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Former Champion for Christ , MorningStar, Victory Campus Min
Posted by: ExCult ()
Date: May 04, 2007 04:38PM


You can contact Richard Bartholomew at this link.


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Former Champion for Christ , MorningStar, Victory Campus Min
Posted by: ExCult ()
Date: May 04, 2007 04:40PM

In a 1999 Sports Illustrated article, the author gets to the heart of Robinson’s Christian faith.

David Robinson’s heart went to Jesus on June 8, 1991. He proudly notes it is “my second birthday”. Yet he is caught in this most secular of modern creations, professional sport with its instant gratification, easy adulation, and flowing beer taps. Money? It is paid for a rebound, for a jump shot, for a simple smile. Fame? Instant. Sex? Easy. Drugs? Certainly available.
Rock and Roll? Every timeout.

The door that is open here can lead to a level of hedonism that wasn’t even invented when the Old Testament prophets went to their writing tablets, an expansion of ego that the pharoahs couldn’t have imagined.

Robinson has felt himself taken by these NBA tides toward destruction, felt a loss of control. Nobody else might have noticed, but he did. He has found the answer that works for him. He is a Christian. The opponent every day and night on the schedule is sin. David Robinson versus sin. David Robinson versus all the seven deadly sins; pride, lust, greed, gluttony, sloth, anger, and envy. Every day, every night. It is a never-ending season.

“Tell me one thing” David would say to his normal friends after his trips to NBA activities right after he was drafted. “Tell me if I ever change, if my head ever starts to get bigger.” Two years into his career his head was getting bigger. His friends didn’t see it, no one said he was becoming a jerk, but he felt it. He was hanging around with people who told him only things he wanted to hear, mostly how great he was. He easily won the NBA Rookie of the Year in ‘90. He was rich. He was surely great. He believed that. In a way. “What surprised me was that I wasn’t happy. Here I had everything I ever wanted. I looked at myself and I didn’t like the person I was becoming. I felt I was so important. I had a selfishness and arrogance”.

David was neither a smoker nor a drinker. But he found himself in clubs on the road, vaguely searching for a “nice girl”. He wanted more, yet he had everything. So what was more? He didn’t know. He had felt in college that he always was learning and growing. He felt in the NBA he was regressing, forgetting lessons he had learned.

Religion had never been a big part of his life. He had been a nominal Christian, forced to go to church on Sundays by his mother, but he had never shown great interest in the faith. When Greg Ball, a locker room evangelist from the group Champions for Christ, showed up, David put him off for several months. When they finally sat down, the conversation was supposed to last several minutes. It stretched to 5 hours. “His purpose, his life focus, wasn’t established,” Ball says. “Here was this wonderful person, this superstar, but he was unhappy. He was a god of his own life. All of these guys in the NBA are gods of their own lives. I told him it doesn’t matter if you get all the Mercedes that are made, if you don’t have a focus, it’s like you’re standing in front of a painted fire, trying to keep warm.”

Robinson said; “I’d always told myself I was a good guy, no matter what I’d done. I think everybody tells himself that. The question is, whose definition of a good guy are you using? Your own?” He now had a different definition.

After being married, David enjoys spending as much time as possible at home with his wife and children. “I hear other players talking about ways to get out of the house.” He wonders about that. “I try to find ways to get back to the house. That’s where my true life is. I hear stories about the free-love life and notice that often they are followed by postscripts about domestic abuse, paternity suits, divorce and sexually transmitted diseases.”

A traditional knock against born-again athletes is that they don’t have a win-or-else passion for their games. But Robinson says his faith has helped him. He has realized that playing Basketball is his gift. His duty is to make the most of this gift that he can. “I’m not playing for the fans or the money, but to honor God. I know my motivation. I know where I’m headed.

Every night I try to go out there to honor Him and play great.”
Those around him might disagree with his beliefs and his words sometimes. But can there be disagreements with the way he lives his life? He walks through all the commercial hellfires that man has invented and comes out just fine. He prospers. I didn’t know him at all when I came here” said Will Perdue. “I’d played against him, but he never talks when he’s playing. I wondered about that. Was he stuck up? When you get here and see how he is, how he acts, how can you not like him? He doesn’t push anything on anyone, but you know exactly where he stands.”


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Former Champion for Christ , MorningStar, Victory Campus Min
Posted by: ExCult ()
Date: May 04, 2007 04:42PM


Former Washington Redskins cornerback Darrell R. Green is being urged to run for the state Senate from Loudoun County next year by leading Northern Virginia Republicans who hope he can use his fame on the football field to oust newly elected Democrat Mark R. Herring. Green, one of the most well-known Redskins from the team's recent golden era, lives in Loudoun and has been running a nonprofit foundation since he left the team three years ago. As a rookie in 1983, he captured the nation's attention with a stunning come-from-behind tackle of Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Dorsett during a Monday Night Football game. Now, some Republicans hope he can help their party recover from a string of bruising losses to Democrats in the past several elections. "That name is on many lips," said former senator William C. Mims (R), whose Loudoun seat Herring won after Mims left to work in the attorney general's office. "[Green] is a longtime Loudoun resident who has been active in the community. He is highly respected and has an outlook that's consistent with Republican principles."


