Monday, November 6, 2017

Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness: The grievous sin of false Facebook posting

Exodus 20:16. "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour." This is the Ninth of the Biblical Ten Commandments: Right up there with murder, theft, adultery and idolatry.

Yet every day on Facebook, I see posts, from people who claim to reverence the Ten Commandments, that copy false accusations and slanders.  I won't cite specific examples. There are too many, some obvious, some subtle. There are more every day, mindlessly copied and shared without checking by many people, simply because they attack people they dislike.  This is false witness.  It is spreading malicious lies to slander someone.

In John 8:44 Jesus says that the devil is the father of lies.  The word "devil" is an English form of the Greek word "diabolos" which actually means: Slanderer, False accuser.  So, when you post a false accusation, you are quite literally the devil.

By contrast, Jesus said:  "I am the way, the TRUTH, and the life," so if you want to follow Jesus, you must follow truth.  If you follow lies, you are not following Jesus.

But, you say, you didn't realize it was false!  Is ignorance a defence? No, it is not.  If you spread accusations that you don't really know to be true, it is still bearing false witness.  But anyway do you really want to claim ignorance?  If you don't know what you are talking about, why are you posting?  Why post in ignorance?  All you do is prove your ignorance.

Spreading malice in ignorance is gossip. The Bible condemns gossip in the strongest terms.  Romans 1:29 says this about the Godless:  "so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil."

See who gossips are grouped with?

There is simply no way to reconcile careless posting of accusations with Christian ideals.  It is anti-Christian.  If you are going to make accusatory posts, you have a Christian obligation to at least make sure they are true.  If you can't take time to check before you post, don't post.  If you check, make sure you check reliable sources, not just the same scurrilous partisan echo chamber sites that pump out the lies. And, if you believe those slanders against Snopes, you have already been deceived by the devil.  If you don't know how to check it, or just don't want to bother checking, just don't post it. It's sinful.

What YOU can do about gun violence

It is astonishing that some people think the solution to guns and violence is more guns and violence. America is far and away the most armed nation in the world: Over 300 million guns in the US, belonging to 100 million or so Americans. 50% more guns per capita than the next most armed nation. The American experiment has conclusively proved the obvious: that guns do not prevent violence.

Guns have no real use or value for honest civilians. None. They are killing tools. That's all. Very dangerous weapons that do in fact kill people, and have no useful purpose in civilian hands. I could elaborate on that, but that's another essay.

The culture that glorifies gun violence, that glorifies the sterotype of the lone hero gunman, is the root cause of the problem. Guns don't protect you; they kill you. Having a gun in your house actually multiplies your odds of you or a family member being the victim of gun violence, whether by accident, homicide or suicide. There is a faint chance you might be able to use your gun to defend yourself. There is a far greater probability that you or someone else will use that gun against you or a member of your family.

Guns are like cigarettes: legal, lethal and stupid. Until the country recognizes that, we will continue killing ourselves with both. You have the right to both, if you are foolish enough.

You can stand on your rights and argue that laws don't solve anything.  Maybe you're right - until people change, no law could take away enough of those 300 million guns.  Don't worry about the 300 million guns out there. They aren't going away.  Just worry about the ones most likely to hurt you, any in your own house.

This is not political. I am not about politics or laws or trying to make people behave. I support no political party or politician.  Gun rights folks often assert that criminals do not obey laws. That is truly total nonsense, but I actually agree that changing people, not changing laws, is what is really needed.  You can't change anyone but yourself. So, start there.  So, change.  Start with seeking out the violence in your own heart and fighting it. This an angry and violent nation. Don't participate in that, even emotionally.

But you can go farther: You want to defend your family. The most effective way to do that is to keep guns out of your house.  Don't allow guns in YOUR house.  Don't voluntarily be in the presence of anyone else with a gun. If YOU own guns, destroy them.  I'm not suggesting taking away your useless "right" to own guns if you are so foolish as to want them.  I'm suggesting you take the personal responsibility to renounce guns. That won't stop gun violence, but it's one small step in the right direction.  It won't solve the problem, but at least then, YOU won't BE the problem.  At least then, it won't be YOUR gun that is used in the next slaying.  It won't be YOUR family member who goes crazy and kills people with your gun. It won't be YOUR gun that is stolen and used to commit crimes. It won't be YOUR gun that is found by a toddler with tragic results.  At least then, YOU won't be supporting the gun culture or the gun industry, an industry of death. Then YOU, or a member of YOUR family won't be the next angry white man whose suppressed rage erupts into mass shooting.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Luckier Than Lou Gehrig

I always used to wonder how Lou Gehrig could say in his famous July 4, 1939 farewell speech to the New York Yankees, after having been diagnosed with ALS, a cruel disease that came to be named after him, that "Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth." http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/lougehrigfarewelltobaseball.htm  
How could any man facing such a near and difficult death consider himself lucky?

