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Super Bowl Wagering

The Super Bowl is the number one betting day of the year---this time with legal wagering predicted over $7 billion. Illegal gambling worldwide will more than double that total. Gambling is not just an American pastime; it’s a world pastime.

I know a few people who gamble regularly, usually in small amounts, and of course they lose more than they win. They may be experiencing some kind of fun or gratification, but the economics of their behavior doesn’t make sense.

I also know a few Christian people who do not believe gambling is wrong or especially hurtful, unless one gambles to excess. I always tell them the burden of proof is on them, not me, because considering gambling immoral is a position consistent with some two thousand years of church history.

I believe gambling violates at least five doctrines of Scripture: the sovereignty of God (Luck and an omniscient, omnipotent God are mutually exclusive concepts), stewardship (We are accountable to God for our time, talent, and treasure), theft (For you and me to win at gambling a lot of others must lose), covetousness (God commands contentment not greed), potentially addictive (The Bible tells us not to allow our minds, bodies, or souls to be brought under the power of anything other than the Spirit of God). [See my book, Gambling:  Don’t Bet On It, for more discussion of this topic.]

Football is an enjoyable game, one involving nearly limitless statistics. It’s also a “stop action” game—the game pauses after each down. So football plus television presents gamblers with nearly limitless opportunities to place bets. TV, football, and sports wagering are a dangerous combination. That’s why the NFL is on record with strong condemnations of sports wagering. The League knows that one Chicago “Black Sox” or Pete Rose-type gambling scandal could undermine the game and its legitimate profit making potential for years to come.

Gambling in any form is little more than a time bomb in a pretty package. Gambling in sports is a direct threat to the integrity of the game in terms of fair competition. Wagering on the Super Bowl is, therefore, a bad bet.

 

© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/rexmrogers.

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Funeral Politics: Coretta Scott King

Coretta Scott King’s funeral in Atlanta earlier this week became as much a political event as a time for remembering and mourning. Mrs. King was rightly lauded for her consistent support for civil rights for minorities and for her diligence in protecting and advancing the legacy of her slain husband Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. She is a lady who will be missed.

But Rev. Joseph Lowery shifted from eulogizing Mrs. King to talking about “weapons of mass destruction,” health insurance, and poverty. Meanwhile, President and Mrs. Bush sat directly behind the speaker. Former President Jimmy Carter said Mrs. King and her late husband had been “violated” by “government wiretapping and government surveillance.” He also took shots at the current administration’s handling of post-Katrina assistance in New Orleans by referring to “the color of the faces in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, those…most devastated by Hurricane Katrina.”

I can forgive Rev. Lowery, because politics in the pulpit is a fairly standard experience in the Black church. But former President Jimmy Carter’s comments were unnecessary, out of place, and beneath the dignity of a former president, particularly in the context of a funeral eulogy. There was so much about Mrs. King’s life and legacy that President Carter could have talked about. To focus on current political divides was a low ball blow.

President Carter’s rhetoric may fit the man, but it does not fit the position he holds in trust for the American people. I don’t begrudge him his views or even his right to express them. I simply think he could have gone about sharing them in a more dignified manner. In the end, his attack on the current administration’s policies in that venue did nothing to advance his point of view.

For President Bush’s part, he was gracious, praised Mrs. King, remained positive in words and in response to his critics, and in general revealed a bit of class. Whatever one’s position on the war, poverty, post-Katrina response, etc., you have to give Mr. Bush credit for the way he handled these cheap shots. He acted like a President when his predecessor did not.

 

© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/rexmrogers.

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Oprah's Mea Culpa Much Welcome

Oprah Winfrey's back-pedaling apology for defending falsehood-published-as-truth is a very welcome development. On Thursday’s show, Winfrey expressed chagrin, remorse, and anger, some of it directed at herself and most of it aimed at James Frey and his book, A Million Little Pieces. Frey’s “memoir,” now known to contain more than a few documented falsehoods, still tops the bestseller lists and is still making money for Frey and his publisher. But at least people know it’s not what it claims to be.

Before the legion of fans who watch her show, Oprah told Frey, “I feel duped. But more importantly, I feel that you betrayed millions of readers.” In that she was echoing the rest of us. Frey admitted to lying, and he’s lost respect and what reputation he was attempting to rebuild even if he is walking away with a bigger bank account.

But Winfrey cannot offload all of this on Frey. Her organization selected Frey’s book for the Oprah Book Club, apparently without vetting it thoroughly. And worse, she called Larry King’s CNN program on January 11, staunchly defending Frey and his work, saying the growing controversy about truth versus fiction was “much ado about nothing.” Winfrey can make a mistake like anyone else, but she is too shrewd not to have known what she was doing when she made that call.

