Archive for the Oped-News Category


“It Is Time for the Country to Grow Up”: On Penn State & Sports Culture

“It Is Time for the Country to Grow Up”: On Penn State & Sports Culture Howard Bryant of ESPN calls out American sports culture in the context of the recent Penn State football sanctions: Penn State lost its fun and games, its diversion. It lost a fictionalized version of itself and its fallen, iconic coach. It lost numbers in a record book and money from its wallet. The sanctions against the football program were, in effect, significant only through one insular, unimportant lens: the overemphasis on football and big-time sports in general that created an environment for such a colossal mess to occur in the first place. If anything of worth is to emerge, the Saturday afternoon tailgate, the bragging rights and the beer will be replaced by something far more valuable: responsibility. It is time for Penn State to grow up. It is also time for the rest of the country, those blinded by sports and money and power who think they can be smug because they didn’t attend or care about Penn State, to grow up as well. College is about building a foundation for seeing the world in its curious complex dimensions, and now the university community through the worst kind of scandal just received a heavy dose of reality. No one with a soul wanted it to be this way, but the students and the campus now have some necessary grit to accompany their stardust. That’s a strong word.  Readers of this blog know that I really enjoy sports and consider them a common grace gift of God.  Furthermore, PSU is a school I’m familiar with, having had very close friends with ties to it. But there’s a word we need to hear in Bryant’s piece.  You don’t need to be some sort of killjoy, sports-hating, unmasculine person to see that sports culture–clearly glimpsed in its worst, utterly-horrifying-to-the-point-of shock iteration in the Jerry Sandusky scandal–is, well, out of control in American society.  That’s true as well for American college and university culture.  I really wonder if we’ve reached a point where sports at many bigger schools are usurping the academic mission of the institution.  (I’ve written about an overemphasis on sports before, most publicly in the Kevin DeYoung-edited volume Don’t Call it a Comeback.) Many of us sports fans are accustomed to hearing this kind of argument–and to dismissing it immediately.  Of course we need big-time sports.  How else are we going to raise funds for our schools?  Where else will we go as a cross-campus rallying point?  How could alumni possibly be connected to the school without major athletic events to attend?  Yeah, there’s some lack of balance nowadays, when coaches get paid more than university presidents, but isn’t the world a messed-up place in the biblical worldview? I hear all of these objections, and there’s something to consider in each of them.  I’m not anti-sports on college campuses.  I’m all for them.  I went to a NCAA Division Three school in New England and really […]

Read More...

The Future of American Higher Education

The Future of American Higher Education Megan McCardle of The Atlantic recently wrote a provocative piece suggesting numerous ways in which American higher education could adapt to fit a modern, technology-driven society.  Her comments were no-holds-barred when it comes to the question of the “practicality” of a liberal arts degree.  Here’s a bit of what she said: Online education will kill the liberal arts degree.  Let’s not have the same dismal discussion of whether liberal arts degrees are awesome or useless.  The important aspect for this discussion is that what they teach is hard to test efficiently.  There’s enormous variation in grading of, say, English papers, and even if it were easier to standardize, that grading requires hours of expensive labor. The president of my alma mater, Barry Mills, recently made his own contribution to this national discussion.  I found his comments inspiring: One day a few weeks ago, we asked fans of Bowdoin on Facebook to tell us “what makes Bowdoin Bowdoin?”  The responses painted a picture of an institution of learning that is unique and prized by our students, alumni, parents, and friends. As I have often written, we could quickly reduce the cost of a Bowdoin education. It would mean larger class sizes, fewer faculty, fewer research opportunities, reduced athletic competition and dramatic changes to our coaching staffs, fewer clubs and fewer extracurricular experiences for our students. Simply, we would not be the Bowdoin that our students enjoy, our alumni love, and the world admires. We should avoid the trap to conflate a Bowdoin education with education as a commodity. As a group of Bowdoin leaders and supporters today, we are the stewards of a remarkable institution that has long educated students in the liberal arts tradition and with a commitment to the common good. It is our responsibility to provide that opportunity well into the future for young men and women who have earned the right—through their hard work, ability, promise, and character—to join the ranks of the Polar Bears. We have a continuing responsibility to educate “leaders in all walks of life” and to stand strong in support of what we do here, even in the face of a growing conventional wisdom that attacks the college experience and questions the value of our form of education. Read the whole piece. I see both sides to this challenging discussion.  McCardle is surely right that changes will come and will alter the face of American higher education.  The cost of education at some schools has, in the minds of many students, outpaced the benefits these schools offer.  If the product is not top-notch, and if students perceive that, say, $35,000 a year just isn’t worth it when a $12,000 state or community college yields a similar outcome, then many colleges and universities in the next decade stand to suffer.  This reality will draw many schools to reconsider their “business model” in some of the ways McCardle outlines–Internet courses and so on. I am personally proud to see the president of Bowdoin take a stand for […]