But now, having myself been diagnosed, not with Lou Gehrig's disease, but with some similar neuro-muscular condition, I do think I understand, and agree.

I'm still not completely sure what I have. It falls (as do I, frequently) under the general heading of a "movement disorder."  My symptoms don't exactly fit the classic definition of any of the possible diagnoses.  My doctors tell me what I don't have. I had every test the doctors could imagine, and none of them showed anything.   I don't have ALS, or MS, or Parkinsons, or Alzheimers, or Muscular Dystrophy.  I don't have a brain tumor or cancer.  One doctor thought it might be Ataxia, but the other disagrees.  They all say I don't have Hydrocephalus. They all say it's not brain damage from my cycling concussion.

Tentatively, maybe it might be something you've likely never heard of called Multiple System Atrophy (MSA) though my symptoms differ in several ways from how MSA is usually described. There's a whole list of vaguely similar neurological conditions that you've likely also never heard of, but I probably don't have those either.  It's some kind of deterioration of the cerebellum (not the cerebrum).  Whatever it is, my brain seems to be slowly losing control over my body.  And, whatever it is, there is at present no real treatment. In fact, the diagnosis doesn't really much matter as there is no real treatment for any of the likely possibilities. There's also not much in the way of prediction or prognosis.  As my doctor says, we know that it progresses, but otherwise we can't really predict much. Lou Gehrig lived two years after his ALS diagnosis. Stephan Hawking has lived over 50 years since his ALS diagnosis, married twice, fathered 3 children, wrote books, did physics, and still gets bit parts on the American TV sit-com "Big Bang Theory." So, these diseases are not very predictable.

But, here's the point:  I, like Lou Gehrig, can't help considering myself lucky.  I guess I could get into a "why me" or "woe is me" attitude, but that would be fake. I just don't feel that way about it.  It would be a totally wrong summary of my life and my circumstances.  Lou Gehrig died at the young age of 37. I am now 68, and will most likely make it in some fashion to the Psalmist's proverbial allotment of "threescore and ten" (that's 70, for those of you who don't know the score).  So, in quantity of life, I really have nothing to complain about. Sure, I always imagined that I would follow my parents in living into my early 90's, but life is not about quantity but about quality, and I have had a GREAT life. I would not trade these 70ish years for 100 of some other life.

I can only hit a few of the highlights here that have contributed to this great life I have lived.

I was born to wonderful parents and great family in a wonderful community. I was blessed that my ancestors immigrated to America, and to California.  Although merely middle class by the standards of this country, we were, and are, rich by the standards of the world as a whole. If we aren't in the global top 1%, we are close to it. As they say, if you have to be a cripple, it's better to be a rich one, and I consider myself rich.

Certainly by the standards of any previous generation in human history we have comfort, leisure, ability to travel, and houses and driveways full of magical things that do the drudge work, entertain us, transport us, connect us, feed us, to a standard undreamt of by kings in any previous century. Yes, I said houses, plural. Most people wish they could own one house (The "American dream.") We have two really great houses, both of which in different ways we were blessed to be able to share with many others. And now we are selling those and building one great big one by the shore of Lake Michigan to share with our daughter and family.

My parents gave me more than I could ever deserve, in every way, material, spiritual, educational. I have a brother who has always been my best friend.

I have the greatest marriage ever to my soul mate. The best wife I could ever have wished for, who, 46 years and counting, is still standing by me and supporting me to my last step.

I have wonderful in-laws, who are still with us and who have been like second parents to me. Lou Gehrig mentioned that his mother in law took his side, and mine does too.

I have two great children and five amazing grandchildren.  And, get this: my children actually want to help take care of me, even to the extent of amazingly inviting me to move in with them!  How's that for lucky!

We were so blessed to spend summers in the high Sierras. seeing them as few are able to do. I was able to realize a dream and hike most of the length of the John Muir Trail.

