“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” — an angel to Joseph (per Matthew 1)
“You will … give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High … his kingdom will never end.” — the angel Gabriel to Mary (per Luke 1)
All-Christmas Team 4
Kenjon Barner — football
Santi Cazorla — soccer
Demarcus Christmas — football
Noel Mazzone — football
Quevyn Winters — basketball
All-King Team 2
Prince Amukamara — football
Royal Ivey — basketball
Tavarres King — football
Kliff Kingsbury — football
Epiphanny Prince — basketball
Once upon a couch, I fell asleep watching the pregame show before the final game of the 2000 World Series (the Mets-Yankees Subway Series). Soon I descended into dreamland and learned of the soon-to-be events of September 11, 2001. Now, some dream friends and I hope to help Flight 93 above western Pennsylvania…
… Iron Man soars beside us, coming from the other side of the zooming plane. He nods to our right, toward the cabin: “It’s clearly a hijack situation, Max. Your intel was correct. I could see four hijackers in the cockpit, and they’re in control of the flight. I believe the pilots are dead — there were bodies on the cockpit floor.”
Ashen-faced, Miracle Max says, “It’s just as we feared. What can we do to help?”
Iron Man looks at Max and says, “Like I said, I could—”
“I know, I know,” Max interrupts, presumably referring to a previous discussion I wasn’t privy to. “But Iron Man, if you break into the cockpit and puncture the exterior of that plane at this altitude and speed, you’ll risk the lives of everyone on board. Yes, there’s that true story about an explosion that tore a hole in a big jet plane, and the plane was able to fly for miles and land safely — but those were different circumstances. It’s like I said before: If you break into the cockpit and kill the hijackers, you’d surely doom the passengers and crew too.”
“Hold on,” Iron Man says.
“We’re already holding on,” Max replies, exasperated. “Not everyone can fly as fast as you, pal.” Max and I are tightly grasping the airliner’s left wing or else we’d be left behind. His flowing white hair is shining in the sun like a crown.
“No, I mean wait a minute — I’m picking up phone transmissions from the plane,” Iron Man says, his computer in high gear. “It’s a passenger speaking with his wife on the ground. She’s telling him about the terrorists who crashed the other jets into the Twin Towers — listen to this.”
We hear a man’s voice emanating from the speakers in Iron Man’s high-tech metallic suit:
“We’re going to rush the hijackers,” the voice says. “We’re going to attack. I’m going to put the phone down. I love you. I’ll be right back.”
A different man’s voice comes from a different phone conversation as he talks with his wife many miles away: “I know we’re all going to die. There’s three of us who are going to do something about it. I love you, honey.”
A moment ago, the sun was radiant, brighter than a million lit-up Christmas trees. But now it has ducked behind some clouds, and glancing far below I see shadows from high billows that darken the patchwork farms-and-fields quilt like stains on a comforter.
Then we hear another man’s voice on another phone line — can’t tell who he’s speaking with, but soon he pauses and apparently turns to some fellow passengers: “Are you guys ready? Let’s roll.”
Next we hear a woman’s voice on yet another phone call. She’s talking with a man who must be a loved one somewhere on terra firma. She says she’s filling pitchers with boiling water — it sounds as if she’s a flight attendant. She concludes abruptly: “Everyone’s running to first class. I’ve got to go. Bye.”
“I’ve got to go too,” Iron Man says. “Got to take some action. Wait — I’m picking up some transmissions from inside the cockpit. It’s the hijackers. They’re speaking Arabic, so I won’t put on speaker but will translate for you.”
So Iron Man translates what the terrorists are saying to each other: “They’re trying to get in here. Hold, hold from the inside. Hold.”
“Some men are there.”
“Trust in Allah.”
“Is that it? Shall we finish it off?”
“No. Not yet.”
“When they all come, we finish it off.”
As Iron Man translates, the airliner rolls violently from side to side, and then up and down. Max and I barely maintain our grasp of the left wing as we ride this insane, fiendish roller coaster.
