Mark Silk 06-11-2013
Photo Courtesy RNS/Wikipedia

Tim Tebow taking a knee. Photo Courtesy RNS/Wikipedia

Now that you’re joining the Patriots, I’d like to offer you a few pointers on your new regional home. I realize that, to someone from the deep South, this may seem like just another part of Yankeedom, but New England is really a different place than New York. And given what happened in the Big Apple last year, I’m sure that’s good news, and the less said about it the better.

Anyway, New England is a great place to get a graduate degree, and you could not find a better institution than the U. of Foxboro to do advanced work in the liberal art of playing quarterback, under the tutelage of Prof. Brady. A dissertation on passing might be a good idea.

Aside from football, New England has a lot of variety of the human experience: steady habits in Connecticut, socialists in Vermont, cranky individualists in New Hampshire, a Tea Party governor in Maine, a Republican-turned-Independent-turned Democratic governor in Rhode Island, an African-American governor in Massachusetts. But wherever you go in this fair territory, same-sex couples can get married. That’s how we roll.

Melissa Otterbein 01-23-2013
Photo: joyfuldesigns /

Photo: joyfuldesigns /

One of my favorite views of Charm City right now is entering into the downtown area from the 395 off-ramp. Our city is painted with Ravens spirit — purple lights dancing on skyscrapers, "Go Ravens!" posters taped to city windows, and my favorite: the billboard that simply said "WOW" after the Ravens' win Sunday over the Patriots. In fact, as I sit down to write this at the Towson Public Library, a woman just pointed out that the bookshelf next to me contains an entire collection of books with purple covers, complete with a border of purple stars cut out of construction paper.

Purple has become a unifying topic, bringing complete strangers together in conversation. All week at work, I've asked patients, "Did you see the game?" or I'd see someone wearing a purple scarf and fist bump in the air an amiable, "Go Ravens!" I think this is one of the beautiful things about sports: its ability to bring people together irrespective of socioeconomic status, race or political beliefs.

But I can't help but notice something else about all this celebration — something that disturbs me.

Eugene Cho 01-18-2013
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Manti Te'o #5 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish warms up before a game. Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Listen, I’m not here to bash Manti. I’m not here to ridicule or mock him. I’m not even suggesting that Manti is lying or that his statement is not accurate but we can all agree that the whole story is absolutely bizarre and the total truth has yet to be fully revealed. But because I’m a believer in people – and more so – because I believe in the power of redemption, reconciliation, and restoration, I want to see Manti do well – not just as a football player – but as a man … as a human being … and as someone who often speaks of God.

If I were Manti’s pastor …

While more details will emerge in the future,  I wondered what kind of advice I would give him if I were Manti’s personal pastor. (Manti, being Mormon, is supposedly a deeply religious person.) Here are the four pieces of advice I’d give him.

Ian Danley 12-07-2012
 Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post via Getty Images

Redskins QB RGIII outruns N.Y. Giants linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka. Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post via Getty Images

We had literally just paid for our food. It was some takeout place without any seating close to our hotel that the front desk had recommended as the only place still open. I walked outside to enjoy the crisp evening D.C. air, quite different from the still-tepid Arizona evenings we had just left. Next door to the take-out place was a lively dive full of guys deeply invested in the soon-to-end Redskins/Giants game on Monday Night Football. The neon sign in the glass glowed "open." I told my buddy we had made a serious mistake on our dinner choice. Tyler replied, "I already paid, man." "Go and get your money back," I pushed. He said I was more the type to go insult the nice woman behind the counter and cancel our order. It turns out he was right.

Inside the new place, we settled down to a few beers and ordered some finger foods to watch the rest of the football game. Nobody cared that Robert Griffin III was playing a below-average game. You could tell these guys had watched this team before without a good quarterback and now with one - a seriously good one — he would get a pass. The Redskins converted on third down. RGIII could take a knee. The room went nuts.

It was a friendly place; the locals allowed us to be fans with them. The owner came up and brought a little extra food on the house. All told, it was a great American night: Friendly football fans at their favorite neighborhood dive, where everybody knows your name, treating the new guy like your childhood pal. You could imagine the Founding Fathers smiling down upon us.

Except Tyler and I were likely the only native-born dudes in the room. Everybody was cheering on the Redskins in Amharic while we ate injera, tibs, and wat with our fingers and drank St. George Lager. A picture of Haile Selassie and JFK together in a town car framed the wall. I love tibs.

Christian Piatt 10-03-2012
Football diagram, Prixel Creative /

Football diagram, Prixel Creative /

I used to be in a fantasy league, but the fanaticism of the whole thing wore me out. The guys would gather online for an evening-long draft event, debate rules ad nauseam, and haggle over trades through the wee hours. I considered myself to be a fan, but these guys had practically made, well, a religion out of fantasy sports.

I was reading a piece today by Bruce Reyes Chow about what we Christians might learn from fantasy sports, and it got me thinking. One of the most interesting things being in the fantasy league did for me was that it totally changed how I watched the games. I would turn on games I never would have had interest in before, just to see how my selected running back performed. I even found myself rooting against my own favorite teams once in a blue moon when it served my fantasy team and didn’t affect the outcome of the actual game.