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Former Champion for Christ , MorningStar, Victory Campus Min
Posted by: ExCult ()
Date: May 04, 2007 04:52PM

University of Southern California
Football Training Camp 1979


The sign hung in bold letters over the entrance to the locker room. Jake would need this reminder before his gut busting initiation into USC football.

The field smelled of the fresh cut grass and the air was tainted with the smell of bodies and sweat, it was the first day of spring practice. He hung back into the pack of the huge defensive linemen.

“I just want to ease through the defensive drills” he thought. “Get in…get out…nobody gets hurt…”

He looked up saw the defensive lineman coach, Coach Goux slamming open the practice field gate half trotting towards the linemen…yelling, swearing, and muttering at the same time. Jake sidled behind one of the looming defensive ends as if to hide.

But to no avail. The coach came straight into the huddle of players like a cruise missile seeking its target. He grabbed Jake’s facemask.

“Who in the hell are you and what are you doing on my practice field?” he screamed into Jake’s face.

“Ca-ca-Canton…my name is Jake Canton sir”

He pushed Jake back and sneered “You have the balls to come to my team, the team that won the national championship last year? No one has walked onto my team in twenty five years and made it with my gorilla? You are either going to love to hit or you are going to die! Now get into this drill and don’t screw it up.”

Jake writes “I was petrified, instantly dripping with sweat and my knees started to buckle.”

The drill was set with two orange cones about five feet apart to simulate the line of scrimmage. It was offensive linemen vs. defensive linemen or as the coach put it “Big man on big man.”

Jake stepped into the “box”.

As he remembers it “the monster I was about to face was big enough to ear hay and dumb enough to enjoy it.”

And the player standing in front of him in the box did look like a monster. Weighing 290 pounds and standing six feet seven Keith Vanhorne was a future all pro offensive line man. And just behind him buckling his chin strap was the team’s All -American tailback- the future winner of the Heisman trophy and pro player Marcus Allen.

“Okay meat heads” snarled coach Goux and he blew the whistle to start the drill.

Jake fired out under the massive lineman’s shoulder pads and knocked him to the ground plugging the gap to his right…but he suddenly found himself on the ground himself with his face in the dirt and his lip and nose bleeding.

As he lay there he thought of his friends who told him he was crazy to go out for the Trojan football team. They told him he would never make it. He started to push himself up and he heard Coach Goux laughing.

“Welcome to the big leagues sonny boy” he snorted.

Jake writes “I think he thought I was going to turn tail and run, but instead his laughter pricked something in me and I looked him in the eye and said ‘Coach you are going to have to kick me off the team or kill me but I am not quitting.’

Goux grabbed him by the jersey “See me in my office after practice” he barked.

Sweat stung the cut above his eye and blood trickled down his nose. He wiped his face with his taped wrist and he said “Yes sir.”

Jake writes “Walking upstairs to Heritage Hall after my first practice I was pretty apprehensive about my future with the football team. To my surprise it was a much softer Coach Goux I faced in his office. He said to me ‘Jake over the last twenty five years I have detested walk-on linemen. They come out here and think they can sit on their thumbs and coast. You are different, there is a fire in your eyes that is unstoppable. I want you on this team.’”

He was on cloud nine- how could his day get any better? He was on the team and he would do whatever he had to do to stay on it.

Three years later: 1981
University of Southern California
Heritage Hall

Jake loved the football he always had. And it had pretty much taken over his life, or better put become his life, his real life at USC.

There was a clear goal in football- for to win the game, in American football, no one player could bring home victory, not even the former all star USC players like “Sam the Bam” Cunningham or Heisman Trophy winner OJ Simpson could do bring victory by themselves. It took everyone working together, everyone sacrificing in order to be winners, to be champions. “Each player had to follow orders, had to know their role and sacrifice for each other” Jake thought as he showered after another hard practice.

It was his senior year and with each practice and each passing game he had a sinking feeling…he knew that his real life, that of a football player was about to end and end forever.

Post shower he trotted from the field house back to fraternity row- and on his home he pulled the flyer out of his pocket.

The flyer that had caused so much trouble at the frat house.

It was splashed with the headline in bright colors.

It read “Maranatha Christian Ministries presents Rice Broocks, Top Evangelist ‘The Victorious Life’” with the date showing tonight and the time being 7:00 pm.

And the whole thing had gotten him into trouble, not that he really cared, because for once, just once, he was taking a stand for his Christian faith. He picked up his pace and he thought about how he lived his “football life”- going all out on each and every play in practice- how he laid it on the line for his fellow teammates, and how they did the same for him and each other.

He thought about how a “walk on” non scholarship player, like him, had been accepted by the team because of his contributions and sacrifices, even by the soon to be pro player Marcus Allen and others. In fact Jake was the first “walk on’ non-scholarship nose guard in over fifty years to make the USC team.

He was a good athlete and strong as a bear- but not good enough to make the starting grade on this star studded team. So he ran the “scout team” in practice, the group that gave the starting team a “look” at the opposition’s defensive schemes. And Jake did this important, yet usually unrewarded, work so consistently, and with so much energy and determination, that this year, his senior year, he was elected one of three team captains along with the All American and future NFL stars Marcus Allen and Ronnie Lott.