Iron Man continues translating: “Allah is the greatest. Allah is the greatest.”
“Is that it? I mean, shall we pull it down?”
“Yes, put it in it, and pull it down.”
Iron Man shouts, “I can’t stay here with you — time for Plan B, Max. Farewell, my friend, and I’ll see you on the flip side.”
Max and I let go of the wing as Iron Man rushes to the front of the plane. Suddenly, Flight 93 nosedives toward earth at an unimaginable speed, and Iron Man holds on to the jet’s nose, trying to prevent the descent.
“He ain’t the captain, kid,” Miracle Max says softly, “but he’ll go down with this ship if he can’t save it.”
Max reflexively reaches into his pocket, perhaps searching for a magic pill or elixir to save the day. His hand comes out empty — and United Flight 93 plummets, and plummets, and plummets … and crashes into the Pennsylvania countryside. Blood stains the comforter.
We had begun our aerial journey like three kings, beckoned from afar, apprehensive yet hopeful that we would somehow assist the safe advent of this fragile flight. Now we are like deposed monarchs — powerless, empty, brokenhearted.
In front of me, in midair, flashes a blue sign (with a gold border) that I’d never seen before. These words stand out to me:
Welcome to SHANKSVILLE
‘A Friendly Little Town’
Shanksville Honors the Heroes of Flight 93
(I’m not sure whether I’m seeing the actual sign — perhaps an image of the sign is being broadcast to my eyes.)
Later, I learn that a field in the town of Shanksville, Pennsylvania, became a makeshift graveyard for the people of Flight 93. A shank to the heart and soul, indeed. But the heroic actions of the passengers prevented the plane from being used as a missile in the manner of the planes that hit the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. Their bravery saved many lives that day.
The blue Shanksville sign fades away into another blue sign — namely, the bold blue sky that Miracle Max and Iron Man and I have been soaring through. Now, though, Iron Man has perished trying to rescue Flight 93. And Max and I are slowly losing altitude.
Then a rush of rage — at the terrorists — surges through my heart and mind. In my next breath, the rage is followed by familiar questions and sentiments upon such a tragedy: How could God allow another horrific event like this? Why didn’t He do something to help these people? And actually, is God even there?
Typhoon waves of despair engulf my soul. An abject sense of meaninglessness mangles my vision. Doubt wraps around me like a python and begins to squeeze.
Miracle Max and I are descending, yet for some reason the descent is slow — but Miracle Max? An acid steam of bitterness rises in me … what a joke of a name! Max had no miracles for these people. He should be stripped of that moniker. But I don’t voice this. For one, Iron Man was also unable to stem the terrorist tide. And after all, it was Max who enabled me to glide through the air (along with himself) and get to Flight 93, to give us at least a chance to help.
“Max,” I say, “do you believe in God?”
“Yes, I do,” he replies, though now I notice a nuanced change in Miracle Max — he still looks and sounds like Max, but it seems that perhaps someone else is talking to me. “It’s tough not to when you look at the design of everything from the stars to the human body. You really think the universe happened by random chance?”
“But even after senseless tragedies like this?” I counter — I, who have grown up in the church and believed in God since childhood. “How do you explain that and make it fit the paradigm of a loving God?” I quickly add: “I mean, I have some thoughts, but I’m wondering what you think.”
“Paradigm — look who’s using the fancy words,” Max says. “Well, kid, presuming God does exist, He gives people choice, right? And the key to choice is love — God wants people to love Him. For that to really happen, they gotta have the power to choose. You know, that free will thing. Love from a puppet or a robot — obviously, that’s not true love. By the way, my friend Westley — my buddy from ‘The Princess Bride’ — he knows something about true love: ‘As you wish.’ I think that’s exactly what God says to people. And God wants people to say to Him: ‘As you wish.’ That’s true love. But it means people are able to choose harmful wishes and actions.”
