And the Solution Is?

Prizes and Consumables: The Super Bowl as a Theology of Women
Seminar Speaker: Dr. Matt Vos, Professor of Sociology, Covenant College

The Superbowl is the most watched event in American culture. Along with millions of other Americans, Christians make elaborate plans for watching the event. Despite its popularity, the Superbowl—both the action on the field and in the surrounding activities and advertising—sends the message that American culture is for men only. The roles for women are limited to those that serve the interests and desires of men. This seminar will consider the ways that the Superbowl reinforces and extends an American understanding of the value of women. It will also ask what role the church should be playing in counter-narrating the convictions and values advanced by this central event in American life.

How about two services on the Lord’s Day, and no employing professional football players on Sundays for a Christian’s amusement?

The Proverbial Pot and Its Black Friend

From the you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up department comes the Baylys’ complaint about the doings in Vatican City. Turns out, the U.S. pastors for whom almost everything is sexual, believe Rome’s problem reduces to sex. The Cardinals, you see, dress like girls, so how could you ever trust them?

Serious men do not parade in embroidered dresses. Men who carry the cross of Christ do not wear fanciful costumes more than once a year, and then only in the company of their children. These men, “princes of the church” resplendent in their papal-conclave regalia, are not serious men. They are men with an unmanly love of finery, fancy and ceremony. They are as serious as Hollywood, as normal as Liberace.

Tim Bayly piles on with quotations from John Calvin about lascivious attire, which the modern day Gilbert Tennent uses to berate those who don’t see anything particularly wrong with how the Cardinals dress. First Calvin:

No bishoprics are so opulent, no abbacies so productive, in short, no benefices so numerous and ample, as to suffice for the gluttony of priests. But while they would spare themselves, they induce the people by superstition to employ what ought to have been distributed to the poor in building temples, erecting statues, buying palate, and providing costly garments. Thus the daily alms are swallowed up in this abyss.

Then Tennent Tim:

We could go on with such condemnations by our Reformed fathers all day, but there’s no use. Reformed men today in the richest nation the world has ever seen have left their fathers in the faith far behind.

As one of the best-known Reformed theologians of our day put it to me concerning such straighforward condemnations of Rome by Luther and Calvin, “They were sinning when they wrote that way.”

Meanwhile, the advertisements for the upcoming Clearnote Pastors Fellowship Conference feature a picture of the famous Reformers Wall in Geneva. In it we see Calvin dressed, you guessed it, in a skirt. To the eye not trained in fashion, it could look like a dress or house smock. Granted, it may not have the embroidery of the Cardinals’ attire, but a gown functions like a skirt and hides what’s going on below.

Which again proves that the Baylys are a tad obsessed with sex. Gowns could look like dresses. But they also may connote authority. Hence, the robes that judges wear. And yet, when you can draw a straight line between outward appearances and spiritual truths, something C. S. Lewis identified with paganism (and which by the way seems to afflict 2k’s biggest critics), you see Rome’s troubles as having less to do with sin, the sufficiency of Christ, and scriptural authority, and more with gowns, celibacy, and sexual scandal.

A.D.D. for The Young and Restless?

It started with such promise. The allies of the gospel were going to run a series of posts on Princeton Seminary to commemorate the institution’s bicentennial this year. Granted, the view of Princeton from TGC did not exactly do justice to the school’s Old School Presbyterianism. Even so, I was hoping that the anniversary might generate more attention for one of the best expressions of Reformed Protestantism with the greatest longevity . But so far, only three posts:

January 5 Old Princeton for New Calvinists

February 13 Old Princeton for New Calvinists: The Legacy of Archibald Alexander

March 19 Old Princeton for New Calvinists: 9 Lessons from the Life of Charles Hodge

So, to fill in for the lack of attention to Old Princeton, a word about New Princeton. As of October 8 comes news that the seminary has appointed M. Craig Barnes, a teacher, pastor and author and a columnist for The Christian Century magazine, president of Princeton Theological Seminary. The press release is here.