As I said in many ways the camaraderie of the football team was his life, and that struck him somehow as wrong, as he glanced down again at the flyer that spoke of the “Victorious Christian Life”.

He thought of what he perceived as his own shallow Christian life. Sure he attended church and he also went to Campus Crusade for Christ meetings. But he was, in his Christian walk, what he would never have allowed in himself to be “football walk”: a bystander, a hanger on, a loafer… a do nothing.

He knew that he could not live with himself if he treated his football life like he treated his Christian life- but no matter how hard he tried he could not live up to the calling of being Christ like. No fruit, no peace, no miracles. He found it impossible to be Christ like. No result, no victory, no coach or other players patting him on the back or encouraging him in the midst of a hard fought game.

Nothing but one defeat after another for him and apathy from other Christians.

Jake writes of that time and his Christian experience “I was a lukewarm hypocrite in Campus Crusade for Christ~ not to any fault of their own. I was just a practical atheist! Claiming a relationship with Christ yet by my actions…acting like there was no God that would judge life. I was in my senior year and football was coming to an end. I had failed miserably at trying to be a Christian and I was ready to throw in the towel.”

His growing frustration had come to a head in a very practical way that weekend.

About four of his frat brothers had been sitting in the frat living room when a nice looking guy, wearing a button down shirt and khakis walked in and started talking to them about a new Christian group that was meeting on campus and that it was part of a group of “believers totally and radically committed to Jesus and bring His kingdom to earth

He asked them if their lead evangelist, Rice Broocks could speak at their fraternity house.

Jake liked what he heard the guy say and it struck him that what the kid from this group called Maranatha was talking about was exactly the kind of Christian experience he was looking for. So he promised this kid that he would bring it up in chapter meeting.

Here is what happened in Jake’s words:

“It was put to a vote [having Rice Broocks from Maranatha speak] in our Frat on whether or not to let Ben address our group and [it] was immediately shot down by the President under the notion that Religion had no place in a frat house. The second event voted on was an issue of a pornographic wall (like a mural) in the hall way of the second floor. A brother was complaining that it was offensive to girlfriend, mother, ect. And he wanted it painted over. The hypocrisy of the frat pres. was unbelievable as he said, “Hey man… Freedom of Speech” and shot down the measure. Something inside went off and I got so mad as I realized the hypocrisy that I marched upstairs …[and I]threw A GALLON OF PAINT ON THE WALL.”

So tonight he was going to hear this guy named Rice talk about living a “Victorious Christian Life. Was it really possible for anyone to do live this victorious life?” he wondered.

[i:87d0a3efc7]Note: He later helped establish Champions for Christ. He converted, mentored or networked with many famous athletes, including AC Green of the Lakers. Those athletes donated much money to Champions.

For the rest of the story, click below. After giving us unprecedented insight into Maranatha through his memoirs, Tik Tok is now playing biographer to other former members.

Bring it on![/i:87d0a3efc7]

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Former Champion for Christ , MorningStar, Victory Campus Min
Posted by: ExCult ()
Date: May 04, 2007 04:54PM

Parents Say Bethel World Outreach Center Uses Schools to Recruit

Nashville Tennessean
by Lee Ann O'Neal
May 14th, 2005

A Hillsboro High School parent says a teacher recruited her daughter into the Brentwood-area Bethel World Outreach Center, where a church staff member told the teen that her relationship with God was strong enough that she no longer needed to take anti-depressive medication. A lawsuit filed on behalf of the mother and other plaintiffs alleges that the teacher and members of the 3,000-member congregation use the Metro public high schools to ''actively solicit teenage members to their youth ministry … with the consent of public school administrators.'' Metro schools, the teacher named in the complaint, Meghan Therrell, and the Metro Legal Department all had no comment yesterday. Hillsboro High principal Robert Lawson, who is also named as a defendant, could not be reached.

Bethel spokesman Michael Swain issued this prepared statement and declined to answer follow-up questions: ''Bethel World Outreach Center has a long-standing ministry to the greater Nashville area, with well-respected programs focusing on the inner city and youth. Victory Clubs, an initiative of Bethel, are high school clubs with voluntary participation that are helping hundreds of young people develop good character. We are deeply concerned for the well-being of both students and families. While we are saddened by these allegations, we stand by our record of integrity and our commitment to the well-being of our community's youth.''

The mother, Jill Gustafson, whose 17-year-old daughter is a freshman at Hillsboro, said her daughter had a history of mental illness when in January 2004 she transferred to the school from Overton. Her daughter had started hanging out with a ''gothic'' teen crowd and had attempted to take her own life. After the transfer, she was introduced to Therrell, who befriended her and began taking her to church events at Bethel.

Gustafson described her own religious outlook: ''I am not Presbyterian, Baptist or anything. I believe that my children should choose what church they should belong to. I don't have to have an organized place to speak to my God. I don't need an organized place.'' But she said she told her children, ''If you need an organized place, you just tell me.'' That's why she accepted her daughter's association with Bethel. ''At that point, I was just in the attitude that I was happy my child was looking at religion, which was much better than 'gothic' killing yourself,'' Gustafson said.