I protest, “But why does free will automatically mean some choices will be harmful? Why can’t everybody just make good choices with their choice?”
“I don’t know for 100 percent sure, kid,” Max admits. “But I think it’s ’cause human beings can choose what they wanna choose. Being able to choose only good wouldn’t really be a choice, now would it?”
I start to say something, but Max looks up and continues: “Plus, there’s this: God gets harmed too. He hurts too. Yes, we human beings know a thing or two about suffering, but God? We can’t pretend to know what His suffering is like. Whether you’re talking Jewish theism or Christian theism, God grieves, hurts, suffers like no other. And why? It comes back to true love. God wants our love, kid. Look, here’s a scene from the best movie of all time — yeah, of course, ‘The Princess Bride’ — and it sums up what I’m trying to say about how God hurts as it pertains to the humans he loves.”
A large, dark screen appears in the sky — looks like a movie screen — and from it emanates a piercing, anguished cry. Now we see Inigo Montoya and Fezzik, and Inigo says, “Do you hear that, Fezzik? That is the sound of ultimate suffering. My heart made that sound when Rugen slaughtered my father. The Man in Black makes it now.”
Fezzik says quizzically, “The Man in Black?”
Inigo replies, “His true love is marrying another tonight, so who else has the cause for ultimate suffering?” Then the screen vanishes.
“True love,” Max says. “It’s the best, and it’s the worst.”
The golden-and-green fields and farms below get closer as we drift downward.
“The other thing I wonder about,” I observe, “is that they say God is omnipresent, everywhere at the same time. But maybe we misunderstand what that means. Maybe it means He’s everywhere by His Spirit, but He also has a — a locational presence. In the Jewish and Christian traditions, God sometimes speaks to people in a certain place, and then He leaves that place. So maybe God is everywhere by His Spirit, but His distinct presence isn’t everywhere simultaneously—”
“I hear you, kid,” Max interjects.
“—and maybe that’s why He doesn’t intervene more often. Because He isn’t everywhere locationally. Of course, that’s a lot of maybes.”
“I got one more for you: Maybe all these maybes are all we got, when you boil it down,” Max says wistfully. “But some maybes are better than others: Give me the maybes that are true, kid.”
Suddenly, a specter floats toward us, appearing out of the sky. It resembles Max, actually — ancient face, wild white hair, frail frame.
“It’s my alter ego,” Max says matter-of-factly. Turning toward the phantom, Max shouts like a New York cabbie, “Hey, whaddaya doin’ here?”
The specter of Miracle Max points into the sky and an image appears. A family opening presents around a Christmas tree. A Mom, a Dad and three children. Laughs, smiles, an occasional hug.
Smoke obscures and dissipates, and we see another image: the same family around a Christmas tree. The Mom and the three children — but the Dad is missing. Faint smiles followed by quivering, heartbroken faces.
Max — the real one, not the specter of Christmas future — says quietly, “If those heroes on Flight 93 hadn’t taken action, this family would have lost a husband and Dad. Maybe, my friend, that’s the best answer to these questions.”
I object reflexively, “But why did it have to happen at all? Why couldn’t everyone survive?”
“Can’t really answer that — I just don’t know.”
“And anyway,” I resume, “maybe this family would still be together regardless. How do you know this guy is still alive because the passengers on Flight 93 fought back against those terrorists?”
Miracle Max replies, “Trust me, kid — I got a good source.”
Once upon a couch, I was home watching the pregame show before Game 5 of the 2000 World Series — the Mets-Yankees Subway Series. But I fell asleep just before the first pitch, and soon I started to dream…
… We continue our aerial journey, heading west above Pennsylvania — amazingly without the assistance of any aircraft or hot-air balloon or the like. We’re seeking Flight 93. Above and behind us, the sun is climbing high in a clear September sky. Below us, a city bustles with Matchbox cars and minute pedestrians.
