A new ‘America’s Team’ arises — Mavs

Dirk Nowitski and Jason Kidd (Dallas Morning News photo by Tom Fox)

“Given their newfound popularity, meet the new America’s Team.”

Associated Press writer Tim Reynolds has said it, and the rest of us feel it. The Cowboys have been supplanted.

“Sorry, Cowboys – your long-held moniker might have to be ceded to your city’s NBA club,” Reynolds writes.

Many of us felt the Cowboys no longer deserved the title, now a new team has captured the national imagination the way the Cowboys once did. As a fan of both, I’m not necessarily happy to see the Cowboys dethroned, but they’ve really brought it on themselves.

But to heck with the Cowboys, let’s enjoy this moment. Tim Reynolds captures so much right about this team in his story, which I found on the Miami Herald web site.

“Hating the Heat became the NBA’s craze this season, and the team knew it had no shortage of critics, everyone from Cleveland (where “Cavs for Mavs” shirts were popular during these finals) to Chicago (the city James and Wade both flirted with last summer) and just about every place in between lining up to take shots at Miami,” Reynolds writes.

“We could feel it,” Mavs Coach Jerry Carlisle said, noting he was repeatedly told during the finals that “billions” of people wanted to see Dallas topple Miami.

But forget the Heat hate; the Mavs are a team to make you proud, just like the Cowboys of the 1970s. They do things right — work hard, play tough, and show class.

Reynolds captured a great quote from Carlisle: “This is a true team. This is an old bunch. We don’t run fast or jump high. These guys had each other’s backs. We played the right way. We trusted the pass. This is a phenomenal thing for the city of Dallas.”

It’s a return to old school sports. Let’s enjoy it while we can. Go Mavs!


Learning from Portuguese history

In the late 15th century and 16th century, the little nation of Portugal extended its reach halfway around the world as its ships plied the Indian Ocean.

Most Americans, including me, know little about Portuguese history. I’ve just picked up a snippet of it from Robert D. Kaplan’s book, Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power, so the following thoughts are a one-source product.

The Portuguese sailed around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope, up the eastern coast of Africa, then to Arabia, India, and the Far East. It was a means for them to take Christianity back into the East and possibly stem the tide of Muslim advance. Their form of Christianity, however, bore little resemblance to the Christianity practiced by most of us in the West and the world today.

Kaplan quotes Joao de Barros, a Portuguese historian of the era, giving a justification for the killing of the local populations, in this case Muslims.

“The Moors … are outside the law of Jesus Christ, which is the true law which everyone has to keep under pain of damnation to eternal fire. If then the soul be so condemned, what right has the body to the privileges  of our laws?” (p.51)

It’s amazing what ungodly things “Christians” have done in the name of Jesus. I suspect many Christians of that time had never read Scripture for themselves, and apparently the religious leaders who did read either perverted it with their teachings intentional or were caught up in their own cultural jingoism. Of course, it’s easy to judge people from a different time.

In short, the Portuguese did a lot of bad stuff to indigenous people in the cause of bringing Christ to regions East. The Portuguese, of course, are not alone in history. And Christians are not alone. Muslims, atheists and others have done terrible things to others, all in the name of a perverted ideology.

Now this from Kaplan:

“Believing themselves a chosen people destined to be the sword of the faith, the Portuguese show us a religious nationalism as doughty and often extreme as any in history. Portugal’s spectacular and sweeping conquest of the Indian Ocean littoral falls into a category similar to that of the Arab conquest of North Africa nine centuries earlier.” (p.57)

Then Kaplan brings the lessons of this portion of history to bear on our world today.

“In the post-national West, we would do well to remember that morale is still the key to military victory: in particular, a morale fortified by a narrow, unshakable conviction, which often has been the product of religion and nationalism. What the medieval Arabs and the late-medieval Portuguese once embodied challenges us to this day. To a significant extent, American power will depend on how it confronts fanatical enemies who believe more firmly than it does.” (p.57)

Here are some takeaways from this for me:

1) Religious passion is very, very powerful.

2) That passion can easily be perverted and lead to behaviors inconsistent with that religion’s teachings.

3) It is, therefore, important that our Christian passion, our fanaticism be for the things Scripture says are important — worship, faith, hope, and love come quickly to mind.

4) It is likewise important that our passion not be for snuffing out another group, but rather be for attracting them to truth in Christ.

5) On the geopolitical stage, America faces a serious challenge from people who are fanatical about destroying the American and Western way of organizing society.