I have a faith that sustains me, guides me, gives me hope, gives purpose and meaning to my life, directs my life, and promises something even better to look forward to. And, I have a worldwide family, brotherhood, community of faith that is the most amazingly close and loving group of people in the world. We were blessed to be able to serve that family of faith in many ways. We continue to be blessed with not just one, but two local congregations that love us and care for us, and brothers and sisters all over the world.

I had a great career in my chosen field of engineering. I was fortunate that my parents sent me to USC to Engineering school. Sometime I'll tell you about how I became a "swiss army knife" of three engineers in one.  I was privileged to work for some truly great organizations at the peak of their productivity, doing exciting projects.  I worked for some inspiring leaders - some truly great men, and was privileged to lead some amazing people.  Although at the time it was often stressful, and there were times when I indeed hated it, it was never dull, and I was able to accomplish and achieve some fabulous things.  I worked with amazing people, sometimes on the cutting edge of technologies. And it paid pretty well, too.

I was able to run for years, and loved doing it.  I got to ride bicycles, to commute by bike for some years.  Not quite as much as I wished, but a lot. And I can still trike!

I live in a time and place where disabilities such as mine can be handled with comfort - luxury even. I get the best medical treatment available.  That it so far offers no cure is unfortunate, but still, I get the best there is.

You know those outrageous overly generous public pensions the politicians complain about?  I've got two of those. With medical insurance, too.

And now, my family is raised. My children self supporting and with great families of their own.  My career is done and I can look back on it with a feeling of accomplishment.  Do I wish I could still hike and bike and camp and run?  Of course I do.  But I look forward with excitement and anticipation to the next chapter in my life.

The point is that I have had a wonderful life. I hope it continues, because it is still going great, but were I told it would end today, I would not feel in any way cheated or deprived.  Lou Gehrig said he felt he was the luckiest man on the face of the earth, and I feel even luckier.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Who Were the Wise Men Seeking?

Have you ever thought about who (or what) the "Wise Men" or Magi who came from the east seeking Jesus after his birth were expecting?  What sort of king or god or whatever did they have in their mind to bring their gifts to? Who the Magi were; Where exactly they came from; What they knew; and how they knew it are all speculation, but who they were seeking is clear.

In Matthew 2:1-2, we are told:  “ . . . behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews?  For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.”  Notice that they specifically and explicitly give the reason for their worship of this babe.  It is because he was “born King of the Jews.”  Remember that in Mark 15:2, this was the question that Pilate asked, “Art thou the King of the Jews? To which he replied “It is as you say.” (NIV)

It's easy to be confused by the use of the word "worship" there in many translations.  Today we usually think of "worship" as limited to divine worship, of a deity, but the word as used in many translations also applies to bowing, kneeling, prostrating in respect or submission before a king, nobleman, ruler or other authority.  It could be divine worship, or it might not be.  The question is, which did the Magi have in mind?

Now when the Magi went to Herod and asked him where this child was, the effect on Herod was to incite him to a murderous jealousy, resulting in the slaughter of thousands of innocents.  Why was Herod jealous?  Would he have been jealous over the birth of God?  Possibly, but would he have attempted to murder God?  Well, I suppose anything is possible, but trying to kill immortal God seems a bit much, even for a Herod.  It is clear that Herod viewed this child as a potential mortal, human rival for his kingly throne.  The Magi were proclaiming that this child was born to be King of the Jews, and Herod considered himself the King of the Jewish nation.  Yet of course he was actually an Idumaean pretender, resented by the Jews as a Roman, and with every reason to be worried about the permanence of his dynasty.  The obvious conclusion is that Herod heard them to say exactly what they did say: that the child was born King of the Jews, and that is what he was worried about.  But what did Herod tell the Magi?  He told them in verse 8 that he too wanted to "worship" this child. What sort of "worship" did he imply?

Now if we are to suppose that Herod and the wise men intended this worship as divine worship of a newborn God Incarnate, we would have to suppose, with absolutely no support from the text, that Herod and the Magi somehow thought that this child was not a human king at all, but God. or a god.  They did undoubtedly know that this was a special king.  They knew, as we are told in Matthew 2:4, that this King of the Jews was the Christ, (the Messiah, the Anointed).  Anointing was what was done as a sign of being chosen by God as priest or king (e.g. Samuel anointed David as king).  But clearly they knew it was not just any king. The miraculous star they had followed surely made them know that this was someone truly special and unique. They referred to Micah 5:2 as the Old Testament prophecy that he should be born in Bethlehem.  Micah 5:2 refers to him as “ruler in Israel,” or as the record in Matt 2:6 calls him “ a Governor that shall rule my people, Israel.”