The whole experience drove my wife crazy, partly because of all the time it took, but also because the way I engaged sports was so different that, even if we were watching the same game, it was as if we saw two completely different things.

We’re in the middle of a similar kind of shift in the west with respect to organized religion. While folks within the walls of church may be intent primarily on keeping the institutions placed under their care alive, a growing majority of people outside the doors don’t really care about the denominational logo over the entryway, the name inscribed on the stone sign by the street or the long, rich history of all the congregation has meant to the community.

Cheerleaders at an East Texas high school are fighting their school district’s orders to stop using Bible quotes on their signs at football games.

In August, cheerleaders at Kountze High School, a school with fewer than 500 students 30 miles north of Beaumont, Texas, began painting Bible verses on large paper signs football players burst through at the beginning of games.

But this week, Kountze Independent School District Superintendent Kevin Weldon called for an end to the banners after consulting with a legal adviser at the Texas Association of School Boards.

“It is not a personal opinion of mine,” Weldon told KHOU, a Houston television station. “My personal convictions are that I am a Christian as well. But I’m also a state employee and Kountze ISD representative. And I was advised that such a practice would be in direct violation of United States Supreme Court decisions.”

That prompted the cheerleaders and their supporters to launch a Facebook page, “Support Kountze Kids Faith,” which attracted 34,000 members in its first 24 hours — more than 10 times the population of Kountze.

Parents of at least three cheerleaders have hired an attorney and are considering suing the school district.

James Colten 09-05-2012
Washington's new quarterback: Robert Griffin III

DC's new QB: Robert Griffin III. Image via Wikimedia Commons:

You know it is football season when the office starts grumbling about the offensive name of the local football team, or when co-workers start asking, "What ever happened to Tim Tebow?" Still others, "What is fantasy football?"

Politics aside, I went ahead and compiled a little fantasy team for Sojourners, featuring both prominent and less-prominent Christians thriving in the NFL. So if you own a fantasy football team, or are starting one for the first time, here are some picks to help inject some strong faith in your team. (I don’t get paid to do football analysis so take this for what it’s worth).

the Web Editors 08-17-2012
Amani Matabaro

Amani Matabaro

“Ultimately, we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it toward others. And the more peace there is in us, the more peace there will also be in our troubled world.” –  Etty Hillesum, Dutch diarist who died at Auschwitz

The social fabric that wove together Amani’s moral values and passion for peace is the target of rebel groups that destabilize and destroy communities. Amani grew up playing football and attending school and church in an area that has been chronically unstable for the past 16 years.

Despite the threat, Amani learned within his local structures the power of community in overcoming insecurity—the hub for gaining moral and intellectual values “to make every effort to come together and live as a community.”

Congo is still suffering from the overspill of the Rwandan genocide, the aftermath of which took the lives of both of Amani’s parents. Rebel groups roam the Kivu provinces of eastern Congo and seek to unravel the very social fabric of Amani’s community.

Taking heart from the moral lessons he gained from playing football with his school and through his education, Amani decided to overcome the insecurity caused but he rebels by bringing people together by providing a peace market—a community nucleus for women, children, and men to gather in a safe, empowered, and peaceful environment to care for one another.

Jim Wallis 07-26-2012

The disciplinary actions announced this week by the NCAA against the Penn State University football program were severe.

They included a $60 million fine (equivalent to their football proceeds of one year), a four-year ban on playing in post-season bowl games, a four-year reduction in the school’s number of football scholarships from 25 to 15, vacating all of the wins of Penn State’s football wins from 1998-2011 from official records (including vitiating the numbers that made their famous coach Joe Paterno the “winningest” big-school college football coach in history), giving all returning football players the right to transfer to another school, a five-year probationary period for the football program, and reserving the right to do further investigations and impose additional sanctions on individuals for their behavior.

That will end Penn State’s dominant national football program for the foreseeable future and is a much more serious punishment than simply banning the university from playing football for a year  — aka a “death sentence”—  might have been.

I agree with the NCAA’s disciplinary decisions and would have supported even harsher penalties against Penn State.

Kevin Manahan 03-26-2012
Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Quarterback Tim Tebow addresses the media as he is introduced as a New York Jet March 26. Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

NEWARK, N.J. —Tim Tebow is Howdy Doody in a helmet. No, he is Opie Taylor running for touchdowns — while reciting Bible verses, stopping to find a lost dog, visiting sick children in a hospital and helping a little old lady across the street, all before he reaches the end zone.

Now that Tebow has been traded to the Jets, New Jersey is about to experience a dose of wholesomeness it hasn't seen since milk trucks stopped delivering to your door.

Tebow is the God-fearing, All-American evangelical hero — born to missionaries and delivered during a miraculous birth — who pledged his life to Jesus at 6 years old.