Read More...

The Week-est Link, March 28. 2008: Blogging Tournaments, Disney World, Blog Gems, and Violence

The Week-est Link, March 28. 2008: Blogging Tournaments, Disney World, Blog Gems, and Violence 1. Whew. It’s been quite a week here at consumed. This little blog has seen a relative avalanche of comments due to some controverted content. I’m really thankful for those who have weighed in, and it was interesting to hear another side of the Billy Wolfe saga. Thanks again to everyone who wrote in. I don’t have time to respond to comments, but I read every one of them, and I’m often pushed to think by them (as you can tell if you read my frequent follow-up posts). 2. Said at Southern has a terrific March Madness-like contest going on right now(replete with brackets and all!) that has the dual purpose of 1) finding out which SAS-related blog is the big dog on the block and 2) giving exposure to unknown bloggers and linking them to better-known bloggers. It’s a terrific idea, though Tony Kummer and Timmy Brister are known for terrific ideas. The “Madness” is in its second round, and somehow, inconceivably, consumed made it to the second round. Sadly, folks, we’re currently getting smashed. Oh well–I suppose this blog is something like NCAA cinderella Siena. At least, like them, we made it to the second round! 3. Together for the Gospel has multiple videos up from the 2006 conference. They will be well worth the time it takes to load and watch them. I was there to witness most of this content in person, and I can say that it made an impact on me. Less than three weeks to go ’til 08! 4. Slate ran a hilarious series exploring the weird sub-galaxy of Disney World this week. Not everything is nice (or rated PG), and I don’t love the paranoid, mocking nature of some of the author’s writing, but he also unearths some pretty realistic insights about this strange place. I don’t know about you, but animatronic robots give me the absolute creeps. 5. Introducing a new feature on this blog: “Blog Gems”. I want to bring to your attention worthy blogs that you may not have heard of. I’ll do this on Fridays, and I’ll generally only give you one link so as not to water this feature down. Today’s Blog Gem: Redeeming History, a blog written by Trinity Evangelical Divinity School PhD Student Mark Rogers. This blog, written by a very sharp Historical Theology student, is devoted to spreading the riches of Christian history. It is well-written, well-researched, and spiritually profitable. Mark is a good friend and a future scholar, and I could not encourage you more to check out his young but very good blog. I may not have many readers or much “virtual clout”, but many people have been very kind to me in giving my blog attention (Tony, Timmy, Justin Taylor), and I want to extend that kindness to others. Email me at owendstrachan [at] yahoo.com if you think you might qualify here. 6. Last words on the violence […]

Read More...