In April 2004, she and her daughter had an argument when her daughter said she had made another suicide attempt and stopped taking her depression medication. Gustafson never visited Bethel, she said, because she was homebound by her multiple sclerosis. She has relied largely on her daughter's account to establish the allegations in the lawsuit, she said.

While her daughter has recovered and has returned to school, Gustafson said she felt the lawsuit was necessary to ''shut down'' the church's operation in the schools.
Charles Haynes, senior scholar with the First Amendment Center, had not reviewed the Gustafson's suit but said in general on church-school separation: ''The law is this, that outside groups may use school facilities for various programs related to youth in non-school hours, and (if) the school allows some community groups to use the school for youth activities, then they probably can't disallow a religious group that has youth activities.'' Also, ''a teacher, in her own time, of course, can participate in that community activity, because it's not a school activity. It's separate. However the teacher may not, on her contract time while she's acting as teacher, she may not promote a religious activity in any way,'' said Haynes,


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Former Champion for Christ , MorningStar, Victory Campus Min
Posted by: ExCult ()
Date: May 04, 2007 05:13PM

"Mark Brunell has an awful lot of explaining to do. Never mind Skin Patrol's "Investigating the Mark Brunell Inigma." He has something a lot more serious to explain.

Brunell introduced other athletes - and only he knows how many - to the notorious agent Greg Feste, who burned those athletes big. Brunell also was willingly the most prominent and outspoken member of the high profile, aggressive, and controversial Champions for Christ sports ministry. He defended Feste and Champions many times to the press.

He did the same for Greg Ball, cofounder of Champions and once America's #1 locker room evangelist. Ball has gone from a legend among the athletes he converted and discipled to a hasbeen and an outcast, completely off the radar. Since Ball and Feste's departure, which coincided with and had everything to do with the Wranglers disaster, DEAFENING SILENCE from Brunell.

Same with Darrell Green, former Redskins superstar and terse talking board member of Champions. Ball was his hero forever, since all the way back when Ball and Green's Maranatha was accused left and right in the national and local media of being a cult. No word from Green on the guy he was tight with for so long and defended so fiercely. Maybe he'll be forced to do a lot of explaining if Republicans convince him to run for the Virginia state senate.

Brunell and his buddy Jags were deep in bed with Feste financially. Also, after they helped him start a church in Jacksonville, Ball put Tony Boselli and Bryan Schwartz into full time ministry with Brunell's denomination and moved both of them to Austin. This means they have the inside story on Ball and Feste's departure and the disappearance of $17,000,000(?) during the Wranglers venture. The cat has their tongue too. Hmm.

Oh and Brett Fuller, chaplain of the Washington Redskins (wonder how he got that position) and chairman of Green's foundation, he's a major board member of the parent denomination, Every Nation, and the current president of Champions. He was also a major board member of Maranatha. His resume includes major leadership positions in 3 cults. This didn't stop someone from recommending him for a seat on Bush's advisory committee on historically black colleges. (Doesn't anybody in the White House know how to use Google?) Brunell and Green have lent their names to Fuller's call for a slave memorial on the Capital Mall. Fuller got considerable support on Capital Hill, including Trent Lott. Fuller is privy to everything that happened to Feste and Ball, so he's got a lot of explaining to do too.

Rice Broocks is cofounder of Champions and cofounder of Every Nation and was a major Maranatha board member. He is also a major stockholder and board member of InPop. Broocks has a lot of explaining to do too: embezzlement, money laundering, and coverup in the Champions-Wranglers scandal have reached Jim Bakker proportions. (You have a hard time with the words embezzlement, money laundering, and coverup? I don't have a degree in accounting and I don't have a degree in law, but that's what it looks like to me.)

Does the lawsuit against Victory Clubs, an Every Nation front group, reported by Channel 5 and the Nashville Tennessean, remind him of Maranatha? What about the deprogramming of a Boston university student sent to Nasvhille, reported by Washington City Paper, does that bring back old memories? Rick Ross, America's most prominent cult watcher, has posted an enormous amount of material on Maranatha, Every Nation, and Champions for Christ in his archive and on his message board. Does this remind Broocks of a runin with an adhoc committee of prominent cult watchers and their subsequent report on Maranatha? Broocks stole Bethel World Outreach Center from Roy McCollum, then sent him to Austin to clean up the mess after Ball and Feste left. (You have a hard time with the word stole? Then what would you call it?) McCollum just pulled the Austin church out of the denomination, then devoted two newsletters to problems in the denomination. Does this remind Broocks of board member Mike Caulk pulling his church out of Maranatha?

News Boys, the Nashville based Christian rock band, started the InPop record label. Brunell, Boselli, and Broocks are board members, Brunell infused the label from his extremely high salary, and Broocks is a major stockholder. Newsboys promotes the Purple Book, a Bible study written by Broocks. The label's president and the band's lead singer are members of Bethel, the denomination's flagship church in Nashville. They are like so many other famous people Broocks, Ball, and Feste have wooed: they don't realize they are in bed with the devil until the negative publicity starts.