Muslims Have Their Scarves, Christians Their Sandwiches

Political religion takes different forms. For political Islam, a women wearing a head scarf is a symbol of devotion and of defiance against western secularism. For American Christians, it looks like eating a chicken sandwich is a signal of a citizen’s belief, morality, and politics.

All of a sudden, biting into a fried chicken sandwich has become a political statement.

Chick-fil-A, the fast-food chain known for putting faith ahead of profits by closing on Sundays, is standing firm in its opposition to gay marriage after touching off a furor earlier this month.

Gay rights groups have called for a boycott, the Jim Henson Co. pulled its Muppet toys from kids’ meals, and politicians in Boston and Chicago told the chain it is not welcome there.

Across the Bible Belt, where most of the 1,600 restaurants are situated, Christian conservatives have thrown their support behind the Atlanta-based company, promising to buy chicken sandwiches and waffle fries next week on “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.”

The rest of the news story is here.

As theatrical as the controversy over Chick-fil-A may be (and the company may actually do well from the adverse publicity which is still publicity), one point stands out, though by now it may be a little stale. According to this news story, the mayors of Boston and Chicago have said that Chick-fil-A is unwelcome in those cities. According to Rahm Emanuel, “Chick-fil-A values are not Chicago values.” The mayor likely said this thinking that he was taking a courageous stand for diversity and tolerance. But he was also expressing great intolerance in the name of diversity and tolerance.

That may be the intellectual hobgoblin that haunts everyone living in a liberal democracy, though usually only libertarians see that tolerance means toleration even for groups or persons whose views are nutty or objectionable. But it is odd that bright people like Emanuel don’t see that they are erecting a form of intellectual orthodoxy that is just as inflexible as anything the Religious Right might construct.

What Emanuel also fails to see is truth that Thomas Jefferson recognized as basic to living in a free republic. The president’s line about the irrelevance of religion would seem to apply here: “But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” Does Chick-fil-A actually hurt Emanuel or other residents of Chicago just because the owner objects to gay marriage? Ideas are supposed to be freely held in America, as long as they don’t hurt others. (Hurt feelings don’t count since we all face people, ideas, and acts in the United States that don’t empower and affirm us.) Since Chick-fil-A provides a service that many use, and creates jobs that produce tax-payers, why does Emanuel actually care about Dan Cathy’s ideas?

Yes, liberals can be hypocritical. But so are conservatives. What’s surprising is that liberals can be as dumb as (they think) their political opposition.

Postscript: Matthew Lee Anderson makes a good point when he distinguishes “tolerant” (i.e., liberal) from “intolerant” (i.e. Religious Right) consumer boycotts. The latter objects to specific products, the former to ideas. So it’s not the chicken sandwich that offends, but the ideas of the guy who makes it. Perfectionism lives.

He Was a Coach, Not God

Joe Paterno was three years younger than my father and JoePa outlived dad by almost two years. I admired both men greatly, partly because of their decency which may have been responsible for their moral naivete. Recently Angelo Cataldi became indignant over Paterno’s remarks to the Washington Post that even if the report to him about Jerry Sandusky’s antics in the shower were more specific, the head coach wasn’t sure what he would have done because he did not know what man-rape was. Angelo could not imagine someone being that ignorant in the ways of the world. I can. My parents and parents-in-law were of the same generation as JoePa, the so-called “Greatest,” a demographic of Americans not reared on HBO and totally lacking in knowledge of gentlemen’s clubs and lap dances. Of course, Angelo knows all about the black side of sexual conduct because his regular guests are strippers and he admits to surfing for porn in off hours. But that doesn’t prevent Angelo from being outraged over JoePa’s innocence. This is where we are culturally — those who know the perversions tarnish the reputations of those who don’t. (And can anyone imagine the human resources officers at Penn State calling in JoePa at the age of 75 to attend a seminar on man-boy relations?)