Is there any evidence to suggest that Herod or the chief priests and scribes with whom he consulted were some sort of proto-trinitarians who thought that this Messiah was to be God Himself?  Granted Trinitarians do find what they consider to be Old Testament “hints” or “suggestions” of Trinitarian doctrine.  But surely it is not credible to suggest that before any of the New Testament had yet been given; before Jesus had yet uttered a word; before any of the Apostles were even aware of the events to come; that Herod already thought that this “King” was really God, or a sort of hybrid man/god, a pre-existent mortal/immortal?   You might propose that, but there is no evidence in the record to support it.  Yet Herod, knowing only that this child was a potential rival to him as King, said he wanted to go and “worship him also.”  Clearly Herod intended this as (feigned) worship of a King, not of a God.

In any case, the Magi found the child Jesus, and they “fell down, and worshiped him.”  The New English Bible says, “bowed to the ground in homage to him.”  We can well imagine the apparently Persian Magi falling down before a king, for that is indeed how eastern kings were treated.  Is there any contradiction there in viewing this as paying homage or making obeisance to the (human) King of the Jews?  I see none. It makes the most sense.  Did they offer sacrifices to him, or cower in terror, or do anything that one might do before the presence of God himself?  No, they presented him with gifts that would befit a king, Gold, perfume, and ointment.  Whether or not the Magi understood this unique king to be the son of God, a concept Jesus had trouble getting across even to his disciples, and how they might have viewed that, is left to speculation.

One might object that the “Wise Men” were rather foolish men to go to king Herod with their request for directions if they were looking for his rival.  And perhaps they were, or perhaps it was in the plan of God that they should do so.  Regardless, whatever their reason, it did turn out to be a bad thing, so it is no argument to say that it was OK to go to Herod if they actually thought the child was God, but not OK if they thought he was a human child.  Either way it turned out badly.

Now this picture, of the Magi paying homage to a human king rather than a God may be startling if you've never before thought of it that way.  It is hard to change ideas that are entrenched in our minds.  I can only ask that you read the text carefully and see if there is the slightest evidence anywhere for a divine worship explanation.  I can see none.  All the evidence is for rendering obeisance to a human king, the divinely anointed King of Israel.

Undoubtedly, these Magi had a limited, partial and incomplete understanding of this newborn king. We aren't told what they knew or how they knew it.  Our understanding, informed by the preaching of Jesus and the writings of his followers surely should be more complete than those whose information was limited to the Old Testament at best, and perhaps less than that.  We should not be limited in our view of the Christ to the partial view of the Magi.  So, what is my point?  What do we learn from the limited understanding of the Magi?

First, it should be clear from this that "worship" in the Bible can mean either divine worship of a god, or it can refer to the legitimate and acceptable bowing in homage and obeisance due to a king, prince, or other authority.  When we see that Jesus in his earthly ministry was so "worshiped" we can usually see that it was so intended as due deference to a great teacher, prophet, healer, and authority, perhaps in a few cases with the perception that he was the (human) son of God, but never with any apparent and anachronistic understanding on the part of the worshipers that they were bowing before the second person of an incarnate triune god.  Any such divine worship of the man Jesus would most certainly have been viewed as blasphemous by the Jewish religious authorities.

The main takeaway from this though is to read what the Bible actually says about Jesus Christ, rather than to read the story through the lens of doctrines that were developed only much later on, after the Bible was written.  If you put Christ in Christmas, make it the Christ actually described in the Bible.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Lessons for Unbelievers from Bible Fables

I can't comprehend how anyone who has even read the Bible can ever claim "This is mine.  I earned it.  I have a right to it.  I deserve it.  You can't take what's MINE."  Even if you don't believe the Bible and view it only as fable and literary fiction, the lessons and morals must surely be clear.

Even those who dismiss Daniel's dictum that the Most High God rules in the kingdom of men must see the practical lesson that it is absurd hubris to claim "I built this."  That the mightiest of empires and the greatest of emperors can be destroyed in an instant by events beyond their control.

You can believe that David vs. Goliath is just legend and still see the reality that no matter how well armed you may think you are, it is not uncommon for the mightiest of armed and arrogant invaders to be repelled by the equivalent of kids with rocks.

