Welcome to Saturday Ramblings for August 20, 2016!
In case you didn’t know this about baseball, the Chicago Cubs have never been a post-season juggernaut. The franchise has been to ten World Series, winning only two. And the last World Series the Cubs played in was in 1945. Since then, they’ve made the playoffs only seven times, beginning in 1984 after a drought of almost forty years. The closest they came to returning to the World Series was in 2003, when they lost to the Florida Marlins in the NL Championship Series, four games to three.
This year, the Cubs seem to have the best chance since 2003 to make it to the Series. Right now, they have the best record in baseball, and have been on a real tear since the All-Star break. Of course, given the history, we Cubs fans are always looking over our shoulders for the next jinx, the next curse, the next bad thing to happen to keep us from this happiness. And it may not be our year again this year, but we’re hopeful.
Today’s Rambler picture above shows the 1906 model. That was the first year the Cubs played in the World Series, and it was a special event in the city of Chicago, because the Cubs played their cross-town rivals the White Sox. Also, it may well have been the Cubs’ most remarkable regular season ever — they won 116 games and lost only 36. The Cubs held that by themselves as a Major League Baseball record until the Seattle Mariners also won 116 (losing 46) in 2001. Nevertheless, back in ’06, the White Sox rose to the challenge, defeating the Cubs four games to two.
That year, the World Series seemed a mismatch. The Cubs with their amazing record were playing a team that was known as the “Hitless Wonders.” The city of Chicago went bonkers to see the two squads go at it on the field. Here’s a description from the Chicago Tribune:
Fan rivalry was intense. Tempers flared in bars, and fights broke out. On Oct. 9, the opening day of the Series, business stopped and City Hall closed down. Tickets were $2 for box seats and 50 cents for bleachers.
The teams split the first four games, and then the White Sox took game five. They needed only one more game to win the Series. Nearly 20,000 jammed Comiskey Park, and thousands waited in the streets. With Cubs ace “Three Finger” Brown on the mound, a seventh game seemed certain.
The Cubs scored a run in the first inning, but the Sox, now called “the Hitting Wonders,” scored three, then exploded with four in the second. In the Cubs’ ninth, with the score 8-3 and two out, Frank Schulte hit a weak ground ball to the mound. Doc White tossed to first, then ran for his life as Sox fans swarmed onto the field and into the streets. That night, bonfires were set for a party that lasted into the morning. Cubs faithful stayed inside and mourned. An embittered Frank Chance said, “There is one thing I will never believe, and that is the Sox are better than the Cubs.”
Well, Frank, as a Cubs fan in 2016, I can tell you that a whole lot of unbelievable things have happened in the interim. The Cubs haven’t won a World Series since 1908, and haven’t even been to the Series since the end of World War II.
However, in a spirit of faith, hope, and love, 110 years later I keep following the Cubs, and it would sure be cool to have a sweet ride like this 1906 Rambler to take me to a Series game this October. Then I will be able to truly pray Simeon’s prayer.
For today, we’ll just have to settle for a bit of rambling. Come on, let’s go!
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GOTTA START WITH THIS…
This is an older article, but someone drew my attention to it again this week. Cracked Magazine, correctly observing that Christianity has given us some of the greatest art treasures the world has ever known, decided to forgo looking at any of them, instead treating us to “The 11 Most Unintentionally Hilarious Religious Paintings.”
They’re all great, but let me highlight a few of my favorites.
The Intended Meaning:
As the artist puts it: “The Introduction is a stunning portrayal of that first moment of man’s special blessing from God. A brand new world sparkles and vibrates with color and movement as Adam and Eve gaze with a wonder and tenderness to set the standard for all time.”
The Actual Meaning:
First of all, the artist clearly put a lot of thought into what objects to use to cover everyone’s genitalia, Austin Powers-style, then discarded those thoughts and said, “Screw it, I’ll just put a damned tiger there. It’ll be awesome.” And you know what, it was.