6) To stand against that fanaticism, America must retain an equal fanaticism for its principles. Representative government, religious freedom, equal rights, press freedom, civil rights, and controlled free enterprise are a few that come quickly to mind.

7) This passion should not be for destroying other cultures but for attracting them to the power of our ideals.

‘Such as these’ 8 – Ngwela Paul Msiza

When Nelson Mandela became president of South Africa in 1994, one of the first things he did was a feeding program for school children. Many opposed because of financial strains, but Mandela pushed it anyway, said Ngwela Paul Msiza during the recent “… such as these” conference in Dallas.

Msiza, of the Baptist Convention of South Africa, spoke on the topic,”Responding to Childhood Hunger, African Church Perspective.” Here are my paraphrased notes:

The church in Africa … The mainline churches have been overtaken by the pentacostal movement. … The prosperity churches are a big thing. … All privatized Christianity; its all about me, and that weakens the church’s action on social justice. … The more you speak of prosperty and about me and my good living, we are making the gospel weaker and weaker in places where it is supposed to be strong. … Christianity is growing in South Africa. … Then why are we having so many of these ills still growing. …

There are other poroblems that go alongside childhood hunger. … Funds sometimes do not reach the intended beneficiary. … Problem of corruption. …

I believe that in order for us as a church in Africa to respond effectivedly to childhood poverty. … First, the church must begin to see children as Jesus sees them. If we use the eyes of Christ, then our attitudes and motives will change. … In some churches, children are not part of the worship. Children are not to be pushed to the side. … Christ who says anyone who welcomes children welcomes Christ himself. … We do ourselves a favor when we help children. … The church must help the world to understand. We cannot let children roam the streets and pretend that all is well. …

We need to welcome children in our midst. we need to hold them in our hearts. We need to bless them. … It helps us to think about them all the time. …

Msiza spoke during a May 24-25, 2011, conference titled, “…such as these…”: An Evangelical Advocacy Response to Global Childhood Hunger. The event was held at Dallas Baptist University and sponsored by Bread for the World, Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission, National Association of Evangelicals, Micah Challenge, Baptist World Alliance, Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, and DBU.

‘Such as these’ 7 – Joel Hunter

Joel Hunter

We’ve got this universal, evocative cause that is biblically mandated. YOU give them something to eat. This “you” is plural in Mark 6.

Joel Hunter, pastor of Northland: A Church Distributed in Longwood, Florida, spoke suring the “… such as these” conference. The message was great, but I only took a few notes, paraphrased here:

My heart is for the spiritual maturity of my congregation. … Many of us have come to think of church as therapy, as self-actuallization exercsies, as a place where we are gratified and affirmed in our own path. … 

I have great fears for my church, for my country. … “How much of my money can I keep.” … 

The church needs the weight of the weak. The weight of the weak will save the strong.

Hunter spoke during a May 24-25, 2011, conference titled, “…such as these…”: An Evangelical Advocacy Response to Global Childhood Hunger. The event was held at Dallas Baptist University and sponsored by Bread for the World, Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission, National Association of Evangelicals, Micah Challenge, Baptist World Alliance, Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, and DBU.

‘Such as these’ 6 – David Beckman

David Beckmann

This is really a hopeful time, and God is doing great things, said David Beckmann, during last month’s “… such as these” conference in Dallas.

The Baptist Standard did a story on this speech and one by Scott Todd of Compassion International. Here are some of my paraphrased  notes from Beckman’s speech:

Over the last three or four decades the world has made tremendous progress against poverty and disease. … I think this is God. … We should say thanks to God for what He has done in the lives of the poorest people in the world. … It’s like a great exodus in our own history. God is moving to liberate people from poverty and disease. God is calling us to get with the program and be part of this great exodus.

One reason a lot of Americans don’t get it is because we haven’t made much progress in the United States. The percentage under the poverty line is now higher than in 1974. … We made a difference when we tried. … A thousand points of light is not enough. … The most dramatic reacent period when we really reduced hunger was the 1960s and ’70s. … We had economic growth, which is the best way to reduce poverty. … Violence in the streets shook the government. … We had a government-led effort. … Now we have more food insecurity in the country than we did in 1974. … This has not been that important to us. … We haven’t had a president since Lyndon Johnson who made reducing poverty one of his top five priorities. … It’s just not that important to us.

Ninety-five percent of Americans say they believe in God. … Churches have a pretty good record.

Also, on advocacy we have a halfway decent record. … Bread for the World is a collective Christian voice. … Bread for the World has brought all Christians together. … We are a bipartisan Chrsitian anti-hunger organization. … We push for change, and we win. … In the 1970s and ’80s some of biggest successes were the child survival programs. … There are three or four thousand kids who will not die today because of those programs.