Surely even the secular reader must be touched by the struggles of the rejected wandering homeless, the refugees from slavery, the lowly and dispossessed, the conquered, the desperate due to forces beyond control, and see that even those are fellow humans seeking meaning and purpose as well as sustenance.

Even such a jaded and skeptical secular seeming observer as the Solomon of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes tells us that the competition does not always go to the better or most deserving; that the wicked prosper while the deserving suffer.

You need not believe in a virgin birth to recognize that the greatest of people are sometimes born in stables to destitute parents.

Even those who view Jesus as simply a teacher of morals must see the reality in his teaching that the accumulation of wealth is worse than useless, never brings happiness or satisfaction, and is never really within human control anyway. That our humane responsibility is not to despise or reject strangers but to help them.

Even those who doubt Jesus even existed must surely see the truth in the lessons attributed to him that those who claim moral superiority are inevitably hypocrites who refuse to see their own immorality.

Even if you read Job as mere poetic fable, the lesson must be clear that suffering and misfortune are often as undeserved as wealth and prosperity, and that we struggle in vain to give reason to either.

Even if you think epistlers Paul and John were deluded followers of a dead man, surely there are eternal truths in their teaching that self-sacrificing generosity is always better than self-righteous possessiveness.  That love is always better than hate.  That we all need mercy more than justice.

How much more then must it be clear to those who claim to actually believe the Bible, who accept that God is in control, who believe that all that we are and all that we have are the undeserved gifts from God, and that we are all unprofitable servants deserving nothing at all?  How much more to believers must it be obvious that wealth, power or status are rarely products of virtue or righteousness.  That we have no right to anything at all, and that anything we have been given is meant to be shared?  That it is not our task to worry about laws, rulers, taxes, politics, or whether the destitute or the stranger are worthy of help or ought even to be here: Our task is simply to help them.


Monday, February 3, 2014

Bye Bye POTS

Well, we finally exited the analog telephone age.  We cut the figurative cord.  We got rid of our analog voice telephone land line, sometimes referred to as POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) from the local AT&T affiliate phone company.  Our vestigal POTS line, which only served our FAX machine (another anolog relic), got "ported" to our Voice Over Internet Protocol telephone provider (Voipo).  No; porting has nothing to do with either Dr. Who or Scotty.  It just means we had Voipo take that phone number from AT&T. The number exists "in the cloud", but the line itself is but a memory.

This is the "end of the line" for POTS service for us.  Whatever would Alex G. Bell think?  He took "binary" telegraph lines and made them analog voice telephone.  Now analog voice lines have gone back to binary (digital).  What goes around, comes around, I guess.

Don't get me wrong, we still have telephones - lots of them.  If you dial us up on our old voice number that we have had for decades, we will probably still answer it on our Voice Over Internet Protocol phone system.  I say "probably" because VOIP is not nearly as reliable as POTS.  There's many a slip twixt VOIP and lip, but it's what we've actually been using for voice service for years now.

Dumping POTS was the phone company's own fault:  AT&T persuaded us several years ago to convert our voice line from POTS to their "Call-Vantage" VOIP phone service because it was cheaper and had more features.  Then AT&T did away with their Call-Vantage service before they had the U-Verse replacement, forcing us to go to another company, never to return.  The phone company shot themselves in the foot on that one. I'd have a hard time imagining they could be that stupid except that Scott Adams, the author of Dilbert, learned about corporate idiocy right there at Pac-Bell.

We still had a POTS line because until recently, our Internet line was via DSL, and the phone company would only provide DSL over a POTS voice line.  You had to have POTS voice service to get DSL.  So, we had a POTS line in order to get internet service, but the POTS line was only connected to a FAX machine.

Then, about a year ago, AT&T did a "mandatory transition" of DSL internet service to "U-Verse" (partial fiber optic) internet.  With U-Verse, they no longer require the POTS line for internet.  We kept the POTS line for a while because it was convenient to have it on the FAX machine, but the cost kept going up.  POTS finally just priced itself out of the market.

So now, if you send us a FAX for some reason (not sure why you would do that, but some people still do) it gets received by Voipo somewhere, converted to a PDF file, and forwarded to us by email.  You won't know the difference, but it's a heck of a lot cheaper for us; we can get your FAX without being home; and those daily junk faxes advertising cruises and recreational pharmaceuticals won't be wasting paper.