My dad died a Penn State fan but it took him a while to warm up to the Nittany Lions’ head coach. The problem was JoePa’s reaction to the 1969 National Championship game. To put that incident in perspective, I resort to a story at ESPN:

The Nittany Lions went 5-5 in 1966, and Paterno responded not only by designing a new defense, but by shifting his best talent to that side of the ball. In the third game of the 1967 season, Penn State almost upset No. 3 UCLA, losing 17-15. The Nittany Lions fell to 1-2. However, they didn’t lose another game until 1970.

Penn State won the last seven games of the 1967 season, tied Florida State, 17-17, in the Gator Bowl, and went 11-0 in each of the next two seasons. In 1968, Penn State finished second to undefeated, untied Ohio State. In 1969, the Nittany Lions finished the regular season ranked third behind No. 1 Texas and No. 2 Arkansas, who played on Dec. 6. President Richard Nixon not only attended the game, but after the Longhorns won, 15-14, with a dramatic late-game touchdown, he declared them national champion.

In his career at Penn State, Paterno, a Republican, befriended almost every Republican president. He gave a nominating speech for George H.W. Bush at the 1988 Republican Convention at the Louisiana Superdome, the same building where Penn State had won Paterno’s first national championship six seasons earlier. The Penn State media guide included photos of Paterno with Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.

But after the 1969 season Paterno had little regard for Nixon. Paterno’s most famous line regarding a president came in his commencement address at Penn State in 1973, as the public had begun to realize that the Watergate scandal had reached the Oval Office.

“How could Nixon know so little about Watergate and so much about football?” Paterno asked. A year later, Nixon resigned from the presidency.

In 1973, the Nittany Lions went 12-0 but finished only fifth in the nation. Disgusted with the polls, Paterno declared that “the Paterno Poll” had named Penn State No. 1 and had national championship rings made for his players.

That kind of self-congratulations did not sit well with Jay Hart. Nor did Paterno’s dismissal of Nixon. Although my parents had not voted for Nixon in 1968, they were law-abiding Americans who respected the president as something that came with being a citizen.

Over time, the Harts warmed to JoePa and Penn State. How could you not with a coach that played by the rules, worked to make his students study and graduate, and won on top of it all? JoePa had a work ethic, sense of duty, and integrity — despite coming from the wrong Christian faith — that even fundamentalist Protestants could admire.

I am sad that JoePa is no longer among us. My father and I shared too many good times cheering on the Nittany Lions for me not to think that I have embarked on an era of life, begun by dad’s death and now underlined by JoePa’s, that will be marked by the absence of the Greatest Generation. They certainly had their faults. But they were better than we are. For that reason I am glad that JoePa will be spared further assessment by that Generation’s ungrateful, disrespectful, and morally bankrupt children.

If Only

I would even pay to see the video of the ESV translation committee if Tim and David Bayly were members. Here’s why:

A Christian confesses his faith, today, when he stays married to the same woman until death. When he continues to name his race “man” rather than “humans” or “human beings.” When he chooses a church where he’s sanctified rather than one where his wife is happy. A Christian confesses her faith, today, when she lets herself notice the beautiful diversity of manhood and womanhood, then calls attention to it.

The Sabbath Blogging Eschatology

In our regular duties of keeping this site running as smoothly as possibly, we occasionally examine the traffic statistics. Our most recent investigation yielded a pattern true to the Reformed standards upheld by this site’s authors and its fine constituency. How good and pleasant it is when a Sabbath eschatology manifests itself in a blog.

—The Help

Hart on Van Til and Barth

Darryl G. Hart starts game two of a double-header on Christ the Center as he speaks about Cornelius Van Til and Karl Barth with Camden Bucey. Dr. Hart delivered a conference address on the subject at Princeton Seminary in 2007. The proceedings from this conference have now been made available in the new book Karl Barth and American Evangelicalism. Listen to this interesting discussion on the historical context of Barth and one of principle critics.

Download the episode.

More Sarah Palin?

Despite the fact that Sarah Palin has decided not to run for the American presidency, Darryl Hart continues to make his way around the interview circuit to speak about his book From Billy Graham to Sarah Palin.

Dr. Hart returns to Christ the Center to speak about religion, politics, and American evangelicalism with Camden Bucey from Reformed Forum.

Download the episode.