The city is far smaller than the one where I was recently parade-going in the Canyon of Heroes in the dead of night. If New York City is the Himalayan mountains, this city we’re soaring above is Jersey’s Kittatinny Ridge. A river runs southeast through the metropolis.
“That’s Harrisburg, the capital of good ol’ PA,” says Miracle Max (of “Princess Bride” fame) as he gestures downward, reprising his role as aeronautical tour guide. “And that is the Susquehanna River.”
I peer down again, as does Iron Man, the newest addition to our expedition.
“Did you know this little factoid?” Max intones. “The Susquehanna River is the longest river on the East Coast of the United States that flows into the Atlantic Ocean. Bet you didn’t know that.”
“You’re right, I did not know that,” I say.
Max smiles. “You know where I learned that? Google. Such a perky search tool.”
“I did know that,” Iron Man says in what seems a bored tone. “I can access Google as I fly, you know — and a whole lot more — on my high-octane onboard computer.”
“Of course I knew you knew, Iron Man,” Max replies, his white hair catching the sun’s brightness. “I was talking to this kid over here. He’s from Connecticut and grew up in New Jersey. I don’t think he’s been in this neck of the woods before.”
Am I dreaming? I must be … no human can soar like an eagle in waking life, and the presence of Miracle Max and Iron Man bear a distinct resemblance to characters in dream land. According to the information I gleaned at the bizarre parade in NYC, it is nearly a year after I fell asleep before World Series Game 5 in October 2000. To be specific, it is September 11, 2001 — and following Miracle Max’s lead, we’re heading toward United Flight 93, which he claims is winging over western Pennsylvania.
As we fly west of Harrisburg, we essentially follow a highway, though we take a more direct course than the interstate’s natural loops and contours.
“That’s the Pennsylvania Turnpike, kid,” Max says, anticipating my question. Iron Man nods in geographic agreement.
The blue-stained sky is resplendent. The sun is radiant. My colleagues reflect the brightness in their distinct ways — one via ancient hair, the other via modern red-and-gold armor. What awaits when we reach Flight 93?
“My intel has informed me,” Miracle Max says, as if on cue, “that Flight 93 has been hijacked, just as the other planes were — the ones that hit the Twin Towers earlier this morning. We’re going to do all we can to help the passengers and crew of United 93.”
Iron Man interjects, “I’m picking up an airliner on radar. It’s coming our way at 477.3 miles per hour.” It occurs to me that we must be flying (or gliding) at a much slower speed.
Without warning, Iron Man races toward the unseen plane, jetting ahead of me and Max. “Hey, what’s going on?” I ask. “Why’d he take off?”
“He’s following orders,” Max replies. “It’s the emergency plan we discussed earlier — before you were in the picture. He’s no stranger to hijacking and terrorist attacks. And he can fly like a rocket — just a bit faster than me, kid. Iron Man will scout the situation and do what he can until we join him, and then he’ll give us the lowdown on what exactly is going on.”
I stare ahead into the sky, the roaring sun behind me. No plane, nothing. Nothing visible to the naked eye, anyway.
By the way, the fact that we’re airborne has nothing to do with my skill and everything to do with Max’s astonishing ability to catch wind currents and take flight (which he is somehow transferring to me).
Then I see it — an airliner in the distance, rushing toward us like a relentless bird of prey.
“Listen carefully, kid, “ Max says with greater urgency. “You need to stick with me, ’cause that’s how you’re flying — but you already know that. I can’t glide nearly as fast as a jetliner, but we’ve gotta be able to keep up with Flight 93. So when we meet the plane, you and I are gonna grab one of the wings — but make sure you don’t get too close to the engines!”
My eyebrows rise involuntarily — in this case, a kneejerk terror reflex.
“Don’t worry, partner, stick with me,” Max reassures. “I can’t fly that fast, but remember, I’m a miracle man extraordinaire. You stick with me, and we’ll both be able to hold on to that wing and ascertain the best course of action.”
I nod, getting tenser now that Flight 93 is an imminent reality. The airplane is getting larger by the moment.