Yeah, all of these guys, the criminals and their entertainer and athlete pawns, have a lot of explaining to do.

Criminal. You have a hard time with that word?"

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Former Champion for Christ , MorningStar, Victory Campus Min
Posted by: ExCult ()
Date: May 12, 2007 10:23AM

Redskins' Gibbs Keeps the Faith
Strong Christian Beliefs Provide Foundation for Coach

By David Cho
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 11, 2004; Page A01

An hour before the revving of engines and the first wave of the green flag, the huge crowds of auto racing fans milling about the Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee were told over a booming loudspeaker that they were in for an unexpected treat.

A prominent sports figure would be delivering a message of salvation beneath the grandstand on a makeshift platform. A few thousand curious spectators gathered there, organizers recounted. After a band played some religious songs, the smiling, golden-haired preacher bounded to center stage.

"I'm not a football player who happens to be a Christian. I'm a Christian who happens to be a football player,' says quarterback Mark Brunell, who came to the Redskins from Jacksonville and like Joe Gibbs has a strong Christian faith. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais - AP)

The speaker who drew that ready throng was Joe Gibbs.

Gibbs was well known at NASCAR's faith-friendly venues as the owner of the highly successful racing team that bears his name. And who could forget his three Super Bowl wins, his election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and his prominence in Washington Redskins lore?

Gibbs, barely acknowledging his own celebrity, jumped right into his message and urged the masses to give their lives to God. By the end, dozens came forward to the stage "to receive Jesus," said Bill Carpenter, a national coordinator for Motor Racing Outreach.

"It was very much like a Billy Graham Crusade," he said of the 2002 event.

If there are two constants to Gibbs's careers in football and auto racing, they are these: He wins championships for teams; he wins souls for Christianity. In hiring Gibbs, the Washington Redskins believe they reacquired a renowned head coach who will restore a winning tradition. Lesser known is that the team also got one of the most evangelical figures in all of sports.

"I have strong beliefs and a faith, but it's a personal thing that you live out," Gibbs said in an hour-long interview. "I never really try to go out and pick somebody, pick a player and pick coaches based on their faith. . . . I'm not going in there [to the NFL] with an agenda."

Over the 12 years Gibbs led the Redskins in the 1980s and early 1990s, evangelical Christians filled so many prominent spots on the team that others around the league referred to the Redskins as a "God squad" -- as chaplains and players put it -- on par with Coach Tom Landry's Dallas Cowboys a decade earlier.

Many of the players weren't always so religious. In the beginning of the 1991-92 season, when the Redskins won their last Super Bowl, chapel and prayer services drew 15 players, the team chaplain and former players recalled. By the playoffs, more than three-fourths of the team and coaches went. At least two went into full-time ministry after retiring.

Although Gibbs said he rarely spoke openly about his beliefs in the locker room, he had much to do with the evangelical atmosphere, according to players, team chaplains and friends of the 63-year-old coach.

Gibbs is by no means a pioneer. Faith has long been a tradition on the gridiron, says Dan Britton, senior vice president of Fellowship of Christian Athletes, an evangelical ministry in pro and college sports.

"Within football there is more of an acceptance of a spiritual component than other sports -- pregame prayer, postgame prayer at the 50-yard line, chapel services," he said. He pointed out NFL teams have ministers on their staffs, but "it's rare to hear of a chaplain that is full-time on a team in another sport."

But even among Christians in the league, Gibbs stood out. Former players said Gibbs promoted his faith in a far more nuanced and subtle way, carrying himself with an integrity that inspired players to try to model his life and go to church as he did.

"It was known he was a devout Christian, but it wasn't anything like he came into a meeting and started preaching," said former quarterback Mark Rypien, who is Roman Catholic. "And we also appreciated more that it wasn't like that. . . . We just had a great amount of respect for his character."

Gibbs comes back to football with a more mature and evangelistic faith, having spent the better part of the past decade using his platform as a prominent NASCAR owner to promote Christianity. Before Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" came out in February, at the height of its prerelease controversy, Joe Gibbs Racing advertised the film on Bobby Labonte's car during the Daytona 500.

Many friends and former Redskins said they believe Gibbs will lead to a more evangelical spirit on this year's team.

Some of the pieces are already in place. Gibbs's first personnel decision was to hire as the team's second chaplain, the Rev. Lee Corder, three days after he announced his return in January. Corder was the Redskins' chaplain during Gibbs's first tenure with the team.

With current chaplain, the Rev. Brett Fuller, the Redskins now have one of the strongest Christian ministries in the league. At the team's first mandatory meeting, Gibbs introduced them and asked Fuller to close the gathering in a prayer -- something veteran guard Brandon Noble said he had never seen in his 12 years in professional and college football.

Gibbs's first trade was for 11-year veteran quarterback Mark Brunell. While with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brunell said he led a Bible study group in which several teammates made a public profession of faith in Jesus as their savior and became born-again Christians. Together they founded a charismatic church in Florida.

The coach's first meeting with Brunell, who at the time was weighing overtures from various teams, was at a crowded Ruth's Chris Steak House in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., in early February. With platters of sizzling meat before them, Gibbs paused before digging in and asked Brunell and his wife if he could say a prayer of thanks for the food. The quarterback bowed his head.