The Intended Meaning:
“We should realize that Jesus willingly fights and intercedes on our behalf…. He bears the scars of many previous battles, most of which are unknown to us.”
The Actual Meaning:
How is this even Jesus? This is just a boxer with long hair and a glove that says “Mercy,” which is clearly meant to look ironic as it pummels you in the face.
The Intended Meaning:
“The man in the middle represents the modern Christian … a man who must decide whether or not he will stand up for his Christian beliefs. Many are shouting out to tell him what to do. He raises his hand to say, ‘Be silent, for I know that Jesus is the Christ!'”
The Actual Meaning:
This is how the Bill & Ted reboot would end if it were directed by Kirk Cameron. Jesus is surrounded by a series of important historical figures who have traveled in time just to … wait, is that Roy Orbison there between Henry VIII, Vlad the Impaler and fist-pump Hitler?
Four U.S.A. swimmers, led by 12-time Olympic medalist Ryan Lochte, found themselves in the deep end of the pool, only this time it was filled with doo-doo.
The swimmers had claimed in a statement issued by the USOC that they were robbed by armed men posing as police officers while traveling by taxi from France’s hospitality venue to the Olympic Village early Sunday morning. Ryan Lochte told reporters earlier this week that one of the robbers put a gun to his head and cocked it. The police said it wasn’t true, and we’ve learned it wasn’t.
Turns out these boys were being boys, out late drinking and bashing up a gas station bathroom. Security guards detained them, and one of them held them at gunpoint to prevent them from fleeing. Lochte’s account made it sound like the swimmers were the victims. It just wasn’t the case.
Two of the swimmers were allowed to leave the country, and Lochte flew back to the U.S. later. The fourth, Jimmy Feigen, left Friday evening after paying a fine of nearly $11,000. Lochte may eventually be charged with filing a false police report, said Fernando Veloso, head of Rio de Janeiro’s civil police.
At Harper’s, Alan Jacobs wonders where the public Christian intellectuals have gone, the ones who might bridge the cultural gaps that appear to be widening in our world today, who understand the language and impulses of those on many sides, and who have the intellectual ballast to speak to other intellectuals with credibility about both secular and sacred matters.
Jacobs gives a historical review, describing with specific examples such as C.S. Lewis and Reinhold Niebuhr, how a certain sort of Christian intellectual arose in the context of World War II to address the public and help the democratic West understand “why it was fighting and what it was fighting for.” He notes that, since the 1970’s, our lack of such prominent figures has been known by some as the “Where Is Our Reinhold Niebuhr?” problem.
Jacobs’s thesis? “But the disappearance of the Christian intellectual is a more curious story, because it isn’t a story of forced marginalization or public rejection at all. The Christian intellectuals chose to disappear.” (emphasis added)
In the post-War period, Christians largely focused on building institutions, which Jacobs says, gave them the opportunity to speak more to each other than to address the public sphere. And, as we went through the turbulent Sixties, fault lines developed within culture and Christianity itself that made the role of the public Christian intellectual problematic.
It was the Sixties that changed everything, and not primarily because of the Vietnam War or the cause of civil rights. There were many Christians on both sides of those divides. The primary conflict was over the sexual revolution and the changes in the American legal system that accompanied it: changes in divorce law, for instance, but especially in abortion law. (Many Christians supported and continue to support abortion rights, of course; but abortion is rarely if ever the central, faith-defining issue for them that it often is for those in the pro-life camp.) By the time these changes happened and Christian intellectuals found themselves suddenly outside the circles of power, no longer at the head table of liberalism, Christians had built up sufficient institutional stability and financial resourcefulness to be able to create their own subaltern counterpublics.
IS BIBLICAL ILLITERACY A PROBLEM IN THE CHURCH TODAY?
Despite a common lament among Christians, in which I myself have participated, Jeremy Myers says, “No.”