“Get ready, kid,” Max says. “Follow my lead. If anything happens—”
And then, suddenly, United Airlines Flight 93 is upon us, speeding east.
After some intense aerial gymnastics, Miracle Max and I are able to grab hold of the jetliner’s left wing. I’ve heeded Max’s sage advice, with his help, avoiding the engine on the wing with its cuts-both-ways power.
Iron Man soars beside us, appearing to come from the other side of the plane. He nods to our right, toward the cabin: “It’s clearly a hijack situation, Max. Your intel was correct. I could see four hijackers in the cockpit, and they’re in control of the flight. I believe the pilots are dead — there were bodies on the cockpit floor.”
Ashen-faced, Max says, “It’s just as we feared. What can we do to help?”
Iron Man looks at Max and says, “Like I said, I could—”
Once upon a couch, I was home watching the pregame show before Game 5 of the 2000 World Series — the Mets-Yankees Subway Series. But I fell asleep just before the first pitch, and soon I started to dream…
… Here I am, airborne, soaring like Superman above New Jersey with the one and only Miracle Max (yes, the guy from “The Princess Bride”). Except he’s the true superhero, and I’m the sidekick benefiting from his mysterious ability to fly and catch air currents like a hawk.
“There’s the Delaware River,” Max says, pointing below as if he’s a tour guide. We fly over the dark ribbon and cross into Pennsylvania airspace.
Until now, nighttime reigned — but suddenly, it seems, the day is here. Dawn must have staged a sneak attack … like the planes I saw smash into the Twin Towers on the huge video screen in New York City’s Canyon of Heroes. Moments ago, Max said another plane en route over Pennsylvania needs help, and that’s where we’re heading — to Flight 93.
“Max, how do you know that’s the Delaware River down there?” I ask, incredulous. “You’re from the country of — it’s called Florin in ‘Princess Bride,’ right? And it’s a fictional country, to boot. Have you ever been to the United States before? It’s a massive nation, you know. So how on earth could you know that’s the Delaware?”
Perhaps I doth protest too much … in embarrassment. Because I didn’t realize it was the Delaware River until he said so — and I grew up in Jersey.
Max glares at me: “Fictional! Florin is a fictional country, you say? Look who thinks he knows so much. I’ll have you know that Florin is as real as the good ol’ US of A.” He winks as he says this — or something got caught in his eye as we fly.
“Anyway,” Max continues, “I’ve been to your country before. You have no idea how many times I’ve been here, making miracles happen left and right, pal. I’ll tell you — American history wouldn’t be the same without me. That crossing of the Delaware, by that George Washington character? All me. You think he could’ve made it across in that nasty weather without a major assist from someone who knows how to pull a miracle or two out of his pocket?”
“Wait,” I say with far more incredulity, “are you really saying you were there with George Washington when he led his troops across the Delaware River — in, what was it, 1776?”
Just then, something (or someone) buzzes by us in a blur. At first I wonder whether the Wicked Witch of the West has caught up with us. Her nefarious skullduggery nearly killed me when she used her wicked breath to sweep me up into the sky above a New York City street — and then I dropped like an anvil … or like a person without a parachute. But Miracle Max saved the day. More accurately, he saved me.
But when the blur whizzes by us again, it’s clear it is not the Wicked Witch — not even close. Then it settles in next to us on the airstream. As we soar together, Max is in the middle, I’m on his left, and the newcomer is on Max’s right. I glance over and see a metallic-looking, robotic something. Bearing a human-like form, its torso and forearms and lower legs are red, but its thighs and upper arms and head appear to be gold.
This thing seems familiar, but I can’t quite place it — until Max says nonchalantly, “Iron Man, my main man! Glad you got my call. Thanks for coming, kid!”
Iron Man nods. “Wouldn’t miss it for the world, Miracle Max — and you’re my main man. You know that, don’t you, old man?”
