Challenging Men to David-Jonathan Friendships

In trying to keep up with cultural trends that affect the church, I have heard on more than one occasion that the American church struggles to reach men because our worship services are so geared to women. Notably the music.

What I do not want to do here is to contribute to the issue of men feeling that Christianity, as practiced in the U.S., is not manly enough. And I do believe firmly that men and women are different in many fundamental ways, and that the Bible testifies to this. Being equal does not mean being the same (Genesis 5:2).

But I also want to wonder aloud if sometimes this issue isn’t an excuse for why men do not get more involved in the church. The church is far more community—daily, relational discipleship (“as you’re going” according to Jesus in Matthew 28:19)—than it is music and atmosphere on Sunday morning.

As such I think Christian men in my culture need something more profound than tweaks to the worship service. They need friendships. And I don’t just mean “watch the game on Saturday night” or “play golf together” friendships, though these things could be part of it. I’m talking about the type of friendship that David and Jonathan had in the Old Testament in the Bible.

Here are some of the distinguishing marks of their relationship, as taken from 1 Samuel 18-20.


Jonathan and David’s friendship was so deep and intimate it was called a Covenant. 

“Covenant” is a word used often in the Bible to describe how God relates to us and in my opinion the best word to describe marriage between one man and one woman. It’s a word that conveys serious commitment and deep intimacy, which are phrases that we do not use often to describe male friendships in the U.S. And that is why I do not want to advocate for the feminization of men in Christianity. But the Bible is countercultural and can be uncomfortable, yet very much worth it, to practice. Perhaps women understand this better and it is unbiblical cultural stereotypes of men that prevent us from experiencing biblical covenant with our brothers in the faith.

Regardless, David and Jonathan set the bar high. Men need friendships in the church that makes them as relationally close as possible.


Jonathan sacrificed generously for David.

He gave him his robe, tunic, sword, bow and belt. This was a significant and generous way to honor his best friend. We can do this with gifts, with money and especially with time. Convenience is the enemy of covenant.


Jonathan spoke highly of David when he wasn’t around 

It is one thing to speak highly of someone when you are around people who also want to speak highly of them. It’s another when you defend someone to his enemies. Especially enemies with power, as his father Saul had. Men need relationships of that kind of integrity. I want to know other men have my back even if it costs them.


Jonathan verbalized his love to David 

Over and over Jonathan did things like reminding David he was for him during this frightening time and he had David reaffirm his oath to him because he loved David so much.

In my opinion, our culture bends so much towards talk being cheap and “Don’t tell me, show me” that we woefully underestimate the power of words. Words matter.

I grew up in a culture where most men never said “I love you” to each other. When I was at Welch College I can distinctly recall three different guys saying it to me. Each time I was so stunned I don’t even think I said it back. But as I’ve gotten older and less self-conscious about these type of things, I have said it to many men. I don’t say it if I know it will make the other man uncomfortable. And I am definitely not trying to communicate this as some kind of benchmark of maturity. Not every man should be expected to say it. But some way, somehow, even if it’s not those three potent words, Christian men should communicate covenant love to each other. It’s not less than manly to do so.


Jonathan was willing to risk his life to protect David 

I’m convinced that men are designed by nature to protect women but friendship is a willingness to die for the other person. Jesus said it’s the greatest demonstration of love. Jonathan faced Saul’s wrathful spear for defending David.


Jonathan grieved with David 

When they realized how serious the hate was that Saul had for David, they embraced and kissed and wept together. I cannot fathom many moments more intimate between two friends in the history of the world. I have always known that your true friends are the ones who will weep with you and have recently learned that few things create intimacy in relationships like grieving together. Kissing is almost always spoken of in family contexts in the Old Testament. That is how close David and Jonathan were.


Let me close by saying how blessed of God I have been to have men in my adult life like the ones you see in the collage of pictures with the title of this article. I loved being a part of a group of men called “Southtown” my senior year at Welch College. I love being a part of REO today. I’ve often said of my friend Josh Crowe that filters were abolished long ago and we speak freely to each other and if he has criticism for me I will listen without being defensive (which I can’t say is true in other relationships). My friend Yeomans has listened to me bare my soul dozens of times and offered correction and encouragement without judgment and has visited me in Chicago many times, at great personal cost. When my friend Andy and his wife announced to my church they were expecting their first child I ran on stage where he was playing bass and gave him a huge hug, as excited as I’ve ever been for someone. When my best friend Matt left Chicago a few weeks ago, I cried several times over a few days. And even though he is more of a mentor than a best friend, all of the above points apply strongly to my pastor, David.

All of these men have been Jonathans to me in some way and I have told many of them that I love them. Without any shame. Yet I don’t offer any of this from a place of expertise. As I read about Jonathan and David I realize there is so much more I could be doing for the men in my life.

And as a preacher and a writer, God rarely gives me something he wants to transform in me where he doesn’t want me to share with others. So that is my hope today. Be a Jonathan. Be a David. Don’t let culture completely dictate how men are supposed to treat each other. May we be countercultural in the ways the Bible teaches.

 

 

 

 




Three Things I Love About Audiobooks (And Three I Don’t)

As a man who went from farm boy in Tookeydoo, SC to pastor in inner-city Chicago, I do not mind change. Not even in small things. Except when it comes to reading. I have never for one second read a book from a Kindle or any similar device and do not plan to. I just can’t do it. Not having a physical paper book in my hands is about as comfortable as trying to write with my left hand.

Until recently, I had felt similarly about audiobooks. I’ve listened patiently as friends like Josh Crowe have informed me that listening to works like the Harry Potter series is an amazing experience. I nod politely but think, “Nope. Never gonna do it.”

Yet one day this April I had an epiphany: a huge reason I hate driving in Chicago’s bumper to bumper traffic is that I feel like I’m wasting time. If I’m going 70 MPH at least I feel like I’m doing something. When I’m going 0 MPH, I go from calm to irrationally angry in about six seconds. Music helps a lot of people, but not me. No, I needed something else. And so I purchased an Audible account on Amazon, a website I adore about like I adore Chick-fil-a.

In the last three months or so, I have listened to about 16 audiobooks. I’ve listened to everything from a two-hour long self-help book in Spanish to a 27-hour Steve Jobs biography. And I’ve listened enough to start forming opinions about this medium. Here are are a few things I consider advantages to audiobooks over actually reading a book:


1. The Voices

The very first audiobook I listened to was As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride, written and narrated by Carey Elwes. Elwes was already high up on my list of cool people, but his reading of this work was just enthralling.  His accent is exquisite. He did impressions of people like Andre the Giant that were sublime. I would guess he made the book twice as entertaining with his voice than it would have been had I read it. 

Later I listened to The Road by Cormac McCarthy. The narrator’s voice was rustic and pitch-perfect, especially when he read the dialogue of the father and the son. The writing is already packed with emotion but the reader really brought it to life.

