What Does Matthew McConaughey Know that the Gospel Industrial Complex Does Not?

I am no fan of religious “journalism” that functions as publicity but here I may be guilty of that of which I complain — at least, to paraphrase the Pharisees, I’m no reporter.

All about mmmmeeeeEEEE, but I really like Nick Foles if only because he is so hard to like, not for having rough edges but for his vanilla qualities. He generally answers reporters questions with generic affirmations of hard work, team spirit, and respect for the other team — in a monotone that is singularly dull. He seems to suffer from the professional QB disease of not being fleet of foot. He even gets that deer-in-the-headlights look when on camera. After a scintillating start in his rookie season (under Chip Kelly, mind you), he fell back to the back of the pack.

Oh, by the way, he just won the Super Bowl, went pass-for-pass with the legendary Tom Brady, and also was MVP. Add to those accomplishments Foles’ profession of faith in Jesus Christ and his on-line seminary studies and you might think the journalists at Christianity Today or the “reporters” at Gospel Coalition would be delighted to draft on Foles’ success the way the Co-Allies did with Bubba Watson at the Masters, if only for the sake of winning more people to Christ. But no. Nothing at either website.

Not even the endorsement from Frank Reich, the Eagles’ Offensive Coordinator (and now the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts), who was once-upon-a-time the president of Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte) commanded the gospel industrialists’ attention:

“Nick is the real deal — an authentic Christian who has a contagious love for Christ and for others,” Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich told The Washington Post in a text message.

Meanwhile, Matthew McConaughey took out a full-page ad in the Austin American-Statesman to congratulate Foles.

The actor’s response likely has nothing to do with the coverage that even the Washington Post gave to the Eagles’ QB:

Foles’s up-and-down career in the NFL, which included him considering retirement, has prepared him to discuss adversity and character building for a Christian audience. In a video on the YouVersion Bible app, he slipped into preacher mode by reading and explaining 2 Corinthians 12:9.

“This verse has brought so much meaning to my heart and in my life,” he says, later adding, “Everyone feels weak at some time in our lives, but we have to realize when we’re going through that, God’s shaping our hearts and allowing us to grow to become who he created us truly to be.”

He said the week of the Super Bowl that he envisions ministering to students because he understands the temptation with social media and the Internet.

“It’s something I want to do,” he said in an AP story. “I can’t play football forever. I’ve been blessed with an amazing platform, and it’s just a door God has opened, but I still have a lot of school left and a long journey.”

Carson Wentz, the Eagles’ injured starting quarterback, posted an Instagram picture with Foles before the game, writing, “God’s writing an unbelievable story and he’s getting all the glory!”

The Liberty connection may be what puts off the evangelicals in the center of evangelicaldom. Liberty University issued a press release that reads a lot like the kind of features reporting in evangelical publications:

Foles has been bold about his faith during his football career, indicating that he would like to be a youth pastor someday. As the Eagles were presented with the Vince Lombardi Trophy, Foles held his infant daughter, Lily, and said, “Being here with my daughter, my wife, my teammmates, my city, we’re very blessed.” At the post-game press conference, he said God gets the glory. “I wouldn’t be out here without God, without Jesus in my life. I can tell you that, first and foremost in my life, I don’t have the strength to come out here and play a game like that. It’s an everyday walk.”

But Liberty’s president did not even spook the Washington Post’s editors who have been known to be a tad tough on Jerry Falwell, Jr.’s favorite POTUS:

Liberty President Jerry Falwell tweeted after the game: “Congratulations to Liberty student @NFoles_9 on an incredible performance tonight and on becoming the first @LibertyU student to quarterback a winning @SuperBowl team! Amazing job by @Eagles! Great game and a real testament to the character and perseverance of the Eagles team!”

So what gives? Even Liberty University English professor, Karen Swallow Prior, isn’t toxic for Christianity Today’s purposes.

My gut tells me Christianity Today and The Gospel Coalition still hold a grudge against J. Gresham Machen who started Westminster in Center City Philadelphia. But don’t the editors know that Machen protested the change in Blue Laws that allowed the NFL to play on the Lord’s Day?