But let’s salute Winfrey’s quick ownership of her misstep. She told her viewers, “I regret the call. I made a mistake and I left the impression that the truth does not matter, and I am deeply sorry about that. That is not what I believe.”

Whether Winfrey’s own conscience got to her, whether she is worried about her image and reputation, or whether she is simply responding to the thorough shellacking she experienced in the national media, we don’t know. But she did acknowledge that she has been the subject of numerous online and print editorials, calling her to account. In clear contrition she said, “To everyone who has challenged me on this issue of truth, you are absolutely right.” And they were.

Truth matters after all in postmodern culture. We cannot live without it, even if people and philosophies persist in suggesting that we can. Frey is just a blip. He’ll soon disappear. But integrity in speech, writing, and testimony are critical to the functioning of a free society based on objective truth and the rule of law. The day that truth really does not matter is the day the American experiment is only a step away from demagoguery and demise.

It’s more than a little interesting to see authors, columnists, and other writers (liberal or conservative) reacting so strongly against Frey’s infractions. Writers have taken greater umbrage with Frey than publishing houses. Why? Because this strikes at the very heart of what writers do and who they are. It’s about intellectual property, their incomes, and talent. It’s about their ox being gored, and they rightly do not like it. Publishers make money either way, true or false. Indeed as the Frey experience has shown once again, controversy sells books.

So in the end truth won this battle in the culture wars. Winfrey learned, publishers learned, and, hopefully, so did the rest of us.

 

© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/rexmrogers.

 

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Feminism AWOL at Golden Globe Groping

Apparently feminism went on holiday at last week’s 63rd Annual Golden Globe Awards. E! Network red carpet correspondent Isaac Mizrahi grabbed then peered down the front of Teri Hatcher’s dress, asked Eva Longoria about the disposition of her pubic hair, and squeezed Scarlett Johansson’s breast in an extended grope—twice. All of this outrageous behavior was beamed to millions and E! got what it wanted—attention and more viewers motivated by prurient interests.

Hatcher acted shocked, the key word being “acted,” but otherwise did not put a stop to Mizrahi’s affront. Longoria simply did not answer the question, while Johansson appeared nonplussed, asked, “What’s going on?” then put up with Mizrahi’s antics. For women adept at marketing themselves, all of them missed their chance to be the focus of national news, rather than Mizrahi.

Hatcher at 40 should have the perspective and self-awareness to have recognized the moment. At a minimum, she could have pulled away and said something like, “Keep your hands off me!” Or better, had she said that and slapped Mizrahi., she not only would have made national news, she would have become the hero of women everywhere. Hatcher would immediately have become “The woman who said ‘No’” to sexual harassment in front of the entire nation. She would be the “strong professional woman” who stood up for herself. She would be the talk of talk shows, and she would have launched herself into a whole new level of fame, for this incident and its aftermath would have been covered not just on entertainment but hard news programs. But, alas, she didn’t take action—nor did Johansson, who arguably had even more cause to protest Mizrahi’s behavior. They missed their moment for singularity.

Perhaps if any of these women had protested, their reaction would have elicited chuckles later, because these are women whose entire careers and personal presentation is built upon sexual contexts and evident sensuality. But even so, I think they could have won the day, because most women, or anyone for that matter, know that unsolicited improper touching is not acceptable and not legal, even if you remove moral concerns from the equation. Women from Oprah to Hillary would have rallied to their defense, and so would have a lot of men.

Curiously, none of these actresses have demanded an apology and none has been issued. In fact, the only people who seemed to have been offended by this public display of over the top behavior is GLAAD, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. GLAAD took umbrage with the openly gay Mizrahi’s use of the word “dyke” in his conversation with Charlize Theron. E! Network president Ted Harbert said, “"While E! Networks does not generally condone the use of that word, we are totally confident that Isaac is the last person on Earth who could be accused of even the slightest degree of homophobia." GLAAD later said that E! agreed to edit out this word in future airings of the program.

So in Hollywood morality, it’s O.K. to use a word like “dyke” if you are not “homophobic.” By this logic, one could use the “N word” if he or she is “not a racist,” or could call someone a “Nazi” if he or she really didn’t mean anything by it. It’s an interesting argument in this day of political correctness.

Also by Hollywood logic, it may possibly be an egregious error to use a derogatory term referring to gays or lesbians, but it’s apparently just fun and games to touch unsuspecting women in improper places—a behavior that in any other context would be called sexual harassment.

Feminists have argued for more than three decades that women should be treated with respect, should be regarded with dignity, should be accorded equality with men, should not be trotted out as mere sex symbols, etc. Later radical feminists positioned themselves and their movement as “men and marriage haters” and considered all sex with men to be forms of oppression, viewpoints that continue to undermine the movement’s other worthy considerations. But much of early feminist arguments had value and needed to be made. The Golden Globe incidents are a case in point. Feminists should be screaming the loudest about this episode, but they have been curiously silent.