Another notable one was Gabriel Wyner reading his work, Fluent Forever: How to Learn Any Language Fast and Never Forget It. Not only was the material incredible and effective but Wyner, who is an opera singer, conveys an enthusiasm through the reading that can be felt in his timbre and inflections. He reads with joy and I can even see him gesturing in my mind’s eye several times in the book. Extremely well done.

 

2. The ability to “read” while walking and driving

I started this to have something to make me feel productive while driving, as I said above. But then I realized that I spend nearly an hour a day walking to and from work. And while I often use that time to listen to Polish, I could also use it to listen to books. Before 2017 I was about a 15-20 book a year guy. Last year I read 50 without a conscious effort to up the normal count. This year I decided to read every free second I can get and I’ve read a lot more. And it was beginning to annoy me that I was losing precious time doing things where reading is impossible. Now that has been solved.

 

3. Zero shipping and storage issues

I love Amazon Prime in part because I can see a book I love and have it in my hands in two days. Now, with Audible, I don’t have to wait but a few seconds. Also, occasionally, with physical books, I will get the wrong book or my order will be lost or late. Not an issue with audiobooks. And then there’s the storage issue. I love bookshelves and having a reading room, but every time I’ve moved, the boxes of books have created extra work. And I don’t have infinite space in my house. Now I have a way to add to my library without taking space from my home.  Admittedly this is an advantage to a Kindle but this was never enough motivation in and of itself.


And here are three things I don’t love:

 

1. It’s easy to lose focus

If I’m driving and a car in front of me swerves then it will take me a few seconds to be able to refocus back to the book I’m listening to. Audible has a 30-second rewind feature, but it’s unwise to manipulate while driving. Also, even when I’m walking sometimes a loud motorcycle will go by and I will miss some of the book and I’m too lazy to rewind. Plus, in general, I just have an easier time getting distracted and letting my mind wander when listening than when reading. Admittedly, this is a character flaw more than a book flaw. Audiobook from Amazon has thought of very easy ways to combat a lot of this.

 

2. I lose my place sometimes

This is a problem more with my phone than with the medium, but it happens sometimes that if my phone gets bumped then the place will skip and I won’t be able to remember exactly where I was. And it takes a while to figure it out. That is frustrating but does not happen very often.

 

3. Selection is limited

The selection is not terrible, but I can find just about anything on Amazon books. On Audible, this is not the case. That’s just the nature of it. Not every book has been recorded to hear or will be recorded. But to be honest, Audible is a supplement to my regular reading, not the main source. So this is a minor complaint as well.


One final thought on price…I didn’t include this as a positive or a negative because it depends. I have found books on Audible for $5.95 often but I also can’t find books I want for under $25 sometimes. Audible does run sales though where you can get 3 “credits” for $35 and then buy any three books you want (one a month for three months), which is often cheaper than the physical copy of books. So Amazon is still finding ways to eliminate potential complaints.

Overall I am quite pleased with Audible and I plan to use it until I die. Some may think audiobooks don’t count as real reading and that is fine. But my soul needs them to keep myself sane at times.

Questions or comments? Please tell us below.

 




Five Hilarious Side Characters in Television

Introduction by Ben Plunkett

Why should the main characters of the great sitcoms get all the glory? Well, in most cases the main characters of these great shows deserve a lot of it because they are, like, main. But there are truly great and equally as hilarious side characters. They should not be so callously ignored and brushed to the side of our comedic subconscious. The best of them add much to the hilarity and substance of the show. Today’s Five pays honor to five great and hilarious side characters in T.V. history.


Floyd Lawson – The Andy Griffith Show

Floyd Lawson is a barber, supposedly. We rarely see him actually cutting hair, but he does hang out in the barber shop a lot. At least, when he is not sitting outside on a bench with Gomer, or Goober, or Andy. Or at the Court House hanging out with Barney and Andy. Or doing who knows what else. Floyd leads a simple life. A quiet life. He occasionally cuts hair and spends the rest of his time with his friends. And for that, I love Floyd. But mainly, I love Floyd because he is a complete lunatic living right in the middle of Mayberry. Based on some of the other citizens of that fair town (Ernest T. Bass, Gomer, Goober, The Darlings), it’s not surprising he blends right in. Still, he’s crazy and listening to him talk about…anything is one of my favorite things on any show. His dramatic reactions. His wacky conspiracy theories. His soft-spoken nuttery just make my heart smile. I have no idea if Floyd Lawson was a good barber, but I am sure he was a great character on an iconic television show. (Phill Lytle)


Ethel Mertz – I Love Lucy

When one thinks of I Love Lucy, in all likelihood Lucille Balle (AKA Lucy Ricardo) instantly springs to mind. And there is absolutely no denying that she deserves so much praise for this role. Lucy was one of the funniest T.V. characters of all time, portrayed by one of the funniest women of all time. However, although her high accolades are very well deserved, her great shadow too often obscures a perfect sidekick and comedic partner. I speak, of course, of the great Ethel Mertz. Ethel was frumpy, oldish, simple, and kind of drab. It says a lot about her that she was once disappointed not to get an iron for her birthday. All of this made Ethel (Vivianne Vance) an incredibly odd best friend for the young, good-looking, full of life, and totally insane Lucy.  Plus, Ethel could sing really well and Lucy famously could not sing a lick.

But as simple a life that she much preferred, Ethel grudgingly but always with great humor went along with just about all of Lucy’s crazy schemes. As different as the two were, the truly loved each other. That was very evident. Like sisters, they were constantly getting into fights but in every single such instance, they were always weepingly apologizing in a very short time. Ethel’s brand of pure comedy complimented her BFF to such a level that it highlighted and accentuated Lucy’s funniness. (Ben Plunkett)


Richmond Avenal – The IT Crowd

“I mean, I don’t know what any of this stuff even does. What’s going on there? I don’t know. Is it good that it’s doing that? Usually, it doesn’t do that. And I think I should tell them, but often I just look away. And this one: Flash. Flash. Flash. Then wait for it. Nothing for a while. Here it comes. Double flash. Brilliant.”

And with that quote, I think I fully began to appreciate the brilliance that is Richmond Avenal. Weird. Random. Could be Tim Burton. Richmond could be creepy and hilarious at the same time, as when he tells a woman, “When you laugh I can see the outline of your skull”.