His priorities? "Faith, family, football." He has overcome obstacle after obstacle to become the most popular athlete in the nation's most popular sport, all while waging a personal battle against sin, temptation and the American way.

the Web Editors 03-13-2012

Two things to consider:

1) On Sunday, the NFL announced that it had increased the salary cap for athletes by $225,000. Last year, players could make $120.375 million dollars per year; this year they can make $120.6 million.

2) The income requirements for an American family of four to be above the poverty limit is $23,050 – a figure nearly one tenth the amount of the .2 percent increase awarded to athletes.

Tripp Hudgins 01-17-2012
"Tebowing" shirt via Spreadshirt (

"Tebowing" (

I know it's late.

I know you are done with the guy and the Broncos' season is over.

Still, I have a question for you.

Ed Spivey Jr. 01-11-2012
"Jesus is My Coach" figurine via

"Jesus is My Coach" figurine via

When God chose Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow to be His witness to a hurting world, it might not have been clear that this was only a temporary calling. To be sure, during the regular season God was appreciative of Tebow’s on-field witness of kneeling in prayer and pointing skyward after every touchdown. After all, what better way to show the power of divine love than in front of millions of people drinking beer on the Sabbath.

Joshua Witchger 12-19-2011

Senior citizen flash mob performs Glee's "Last Christmas" at Target, Sir David Attenborough narrates "What a Wonderful World" to clips of nature, Christmas decorations seen as tributes to the Pagan Sun-God, Banksy's latest satrical sculpture on the church, Jesus visits the Denver Broncos, a bread nativity scene, year in review lists, and Teddy the talking porcupine wishes you all a very "Merry Christmas."

Joshua Witchger 12-12-2011

When asked why he’s so vocal about his beliefs, Tebow says, "If you're married, and you have a wife, and you really love your wife, is it good enough to only tell your wife that you love her on the day you get married? Or should you tell her every single day when you wake up and have the opportunity? That's how I feel about my relationship with Jesus Christ."

Wow, I can see why God would like him. And why fans of Cinderella stories would too. This season, as the Bronco's starting quarterback, Tebow has led his team to several dramatic victories, battling back from trailing scores in the last quarter. He’s a gifted athlete, and one who seems to be genuinely humble about it.

Jack Palmer 11-29-2011

GOP Candidates Fight Over Future Of Immigration Reform; The Letter From Evangelical Iowa; Evangelical Good News For Romney?; Child Poverty Rises In 96 Of Top 100 School Districts Since 2007; Undocumented Migrant Whose Lack Of Hope Drove Him To Suicide; Does Your Aid Count?; Is Tim Tebow Performing Miracles? (OPINION)

Jim Wallis 11-14-2011
Jesus comforts the children. Image via Wylio.

Jesus comforts the children. Image via Wylio.

In Mathew 25, he allows no excuses, personal or institutional.

“As you have done it to the least of these, you have done it to me,” Jesus says without qualification. Apply that text to this terrible exploitation at Penn State and it certainly speaks explicitly to the most vulnerable children who have been so horribly abused there.

As it was done to them, it was done to Christ himself, the very Son of God. This famous text is one of the few passages of judgment in the New Testament.

Judgment is now needed at Penn State and beyond about how we continue to allow wealth, power, institutional protections, and cultural complicity to aid, abet, and enable the evil abuse of our most vulnerable children.

Leroy Barber 11-13-2011

I made myself read the Grand Jury report about Sandusky's alleged crimes and it was 23 pages of vile and inhuman behavior not only by the predator but by those who actually saw it, heard of it, or received reports about it across their desk. 

Then to also learn that all these children were black deepens my sadness.

I am forced to ask some really hard questions.

Are black people that expendable?

Was the fact that they were black, poor and powerless the reason it was overlooked?

Is football, a school, and personal reputation so important that a 10-year-old black boy being raped in a bathroom can be covered up? 

I had an idea that power was corrupt, but this is much more than simply corrupt. It is pure evil.

James Colten 11-11-2011
King David (left, by Paul Reubens) and Joe Paterno (coaching in 2010)

King David (left, by Paul Reubens) and Joe Paterno (coaching in 2010)

Abuse of physical strength and power hasn’t been limited to the locker rooms at Penn State. Nor is it limited to middle-aged men. It's in every culture, every city and state, and in every generation. And, I might add, it is both wicked and foolish.

I think we’ve been given enough examples of such abuse being handled incorrectly—to be swept under the rug instead of dealt with directly. The silence of witnesses only allows the abuse to continue. When I spoke with Daniel Walker, author of the new book God in a Brothel, about child slavery and prostitution, he noted that the men who oppress women and children don’t need to be ministered to as much as they need to be held accountable.

Joe Pa, 84, who had coached at Penn State for more than 45 years, has been fired, and the university’s president has resigned over the abuse scandal. Both actions were reactive responses to a problem that really needed proactive intervention.

James Colten 10-05-2011


Let’s face it — while lawmakers are picking their own battles in Washington, they aren’t fighting on the ground in Afghanistan. Winning elections has become more important than implementing winning foreign policy strategies that would end the war and bring our service men and women safely home.

And it’s my generation that’s being sacrificed.