What Gordon Hayward’s Ankle Tells Us About Race Relations In America

Civilization has a very thin veil. I have always known that we are one event away from mass hysteria. This is the human condition. When push comes to shove and the human protectionism instinct kicks in, watch out. This is why I have never trusted a crowd.

Lately the veneer of peace seems thinner than ever. In an age of angst, protest and discontent, we tend to focus on the maladies of culture and sometimes fail to miss the hope.

Last night, I saw something that demonstrated our humanity beyond the headlines. If you missed it, last night, during the much anticipated Celtics vs. Cleveland NBA match-up, Gordon Hayward went up for an alley oop dunk only to land awkwardly, his foot finishing the play in  a direction that is anatomically opposite of what is intended. Absolutely gruesome.

Before many of the players on the court even knew what happened, you could tell by the reaction of the Cavaliers bench and the crowd that Hayward was in serious trouble. People literally backed up a few feet, many covering their eyes.

What happened next was reverent and something that a spiritually discerning person might call divine. Time seemed to slow, Kyrie buried his head in a teammates breast and cried, others gathered together and prayed and Dwyane Wade took a knee with head bowed. Unity, true empathy and concern prevailed.

Here on a national stage, white and black came together and showed a compassion for one another rarely seen in the midst of all the social chaos we live amongst. Issues were humanized. If you don’t know Hayward, he is one of the whitest guys in the NBA, not only is he pasty white, he played in Utah for years, a state considered by some to be very intolerant. To top it off, he wears a hairstyle akin to white nationalist. He is not. He is actually anything but that. Hayward is actually one of the most respected and loved players in the NBA; a league that is majority black. Gordon goes about his business with an old school attitude and a lunch pail in hand. He walks with a dignified humility that speaks well of the game, but might not be deserving of his talent.

After setting Hayward’s leg on the court and loading him on the stretcher, Lebron James came over to wish him well. The King was shook. Kyrie’s emotion filled comments after the game showed how much he truly cares for Hayward and for one night, tragedy brought us together.

Last night’s moment of solidarity is not going to fix what ails us in the human condition, but for a moment, if only brief, we saw behind the headlines. We saw hope and witnessed a microcosm of what might be possible in the world if we begin to live beyond the headlines and truly share in each others struggle.

Secular Religion and Jimmy Kimmel Take On Las Vegas

While it is debatable whether America was ever a truly Christian nation, what is not up for discussion is whether or not secularism has become the faith of the day. Religion is the organization of faith-based belief on either a personal or communal level. Many people today like to hide behind the illusion that they don’t practice “religion”, but are spiritual or even atheist. Even Christ-followers today would rather talk of a relationship than religion. All of this is fine, but it does not change the fact that if you have an organized and acted upon system of belief, that you can’t prove, then you are acting in faith and practicing religion. No matter where you stand on the universe, God or man’s search for meaning, none of us can prove it. This includes the scientific atheist, who have a strong faith that there is no God. The only way to void this is to change the meaning of the word itself.

I would argue that American and perhaps Western civilization as a whole is more “religious” than it has ever been, it’s just that the actors have changed. Stephen Hawking is quoted as saying that “God has not been disproved, but Science has made him unnecessary.”

Secular humanism replaces the idea of God with man, and puts man’s will, as long as it benefits the whole of humanity and is scientifically “proved” for the moment as its theology and “ever changing” truth. Science only offers its absolutes until they are disproved. I would argue that today’s science is at the beck and call of man’s will.

The problem with secular religion is that it offers no solid answer and nothing unmovable to tether itself to. When we butt up against some of the more complex issues in society, especially the problem of evil in the world, again a religious word still used by secular modernists, we come to an impasse.

Last night many of secular humanism pastors used their late night pulpits to decry injustice, sooth a nation’s emotions and answer tough questions. Jimmy Kimmel tried to make sense of it all in a tear-filled and emotional sermon which stated that it seems as if “A window into hell has been opened.” and he may be right. Down the dial, Miley Cyrus and Adam Sandler took to Fallon’s stage to sing Dido’s hymn of freedom. All of this meant to unify and heal a national church service of sorts.

But, how do you heal in a half-staff nation where much of the time, many of us have no idea why the flag has bowed to that sacred position and children find it odd when they see Old Glory rise to its standard.

Secular religion tells us that LOVE is the answer, but currently has no idea where love comes from beyond a chemical reaction in the brain. The God of secular religion has become slave to love, but I would suggest that while God is love, love is not God and it is impossible to  understand love without knowing the source of love.

Much like our faith-based predecessors of previous centuries, Secular religion attempts to regulate morality through law, failing to learn the lessons of our faith-based past. This historicity has taught us that morality can never be foisted upon a human soul. Even God knows this, yet here we go again, policing people’s souls. Today’s political activism is the jungle mission field of the secular religious and social media it’s machete. And much like our faith-based religious past, stated belief in a popular idea equals membership into our pews.