The IT Crowd is a hidden gem of a show to me and Moss, Roy, Jen, Douglas and Denholm all play their parts superbly. But Richmond joins a pantheon of characters that didn’t appear in every episode, but made every scene they were in funnier. Whether he was hiding on the ceiling or pontificating about why the gang shouldn’t go to the theater (“I trod on a piece of lego, O it went right in the heel”), he had us in stitches. He truly deserves to be on this short list. (Gowdy Cannon)


Jean-Ralphio Saperstein – Parks and Recreation

There are some characters that only work in small doses. Jean-Ralphio is the textbook example of such a character. Through his unbridled bravado, his terrible rhymes, and his abject lack of discipline, self awareness, or life goals (outside of strongly desiring to be rich and famous though having no discernible skills), Jean-Ralphio comes on strong. Too strong if the show was centered around his character. Fortunately, the writers of Parks and Rec know exactly how utilize him to get the biggest laughs without overstaying their welcome. Throughout the show – from his introductory scene where he sings about being “Flushed with cash!” after the death of a disliked relative, to his absurd business venture, Entertainment 720 with Tom Haveford – the writers unleash Jean-Ralphio as a little comedy grenade, perfectly thrown into the mix to make good scenes better.

Jean-Ralphio would be the worst sort of person to be friends with in real life. Fortunately, a sitcom is not real life and his absurd confidence and absolute smarminess work perfectly in a fictionalized setting. In a show like Parks and Recreation, already populated with dozens of insane characters, Jean-Ralphio is so insane, so unpredictable, and so funny that he stands out and brings giant laughs every minute he is on the screen. (Phill Lytle)


Mary Lightly – Psych

Not counting the Musical and the Movie, Mary is only in three episodes of Psych…the Yang Trilogy. Yet without a doubt this portrayal of a serial killer expert by Jimmi Simpson is my favorite — and the funniest – secondary character of any TV show I’ve ever watched. Whether he’s telling Gus “That’s very good, Gustus,” running with ankle weights or donning a monkey ascot, Mary has made me laugh extremely hard. I don’t know that there is any thing he says or any gesture he makes that isn’t funny to me. He’s subtle and overt, random and calculating, creepy and warm all at the same time. It’s a true masterpiece of a role.

My favorite Mary moment is actually a montage of himself on video, that Shawn and Gus watch in “Yang 3 in 2D”. The video keeps changing scenes of Mary talking to himself.
“Day One, Hour One. What’s the deal with One Tree Hill? It’s like a poorly executed Dawson’s Creek…
Jasper peaks, arrows and bows, the tickle of a good friend’s nose, a tom tom filled with Spaghetti-O’s…
I think CGI has ruined storytelling for all of us.
[Gus: Is he wearing a onesie?  Shawn: Yes.] I don’t wanna say it’s completely Michael Bay’s fault but that guy needs to be stopped because it’s all his fault…”

I don’t know how he does it, but there is something about Mary. He kills me every scene he’s in. (Gowdy Cannon)

 

 




Five Popular Bible Passages We May Be Misinterpreting (Part 2)

Not long after REO was created, while it was still cooling on the window sill, I wrote an article on Five Popular Bible Passages We May Be Misinterpreting. It created quite a bit of response. In the vein of much of modern Hollywood, I have written this sequel years later.

The point of it, I will repeat from last time, is to challenge how we think about the Bible. I want to push against our preconceived interpretations that perhaps we have never thought much about, the popular ones that do not often get challenged.

I give two disclaimers, though: First, I am not saying that I am positive that the alternative interpretations below are correct. Just that, according to some students of Scripture, they may be. And we should think through them in humility and wisdom, aiming to rightly divide the word of truth. Even if it means saying, “I was wrong.” Secondly, I am purposely avoiding passages like Philippians 4:13, Jeremiah 29:11 and the “Where two or three are gathered” verse because they are commonly picked on. These, in my experience, are not. Let’s look at them.

 

Exodus 14:14

Moses answered the people, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

Traditional Interpretation: When faced with daunting circumstances, we need to be still and let God fight for us.

Alternative Interpretation: God may want us to move instead of crying out to him.

The next verse is absolutely why I believe this:

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on.”

I hasten to add that I have heard wise, biblically sound Christian pastors and teachers cite this verse on social media. So maybe I am overthinking it. But at this point, Exodus 14:14 is not a verse I would use to teach people to be still. Psalm 46:10, yes. Instead, I use this pair of verses and their greater context to teach that there is a time to pray but there is also a time to get moving. Prayer is not a substitute for action.

 

Matthew 27:46

About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

Traditional Interpretation: God turned his back on Jesus (or abandoned him, or some verb of relational separation) to judge him for the sin of mankind since God cannot look upon sin.

Alternative Interpretation: Jesus, using a rabbinic practice of quoting only the first verse of a Psalm to communicate the entire psalm, is telling the audience that God will save him from this horrific circumstance. As Psalm 22 teaches.

I think “How Deep the Father’s Love For Us” has contributed to the understanding of this verse, as it says, “The Father turned his face away.” But even without the hymn, I have heard the traditional interpretation over and over in my life. I have always assumed it to be true.  Yet read the words of Jeffrey Crabtree in the Randall House Commentary on Matthew:

       Was Jesus actually abandoned and calling on God from His sense of
that? Or was He primarily saying this for the benefit of His human
audience? Some interpreters understand Jesus’ question to mean
that the Father did in some sense forsake His Son as He hung on
the cross as the atonement for the sin of the world (Hendriksen
971; Hagner 33B:844). Others understand Jesus to have been
implying, “Read the twenty-second Psalm. It tells you what this
crucifixion is about. I may look forsaken (Mt. 27:43) but I am not”
(Ps. 22:24). This makes Jesus’ quote and question mainly
rhetorical…
     …It seems probable that Jesus was not forsaken (Ps. 22:24)
even though it appeared to those on the ground that He was and
even though He Himself felt forsaken (Evans, Matthew 514). He
had suffered forty days in the wilderness at the beginning of His
ministry and endured extreme loneliness in the Garden the
previous night in prayer. In like manner, on the cross at the time of
His greatest suffering Jesus again felt isolation, only this time the
sense of isolation was the most intense of His entire human
experience—because He bore the wrath of God for the sins of the
entire world.
      The interpreter will want to consider the implications of the
position he determines to be Scripture’s intent. Can the Father and
Son really separate in their beings (Jn. 10:30)? Would such a real
separation agree with Psalm 22:24?[1. Jeffrey Cabtree, The Randall House Bible Commentary: Matthew, 466-67]

I find Mr. Crabtree’s explanation nuanced and balanced and it causes me to consider it. Yet I add that I am still struggling through this one. And I have not bought the alternative interpretation completely yet. This is not a major doctrinal issue to me but it’s still something worth thinking through and wrestling with. Verses like 2 Corinthians 5:21 and Romans 8:3 give me pause in abandoning the traditional interpretation.

 

John 3:30

“[Jesus] must increase, but I must decrease.”

Traditional Interpretation: We must increase Christ with our lives and be humble.

Alternative Interpretation: Christ must increase by the very nature of things no matter what we do or don’t do.