Things really took a turn for the better in 2000 with the Jubilee Campaign. … It triggered a massive increase in education in Africa. …

In the churches we have a lot of people who really care …


Why government? For pracical reasons and biblical reasons Christians need to be involved in the politics of hunger. … An effort to use best practices to reduce child malnutrition. … It’s not just the U.S. doing it, but the U.S. can get the world to move. …

Beckmann spoke during a May 24-25, 2011, conference titled, “…such as these…”: An Evangelical Advocacy Response to Global Childhood Hunger. The event was held at Dallas Baptist University and sponsored by Bread for the World, Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission, National Association of Evangelicals, Micah Challenge, Baptist World Alliance, Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, and DBU.

‘Such as these’ 5 – Carol Adelman

Carol Adelman

The more religious a people are, the greater their philantrophy,” said Carol Adelman at last month’s “.. such as these” conference in Dallas. And with “religiosity going up and those correlations so strong,” the prospects of having a huge paradym shift are possible.

Adelman is the director of the Center for Global Prosperity at Hudson Institute. Here are a few other tidbits from her speech:

Private aid is now roughtly 80 percent and government 20 percent of the funds going to developing nations.

We see more money going to the causes of poverty than to the symptoms.

How the devloping world has changed:

— Increase in open markets and open societies

— Growth in private philanthropy, remittances, and local charities

 — Expanded knowledge and demand through technology

Adelman spoke during a May 24-25, 2011, conference titled, “…such as these…”: An Evangelical Advocacy Response to Global Childhood Hunger. The event was held at Dallas Baptist University and sponsored by Bread for the World, Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission, National Association of Evangelicals, Micah Challenge, Baptist World Alliance, Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, and DBU.

FDR’s prayer: ‘Let our hearts be stout’

Franklin Roosevelt

The president of the United States: “Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.”

Thus spoke Franklin Roosevelt to the nation on June 6, 1944, as Allied forces were in the midst of the D-Day invasion. He prayed to God on the airwaves.

This great prayer was broadcast and recorded for all to hear, even today. And across these years, some might find it inappropriate for a president to pray in such manner — in fact, to pray a prayer that could not be prayed at some public school graduation ceremonies.

Roosevelt began and ended his prayer with “Almighty God,” a rather generic appellation that would have been inclusive of all three Abrahamic faiths — Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. He also did not utter the name of Jesus; once again a bow to inclusion.

Of course, today some courts have indicated similar use of “God” language in a prayer is inappropriate for public school functions. This just seems patently wrong-headed and inconsistent with the best of our history. We do not need or want a government that is pushing Christianity or any other faith on people, but to go the extreme secular path that some courts have gone is to prevent free exercise.

I am OK if some atheist valedictorian wants to say he doesn’t believe in God, just as I am OK with a Christian valedictorian saying he believes Jesus is the Son of God. God talk, including anti-God talk, simply must be allowed in this country if we are going to have freedom of religion.

We can, however, draw the line when people begin to use God language to incite behaviors that would be destructive of the principles on which this nation are founded. In other words, if someone says God told him or her that America is evil and people should go kill their neighbors, that has no place in civil society whether the person invokes God’s name or not.

I obviously am no attorney nor an expert on church and state, but the ideas expressed above seem self-evident and consistent with history of this nation, as I understand it.

Roosevelt’s prayer was no violation of separation of church and state as expressed in the First Amendment — then or now. It is not an “establishment” of religion for a president to pray in public and to invoke the guidance and protection of God. It also is not a violation of others’ “free exercise” for the president to do this. Likewise, such actions by other individuals in public forums are not a violation.

On the opposite side of this equation, we don’t need a government — or school — pushing one faith and denegrating others. If we do, someday and in some places something other than Christianity will be pushed and Christians will be persecuted. I surely do not that to happen to me, and I surely do not want that to happen to others.

Roosevelt’s prayer points to the reality of a powerful nation that is still not the ultimate power. In his prayer, Roosevelt asked God much for Allied soldiers and the nation.

“Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.

“They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.

“They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest — until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war.

“For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and goodwill among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.

“Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.

“And for us at home — fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas, whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them — help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.

“Many people have urged that I call the nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.

“Give us strength, too — strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces.

“And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.

“And, O Lord, give us faith. Give us faith in Thee; faith in our sons; faith in each other; faith in our united crusade. Let not the keeness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment — let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.

“With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogances. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace — a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.

“Thy will be done, Almighty God.


President Franklin D. Roosevelt – June 6, 1944