It's amazing that FAXes still exist.  The main reasons FAX machines are still used at all is because they are simple to use and relatively secure against hacking.  I'm sure FAXes could be hacked if anyone tried.  Given that our FAX machine is actually a combination printer, scanner, FAX and is connected to the Internet, it would be pretty easy to hack into.  NSA probably has a copy of every FAX sent in the last five years.  But no self respecting pirate hacker would stoop so low as to try to hack into a FAX line.  It would be like a hot rodder souping up a horse and buggy.  Mostly what they'd get would be junk mail faxes anyway, so why bother?

So now, we have obsolete FAX technology, which has been around for over 50 years, still barely clinging to life via internet simulation, but the analog voice POTS line it was designed to function over is gone.

It's a symptom of the passing of an era.  Those of you who tend toward nostalgia for some former age when supposedly things were better may sorrow for the days of wind-up watches, monochrome 12 inch TVs with vacuum tubes you had to replace and only got 7 channels, "simple" cars that got 14 mpg and overheated on the Grapevine, 2 bedroom 1 bath homes that only had one black dial telephone that you rented from the phone company, hand written letters because long distance phone calls were prohibitively expensive, wringer washing machines & clothes lines, home sewn clothes with patches, shoe repair shops, typewriters with carbon paper and erasers, getting paper books from the public library, and doing arithmetic with a pencil.  You know, back in the Good Old Days, when people were moral,  politicians were honest and government could be trusted. Yes, that last sentence is just pure fantasy, but I don't mourn for any of the rest of it either. The reason that other stuff is gone is because better stuff replaced it. There were no Good Old Days.  Bye bye POTS.  I won't miss you.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Rooting for Sinners to be Winners

In my life I have rooted for a lot of sinners.  There was OJ Simpson when I was at USC with him, and Reggie Bush long after I'd graduated.  As a cyclist and cycling fan, I rooted for Lance Armstrong, Floyd Landis, Levi Leipheimer, George Hincapie, Dave Zabriskie, that whole gang of doping cyclists.  I never mistook any of them for saints, not even when Reggie Bush became a New Orleans "Saint".  Rooting for athletes is not about thinking they are great examples of moral character.  Usually, it's just because they play for "my team."  Not to classify them with the cheaters, I also root for my children and grandchildren, because they're "my team" too.

Another thing that makes us root for an athlete is that we tend to love a good comeback story, whether it's a comeback from adversity, from injury, from retirement, from cancer, or even from disgrace.  The idea that someone can overcome the obstacles in life gives us hope.  When my wife got cancer and was feeling down about the future, I could say, well, look Lance Armstrong had cancer and he came back to win the Tour de France, so you better start riding your bike so you can too.  Yeah, OK, I got that this was over-optimistic, and yeah, I get that Armstrong cheated to do it, but still, he demonstrated that cancer  is not the end of your life.  That it turns out he cheated doesn't really change that.  It still shows that a cancer survivor can have a great future.  My daughter made her own comebacks from lots of adversity and mistakes of several sorts, which made me root for her all the more.  When Bush and Matt Leinhart (yet another sinner) were 4th down and 9 yards to go on their own 26 with 1:32 left in the game against Notre Dame, and they came back to win against all odds, did they cheat on the "Bush Push" play to score the touchdown?  Probably.  So two sinners colluded to cheat and win, but regardless, that comeback victory (at least from my side of the field) was an inspiring story of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat - of never giving up no matter how bad things looked.  Sinners can be winners too.

I also rooted for other cyclists, who may or may not be "clean" and about whose "saintliness" I know nothing.  I rooted for Greg LeMond.  He claims he alone of all cyclists of the era was the one clean one.  Maybe.  Don't know.  Even if true about that, I don't think he's any saint nor would he claim to be one.  I rooted for Thomas Voeckler and Oscar Pereiro.  Unless you are a cycling fan, you probably don't know who those are, but the inspiring thing about them was their come from behind underdog wins, and their perseverance even when they really could not win. Are they saints?  Doubtful.  Just athletes.  Don't confuse the two.  I rooted for LeMond and Armstrong in part because they popularized "my sport" in this country, which had previously been virtually ignored.  It may now go back to being ignored, which would be sad.  I hope the Amgen Tour of California survives doping.  Lance Armstrong could certainly endorse Amgen's EPO.  Worked for him.