The word “must” works one of two ways, illustrated by the two interpretations above. We can say, “If you want to take English classes, you must register.” You control that. But we also say, “What goes up, must come down.” You don’t control that. You cannot to anything to affect it, start it, stop it or alter it. It’s something that happens by the very nature of things. The latter definition is what I think John means.

There are several reasons I believe this but here are three: First, it fits with how John the Gospel author used the Greek word “must” (δει) earlier in the same chapter when he said, Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up.” Based on verses like Acts 2:23 and 4:28, we know that the death of Christ was something God determined should happen and that humans could not prevent it or cause it. It is God’s—and Jesus’s—nature to save, just as it is gravity’s nature to bring objects to the earth.

Secondly, this fits with Jesus in Luke when he said, “If [my disciples] keep quiet the stones will cry out.” Christ will be worshipped because His nature as God demands it and not because we must do it.

And lastly, the context before John 3:30 leaves the interpretation up in the air, but in the verses after he says, “The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all.” This speaks to Christ nature as above us, which leads me to believe John is explaining why Christ must increase by the very nature of things more than Christ must increase because we must do it.

All of this matters because it helps me understand how Christ as God is bigger than my worship. He must increase as God in the sense that he must be exalted, praised and magnified. And even if free will beings refuse to do so, there are still billions of created voices doing it around the clock.

 

John 11:33-35

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. Jesus wept.

Traditional Interpretation: Jesus was saddened by the death of his friend and cried as a result. 

Alternative Interpretation: Jesus was angry because of the reaction of the people and was overcome with emotional distress. 

I suppose it’s possible both are true but at the very least I think this passage needs to be taught as Jesus was angry as much as sad. “Deeply moved” in the verse above is open to interpretation over a range of stressful emotion but it definitely bends to anger in my opinion. And this can be seen in how some prominent translations render it (NLT, HCSB). The people doubted him (vs. 37) and lack of faith often made Jesus angry (Mark 16:14).

 

Revelation 3:16

So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.

Traditional Interpretation: God wants you to be for him or against him, but not on the fence. 

Alternative Interpretation: God wants you to be for him and hates lukewarmness. 

This doesn’t change the main meaning of the passage, but it is possible that when God refers to hot and cold water he means that both hot and cold have a purpose. Cold water is good to drink and hot water is good for cooking, among other uses for both. So God wants us to be useful. Lukewarm water is good for nothing. It’s nasty and worth only spitting out.

 

 

Let me conclude by saying that when I did the last article, the discussion in the comment section below was very edifying and I actually adapted my opinion of Proverbs 22:6 as a result. So we strongly encourage feedback and interaction, even respectful disagreement.

 

 




Jurassic Park At 25 And The Marvel Of American Film-Making

Image result for Jurassic Park

They Spared No Expense

I had just turned 15 when the original Jurassic Park was released on June 11, 1993. While my older brother and his best friend sat at the back of the theater trying to act like they weren’t impressed, my best friend and I were completely blown away by it. If you ask me the most awe-inspiring theater experiences I’ve had in my life, this movie would be on the short list, competing with other sci-fi blockbusters like Back to the Future, Armageddon and Signs.

This, in spite of the fact that the acting performances are, for the most part, blah, which is part of why this movie seems to be a small step behind others of its genre in my social circles. To be clear, Jeff Goldblum is delightful and outrageous (and as a person and actor, he has only gotten better with time), and I always enjoy watching Samuel L. Jackson and the man I’ll always known as Newman go to work on screen. But with no offense to Sam Neill and Laura Dern, the main roles hit me as pretty vanilla.

Hold On To Your Butts 

Yet that doesn’t really matter. The stars of the movie and its subsequent sequels are clearly the dinosaurs and they are real (looking) and spectacular. And so, the original JP has aged extremely well in 25 years because it was so far ahead of its time. Seeing Spielberg’s dinosaurs interact with humans was an edge-of-your-seat thrill ride.

Two of their scenes caused me to grip the armrest of my theater seat so hard I almost blacked out: the first time the T-Rex shows up and the Velociraptor scene in the kitchen. Movie-making rarely gets that good to me. Spielberg acknowledged a complaint (from his grandkids no less) that it took too long for the dinosaurs to appear in the first Jurassic Park, which he rectified in A Lost World. But in my opinion, the slow pace and calm for the first 30 minutes of the original only highlights the extreme terror of the T-Rex’s debut. The foreshadowing moment when Tim looks at the cup in the back of the vehicle and sees the drop of water every time the as yet unseen King of Dinosaurs takes a step rocks my soul every time I watch. I have goosebumps just thinking about it. Similarly, my heart can barely stand the face-off between the two kids and the Velociraptors after these extremely intelligent predators figure out how to open the kitchen door. It’s gloriously scary. I love it.

Image result for Jurassic Park Cup of water gif

There are other aspects that make this movie exceptional to me: bits of dialogue (when Dr. Malcolm encounters the triceratops dung) and no doubt the main score, which is good enough to be a concert on its own. But this movie raked in the biggest opening weekend at the time and nearly dethroned E.T. for the biggest domestic run ever for one colossal reason: we had never seen dinosaurs look that legit before. It was fantastic, unprecedented cinema.

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“Later There’s Running…and Screaming…” 

With a first installment like the one described above, Jurassic Park as a franchise entered a short list of movie series that get at least one view for every sequel from me, no matter how many there are or how awful they are.  And admittedly I know all of the flaws for The Lost World and Jurassic Park III especially but I still enjoy them and have watched them repeatedly.

In The Lost World there are yet again uninspired performances (even the eventually entertaining Vince Vaughn) except for Jeff Goldblum and maybe the Hillbilly Jack dinosaur expert guy who comes in with the bad guys. But the new angle of having human villains along with dinosaur villains is an interesting twist. And the scene with the T-Rex attack on the crashed trailer, while not as good as the similar scene in the first one, is still riveting. Above all, I love the moment with the freighter carrying the T-Rex into San Diego crashes into the dock because it woke up and killed everyone on board. That’s fun cinema right there.

Related image

 

“You liked Dinosaurs back then.” “Back then they hadn’t tried to eat me yet.”

No doubt to me and many others, Jurassic Park III is the worst major film to ever have “Jurassic” in its name. As my nephew and mega Jurassic Park fan, Brett tells me, the dream sequence with Dr. Grant on the helicopter is “hilarious and terrible”. It’s like a 5-year old got to write one scene of the plot. But as stated, I still like this movie. William H. Macy is great and as long as there are rampaging dinosaurs, I think I will find some of it redeeming. I particularly love the new species and the scene on the rickety old bridge in the fog. It’s heart-stopping and just a step below the similar scenes in the first one. And I really enjoy the running gag of the satellite phone ringing and how it eventually announces the presence of the enormous Spinosaurus (who had devoured it along with the person holding it) standing out in the open.