Brunell said as they talked about their lives and their faith, that evening confirmed to him Gibbs was a born-again Christian, too. In the end, the coach's beliefs would be "a real draw and a real comfort factor" when the quarterback agreed to the trade, said Leigh Steinberg, Brunell's agent.

"I want to win a Super Bowl in the years I have left to play," Brunell said. But he added: "I'm not a football player who happens to be a Christian. I'm a Christian who happens to be a football player." Working for a coach who feels the same way "is a real bonus," he said.

'A Brother in the Lord'

Gibbs led the Redskins to their first Super Bowl championship in 1982, his second season. But personally, his life was in turmoil.

His wife, Pat, was recovering from two life-threatening operations for the removal of a brain tumor. Then, he became involved in a failed real estate partnership in Oklahoma. He ended up owing $1.2 million to seven banks.

His faith pulled him through, he said. Gibbs was raised a Baptist by deeply religious parents in Mocksville, N.C., north of Charlotte, where he became a born-again Christian at age 8.

"We are going to fail, that's a fact of life for me," Gibbs said. "What drives me is I'm so nervous. I'm so cautious, and from that standpoint, I want to make sure that I'm constantly seeking God's direction in my life because I've made so many mistakes."

While Gibbs kept quiet about his personal troubles and about his beliefs in the locker room during those early Redskins years, he arranged it so that others could be more outspoken.

Former wide receiver Art Monk, who said he became a born-again Christian through teammates during his seventh year in the league (his sixth under Gibbs), said the coach added contemporary Christian music to the team's dry chapel services and invited special speakers to give evangelical messages. He made sure practices never conflicted with the gatherings.

But the coach rarely attended. Rookies who had heard about Gibbs's reputation as a church-goer and tried to impress him by attending services eventually learned Gibbs didn't go or pay attention to who went, Corder said.

Said former defensive end Charles Mann: "I remember him talking to me, saying, 'I can't go. As much as I'm there in spirit, I cannot be there in the flesh because people are watching and people are going to make sure that I don't give you guys more favoritism over somebody else, as much as I'm with you and am a brother in the Lord.' "

Mann said the coach did not directly impose his beliefs on others, pointing to players like John Riggins, a free spirit who rebelled against religion or any other form of authority, and Dexter Manley, who, it was later revealed, suffered from a serious drug problem.

At the same time, Christian players knew, without Gibbs explicitly telling them, that he supported their locker-room outreaches, Mann said.

The result, Mann said, was that some players encouraged each other to go to church or help out at Gibbs's Youth for Tomorrow home in Manassas, which Chief Executive Officer Gary Jones said has saved hundreds of teens from drugs and street violence. Some older teammates stopped hazing the rookies and instead tried to be supportive when they would get to camp, Mann said.

The Rev. Neal T. Jones, Gibbs's former pastor at Columbia Baptist Church in Falls Church, recalled how at the time of the 1988 Super Bowl victory the coach organized one of his first crusades -- mass evangelical gatherings -- at the church with Charles W. Colson, a former presidential aide to Richard Nixon who founded a ministry while serving a prison term for Watergate-related crimes. Thousands ended up coming to the event; hundreds became born-again Christians, Jones said.

When "The Last Temptation of Christ" opened in 1988, Gibbs went to the Avalon Theater on Connecticut Avenue in the District to hand out fliers to protest a movie that many Christians considered sacrilegious.

But Gibbs felt he could not openly display his faith in the NFL. There were too many people in the league and in the media who were wary of proselytizers or disagreed with his beliefs, he would tell friends.

NASCAR was a different story.

Religion and Racing

When Gibbs won his third Super Bowl in 1992, his place in NFL history was secured. Notably, the night before that game also marked a key moment for his venture into auto racing.

Gibbs had invited several guests, including star driver Dale Jarrett and racing guru Jimmy Makar, whom he had befriended and who had been helping him found Joe Gibbs Racing, Inc. On Super Bowl eve, Gibbs brought them to a chapel service he had helped set up at the team's hotel in Minneapolis.

The room was packed with about 500 players, family members and guests. At the end of the sermon, Makar recounted, the guest preacher asked everyone to close their eyes and invited those who wanted to "receive Jesus into their hearts" to stand. Jarrett, Makar and their wives rose.

In the ensuing months, as they got Joe Gibbs Racing off the ground, they helped Gibbs foster an "undercurrent of faith" in the garage, Makar said. A lengthy mission statement hangs in the lobby of team headquarters in Huntersville, N.C. Makar summarized it this way: to glorify God, win or lose.

Gibbs's management of the racing team paralleled his coaching career. Christianity was "certainly not preached, and [Gibbs] has never tried to influence someone directly," Makar said. "But he's laid out our team in such a way that [Christianity is] the undercurrent here."

Gibbs also took his evangelism to another level during his NASCAR years.

It began with him hopping onto a golf cart driven by a chaplain from Motor Racing Outreach, a Christian ministry dedicated to spreading the gospel at NASCAR, and driving to hospitality areas at tracks where hundreds of fans milled about. Gibbs would get out and preach.