Attitudes That Do Not Square with the Christian Faith: Elitism

Attitudes That Do Not Square with the Christian Faith: Elitism Different age groups and segments of the Christian church will struggle with different problems. Yesterday’s idea or problem, “coolness,” will mostly affect young people who don’t realize that love and truth are the cornerstone principles of the Christian faith, and that Christians were never called to be hip, but to be holy, kind, bold, and truthful. Today’s problem will affect more of the learned folks of our churches, those who have achieved a high standard of academic accomplishment. It may also affect those who are economically successful. I see elitism sometimes from my humble perch as a pastor-in-training, and it never sits right. Elitism, for the record, involves thinking one is better than others because of some specialized credential and then acting to isolate oneself from that inferior group even as one associates with those who hold one’s own credential. I see this behavior at seminary and it troubles me. Christians may educate themselves or become wealthy or famous or some such thing, but they never become a better human being than any other person. Those who grade papers for a professor or wear a suit to work or talk on the phone with celebrity pastors are no better or worse than you or I. The staff of Bethlehem Baptist (where John Piper pastors) are no better than the staff of East Podunk, New Hampshire. There may well be a difference in quality of preaching and so on, but this does not in any way make it more desirable to know and associate with the staff of Bethlehem than it does the staff of my thirty-person church back home in Maine. Professors here at Southern may have PhDs and write articles that quote German sources in the original language, but I’m no more impressed with them than I am my former Sunday School teachers. I may learn more from my professors here, but I’m not to esteem them any better as people and to seek to isolate myself from “common folks” in order to join the cloistered seminary professor community. That’s gross thinking. It’s entirely antithetical to Christianity. Christians should respect authority, and they are told in Scripture to reverence their leaders. So this is our fundamental posture towards those in authority over us. But with that said, the central figure of our faith, Jesus Christ, was to His core a humble person. He was very God Himself, and yet He was completely humble. His humility characterized everything He did, and it was the genesis of His coming to earth. How unlike Christ we so easily become. We get a little taste of power, a few letters to our name, and suddenly we rule the world, albeit from heights no man has ever ascended. More than this, we barely make an effort to talk to those outside of our elite peer group, while Christ gave His very body and blood to draw those people to Himself. Here’s a call to my […]

Read More...

The Link 6.26.09: Danny Akin, Mark Dever, and the SBC’s Future

The Link 6.26.09: Danny Akin, Mark Dever, and the SBC’s Future 1. Just one link in this busy week. For those who have not heard of this conference, it is worth noting: “God Exposed: Awkward Preaching in a Comfortable Age – September 25-26, 2009 — Sponsored by 9Marks and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary God Exposed will call pastors and church leader to embrace and defend expositional preaching as a means to strengthen and grow the church. Expositional preaching – that which has as its aim to explain and apply a particular portion of God’s Word – is especially important in a day when many are abandoning faithfulness to the Scripture in their pulpit ministries. This conference will encourage and train pastors whose primary calling is ministering the Word of God to their people.” Speakers include Akin, Dever, CJ Mahaney, Thabiti Anyabwile, and Mike McKinley.  Looks great. It is really exciting to see continued partnership between Danny Akin and Mark Dever.  These men have been friends for years, but their enhanced cooperation means great things for the SBC’s future, I think.  Akin is a major SBC figure, one who commands respects from all Southern Baptist figures.  Dever is a more broadly evangelical leader who has sometimes failed to find a place at the table due to his staunch theology.  Here’s hoping that these two men will continue to partner in order that many others who would not otherwise sit at the same table will break bread together in coming days. Akin went out of his way to show kindness to the 9Marks folks at this latest convention.  Southeastern Seminary hosted a number of events so that 9Marks could have a place at the SBC.  That was most kind of Akin and the school he leads, and it did not go unnoticed.  That kind of maturity and graciousness can only have good effects. –Have a great weekend, all.

Read More...

The Link 5.8.2009: Girls Gone Wise, Full-Court Presses, and “Tweeting” the Gospel