For a moment, Max’s face beams like a high-powered beacon, but then he catches himself — and his pseudo-friendly scowl clouds his visage again.
“Are you telling me,” I say to Max, “that Robert Downey Jr. is in that full-body armor?”
“Robert Downey who?” Max retorts. “That, my friend, is the real Iron Man — no Marvel Comics, no movie special effects. He’s the real deal.”
“How did you meet the real Iron Man?” I ask.
“At the superhero convention in Toledo last year,” Max replies with a tone that oozes how-could-you-not-know-that (you knucklehead).
Iron Man interjects: “Wasn’t it at that high-powered business meeting in Florin City?”
“Could be, kid,” Max says. “I guess I don’t quite remember. But we really hit it off — we have so much in common!”
I look at Miracle Max, with his white hair and lines like crevices on his face, and then at Iron Man, with his shiny high-tech suit. So much in common?
“I can see your wheels spinning,” Max observes, anticipating my comment. “It might not seem that Iron Man and I have much in common, but we do — especially, we both try to help people in need, and there are some people in need on Flight 93 just west of here.”
Glancing down as we continue our hard-to-conceive flight, I see the rolling farms and fields of Pennsylvania, featuring graph-paper green and tan and gold of varying degree. Wait a minute: What’s going on with Flight 93, I wonder? This airborne adventure has been so mind-boggling that it’s swept away any further consideration of the airplane Max has mentioned.
Then it hits me: The video I saw on Broadway in New York City, after the parade stopped, showed jetliners incomprehensibly crashing into the Twin Towers — and the headline from the future that I saw at the same parade referred to a terrorist attack.
This Flight 93 must be connected to that horrific event.
Peering below, I notice that we’ve been following a straight-shooting highway via the air.
“Max, is that I-78 below us?”
“You got it, kid — it’s a great way to go west across this great state, whether you’re driving or flying.” Nodding toward Iron Man, Miracle Max adds, “And that Iron Man, he’s a great guy to have on your side at a time like this.”
“I’m all alone in rowboat in middle
Of ocean wide — and you’re not there!” you cried
(Thus my wife grieved like lost child). Life’s riddle
Old and fears unknown with our hopes collide,
As ship with iceberg — and indeed alone
We’re left, in the perfect storm’s raging sea.
Thus has it always been (this we bemoan).
Yet If you’re in that rowboat, I must be,
Not Coast Guard vessel come to save the day,
Nor knight in shining speedboat, but instead
A simple sailor likewise blown astray,
Joining you on journey to far beachhead…
And I can offer this: I’ll help you row.
Let’s together pull — and our fears forgo.
I have lived pain, and my life can tell: I only deepen the wound of the world when I neglect to give thanks [for] the heavy perfume of wild roses in early July and the song of crickets on summer humid nights and the rivers that run and the stars that rise and the rain that falls and all the good things that a good God gives.
— Ann Voskamp
Summer Sanders — swimming
Ray Searage — baseball
Elissa Steamer — skateboarding
Mike Summerbee — soccer
Rob Summers — baseball
Le’Veon Bell — football
Doug Flutie — football
Ramon Sessions — basketball
Vijay Singh — golf
Alex Song — soccer
Vida Blue — baseball
Litterial Green — basketball
Hue Jackson — football
Amber Orrange — basketball
JayVaughn Pinkston — basketball
The major league baseball season has heated up like the spring weather here in New England after a frigid winter. The Yankees and Mets — the two teams I rooted for as I grew up in Jersey — are in first place in the AL East and NL East, which means order has been restored to the baseball universe … in the New York metropolitan area, anyway.
Yet for some baseball fans, their concern is not with actual teams and standings, but rather with fantasy teams and standings — yes, the world of fantasy baseball.
In a previous FAST Blast, at the beginning of the NFL season, I explored the relationship between fantasy sports and trust — and the connection of trust to everyday life, whether you consider yourself religious or irreligious. Let’s explore further.
