Manufacturing Controversy Once Again: The Media’s Pathetic Handling of John McEnroe and Serena Williams

Recently, former tennis great John McEnroe said something hateful, sexist, and mean about Serena Williams.  Or at least that’s what most of the news and sports outlets want to say, such as ESPN, SB Nation, BBC News, Salon, Deadspin, CNN, The Huffingpost, and… well, virtually everyone.  Headlines burst forth that McEnroe claimed that Serena would only rank about #700 in the men’s tour.  When Serena responded on Twitter by telling him to not make statements that aren’t “factually based” and to respect her and her privacy, the media and people on social media cheered.  She put McEnroe “in his place.”  She “owned” him.  She had a “perfect” response.

Too bad all of this is an example of childish over-sensitivity, delusion, terrible logic, and pitiful reading comprehension from most people.  It’s also an example of the media taking words out of context to manufacture a controversy to get gullible people riled up.  McEnroe was not only right, he was also merely answering a question.  Look at his words in context:

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Sebastian: Encouraging Sexual Harassment

The Little Mermaid is a Disney classic, and our family had it on VHS back in the day.  The story contains one of Disney’s most endearing characters, Sebastian the Crab.  He is well-known for his Jamaican accent as well as his catchy songs such as “Under the Sea” and “Kiss the Girl.”  However, when you listen to the latter one closely, it begins to sound… odd.  And a little disturbing, because Sebastian is essentially encouraging Prince Eric to assume that this 16 year-old mute girl is just begging for him to go at her.  He’s like the proverbial devil on the shoulder.

Here’s the song:

Now allow me to illustrate how Sebastian’s advice can look like (click to enlarge):

Perhaps it is best to not listen to talking crabs :).

Police Shootings, Emotional Accusations, and the Standard of Beyond Reasonable Doubt

Recently, former police officer Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted of manslaughter after he shot and killed Philando Castille on a routine traffic stop.  Castille was armed, but reportedly told Yanez that he was licensed to carry.  Yanez still ended up shooting him when he believed that Castille reached for his gun as opposed to his wallet.  It was yet another high profile shooting of a black man by police (though this time by a Hispanic and not white officer), and once again the public (particularly the black community) was outraged when the officer was acquitted of all charges.  Cries of racism, systemic racism, and injustice filled social media again.

Much of this reaction is understandable.  While critics might argue, somewhat correctly, that the way the media chooses to cover these events gives off the impression that cops just go around shooting black people for no reason when that statistically isn’t supported, it’s still disturbing how some of these incidents go down.  Certainly, the Castille shooting looks very fishy at first glance, and nobody wants to see such stories whether they are rare or not.  Nonetheless, people need to be better at calmly and rationally evaluating these incidents without jumping to emotional conclusions, and they need to ask themselves this simple question: Was there enough evidence to criminally convict?  If not, no matter how we feel, an acquittal is the right decision for the jury to make.  Pointing this out is not racist, insensitive, or apathetic to injustice; it’s simply an acknowledgement of the facts as well as the limitations of our human courts.

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Wonder Woman Review: DC Has a Hit

The DCEU has made a ton of money, but the critical reviews have not been kind.  While some of the criticisms struck me as illegitimate, as I noted in my BvS review, a lot of them were spot on.  Suicide Squad was straight garbage, while Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman both had some great moments surrounded by lackluster writing and pacing.  However, with Wonder Woman drawing rave reviews and outperforming box office expectations, it’s possible DC might be finding its footing in its future battles against Marvel.

And Wonder Woman deserves it.  It’s an entertaining origins story with humor, grit, and likeable characters, and Gal Gadot hits it out of the park with her portrayal of the titular character.  Gadot was the breakout star in BvS, and her own movie did nothing to take away from that.

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Tribalism Over Wisdom: Health Care Reform Just Because

Honestly, I don’t really like talking about politics, especially when the NBA playoffs are going on, but I think the new health care bill that just passed the House is worth discussing because it highlights so many things that are wrong with politics.  The American Health Care Act barely passed the House and will await the decision of the Senate, and it is, predictably, quite controversial.

I’m not going to discuss all the details of the bill and its differences with the ACA.  One reason is because, quite frankly, my understanding of healthcare does not go much deeper than surface level.  I’ve tried to do some reading on the bill, but I’m not going to sit here and pretend to be a policy expert on it.  Secondly, my aim is not even to defend or criticize the details of the bill over and against that of the ACA, though some details will arise.  My main purpose is to talk about the danger of political expediency over wisdom and the climate of political tribalism, a climate that makes it difficult to have honest, civil, and intelligent dialogue.

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Failed Attempts to Rescue Limited Atonement From 1 Timothy 4:10

I noted in a recent post that there is no verse that straightforwardly confirms limited atonement, the belief that Jesus died only for the elect.  On the flip side, there seems to be plenty of verses that flat out contradict it, which Calvinists have to deal with in order to preserve the L in TULIP.  In this post, I want to focus on 1 Timothy 4:10, another problematic text for the Calvinist position.

Here’s the verse: “For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers” (NASB).  It is the relative clause that gets the bulk of the attention here, and it is obvious why: On face value, it sounds like God is the Savior of everyone but is the Savior in a special way for believers.  This would flow quite nicely with unlimited atonement: Through Christ’s atoning death for everyone, God is the Savior of all, but this atonement is only applied to those who believe.

Such a reading, however, would contradict limited atonement, so Calvinists have proposed several ways of reading this verse.  I’ll summarize and evaluate the ones that I am familiar with, and it will be shown that these attempts fail to make a convincing exegetical case and often rely on dubious word studies, faulty reasoning, and de-contextualized readings in order to preserve a dogged allegiance to a system.