The Link 5.8.2009: Girls Gone Wise, Full-Court Presses, and “Tweeting” the Gospel 1. Just heard about the Girls Gone Wise website.  I think from Tim Challies.  Looks like a terrific resource.  Anything Mary Kassian has going on is beneficial for women, I find.  I once sat in on a radio show she did with Al Mohler and was impressed with her wisdom and comportment.  It’s no small thing being in the booth with RAM… 2. Malcolm Gladwell, professional geek/writer, has a fun article out about what happens when “underdogs break the rules”.  He applies it to basketball, which, as readers of this blog know, is a friend to this blog. 3. 9Marks, under the leadership of Greg Gilbert, just sponsored a contest to see which three people could best articulate the gospel by “tweeting” it.  I loved the idea, and I found it surprisingly moving.  Honestly, seeing a ton of people run through the gospel is a beautiful thing.  Check the postand scroll through the responses and see if you aren’t edified. 4. It is a good thing to celebrate the gospel.  Not to simply repeat it, but to talk about it with other people.  Turn it over in your mind.  Consider the different models of the atonement presented in Scripture: penal substitutionary (the heart), exemplarist, moral influence, Christus Victor, and more. The Bible is glorious, the gospel is the heart of the Bible, and Christ’s work on behalf of His people is the center of the gospel.  These are things worth celebrating, talking about, praying in response to, reveling in, shouting over.  The gospel is real.  Right now, as you read this little blog, the gospel is real. I recommend Graham Cole’s forthcoming Christ the Peace-Maker, an incisive study of the atonement from an eminent theologian, for those who want to savor the gospel (no link available).  I just took a doctoral class on the atonement with Cole and found it illuminating and doxological.  Buy that book when it comes out, and use it for your preaching, your teaching, your daily living. 5. My buddy Reid Monaghan, plowing gospel ground in New Jersey through a great church called Jacob’s Well, has a great blog and recently featured a funny video by Rhett and Link, two guys from Campus Crusade who are quite amusing. –Have an atonement-glorying weekend, all.

Read More...

Great Music

Great Music Ah, the summer weekend. Is there much better than a summer weekend? I think not. So relaxing, so calm, so full of possibility. As you enjoy the next few days, here are a few songs to check out. The first is Death Cab for Cutie’s “Brothers on a Hotel Bed“. This song, by an emo/rock group, is one of the best sad songs I have ever heard. It’s about a couple who is aging rapidly and forgetting their life together. It’s poignant, and the music is achingly good. To those who swear off modern music, Death Cab, as they are sometimes called, is in the habit of crafting great songs and setting them to moving, thoughtful lyrics. Not everything is recommendable to everyone, but they have some great music. The second is Mr. J Medeiros’s “Constance“. Mr. J is a rapper with the group The Procussions. He recently put out a solo album. Even if you don’t like rap, you should listen to this song, as it’s about child pornography. It’s a haunting song, one that you won’t easily forget. The chorus is sure to stick in your head. Shows that rap can be meaningful, constructive, and moving. Pretty understandable, too. The third is Timbaland’s “The Way I Am“. If you are looking for a song to exercise to, this one will up your mile time by a solid minute. It’s that good. I haven’t watched the video, so I don’t know what’s in it. But the song is a great dance/exercise tune, and we all need those. Timbaland is a great producer. Fun, and a good portion of his stuff is pretty harmless lyrically. You can buy all of these songs on Itunes, I’m sure. They’re fun and thoughtful, and the last song is energizing. What would life, and a summer weekend, be without good music?

Read More...

The Link 10.17.09: John Wooden, I Am Second, and eastmountainsouth

The Link 10.17.09: John Wooden, I Am Second, and eastmountainsouth 1. John Wooden is still dropping quotables.  How many of us will be doing that at age 99? (Image:LakersTopBuzz) 2. Came across this evangelistic website somewhere, and found it interesting: I Am Second.  Check it out.  Here’s the blog.  And here’s a story about it.  A creative way to witness, seems like. 3. The Kevin Durant conundrum:such good stats, yet a bad plus/minus rating (which means, basically, that his team loses more points than they gain when he’s on the court).  What was that in the back?  Did you say…defense? 4. Mark Driscoll is now writing for the Washington Post’s “On Faith” deal.  Cool. 5. Southern Seminary theologian-in-training Dave Schrock searches out what it means for every church member to be a “biblical theologian,” working off ofThabiti Anyabwile’s material.  Great stuff. 6. Quoting Jason Kovacs, Z lists some piercing statistics related to orphans. 7. Have you ever heard of eastmountainsouth?  To put this simply, they make beautiful music.  If windswept prairies and forgotten towns could play instruments and record them in Dreamworks labs, this is what they would sound like.  Don’t get hung up on the recording date–buy this album. –Have a blessed weekend, all.