His celebrity and reputation drew ever larger audiences. He incorporated his personal trials from the early 1980s into an evangelistic sermon that he gave to thousands of people across the country.

In a field across from Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C., just before a Busch series race in 2002, Gibbs urged 6,000 parents and children to give their lives to God. At sprawling Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois last year, a crowd estimated at 10,000 heard him preach. He always ended with an altar call in which hundreds might come forward to the stage to become born-again Christians.

"He didn't just get into racing just for something else to do, he also saw it was a way to do outreach to people," said Billy Mauldin, president of Motor Racing Outreach, who still considers Gibbs the most sought after speaker on the NASCAR circuit. "He has been given a platform because he had . . . [been] popular in football and then popular in NASCAR. You have 75 million people who are aware of him at a minimum."

'It's Up to an Individual'

As Gibbs tells it, God had everything to do with his return to the Redskins.

But hearing a divine call often has less to do with getting a sun-swept vision than trying to decipher signs that point the way to one's destiny, he said.

The first sign was when Gibbs's older son, Coy, early in the 2003 season, asked his father to help him launch a football coaching career. The second was when Gibbs's wife, who had for years decried the hardships of life in the NFL, suddenly became open to Gibbs returning to coaching. "That was big," Gibbs said.

Since Steve Spurrier seemed to have a lock on the job at the Redskins for at least another year, Gibbs began to talk to other teams, including the Atlanta Falcons. Then Spurrier unexpectedly resigned. God seemed to be paving the way.

"For me personally, there are no accidents in life," Gibbs said. "I'm not an accident. Somebody made me. God made me. . . . I don't look at it as luck or an accident. I was going through a process there, and [Spurrier's resignation] was another confirmation."

Some current Redskins nod approvingly at their new coach's religious background.

Cornerback Fred Smoot said he would trust Gibbs more because he is so religious. "I know he ain't going to lead me wrong," he said. "It brings you closer. Religion is a big part of life. . . . [It] can bring people together as a family."

Quarterback Patrick Ramsey, who said he is a born-again Christian, said their shared evangelistic faith will give them "a chance of a deeper connection as we get to know each other." Ramsey is fighting Brunell for the starting job next season. Like Brunell, Ramsey said he has prayed with Gibbs over meals and talked about their mutual beliefs.

When Gibbs and Ramsey went out to lunch shortly after the Redskins acquired Brunell, Ramsey noted Gibbs gave anyone who would come up to them a little card from his pocket, telling them how they could become "born again."

But other Redskins said they were more excited about playing for a coach who knows how to win Super Bowls than one who preaches a religious message.

"I don't like getting into that stuff," said defensive back Ifeanyi Ohalete. "To tell you the truth, I don't let other people influence my beliefs. Obviously, there's something about him as a person and a leader and people follow him and people want to follow him. So I'm glad he's here. I won't mind having a Super Bowl ring."

Team owner Daniel Snyder said in a statement released through a spokesman, "I admire coach Gibbs' commitment to his family, his work and his faith."

Gibbs said he would never ask any player about his faith. "I don't even have a clue what some of those guys are or what they do or what their religion is," he said. "I have my belief, and I am not forcing it on anyone else. That's a key point, when it comes to faith, it's up to an individual."

Still, some local evangelical Christians hope Gibbs will start "a move of God" within the Redskins, as Rev. Brett Fuller put it at a meeting at his church in Herndon. Some literally have been thanking God in prayer meetings and services since the coach announced his return.

It is not too different from the feelings expressed by Redskins fans when Gibbs triumphantly arrived at Redskins Park for the first time in January. Gibbs, wearing a gold tie and a dark suit, emerged from a black limousine, while legions of fans broke into ecstatic cries and applause, hailing the man who would save them from their football purgatory. Inside the packed auditorium, scores of players he had influenced, Christian and non-Christian alike, came to pay homage.

"He was an example of moralism. He was an example of faith and humility. He was an example of heart and responsibility and service to his employer," said former cornerback Darrell Green, his voice rising. "He was the one who was faithful to God in that he made sure that God was glorified, and not in sort of a flippant way, to make sure that God, His word and His people were on his agenda.

"He is a man," Green added, "filled with the Spirit of God."

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Former Champion for Christ , MorningStar, Victory Campus Min
Posted by: ExCult ()
Date: May 12, 2007 10:27AM

by David Plotz

It wasn't so long ago that sports fields were the devil's playground. Babe Ruth could commit five of the seven deadly sins before noon and hit three home runs by dinner. In Damn Yankees, it was Satan, not God, who offered the Washington Senators a pennant in exchange for a player's soul. (Lesson: Offense wins games. Demons win championships.)

But today there are Angels in the Outfield, and God seems to be following pro sports more intently than any Vegas bookie. Several months before the Super Bowl, St. Louis Rams quarterback Kurt Warner, a devout Christian, declared, "The Lord has something special in mind for this team." The Rams won the Super Bowl last week because of a Warner touchdown pass. As the clock ticked to zero, the quarterback yelled, "Thank you, Jesus!" In post-game interviews, Rams receiver Isaac Bruce—who claims that uttering the word "Jesus" saved him from injury in a car crash and healed a pulled groin—described catching the winning pass: "That wasn't me. That was all God. … I had to make an adjustment on the ball, and God did the rest." (Thanks to God's invisibility, the Rams were not penalized for having 12 men on the field.)