On the other hand, I'm not a great fan of Tim Tebow:  Partly of course because he didn't play for my teams, but also, I think the whole religious athlete thing tends to turn me off just a little.  Maybe it's because it seems too much like a claim to be a saint, and that's somewhere I don't want to go with rooting for athletes.  I don't want to confuse success in athletics as in any way connected with religion.  It's just games.  And let's face it:  John Wooden is not really adored, almost deified at UCLA, because of his moral character:  It's because he won a lot of games.  He may or may not have been a saint, doesn't matter.  He won games for the home team.  While I can find meaning and lessons in athletics  I don't want to confuse morals and religion with athletic success.  Being truly great in anything requires a single minded, exclusive dedication to that pursuit, indeed a "win at all costs" dedication.  Great athletes are just great athletes, not great anything else's.  I don't expect anything else from them.

The other thing about "saints" is, they are just faulty people too.  We are all faulty.  Some may be "less bad" than others, but we are all bad.  Everyone, even saints, will lie to protect themselves, Saint Peter being the obvious example.  Perhaps only Jesus would have forgiven Peter, but only Jesus would have been moral enough not to tell the same lies.  We are all sinners.  There was a "Science File" article in the Los Angeles Times this morning entitled "Like Him, We Are All Liars" (i.e. Like Armstrong).  Sounded more like a sermon title than a science file, but true either way.  Everyone lies.  To say someone is "a liar" is simply to say that they are human: Humans are liars;  All of us.  Even dogs lie (no, no, I wasn't up on that couch, really I wasn't).

This is not a defense of Lance Armstrong.  I never met the guy, and might not like him much as a person if I did know him personally.  He cheated.  He cheated for a long, long time.  From what I hear, he is a rather prickly character (and many might shorten that word).  He rode roughly over a lot of people to keep cheating.  The cheating of Armstrong and others like him have almost destroyed professional cycling.  I'm not actually sure if it can ever come back. Doping cyclists have made cycling seem more like professional wrestling than a real sport.  I can't feel sorry for a multi-millionaire who cheated to get his money.  I don't feel sorry for him at all.  I can sympathize with his predicament, and feel grateful that I never had to confess my sins in front of the world like that, but no, he doesn't even defend his own actions, nor do I.

On the other hand, in baseball, there are admitted drug cheaters on the Hall of Fame ballot.  Football just has to be filled with and fueled by steroids.  In cycling, lots of cyclists got caught cheating, denied it, defended against the accusations, never admitted it or gave evidence against co-conspirators, got two year bans and are back in the sport, so the difference with Armstrong seems to be simply that he was more successful.  Sports have avoided doing a lot of obvious things to clean up the doping problems.  Cycling has actually done more than most sports, but all sports seem to have resisted going beyond their blood and urine testing program which has proven to be worse than useless. The drug testing program appears to be more a shield for cheaters (like Armstrong), who usually don't get caught by it, than a deterrent.  There's more than enough blame to go around.  One could get the impression that most sports authorities would rather not know.  They know how useless their anti-doping programs are, but they don't do much to fix the problem.  The prosecutors and accusers are often as bad in various ways as the cheaters.   None of that excuses Armstrong, and he says that too, but my feelings are often complicated by actually liking some of the cheaters (from my distant televised viewpoint) more than I like some of the accusers.  I think that's because I'm loyal to the sinners I've rooted for.

Would I like to see Armstrong compete again? Yes I would.  Partly because I'd like to see how he can do when really clean.  I get that he himself screwed up his chance to show his ability to complete clean.  It's one of the things he cheated himself out of, but I'm still curious.  Perhaps we saw the answer already in his 2009 and 2010 "comeback," but we don't know, either about Armstrong, or about his competition, and it would be interesting to know that.  What would it mean?  Not much, but it would be fun to watch.   Would I root for him again?  Yes I would. In fact, I'd root for that whole list of sinners and dopers again.  They're my team.  I'm not a "fair weather fan."  I've "bonded" with them.  I don't dump them just because they aren't perfect, any more than I'd quit rooting for my family if they went astray.  It's not about "believing in" an athlete.  Often, their exposed flaws just make them seem more human and sympathetic. Everyone needs redemption.

The thing about rooting for sinners and liking a comeback and redemption is that those are things we all need.  I root for sinners because I am one.  I root for comebacks because I hope for them for myself and my family.  I root for people who have been caught in lies because that could be me.  I root for people who have made mistakes because I've made lots of them.  I root for flawed people in need of redemption because I can identify with them.  I have to believe that sinners can be winners too.