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SWBTS Social Media Faux Pas: Why It’s Both Unwise But Not Racist

I had a post on limited atonement lined up for today, but a controversy hit my school recently and I wanted to address it.

Social Media Fail

Yesterday, I bought Dr. David Allen’s The Extent of the Atonement for Kindle and scanned through some of it.  I wholeheartedly encourage the reader to buy it also for a measly $10 (though the physical version is like $40).  Little did I know that later that night, Dr. Allen would be apologizing for something outside the scholarly world.  He and some professors posted this picture on Twitter:

swbts prof photo

Lol, wow.  Predictably, cries of racism flew around the internet, both from within and without Southern Baptists, and the pictures were taken down.  Everyone involved apologized.  Dr. Patterson, the school’s president, also wrote a lengthy apology.  Dr. Allen in particular gave an apology without qualification and said that “context is immaterial” for their joke picture.

And here is where I would disagree with Dr. Allen, though I understand his wish to give an unconditional apology.  Context is not immaterial.  We should always, always, look at context and also give charitable interpretations, even if we do still end up disagreeing with someone’s words or actions.

This picture was apparently given to a preaching professor here who recently got a job at a church and was therefore moving on.  Dr. Vern Charette evidently raps as a hobby and even had a section where he rapped in a chapel sermon, so some professors thought they would give him a silly picture as a going-away gift.  With this context in mind, does it make it wise to post a joke photo like that, knowing that the entire internet is not going to immediately know the context?  No, it doesn’t.  I’m actually very surprised none of those men thought, “Hey, this can easily get misinterpreted, so let’s either not do this in the first place or at least just keep it as a private joke among friends who know our intent and the context.”  Given our hyper-sensitive culture these days, where even stating bare facts like “There’s a very high rate of single-motherhood in the black community” can draw accusations of racism, it was foolish to post that online.  That’s not to excuse our hyper-sensitive culture, but surely a joke like that is not worth the controversy and potential damage to the witness of the professors as well as that of the seminary.  It also does not help that the Southern Baptist Convention started on the wrong side of American slavery back in the 19th century and had to repent of that many years ago.

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Local Prosperity Church Opens Up a Spiritual Gift Shop

HOUSTON, TX – Land of Silk and Money (LSM), a local church pastored by Jerry B. Pound, has added a new spiritual gift shop to their already existing store full of self-help books, motivational audio, prayer cloths, the pastor’s prayers in tongues, and pamphlets about seed-planting (no Bibles were reportedly seen).  The church boasts 25,000 members and 269,000 square feet of land, but Pound says that many of those members have asked what spiritual gift they have.  In order to help them out, he decided to add this spiritual gift shop that allowed anyone to purchase the spiritual gift of their choice, either for themselves or someone else.

“I got asked so many times about spiritual gifts, and I thought, ‘Hey, Jerry, isn’t this another example of planting seeds?'” said Pound, who flies back to his Florida beach house every week on his private jet.  “If you can plant seeds and get the car of your choice, I don’t see why you can’t also get the spiritual gift that you want.”

Though spiritual gifts aren’t tangible, they are represented in the store by cards with text on them and envelopes for future giving that increases those gifts.  The initial price of a spiritual gift varied based upon its importance, a level deemed by Pound and his staff.  Here is a list of some of the gifts and their price tag:

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A Blessed Time in Brooklyn Again

Two years ago, I went to Brooklyn, NY to help out with a children’s summer program.  We worked alongside high school youth and somewhat less so with older middle school youth, who were the primary workers for that seven-week period (a new outside team comes every week to help them out).  Though most of our team was not able to spend as much time with the youth as we would have liked, we still enjoyed working with them and hanging out with them.  That was the first time our church went to their “Summer Splash,” and our church sent another team last summer which I was not a part of.  Our English pastor in particular has developed a bond with the youth there, so this year, we tried something new: A youth retreat of sorts.

Our church sent a team of four to run this conference/retreat which was primarily aimed at the youth, though there were a couple of kids who were younger.  It is spring break for them, but spring break in Texas tends to be in March; it came at an awkward time because this is when school kind of picks up with papers and assignments (I had to do one while I was there).  Still, it was a great blessing to come, teach, and get to know these youth more.

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Prooftexts for Limited Atonement and the Negative Inference Fallacy

I’ve written several articles critiquing the interpretation and logic of those who advocate limited atonement, the contention that Christ died only for the elect.  I’ll now discuss their use of verses that they think give a positive case for limited atonement.

Intellectually honest Calvinists will admit that no text in Scripture explicitly teaches limited atonement: There is no verse that says that Christ died for the elect only or at least explicitly denies that Christ died for everyone.  However, many Calvinists will argue that this is no big deal.  There is no verse, after all, that explicitly spells out the Trinity or Incarnation, yet those are considered not only clear scriptural teachings but central doctrines of the faith.  The reason that the Incarnation is certain, for example, is that there are texts that teach that Christ was a man and others that teach that he was God.  It takes only a small step of logic to put them together and conclude that Christ was both fully God and fully man.  Likewise, all it takes, according to Calvinists, is a small logical step from certain passages to reach limited atonement.

The texts they typically use are passages that teach that Christ died for a select group of people.  Here are a few examples:

John 10:11: “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.”

Acts 20:28: “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”

Ephesians 5:25: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her…”

Other verses can be offered, but these are enough to get the picture.  While none of these verses state that Christ died for the elect only, Calvinists argue that it is nonetheless reasonable to make this conclusion.

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