Read More...

How Blogging Can Be Narcissistic

How Blogging Can Be Narcissistic I think that the primary way a blog can be narcissistic is if it about you. There’s nothing wrong with having a journal. Lots of Christians way more godly than me journaled and found it a useful spiritual exercise. So I have nothing against it per se. However, I do think that there is something fundamentally narcissistic with a journalistic blog, which is by its very nature public. Some things are best kept to ourselves. This will surprise some people, I’m sure, because public journaling is commonplace nowadays. I think, however, one can better use a blog by thinking through things with others, or honing one’s writing, or sharing information about a common cause. That sort of thing, I think, is useful. It is not fundamentally narcissistic. It does not involve one taking lots of photos of oneself and telling everyone what one’s cooking for dinner. These may well be nice, and worthy of sharing with a few folks, but why put such information online? It strikes me that in devoting ourselves to trivial things, in publicizing trivial things, we ourselves become trivial. I see a trend in public journaling blogs in which people lock themselves into immaturity by prattling on about the rudimentary things of life, complaining about hardships, procrastinating, being silly, and generally wasting time. It’s fine to write and to journal, but surely there are more productive uses of time than writing a blog about mundane and petty things. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with an occasional personal post or taking a day to share some exciting news with the world, but I would push for us to save such personal blogging for the more important things of life, rather than the everday things. I would challenge young bloggers to devote blogs to spiritual things, devotional thoughts, cultural commentary, philosophical discussion, and the like. If you’re going to take the time to blog, make it worthwhile. Sharpen yourself, and sharpen others. Avoid the narcissistic drive that comes into play when we broadcast our lives to the world. The world tells you to do everything publicly today–to vent, air grievances, express happiness, and all to as many people as possible. In the process, you become a self-centered person concerned not with others and their betterment but with you and your publicity. As Christians, let’s resist this temptation, and write to urge one another on in the faith, to think through and appreciate life, to make some meaning out of our days while we still have them.

Read More...

The Week-est Link, October 24, 2008

The Week-est Link, October 24, 2008 1. The new 9Marks issue is online.  Go to the website and read it and you’re guaranteed to learn a lot about church-based counseling.  You can also access the PDF if you like.  I wrote a review published in this issue about a book called The Incredible Shrinking Church. 2. Charles Krauthammer (the man whose name perfectly fits his work) has just published a powerful pro-McCain column that, if not persuasive to all, has some strong points that need to be considered.  Here’s a potent snatch: “The case for McCain is straightforward. The financial crisis has made us forget, or just blindly deny, how dangerous the world out there is. We have a generations-long struggle with Islamic jihadism. An apocalyptic soon-to-be-nuclear Iran. A nuclear-armed Pakistan in danger of fragmentation. A rising Russia pushing the limits of revanchism. Plus the sure-to-come Falklands-like surprise popping out of nowhere. Who do you want answering that phone at 3 a.m.? A man who’s been cramming on these issues for the past year, who’s never had to make an executive decision affecting so much as a city, let alone the world? A foreign policy novice instinctively inclined to the flabbiest, most vaporous multilateralism (e.g., theBerlin Wall came down because of “a world that stands as one“), and who refers to the most deliberate act of war since Pearl Harbor as “the tragedy of 9/11,” a term more appropriate for a bus accident?” 3. The Ambassador, godfather of Christian rap, has a new cd out entitled “The Chop-Chop.” I’ve heard it, and can recommend it to Christian rap fans out there.  Not my favorite Ambassador stuff, but still quite solid. 4.  Can you tell the storyline of the Bible?  Vitamin Z provides a book listthat can help you work toward that end.  Helpful post. 5. Funny bit on The Onion websitefake-previewing the Charlie Rose show: “During an interview with Michael Bloomberg, the ubiquitous black background comes tumbling down to reveal that Charlie has been taping the show in his mother’s basement for the past 17 years.” –Have a great weekend, all.

Read More...