One of the problems, he says, is that we haven’t adequately defined what we mean by “biblical illiteracy.”
Then, there’s the common observation that those who do “know the Bible” do not generally live any differently than others who don’t. “If there is no direct correlation between gaining Bible knowledge and facts and actually living like a follower of Jesus,” asks Myers, “then what’s the big deal about becoming biblically literate?”
In his post, Myers looks at two other articles, one responding to Ed Stetzer and another to an article at Biola University. The Biola piece suggests people are biblically illiterate because they waste too much time on other things, like TV, video games, social media, etc.
Myers’s rejoinder: “Yes, we humans waste a lot of time. No argument from me there. But I am not sure that Bible study is a good substitute. I often think that maybe Bible study is the biggest waste of time, because we think it is what God wants us to do, when really, He wants us to get out there and love others.”
Good point, that. If studying and becoming literate in the Bible doesn’t lead us to lives of greater love and participation in life with and among our neighbors, what good is it?
REAPING WHAT WE’VE SOWN WITH “DECISIONS FOR CHRIST”…
Michelle Van Loon has had a good occasional series at her blog called, “Unintended Consequences of the Jesus Movement.”
In her latest post, she discusses the emphasis of modern evangelicalism on getting “decisions for Christ” by getting people to “pray the prayer,” and what we’ve reaped from that emphasis. I wonder how you respond to her analysis.
What we hoped for a generation ago when we focused on encouraging others to pray that prayer:
- Individual responsibility for faith – Throughout his earthly ministry, Jesus called individual people to follow him. A “Get Out Of Hell Free” card inked with infant baptism or childhood church attendance was not the way Jesus changed lives.
- Simplicity – We could talk about faith in an easily understandable way. You didn’t need to be a theologian or a pastor to understand the message in the Four Spiritual Laws*.
- Marketability – Too many of us downplayed what discipleship might cost in our excitement to invite others to join our team. (See Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, and Luke 9:23.) We may have done so because we ourselves simply didn’t understand the cost.
What we’re reaping today:
- Confusion – Stories abound of kids who’ve prayed that prayer dozens of times, insecure about whether they’re “in” or “out”. Others rest in the notion that they just prayed that prayer at some point, and can tuck that salvation card in their back pocket and go on with their regularly-scheduled program. A prayer of repentance is one step in the marathon. It is not the entire race.
- Frustration – Simplicity in presenting the decision was a bait-and-switch for the Christian life. “Just pray this prayer and you’ll be saved” was a gateway drug to “Just send the televangelist your paycheck and you’ll be blessed” for some. Others discovered that praying a short prayer had little to do with the challenges of lifelong fidelity to Jesus. We don’t live it alone, because God himself is with us, but neither is it easy – and may cost us our lives.
- Abandoning of the faith – Shallow roots don’t grow healthy plants. A measure of the statistical numerical decline in Christianity in recent years comes from those who once prayed a prayer and were taught this was the most important thing they could do to sew up their eternity.
Speaking of evangelicalism and people (especially prominent people) “making decisions,” on Aug. 18, 1979, Bob Dylan released Slow Train Coming, an album of religious songs, including the Grammy Award winning single, “Gotta Serve Somebody.” The album alienated many of his long time fans.
It was recorded at the famed Muscle Shoals recording studio, was produced by the renowned Jerry Wexler, and featured Dire Straits’ guitarist Mark Knopfler.
Jann S. Wenner in Rolling Stone gave Slow Train Coming this glowing review:
It takes only one listening to realize that Slow Train Coming (Columbia Records) is the best album Bob Dylan has made since The Basement Tapes (recorded with the Band in 1967 but not released until 1975). The more I hear the new album — at least fifty times since early July — the more I feel that it’s one of the finest records Dylan has ever made. In time, it is possible that it might even be considered his greatest.
Here’s Bob Dylan at the 1980 Grammy Awards singing “Gotta Serve Somebody.”