Following are five excerpts from Internet media coverage of fantasy sports (in bold), along with some musings about how the realm of fantasy sports dovetails with the realm of faith, worldviews and real life.
(If you’re unfamiliar with fantasy sports, see below for a capsule explanation.)
Fantasy Focus: Working The Wire
Eric Karabell discusses the waiver wire and whether to trust the recent hot streak of Oakland A’s outfielder Josh Reddick.
Fantasy: Bengals vs. Eagles Preview
Christopher Harris discusses who to trust in Bengals vs. Eagles.
There it is: trust. Trust and faith are, of course, essentially synonymous. And it seems that some consider trust and faith to be the domain (mainly) of organized religion.
After attending a forum at which a Christian minister and a leading atheist debated the reliability of the Bible, I spoke with the atheist and noted that while he didn’t believe the Bible, he still had faith.
When he disagreed, I asked him: How can we know who won the first World Series in 1903? We weren’t there, so we must take someone’s word for it. Given that example, the atheist agreed that he’d have to take someone’s word for it. Apparently, based on his atheism, he disagreed that he had faith, but he agreed that he would need to take someone’s word about the first World Series.
As far as I can see, “taking someone’s word” for something is the same as putting faith in what that person has said. This observation, it seems to me, is on the level of 10+10=20.
Since we all must trust, the key questions become: Who will we trust? And who is worth trusting?
Most faiths and worldviews have appealing aspects, and I believe there are elements of truth in each one. As we investigate their various claims, whose “hot streak” — to use the fantasy phrase from above — will we trust?
In the second excerpt above, the analyst identifies which players in the Bengals-Eagles game to trust in a fantasy lineup.
Safe to say, a more essential question is: Who will we trust in the proverbial game of real life?
Fantasy Now: Reds’ offense
Eric Karabell analyzes who is worth the risk in the Reds’ lineup this season.
Fantasy Football Now: Week 14
Cary Chow, Christopher Harris and Stephania Bell discuss high-risk, high-reward players for Week 14.
That’s the high-stakes reality of the human conundrum. According to the Christian worldview, when God created human beings He engaged in an undeniably high-risk, high-reward enterprise.
The risk: If humans chose to stiff-arm God’s love and split the unauthorized atom, they would become radioactive, poisoning themselves and creation with the blight of death.
The reward: When humans, made in God’s image, choose to give themselves to Him in love and use their power for good, God experiences the warmth and joy and exuberant pleasure that human relationships exhibit at their absolute best.
A Christian worldview sees people as eternal beings, which only ups both the risk and the reward. And while some theists profess universal salvation, orthodox Christian belief ups the ante further — not only considering people eternal but also concluding that an ultimate either/or confronts us all: either choose to be with God and forever enjoy the stunning goodness that comes from Him alone, or choose to be apart from God and forever suffer the drastic deprivations His absence entails.
Talk about a high-risk, high-reward circumstance.
Some question or dismiss the idea of hell, seeing it as unfair or inhumane, counter to God’s love.
Others grant that it’s an apt punishment for certain horrors — such as the premeditated murder of a loved one, the Nazi abomination or a remorseless serial killer. Here’s one sentiment in response to such heinous crimes: A death sentence isn’t an adequate punishment — and neither is hell. Some simply say: I hope you rot in hell. And others would counter that forgiveness is the only way to find freedom in the face of such monstrosity. Nelson Mandela comes to mind as someone who lived such a philosophy.
A “Law & Order” episode depicts the execution by lethal injection of a convicted felon who committed a brutal rape and murder. “Today the state of New York got its revenge,” says Lt. Anita Van Buren at the end of the episode. “It’s not enough, and it’s too much.”
At face value, perhaps this sounds nonsensical: “It’s not enough, and it’s too much.” Huh?
Yet at a gut and heart level, this simple sentence resonates. There seems to be no appropriate answer to the problem of evil and man’s inhumanity to man. If God pardons a repentant Nazi war criminal and gives him access to paradise, some will vehemently object. If God punishes a cold-blooded murderer and denies him access to paradise, some will decry God’s lack of compassion.
