as Ariann Denison attests, are not offended by male sports fans who think them “hot.” But those young women know they are set apart not by what can be seen on the outside by their male admirers, but what God can see on the inside.

Do Sports Fanatics Go to Heaven?


ESPN makes great commercials. It has been that way since it first launched its “This is SportsCenter” ad campaign back in 1995.

Nearly 400 commercials later, the campaign rocks on with its wry send-ups of famous athletes (usually hanging out at the ESPN offices in Bristol, Connecticut), its comical use of team mascots, and its amusing storylines involving rapid sports fans.

But a recent ESPN commercial is anything but wry or comical or amusing. It shows the actual graves of truly die hard sports fans whose headstones pay homage not to their Creator, but to their favorite sports teams.

Such end-of-life idolatry may very well condemn those that died not in Christ, but in the jersey of their favorite ballplayer, to eternal separation from God.

Indeed, if fans are so worshipful of their beloved sports team that they would go so far as to memorialize their devotion above their final resting place, they clearly have not loved the Lord their God with all their hearts, all their souls, all their strength and all their minds.

They have violated the very first of the Ten Commandments: “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.”

That’s not meant to suggest that anyone who loves sports, who roots for a favorite athlete, who follows a favorite sports team is sinful. No. Only those who take their sports obsession to extremes.

Like the couple that so loved their Alabama Crimson Tide football that they actually skipped their daughter’s wedding to attend one of the Tide’s gridiron clashes.

Like at least three different sets of parents – including one set living, ironically, in Corpus Christi, Texas – that have named their newborn babies ESPN.

Like those who are buried in caskets bearing the logos of their favorite sports teams.

Those and other sports worshippers may not think their fanaticism sinful. They may not think it threatens their very salvation (that is, if they happen to consider themselves Christians).

But one cannot go to one’s grave in open defiance of God’s commandment to have no other Gods before Him, abiding in the sin of idolatry for which one refuses to repent, and expect to escape God’s punishment.

For the Scripture warns that idol worshippers – like the sports fanatics who went to their very graves paying tribute to their favorite teams – “shall have their part in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

Hooray to Our Medal-Winning Christian Olympians


I’m proud of the entire U.S. Olympic team. But I’m particularly proud of our Olympic athletes who competed in London not for personal glory– and the fame and fortune that comes with it in some cases – but for God and country.

Among our Christian Olympians who medaled over the past fortnight were two precocious high schoolers, 16-year-old Gabby Douglas and 17-year-old Missy Franklin.

Gabby, a gymnast, won gold in both the women’s all-around and team competition. Missy, a swimmer, won five medals, four gold and one bronze, while setting two world records in the process.

“I give all the glory to God,” said Gabby. “God has blessed me with so much,” tweeted Missy.

Similar sentiments were expressed by two members of the U.S. women’s track and field team, Allyson Felix, who captured gold in the 200 meters, and Sandra Richards Ross, who took gold in the 400 meters.

There were also two faithful Christians on the gold-medal-winning U.S. women’s soccer team, Lauren Cheney and Amy Rodriguez.

Then there’s Kevin Durant, a member of the U.S. men’s basketball team, who may very well score gold when he and his fellow NBA roundballers take on Spain in the finals.

Of course, not everyone is happy to see our Christian Olympians fare as well as they have in London.

Like Salon’s Mary Elizabeth Williams, who hated on Gabby, in an article in which bemoaned, “The gold medalist is a teenager of deep faith and gratitude – and that can be a little unnerving.”

Williams added that she agreed with a colleague at Salon who said of young Gabby, “I would like her more if she were not so, so, so into Jesus.”

That’s the kind of animus faced by Christian athletes – like Gabby, Missy, Allyson, Sandra, Lauren, Amy and Kevin – when they dare to lift up the name of Jesus.

And that’s why they need the support, the prayers, of those us who count ourselves Christ followers.

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