Image result for Jurassic Park III

 

“Maybe you should include that in the brochure. Eventually one of these things will eat someone.”

Jurassic World should have been right up my alley and therefore I saw it opening weekend. The trailer promised a visually stunning thrill ride that would top its predecessors. And as I’ve written before, who doesn’t love Chris Pratt?

But it just didn’t deliver to me. It was visually stunning but it had more boring characters (Owen excepted), the weakest dinosaur terror scenes of the series and it was just a bit too over the top and chaotic at times.The original trilogy’s dinosaur attacks weren’t great because they were loud and untethered, but because they were they were thrilling, unpredictable and even at times humorous. Perhaps I have seen too many of these scenes by this point.

Even though it’s a better movie based on normal criteria, I think I’d rather watch the much panned third one than this one if given a choice. But I still want to watch this movie again. Why? Because it’s incredible cinematography.

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“These creature were here before us. And if we’re not careful, they’ll be here after us.”

And that brings us to Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, released widely in the United States today.  To be honest, the trailer for the most part looks like a tired mashup of plots from the previous four movies. And that worries me, since the last volume proves I may be getting a little bit of Jurassic Park fatigue. Yet some of it looks fresh and we do have the return of the inimitable Dr. Ian Malcom. And at the end of the day, it is Jurassic Park. So I will see it. The original broke new ground and set a standard for movie-making that technology had to catch. And while the others have disappointed in general, I doubt I will ever turn down these cinematically perfected dinosaurs chasing humans on the big screen. Maybe this one will live up to the T-Rex sized expectations these movies create.

 

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Five Literature Moments That Made Me Ugly Cry

For a year now on REO I have shared about how much I laugh and cry at fictional moments. Who doesn’t like to feel deeply? Today is the fifth in this series, moments in literature that brought the ugly tears. Links to the others in this series can be found at the end of the article. Links to the books on Amazon are embedded in their titles. And please note that MAJOR spoilers will be revealed, so if you have not read a particular work and plan to, please skip it.

On to the list!


1. To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)

The Moment: Tom is Found Guilty

A jury never looks at a defendant it has convicted, and when this jury came in, not one of them looked at Tom Robinson. The foreman handed a piece of paper to Mr. Tate who handed it to the clerk who handed it to the judge. 

I shut my eyes. Judge Taylor was polling the jury: “Guilty….guilty….guilty….guilty….” I peeked at Jem: his hands were white from gripping the balcony rail, and his shoulders jerked as if each “guilty” was a separate stab between them. 

Even knowing American history, I was foolish enough to believe that they may find Tom Robinson innocent. Atticus had argued so well. And I had seen “A Time To Kill” before I read this book, even though this movie came decades later. But I fooled myself. The moment was too much. It caused me to hate injustice real or fictional. Why don’t I hate it more?


2. The Road (Cormac McCarthy)

The Moment: The Father’s Last Words to His Son

“You said you wouldn’t ever leave me.”

“I know. I’m sorry. You have my whole heart. You always did. You’re the best guy. You always were. If I’m not here, you can still talk to me. You can talk to me. And I’ll talk to you. You’ll see.”

“Will I hear you?”

“Yes, you will. You have to make it like talk you imagine. And you’ll hear me.”

I listened to this on Audiobook and finished on a Sunday morning very early while walking to church. The tears actually started before this part and continued until the very end of the book. The ending is incredible as well, with the boy finding a new protector and his family. But there was something special about the dialogue between the father and son throughout this story. I don’t have kids, but I have an incredible father who would protect me until death. The dad here reminded me a little bit of mine in how simple of speech and blunt he was and in how he corrected his son.

Unlike three of the other books on this list, this one doesn’t have an abundance of characters and geography in an elaborate fantasy world. Just two main protagonists in a crucial life relationship whose plight and conversations will rip your heart into a million pieces if you’ll let them.


3. North! Or Be Eaten (Andrew Peterson, The Wingfeather Saga Book 2)

The Moment: Janner’s First Night in the Coffin

“When he awoke again, he found that the box was not an awful dream but a black reality. He panicked again. He lay panting in the blackness, talking to himself praying aloud to the Maker, accusing, pleading, screaming things that, while no one could blame poor Janner for saying them, will not be repeated here. 

And the Maker’s answer was hollow silence. 

Hours and hours passed. Janner wept again, a different weeping than before. These tears were not from fear but from weariness and a vast loneliness.” 

I have written honest words for REO a few times but I have never written about the darkest time in my life. Perhaps one day I will. Suffice it to say, I get what Janner went through above even though I was in a spiritual coffin and not a physical one. But our responses were the same. And so was God’s. It was impossible for me to read this and not lose it. It is like Peterson had access to my own personal journal when he wrote this scene.


4. The Return of the King (J.R.R. Tolkien)

The Moment: Sam carries Frodo on Mount Doom

“Sam looked at him and wept in his heart, but no tears came to his dry and stinging eyes. ‘I said I’d carry him if it broke my back,’ he muttered, ‘and I will!’

“Come, Mr. Frodo!” he cried, “I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you and it as well. So up you get! Come on, Mr. Frodo dear! Sam will give you a ride. Just tell him where to go and he’ll go. 

I recall the moment I first read this like it were five minutes ago. I was on a plane to a youth retreat in Florida. And I tried to hold it in, not wanting complete strangers to see me openly weeping. But I lost that battle. Sam’s character was too much. What he did for Frodo the entire length of the series was heart-wrenching at every turn and at this moment the emotional dam burst and the tidal wave of tears overcame me. I could not read the rest of the chapter for a few minutes.

It’s funny to me how the books and the movies caused me to cry at completely different parts.


5. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (J.K. Rowling)

The Moment: Dobby Dies and Harry Buries Him

“‘DOBBY!’ 

The elf swayed slightly, stars reflected in his wide, shining eyes. Together, he and Harry looked down at the silver hilt of the knife protruding from the elf’s heaving chest.

‘No—no—HELP!’ Harry bellowed toward the cottage, toward the people moving there. ‘HELP!’ 

‘Dobby, no, don’t die, don’t die — ‘

The elves eyes found him, and his lips trembled with the effort to form words.

‘Harry…Potter…’

And then with a little shudder the elf became quite still and his eyes were nothing more than great glassy orbs, sprinkled with light from the stars they could not see.” 

I remember being in my church’s auditorium a little while after my ESL class ended, reading this. I was standing up against a wall and I slowly and subconsciously started crouching to the ground in unbelief. But I kept reading, and Harry offered to bury him:

“‘I want to do it properly,’ were the first words of which Harry was conscious of speaking. ‘Not by magic. Have you got a spade?’