This incident also demonstrates how much culture has changed. While neither Lauren Bacall nor Katherine Hepburn were paragons of personal virtue, can you really imagine either of them tolerating the public embarrassment endured by Hatcher, Longoria, and Johansson? Not really—primarily because they had come of age in a time when culture still operated with a reasonable moral consensus. Women did not enjoy all the civil liberties we now consider their due, but they were, largely, accorded a public degree of respect.

Morally, of course, from a Christian perspective, this episode is even more unacceptable and further evidence of cultural decline. So for once Christians and feminists ought to be climbing the same bully pulpit, decrying sexual harassment of any person, no matter who he or she is or what he or she does for a living. Christians will speak out on this issue, and I’m one of them, but where are the feminists?

© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow at www.twitter.com/rexmrogers.

 

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Alito, Abortion, Principles, and Partisanship

In the run-up to the January, 2006, Senate hearings for United States Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito, both Republicans and Democrats are trading long-standing philosophic principles for perceived partisan advantage. In a fascinating bait and switch, both parties are using the other party’s principles as leverage for their view of the 1973 Roe v. Wade abortion case, which will undoubtedly play a central role in the hearings.

While conservatives typically favor judicial restraint, liberals generally encourage judicial activism. Conservatives, more often than liberals, also tend to appreciate stare decisis—a respect for legal precedent.

Judicial restraint is an approach to jurisprudence that suggests the Constitution and the law should not be altered at the whims of judges responding the winds of current culture. Judges and justices, so the theory goes, should let legislatures and the Congress make the laws, while robed attorneys behind the bench simply interpret the law.

Judicial activism is an approach to jurisprudence that suggests the Constitution is a culturally and historically defined document that, though foundational, should nevertheless be altered by law-making judges and justices when the needs of the time demand it. While legislatures and the Congress make laws too, so this theory goes, they are frequently gridlocked by political wrangling. Only the courts can break through on certain issues too hot for elected officials to handle.

Conservatives supporting Judge Alito’s nomination are now arguing for judicial activism with a distinct lack of concern for legal precedent. Why? Because many of them want Roe v. Wade overturned. Their pro-life perspective trumps their traditional inclination to encourage justices to proceed slowly with great respect for the law as it stands. In this instance, via Alito, conservatives want to have their day in court.

Liberals wanting to thwart Judge Alito’s appointment to the high court now sound like conservatives, arguing articulately for judicial restraint and in favor of both legal precedent and the “right to privacy” they believe precedent has established. Why? Because these are code words for arguments intended to “protect a woman’s right to choose. Liberals, via someone other than Alito, want to preserve what they consider a basic civil right.

This is not the first time this principle switch has taken place. Conservatives who tend to favor states rights over federal empowerment led the charge to involve Congress in the tragic Terri Schaivo case last year. In what became the concluding act of the 2000 presidential election conservatives on the United States Supreme Court, who also tend to favor states rights, directly intervened in Bush v. Gore.

I’m not saying either side is necessarily wrong for switching principles in these instances. I am only pointing out that political principles are sometimes jettisoned in the heat of battle. That fact alone should make us want to be eternally vigilant, for you never know which principle might be considered expendable, even though some principles are clearly more important than others. And this is exactly what we want justices to be thinking about.

 

© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/rexmrogers.

 

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What Should We Think of Pat Robertson?
Written by Rex M. Rogers   
Monday, 16 January 2006 00:00

Dr. Pat Robertson, a once influential evangelical Christian leader, recently added another bizarre comment to a growing list of eccentric views. Following Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s massive stroke, Robertson wondered on his television program, “The 700 Club,” whether God might be punishing Sharon for “dividing the land” of Israel by giving acreage to Palestinians.

Robertson's comment about God's purported actions was quickly followed by predictable reactions among liberals, outrage from Israel, carefully worded distancing from the White House, and frustration and some condemnation among fellow evangelicals.  Christian leaders' responses are perhaps the most interesting. Dr. Richard Land, president of The Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission said, "I am as shocked by Pat Robertson's arrogance as I am by his insensitivity."

Another once influential fundamentalist Christian leader, Dr. Jerry Falwell, attracted similar negative reactions from the Christian community when shortly after 9-11 he wondered if the nation’s worst terrorist attack was God’s judgment for America’s acceptance of feminists and gays. Os Guinness, a well-known and well-regarded Christian scholar and writer, said, " I know hundreds of people who are just terminally frustrated with the idiotic public statements of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson and the idea that these people represent us. They don't."