C.S. Lewis says that we will never be truly human until we stand before God. This is the idea behind his epic work, Till We Have Faces.  This is again where secular humanistic religion often fails. In trying to raise individual man to the highest platform it dehumanizes to achieve it’s self-fulfilling goals. So when Jimmy Fallon, during the campaign rubbed Trump’s head, he was scorned for having “humanized Trump”. https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2017/may/17/jimmy-fallon-trump-interview-tonight-show

Today a female lawyer for CBS was fired after tweeting “If they wouldn’t do anything when children were murdered I have no hope that Repugs will ever do the right thing,” she wrote on Facebook. “I’m actually not even sympathetic bc country music fans often are Republican gun toters.”

This is classic Cain vs. Abel humanism where anything is permissible if those being eradicated don’t fit the current zeitgeist. This dehumanization is something that the Nazi’s perfected and seems in synchronicity with our society today.

Of course, this woman knelt in confession to the social media God’s with the required apology about how this does not reflect who she is, but is it not true that the mouth speaks the overflow of the heart and once she suffers the appropriate flagellation, she will be welcomed back. Eventually, this wash rinse and repeat will no longer be a necessity.

The scriptures say that when the end times come, you will know it because people’s love grows cold. While the media gods of our day speak about a red hot love that vanquishes hate, I would argue that our nation’s love tank is running on empty and depleted by empathy fatigue, finding it incapable in our limited human frailty to process degradation on a continually connected and global scale.

Perhaps, our new priest and faith will find a way out of all of this. Maybe love is the answer and they are right in believing that old time religion is a bondage machine meant for mind control. But if they are wrong, and I believe they are, the answer remains the same. “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will heal their land.” May it be so…

Being Awesome In 2016 Part 1

Bat utility belt? Check! Cape? Check! Gray tights and bat mask? Double check!
I was close to eight when my parents got me the full batman costume. It was not like today’s flimsy outfits whose inferior quality regularly reminds you that you are anything but transcendent. No, this was circa 1970s American made livery. It had the weight and texture of a Roman centurion’s tunic. More importantly, it had soul. The moment you put it on, imagination became reality, mortality became superhuman and the world that is was transformed into the world that could be. It was awesome, but more importantly, you had become awesome!
There’s nothing quite like the magic of being a child. Here in the shadowlands between birth and reclamation by earth and way before you had to figure out what your purpose was, you could busy yourself in just being the awesome and fascinated you.
Childlike awesomeness is nothing like the adult version. Adult awesomeness lacks the ability to separate itself from comparison. Its value is often tethered to an emotional algorithm of me vs. them. It repeatedly asks, “Am I more awesome then they?” Nothing about this question is awesome. It’s a question asked from a platform of insecurity.
Adult awesomeness also fails at being able to run around the backyard for an hour by yourself dressed like Batman or Super Girl and fully entranced in the wonder of living beyond the margins of reality.
Adult awesomeness continually pings you with thoughts of your own meaninglessness, worthlessness and a host of other “nesses” that scream, Wake up, you dreamer, and get back to your treadmill of fear worry, guilt and concern. Stop this whimsy!”
Adult awesomeness fails to live in the grandeur of its prefix “Awe”. Awe, the ancient Nordic word whose root means something akin to running into battle against a stone dragon yelling “Aarghhh!”
Awe is so awesome that it is practically indescribable. It is a poultice of wonder, beauty, hope, power, love and imagination so blended together that each of its individual components has been lost to an even higher manifestation.
Awe is experienced by the newborn baby’s unfused brain that cannot discern the difference between taste, sight, touch, smell or feel, but rather harvest them in one dynamic and awesome sensation.
I believe living in awe is not only part of the human experience, but core to its fulfillment. Today’s world peddles a cheap form of awe. Awe in the form of fame, money, power, sexual experience or distraction beg you to accept the minimal returns that they offer and call them awe.
I believe that God has more for you than that. God offers you the whole of life and asks you to dive in deeply and experience it all in one passionate non-discernable experience that is better known as abundant life. He calls you to live a life of transcendence rather that one which is transactional. He is inviting you into the awe-filled and awesome life.
For the last few days of 2015, I want to take a journey with you to explore the space of what it means to be awesome. No, this is not a trek into self-aggrandizement; that’s what Facebook is for. Rather, this is an exploration into learning how to radically experience life and all that God’s creative world has on offer. It is a chance to reclaim our wonder, our hopes, our joy. More importantly it is a time to come a bit closer to the God who looks at you and thinks, Wow! How absolutely awesome is this child of mine!
Check out other books by Adam Stadtmiller

Exploring the space of being awesome in 2016!

A few weeks ago I was sitting with a friend and asked him what his hopes and dreams were for his spiritual life. He said, with the utmost authenticity, “I just want to be awesome!” It got me thinking about what it means to be awesome. Thus, I’ll be exploring how to be awesome for 10 days before the end of this year. I hope you will join me for the ride in learning how to be Awesome!

Evangelism and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit

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Evangelicals have a conundrum on their hands. The very title suggest that they have a public faith, but few people feel equipped our empowered to make Jesus real to others in common everyday places they live. Pastor Adam Stadtmiller again breaks down the baptism of the Holy Spirit and it fundamental purpose. Evangelism.