And shortly afterward he had set to work, alone, digging the grave in the place that Bill had shown him. He dug with a kind of fury, relishing the manual work, glorifying in the non-magic of it, for every drop of sweat felt like a gift to the elf who had saved their lives.”

Floods of tears. I have never been impacted by a fictional moment like this one. It still wrecks my soul after about 10 readings of the books. I am weeping even as I type this. I’ll never get over Dobby, my favorite hero in the book, simply because of how humble he was. And although I didn’t catch this detail until about my third reading, it deserves to be mentioned:

“Harry wrapped the elf more snugly in his jacket. Ron sat on the edge of the grave and stripped off his shoes and socks, which he placed on the elf’s bare feet.”

Ron gave him his socks. To know Dobby is to know what a heart-shattering touch of genius this was by Rowling, to this already tear-stained scene. My heart feels empty and full at the same time.


As always, we’d love for our readers to share their moments below.

 

To read about Five Movie Moments That Made Me ROTFL go here.

To read about Five Movie Moments That Made Me Ugly Cry, go here.

To read about Five TV Moments That Made Me ROTFL, go here.

To read about Five TV Moments That Made Me Ugly Cry, go here.

 

 

 

 

 

 




Review: “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”

“Everyone longs to be loved. And the greatest thing we can do is to let people know that they are loved and capable of loving.” – Fred Rogers

 

The Mr. Rogers I remember was a TV personality that had a warm and welcoming opening song and changed his jacket for a sweater and played with a trolley. He did voices in the Land of Make Believe and spoke gently and kindly to his audience and was good friends with people like Mr. McFeely. Thanks to him, I have known what a duckbill platypus is since I was five.

The Mr. Rogers of Won’t You Be My Neighbor I did not recall. And for that reason, among many others, this story needs to be told. God communicates to us so clearly through narrative. Our Bible is chock full of them. Biographies teach us things that ‘How To’ books never could. We need lives–real, heroic, inspirational lives–to help us make sense of this corrupt world. Fred Rogers is the modern example par excellence as to why.

Thanks to this documentary we get to see how big a visionary he was, seeing TV as the future before it was even the present. We get to see him fight for funding for it, using meekness to speak boldly and change the circumstances. We get to see him provide entertainment for kids that was wholesome and countercultural. We get to see him talk to children in a courageous, competent and congenial way about things like assassination, low self-esteem and anger. Things that seem daunting to talk about in private, much less in front of an audience. He taught against racism in as innocuous yet powerful a way as possible, in a time where it was terribly needed. He taught that it was OK to be sad without being patronizing. He talked through issues about emotions in an emotionally intelligent way, to such a level that my educated and experienced teacher wife was blown away. She could not believe how much he knew about how to talk to children, especially since it was 40 years ago before a lot of modern research was popular. Mr. Rogers was ahead of his time and in many ways a genius.

Most of that was surprising to me. But the stories went deeper. Mr. Rogers was known for dealing with children, but he worked with adults. And he proved that you can speak the truth to someone about a very hard subject and still make that person feel deeply in their soul that you love them so much they see you as a surrogate father. We in the U.S., even in Christianity, haven’t all figured this out. For this reason as much as any, I adore Fred Rogers. And until I watched this film, I had no idea.

If you have noticed that this documentary is rated P-13, I want to be clear that the previous paragraph is a part of why. The heaviness of real-world issues and interpersonal relationships isn’t always for general audiences. Yet there are other things that cause it to be rated as it is. Though Mr. Rogers lived a mostly G-rated life, his story is told by others. And as such, there were a few profane words in the interviews and a reference to a prank on set that is not something I would expect parent readers of REO would want small children to see. Also, Fred Rogers got angry at times about issues facing children in the US, especially when it came to what was on TV. And this documentary shows some of what Mr. Rogers hated.

My criticisms of this work are minor. I loved the music from the trailer and wish they had used it more. The transitions from story to story seemed a bit awkward at times to me, but another review I read said they were perfect so perhaps that is something I do not understand about documentaries. And finally, the cursing in the film is something at least at this point that has me torn. I suppose the point of this is for teenagers and adults to be inspired and to tell his story without many filters. Yet considering what his life stood for, I wish it were appropriate for kids. I suppose the kids still have his 1700+ TV episodes to watch.

Mr. Rogers talked a lot about love in his life. But he proved that while talking is easy and living is hard, it must be done if we want to make a difference. Love is unapologetically inconvenient. Mr. Rogers practiced it both in public and private, as valiantly and humbly as he could. At least according to those who knew him best.

I recommend this documentary to everyone who has been touched by Fred Rogers in any way, which would be millions of people all over the world, even nearly 15 years after his death.

Four stars out of five.

 

 




Yes, Actually, Marriage Did Solve My Loneliness

Eli answered, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.” She said, “May your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast. [1 Samuel 1:17-18]

 

Since I was a week away from my 36th birthday when I got married, I frequently read and received advice about singleness and how to deal with it. People told me not to expect marriage to solve issues I had, about everything from lust to loneliness. It is fair to say that marriage has not solved many of my problems but instead has, as you may expect, taught me how selfish and proud I can be.

Yet I cannot deny that as badly as I struggled emotionally with loneliness the last few years before marriage, that this particular struggle was completely eradicated.

The issues I had didn’t happen in a vacuum. It wasn’t like I began to consciously think that because I was in my mid-30s that I should be married already. Or that this led me to feel discouraged. Until I was 32, in fact, I was quite content being single and felt no pressure within or from without from people that loved me to get married. Yet I eventually began to experience trials in this area that were beyond my control and at times I did not respond well. And slowly but surely I began to suffer significantly enough with depression and anxiety that for a short time I was actually on a medication called Lexapro. These experiences were the foundation for a theology I’ve developed on waiting on God, and how brutally truthful I am willing to be about it.

But marriage changed all of this. My feelings were revolutionized. I have no longer struggled with depression or anxiety even a little bit. To me, it was like the moment in Return of the King when Gollum and the One Ring fall into fires of the volcano in Mount Doom. The first time I read those books, it felt like nearly the whole story was consumed in darkness until that moment and then light flooded the pages. The long dark night was finally over. That is what marriage has been like to me. Loneliness was a villain that has been destroyed forever.

There is much about marriage that I love and much that brings joy. And I cannot deny that because I was older when I got married and because I fell so deeply into an abyss before Kayla, that I value the companionship the most. I love it that I have someone to come home to at night. I love it that my wife knows all of my inside jokes and quotes and says them before I can when she knows I’m about to. I love that someone is there to take care of me when I’m sick, and honestly I love even more that I get to take care of someone when they are sick. I love it that when I preach, there is someone I can find in the audience that I can make eye contact with that understands and loves me like no other and makes me feel calm.