An unsuccessful 1988 Republican Party presidential candidate, Pat Robertson has made a career of provocative, foot-in-mouth comments. Robertson joined Falwell in making similar post-9-11 comments about God’s judgment upon America. In 2005, Robertson suggested the United States should assassinate leftist Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. After Hurricane Katrina slammed the city of New Orleans Robertson wondered aloud whether this judgment might have resulted from America’s high abortion rate. Following the fall 2005 election ouster of the Dover, Pennsylvania school board members who had mandated Intelligent Design for the local curriculum, Robertson concluded the people of Dover had better hope they never experienced a natural disaster, because they had rejected God and he was not going to hear their prayers in their time of need.

Is Pat Robertson courageous, crazy, or just a harmless preacher past his prime—one with a “pulpit” reaching about 850,000 people each broadcast? Is Robertson a prophet or a poster boy for evangelical quacks? Are Robertson’s views representative of evangelicals—as media still seem to think and as liberals fervently hope—or is he becoming an isolated, “Far Right” voice crying in a wilderness where fewer and fewer people are listening?

Pat Robertson is a fellow believer in Jesus Christ. He’s a Christian who will be with me in heaven some day. So I honor his faith. I also respect his leadership over many years, including his legacy as founder of Regent University, founder of the Christian Coalition, and successful business entrepreneur of many different for-profit and non-profit television broadcasting channels and programming. I admire his courage in speaking his mind, and I admire what I consider his and Jerry Falwell’s positive contribution in awakening and energizing a generation of conservative American Christians to their social and political responsibilities, opportunities, and influence. I also appreciate Robertson’s work ethic, committed to his worldview and his sense of calling or mission in life.

I believe many of Robertson’s critics would be my critics or the critics of any conservative, Bible-believing Christian, simply because the critics do not accept, indeed find intolerable, the moral values of our Christian faith. They gleefully attack Robertson-the-man or Robertson-the-personality in order to discredit conservative Christian views of human life and other biomedical ethics issues, human sexuality, public prayer and other church and state debates, and more. In other words, Robertson attracts lightning not only for the content of his commentary but simply because he’s chosen to act as a lightning rod. This is a needed perspective, for it should remind other Christians that we share core values and concerns with Robertson even if he may not always represent them in a way we find comfortable.

All this stated, I must agree with a number of Christian leaders who have questioned Robertson’s recent pattern of imprudent, I think biblically unjustifiable, largely judgmental and uncompassionate, and oft-times self-righteous commentary. If Robertson made one gaffe, one statement that did not wring true, I’d simply count him among the rest us. Virtually everyone in public life and on public record—conservative, liberal, Democrat, Republican, Independent, religious or non-religious—has made some kind of ill-advised comment along the way, something for which many of these people later apologized. But Robertson is on a roll.

Robertson’s penchant for controversial pronouncements comes from his theology and his methodology. He truly believes God speaks extra-biblically and directly to him, then he tends to apply this doctrine to specific individuals and events. While I sometimes find myself in agreement with Robertson’s assessment of a contemporary social or political concern, I generally do not agree with his proposed solutions. After 9-11, I wrote my own response to that horrific event and one of my key points was that as we view world events we should take great care in saying, "Lo, God is doing this," or "Lo, God is doing that."  Only God knows his plan (Romans 11:33-34).

I am very uncomfortable with the ease with which Robertson moves from the pages of Scripture to the Republican Party political platform. To listen to Robertson you’d think God was a Republican. He comes off more as a partisan hack than as a prophet. I think this often uncritical partisanship undermines both his faith and his credibility and, consequently, his influence.

Robertson is not the best nor even any longer a leading representative of evangelical Christians. His comments certainly do not reflect my views. He represents only himself—and maybe not even that, for he has apologized, virtually apologized, or “clarified” his views after each of the episodes we’ve noted.

So, I recommend that Pat Robertson focus his time and considerable skills upon faith and family, evangelism, the value of a Christian higher education, or perhaps the role of Christian faith in media rather than politics. He’s run out of fuel for that race.

If he cannot restrain himself politically, and frankly I doubt that he can—because his practice is so rooted in his theology and because it’s too late to change—than he should retire. At age 75, while still a hero of many, he’s no longer the most effective fundraiser for CBN or Regent University, and he’s no longer their future. He could retire as an elder statesman of his work and movement, assisting his son and others as they carry on their own work and calling.

Such recommendations may seem presumptuous. But Robertson has never been bashful about sharing his recommendations, so we’ll consider turnabout fair play.

 

Another version of this blog may be found at: “Robertson Doesn’t Represent Evangelicals,” The Detroit News, (February 4, 2006), p. 6F.

 

© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/rexmrogers.

 

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Dr. Rex M. Rogers

Dr. Rex M. Rogers

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