It seems God can’t win.
One take on the “hell is fitting for murderers” mindset is that, hey, most of us aren’t murderers, so we’re good to go vis a vis the afterlife. In the Christian worldview, however, all humans share in the crime against humanity and divinity that is known as the unjust execution of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Man and the Son of God. Thus, we all are guilty of murder — though at first glance we may not believe we fit the profile.
Still, I tend to struggle with this. I identify with the side of the equation that wrestles with how a loving God could see hell as a solution.
Of course, if the atheist is right and there is no God, the risk/reward factor for each person is limited to this life and then is swallowed up by nothingness.
If the pantheist is right, the risk/reward factor is limited to this life — and the next, and the next, and the next — since we get multiple chances via reincarnation.
If the polytheist is right, the risk/reward factor is determined by which god is ultimately calling the shots.
But the philosophy with the most extreme risk/reward reality is a theistic worldview with the either/or of heaven and hell. Islam and Christianity are two such worldviews — and, of course, they offer drastically different solutions to the human predicament.
In Cam We Trust
Even with his limited NFL experience, Cam Newton is quickly gaining loyalty from fantasy players everywhere.
So we’re back to trust.
And the above discussion begs some further questions: Whatever our knee-jerk feelings are about the Christian faith’s stance on eternity, the more vital issue is this: Is that stance accurate? To boil it down — which worldview is true?
Naturally, that’s the worldview worth trusting and buying into.
To rephrase: Fantasy owners have trusted quarterback Cam Newton. Which real-life QB will you and I trust?
Fantasy Sports in a Nutshell
Fantasy sports give fans the opportunity to be the owner and general manager of a team.
Fantasy team owners draft actual professional players to form their teams in fantasy leagues, and the actual stats of those players from each game count toward the fantasy team’s score in head-to-head matchups with other fantasy owners. During the season, owners can make trades with each other, release players who underperform or become injured, and pick up players who are available.
Fantasy sports writers aim to give fantasy owners advice about which players to release or keep on the bench, and which ones to acquire or start for a given game.
Devoid of breath, in darkest cave enclosed,
I lie here, four days’ journey with alone.
Deceived by Death was I — he slyly posed
As Sickness and then sold me tomb of stone
For resurrection waiting room. To die —
Be silent witness to my sisters’ grief —
I now perceive in Adam’s alibi
The futile folly of a dying thief
Who never can steal back his life. Today,
While worms approach my lifeless flesh, I plum
The depth of human tragedy, my clay
Returning to — oh, hear Him bid me come!
Though Death shall beckon still, on skull-scarred hill
Shall Life — through death — triumph. Yes, come I will…
NOTES — POETRY 411
Who is the speaker in this poem? You can vote in the poll below.
Over the years, I’ve written a number of sonnets. Most of them don’t have direct sports themes, but some make references to sports. Naturally, those are the sonnets I’m posting on A Slow Life in the FAST Lane (where FAST = Faith And Sports Talk).
This sonnet, it seems to me, has an even less explicit sports connection. The “journey” reference is one such connection — since some sporting events can be considered journeys (a marathon comes to mind). Another is the mention of a “triumph” in the closing couplet. And there’s “steal” in the third stanza, with its baseball overtone.
Nevertheless, despite the oblique nature of the sports references, the seasonal theme of this sonnet resonates — given the celebration of Easter this week — and thus it finds a place here.
This is another Shakespearean (or English) sonnet — a 14-line poem comprised of three four-line stanzas plus a closing couplet.
Bruce William Deckert — Bio
Journalism career capsule
• Journal Register Co.
• SPJ award-winner — as you can see, I'm not listing the non-award moments ... presumably, we all have them, but go figure — we don't mention them on résumés!
As you read the blog, you’re invited to listen to a song I’ve written…