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Taking Every Inch But Not The Lord's Day Captive

We do know that Walter doesn’t roll on Shomer Shabbos. We should have also known that if Bubba Watson won at Augusta, the Allies — like clock work — would be all over it. Opportunities to root, root, root for the home team shall not be passed up, even if unbelievers may find the self-congratulations a sign of insecurity. (Somehow negative readings never occur to cheerleaders.)

Even so, the explanation for the significance of Watson’s victory is hard to believe:

Why It Matters: Christians have always been involved in professional sports, so why is the faith of superstars like Watson suddenly worthy of the public’s attention? Because athletes like Watson show that it’s still possible for athletes to be open and unapologetic about their willingness to share the Gospel. Also, Watson may be one of the best in his sport but he understands the importance of keeping his priorities in order, winsomely admitting that their life’s callings are secondary to serving the Creator who has called them. To a culture that is both obsessed and disillusioned with fame and fortune, this centered perspective provides a refreshingly countercultural witness.

Wouldn’t not playing golf on Sunday be a truly counter-cultural witness? Such a decision is not that hard to imagine since Eric Liddell became the subject of a successful motion picture. The problem, of course, is that not playing on Sunday in golf means no victory, and no chance for Christians to preen. At least Liddell could run on another day. Even so, if the Allies are truly interested in being counter-cultural (and not merely complimenting themselves for being so), they might consider whether a victory at the Masters is the best vindication of Christian faithfulness.

Celebrating Celebrity Law-Breakers

It may seem like an easy shot, but for a group of Christians who think of themselves as and talk about being Reformed, the blatant disregard of one of the most characteristic marks of Reformed devotion is breathtaking. The Co-Allies have done it again and failed to understand the importance of sanctifying the Lord’s Day.

Joe Carter posted about Bubba Watson’s victory at the Masters Tournament. What matters to Carter is Bubba’s witness, not whether the golfer conforms to God’s revealed will (though to the credit of some readers, a discussion of the Fourth Commandment did ensue):

Last month Watson’s Tweeted before his third round: The most important thing in my life? Answer after I golf 18 holes with @JustinRose99. #Godisgood

Later that day he posted on his account, “Most important things in my life- 1. God 2. Wife 3. Family 4. Helping others 5. Golf”

“Lecrae said it the best,” Watson said of the Christian rapper he listens to on his iPod. “He doesn’t want to be a celebrity. He doesn’t want to be a superstar. He just wants to be the middle man for you to see God through him.”

Of course, the Co-Allies do not neglect of the Sabbath or exhibit inconsistency alone. Evangelicalism is awash with Protestants who want public officials and school board superintendents to post the Decalogue in court and schools rooms, all the while failing to pay attention to the first table of the law and what it says about Sundays and worship.

But is it too much to ask followers of Jesus Christ to keep his day holy? Maybe it is thanks to the instruction from neo-Calvinists that all the days belong to Christ equally. I mean, if all the days now need to show Christ’s Lordship, then maybe I need a break from that week-long holiness on the day that previous generations of saints believed was reserved for holy duties. How do you keep the Lord’s Day holy when everything I do 24/7 is holy?

Still, some Christian athletes did try to honor the day. Eric Liddell, the Olympic caliber runner featured in Chariots of Fire, is one that comes to mind. Just the other night at Hillsdale we saw Chuck Chalberg (who does a pretty good Mencken, by the way) perform his one man show on Branch Rickey, the general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers who signed Jackie Robinson. Turns out that Rickey was reared a holiness-seeking Methodist who promised his mother that he would never play baseball on the Lord’s Day. And speaking of Dodgers, what about Sandy Koufax who would not pitch on the first day of Passover? Precedents do exist for devotion-based sacrifices.

Of course, the problem for athletes of the professional variety is that they would never become celebrities if they did not play sports on the Lord’s Day. Jeremy Lin, Tim Tebow, and Bubba Watson, would not have careers if they reserved Sunday for rest and worship. And without celebrity, Lin, Tebow, and Watson would be useless to those inspiration-deprived believers who need their pastors and mentors to be popular and famous if they are going to believe that God is really in control and carrying out his plan of salvation.

As a cure for this affliction, I recommend Bible reading. It is hard to see in stories of Israel or the early church any kind of fame or power or celebrity. Celebrity is not something that characterizes exiles and pilgrims.