For those who have been victims in marriage–be it abuse or abandonment or something similar–or who are still waiting on it, it is not my aim to discourage. We at REO have written to those circumstances many times. I also do not want to disingenuously paint a picture of what marriage is like. It can be frustrating at times. It can expose the deepest flaws of your soul that you do not want to know about or confront. But if the two people are quick to forgive, as we both have been so far, then the conflict can produce deeper intimacy. And it can be completely overwhelmed most of the time by the joys of companionship.

But the main reason I am writing this is that when people write things like “Don’t expect marriage to solve [fill in the blank with whatever],” that often they are correct. But sometimes I do believe we make blanket statements in Christianity that can have exceptions. Yes, I believe my identity should be in Christ and not primarily in my marriage. Yes, I believe that Paul taught we can be content no matter the circumstances. But then I read the story of Hannah in 1 Samuel and how raw and passionate her grief was while childless, and how the news of having a child transformed her emotional state. And I wonder if sometimes God didn’t give us the narrative in the Bible to remind us that the more doctrinal sections have exceptions at times. Real life is not always so black and white. I don’t know if I could have been content the last few years of my life before marriage. But I know I’m content now that I am married.

Absolute truth is real. The resurrection of Jesus Christ means I do not have to stay dead after I die. Sex outside of marriage is immoral. Those are absolute. Yet in our social media world of articles that begin with things like “5 reasons you should…” and “Don’t expect this to happen when you …” I advocate for more nuanced advice. Oftentimes I have read articles and discovered they are based on preferences and experiences and some Bible verses that may or may not be absolute in their applications. I am not telling you that marriage solves loneliness. It may not for you. It did for me. And based on Hannah’s story and God himself declaring it is not good for man to be alone (save the exceptions given by Jesus in places like Matthew 19:12) and other Scriptures, I have zero issue testifying to it.

 

But as always, REO opens the floor to our readers for discussion and comments. Please feel free to do so below.

 




Five Classic Toys of Our Youth

Ah, the days of youth, how quickly they flew away. They were the days that we spent hours of fun enjoying our toys of choice to the fullest. Here are five classic toys members of REO loved in the days gone by.


Slip’N Slide

South Carolina is insanely humid in the summers and while I was blessed to have a local public pool to go to and regular beach trips, some days you just wanted something cheap and convenient to help keep you cool (when you weren’t working out in the field, that is). If whatever this was also happened to be fun, then you had done the impossible.

Enter Wham-O’s Slip’N Slide, a marvel of an invention that millions of kids all over the US have enjoyed for decades now. The set up is so simple: water, a garden hose and a thin sheet of plastic a few yards long. Yet it felt like you had your own water park in your own backyard. Hours and hours of fun were to be had, changing up the way you slid and watching and cheering on others and they did the same. The very name conjures up images and memories that bring nothing but the joy of youthful innocence to this middle-aged heart. (Gowdy Cannon)


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

I’m still not sure exactly how much of my childhood fascination with the Ninja Turtles was fueled by how much I actually liked the show. I tried to go back and watch some of the original cartoons a few years back, and it hadn’t held up in my mind exactly like I remembered it. The hype at the time, though, was real. And the toys that I played with gave an added physical dimension to the cartoon. One where I created my own stories and added to the lore that was already there.

My favorite toy of them all was the 1989 pizza thrower tank/van. You inserted little plastic pizzas into the top slot, and then a big grey button on the side would launch a pie right out the front, knocking down whatever toy was in its path. The poor foot soldier figurine that I had took regular pizzas to the face, only to be then pummeled constantly by the turtles and friends. Shredder usually put up a better fight, if I recall correctly. I would string zip lines up around my bedroom and have them slide down and crash into the enemies below.

For a kid my age, they were spot on. The toys articulated enough to show lots of expression. They came in tandem with a show that was marketed directly toward my demographic, and they were bigger and bulkier than the G.I. Joes…but in a good way. I probably earned half of my collection by not crying when I had to get a shot at the doctor. My mom always promised me a new toy if I was tough. And for a brand new ninja turtle? Not a speck of moisture would dare pool up in the corner of my eye. (D. A. Speer)


Transformers

It’s cool that the Transformer toys have come to the new generation. It really is. But the new vision has yet to become the bulwark of awesome that is the 80s transformers toys. Although I ever only owned one. It was Jazz – the greatest toy I’ve ever owned. Took me about two months to perfect the transforming process though.

I largely enjoyed every other Transformer toy through my friends. At my elementary school, Transformer toys were huge. Classmates were constantly bringing their newest robots in disguise to school to show the masses. If I was lucky one friend, in particular, would invite me over for a slumber party where we could play with his armies of Autobots and Decepticons all night long. My favorites of my classmate’s toys included Optimus Prime, Megatron, Sound Wave, and all of the Dinobots.

It may be me just glorifying them in my mind, but the T-toys of that era seemed so much cooler, more durable, and way more complex than the cheap stuff you see at the store now.

I also loved the cartoon, but somehow in my mind, I was able to keep the two separate. That is, I would have liked both just as much if the other never existed. But if I was forced to choose one, it would have been the toys. Truly, my friends, they were worth more than all the gold in Erebor. (Ben Plunkett)


LEGO

I grew up in Panama. The country. Not the city in Florida. Naturally, things were different for me as a child than for someone who grew up in the United States. With that said, I had access to pretty much all the popular toys. My brothers and I played with G.I. Joe, Transformers, He-Man, and anything else we could get our hands on. And we got our hands on a lot of toys. I probably owned as many as 70 different G.I. Joe action figures at one time.

When I was in the third grade, we spent half the year near Asheville, North Carolina and the other half in St. Louis, Missouri for what was called furlough at that time. (The name has been changed to “stateside assignment” for missionaries because “furlough” sounds like a vacation.) While in St. Louis, I attended a Christian school. My classroom had the largest collection of LEGO bricks I have ever seen in one place – outside of a store. Inspired by years of watching cartoons like Voltron – where five robot lions join together to form the giant robot Voltron – I decided to create my own giant robot made out of smaller robots all constructed using LEGO bricks. I spent hours working on it – every recess, every break. Each robot had the same design, though some were bigger than others depending on what part of the body of the giant robot they were to become. It was glorious.

I never completed the giant LEGO robot. I arrived at school one day, with just a few more parts to finish, only to discover that all of my robots had been dismantled and placed back in the bin used to store the bricks. To this day, I have no idea who decided to destroy my work. Why had they waited until I was this close to finishing? Why did they hate all the good things? It left my third-grade spirit broken and miserable. It was okay though as I learned an important lesson that day: Bad things happen and when they do, the best way to deal with the sense of loss and disappointment is to go obliterate all competition on the dodgeball court. A nice dodgeball to your opponent’s face is a healing balm. And trust me when I say this, I healed so much that day in recess playing dodgeball. So much. (Phill Lytle)


BRIO Railway

From 1985-87 my family and I lived in the St. Louis, MO area (across the Mississippi River on the Illinois side), and one of our favorite things to do was visit Union Station. My favorite part of Union Station (besides eating chili dogs at the now non-existent O. T. Hodge Chile Parlor) was visiting the toy train store. I enjoyed watching the model trains running all around the store; but, most of all, I loved playing with the BRIO wooden train sets. My parents could’ve dropped me off there and left me all day, and I would never have noticed they were gone. I’m pretty sure they never actually did that…

When I was a kid, those wooden train sets were exotic; and, as far as I knew at least, only BRIO made them. Now, of course, they are very commonplace and affordable. Many children own their own train tables and multiple sets of tracks and trains. I, however, had only the trains at the train store in Union Station, which I had to share with strangers and only got to visit once a month or so. Until…

It was either Christmas of ’86 or my birthday in early ’87, I don’t remember which, I was absolutely shocked to receive not one, but two BRIO train sets of my own. I’m not sure how my parents were able to do it, but it was probably my favorite present of all time. One set was a figure eight track with a small bridge and a small station with little wooden passengers waiting on the train. The other set was a larger bridge.

I have played with those trains for countless hours, possibly more than I’ve played with Legos, possibly more than I’ve played video games. I’ve cared for those train sets with much love. Even the original packaging lasted until just a few short years ago. Yes, I still have them, 31 years later. I’ve passed them on to my own children, adding on some cheap generic trains and tracks from Ikea and many, many trains from the Thomas the Tank Engine stories. All of the original pieces from my childhood are still there, surviving the many purges of moving. And, now, I think I must dust off the conductor’s hat and go play… (Nathan Patton)


In the comment section below, tell us about your favorite childhood toys. And if you enjoyed reminiscing with us, feel free to share this article with your friends.

 

 




Dear Central Florida, Your National Championship is Phony

Being from the Deep South, I have often heard it said that there are three sports seasons: College Football, Recruiting and Spring Football. The fact that many schools put 90,000 in the seats for their spring games, which are broadcast on ESPN, is proof that College Football is a year-round spectacle.

Despite this, I cannot think of many things that would cause me to write about College Football in May. But this is something that should have died in January and it hasn’t.

Central Florida beat Auburn and pretended they were National Champions, having a parade, rings, the whole nine yards. It was cute and similar to what other non-National Championship teams have done in the past (i.e., Auburn 2004). Usually, this sort of thing goes by the wayside in a few days. But to paraphrase a controversial slogan of the times, they persisted.

In part, I blame social media. Somehow Twitter gives the illusion that we have access to celebrities and Facebook gives us a platform to sound off on everything to an ambiguous audience of hundreds of people. And via these extremely popular sites, Central Florida has clearly taken advantage of how no one seems to be able to ignore anything they disagree with. Similar to the “I’m not dignifying that with a response” being a response that dignifies, every time someone argued against Central Florida’s real claim to a fake national championship, they gave more and more momentum to their argument.

Of course, that is what I’m doing. But only because Nick Saban of all people has now joined the fray. Nick Saban is the best college football coach, maybe ever. But he’s also a bit of a whiner. And as such he could not hold back last week on commenting on Central Florida’s National Championship claim, deriding it as only he should have. And I cannot deny that once he joined in, people like me can no longer ignore it. It’s time to weigh in.

Central Florida’s national championship is no more real than the Tooth Fairy. The arguments posited to try to disprove that simply cannot be sustained. Here are a few:

Central Florida beat Auburn, who beat Alabama and Georgia 

The A beats B beats C argument is lame. There now exists on the internet a website that will tell you (if it is possible) how to get from Team A to where they beat Team Z through a series of “they beat B who beat C, etc.” The craziest one I’ve seen? Welch College (my alma mater) beats Villanova in 2018 Men’s Basketball. That’s right, an NCCAA school with a few hundred students beats the NCAA team that dominated the Men’s tournament. Here is the proof:

Here’s the dirty little secret about Auburn 2018: They were a fantastic team, but they lost four times away from home, including to LSU (who lost to Troy at home, if you are a big fan of A beats B beats C). They beat Georgia at home but got romped at a neutral site. Central Florida needs to let this paltry argument go[1. Some UCF proponents, like SEC-hating Twitter clown Danny Kannel, try as well to point to an injury to Auburn’s prime running back as to why the results were different in the two Georgia-Auburn games last year. Blaming injuries is one step above blaming refs.].

 

Central Florida was the only undefeated team 

So was Utah in 2008. So was Boise in 2006. And they didn’t get National Championships either. Why? Because their schedules were not difficult enough. It’s great that UCF could knock off Auburn in the Peach Bowl, but when you play in the SEC and similar conferences, you get teams like Auburn several times a year.

I conceded it’s not fair that Central Florida’s players and coaches cannot control their schedule. But that’s part of sports. It’s not fair that Auburn in 2004 and Penn St. in 1994 got no championship despite running the table against a legit strength of schedule. It’s not fair that the players for Auburn in 1993 had nothing to do with the reason they were on probation and were the only undefeated team in the nation and got nothing.

Sports aren’t fair.

 

Alabama claims titles from years past that are questionable 

There is no doubt College Football has historically had the most convoluted method to naming a champion since the NCAA had never recognized one. If you look back through College Football annals, it is very hairy trying to figure out who gets credit for championships in what year because some schools claim them from non-AP poll and Coaches Poll sources (the two standard championships every year until the BCS). Additionally, teams used to be awarded championships before bowls were played. And is there anything more absurd to sports logic than having two (or more) national champions?

But now we do not have to deal with that. 2014 changed everything. We have a fairer system, and even more precisely, we have a playoff. Even if Alabama’s 1973 Championship is shady (and I’m not arguing for or against it), you cannot apply standards or laws or any similar criteria to modern circumstances. It devalues advancements we have made.

 

Now, to balance some of this out, here are two things I do acknowledge that are not anti-UCF:

  1. We need more teams in the playoff. Even if there were eight, I do not think Central Florida would have gotten in, but I have zero doubt the 8th best team in the nation most years can run through three other Top 8 teams in three weeks. I personally prefer 16. The NCAA tournament in basketball is not devalued at all despite the fact the bottom 32 teams or so have little to no chance to win it, so even if #16 has no chance to run the table, it still makes for more potentially great football.
  2. UCF is likely doing this in part to help with recruiting. I do not mind it in that sense. The problem is I have zero doubt reams of people are truly arguing that they deserve their rings, parade, etc. because they deserved a championship last year. Those people exist mostly because they are UCF fans or hate Alabama or the SEC or just love controversy, which our current political climate proves people are addicted to. The belief that UCF actually deserves a national championship is what I am arguing against.

 

Agree? Disagree? Let us know below!