Why is God so busy on the gridiron?

Though sports heroes boosted attendance at 19th-century tent revivals, the modern era of "Muscular Christianity" began in the late '40s, when Billy Graham began recruiting born-again athletes to profess their faith publicly. Sports stars have espoused all kinds of religion—Notre Dame built a Catholic football dynasty; Muhammad Ali invoked Elijah Muhammad at the beginning of every interview (much to Howard Cosell's annoyance)—but evangelical Christianity has been by far the most successful in recruitment. Emotional, highly personal, nondenominational Protestantism has supplanted Catholicism as America's dominant sports religion.

Graham and other pastors have pursued a trickle-down theory of religion. It relies on holy jock-sniffing: Fans who see their heroes following Christ are more receptive to Jesus. "We develop athletic influencers into Christ-centered leaders," says Athletes in Action, a sports evangelizing group. The Fellowship of Christian Athletes has been organizing at schools and colleges since 1954. (Bill Bradley was briefly an evangelical FCA member.) Today Athletes in Action, Pro Athletes Outreach, Champions for Christ, and Christian Athletes United for Spiritual Empowerment target pro athletes for spiritual help, making them perhaps the most heavily proselytized group in the world.

The evangelizing has especially borne fruit in the NFL. There have been publicly religious players in the NFL since the '60s, but their numbers have surged since the '80s. The increasing number of African-American players has added to their ranks, as has the proselytizing of stars such as Mike Singletary, Reggie White, and Deion Sanders. Post-game prayer circles include players from both teams. Every NFL team has a chaplain—invariably an evangelical—who holds Bible studies and weekend chapels. (One anachronism in Any Given Sunday, the Oliver Stone pro football movie, is that a Catholic priest leads the team prayers.) According to Athletes in Action, which provides half the NFL's chaplains, 35 percent to 40 percent of pro football players are evangelical Christians, compared to about 25 percent of the rest of America.

Coaches like religion in the locker room because it can straighten out otherwise wild or reprobate players. And evangelicals are thrilled about it. "They believe that God has raised up big-time sport as a means to evangelism," says Wheaton College Professor James Mathisen, co-author of Muscular Christianity: Evangelical Protestants and the Development of American Sport. The faithful are theologically obliged to share their "testimony" with others, and Christian athletes use their encounters with large crowds and the media to spread the gospel. Warner's endlessly repeated story—from stock boy to MVP, backed by Jesus—will draw folks to church. Testimonies are usually simple, reflexive professions of faith. Announcer: "Tell me about that catch you made on third-and-10." Player: "Well, first I want to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ …" Journalists often treat this testimony like a fart. They wince and pretend nothing happened.

"Athletes are very pragmatic and outcome-oriented," says Mathisen. It is no accident that many athletes believe in God's involvement in all aspects of life, including football. Athletes want results, and they want to see them when they pray. Former Green Bay Packer White, the most outspoken of Christian athletes, says he knows God acts on football games because God intervened in David's battle with Goliath. The Atlanta Falcons chaplain recently declared that God cares about field goals. When quarterback Randall Cunningham had a great season in 1998, he said that God was showing his appreciation by letting Cunningham win 16 games. Athletes are also superstitious, searching for ways to control games that are inherently chaotic. Some view faith as magic, a "genie in a bottle," as Cleveland Browns chaplain Tom Petersburg puts it. Pray, and good fortune will follow. According to GQ, the Rams' Bruce recently credited God for answering his prayers after a poor first half: "God really manifested in the third quarter. I had 89 yards."

It goes without saying that non-evangelicals reject the idea that Jesus is throwing passes and making tackles. But it is also the case that, except for athletes such as Bruce who make claims about God's on-the-field heroics, few evangelicals accept the "Jesus in the Backfield" theology either. Team chaplains, theologians, pastors, and most Christian players are skeptical, calling it "facile," "immature," and even "heresy." Some argue that football is too trivial for God's concern. "God does not give a rip about who wins or loses. God is engaged in the world, but not in things like athletic contests. That is too frivolous," says Emory University theologian James Freeman, an expert on sports and religion. "I think God could care less who wins or loses," says James Mitchell, former Tennessee Titans chaplain and national director of outreach for Pro Athletes Outreach. God may intervene at times when it truly matters—when Hitler threatens to conquer the world—but He doesn't concern Himself with boys' games.

Other evangelicals, including the FCA and AIA, hold that God may care who wins the game and may even intervene, but that it's foolish of players to presume to read His mind. "Does God care? I would say yes, but we don't know who He wants to win. God has plans for you however the game comes out," says Petersburg. AIA spokesman Greg Stoughton says that while God may answer a player's prayer for a win, "victory to God may look a whole lot different than it does to the player. … Even if you lose, God is about building character."

The "genie in a bottle" theory, they note, is incoherent about defeat. If God wants you to win because you are faithful, does that mean He wants your opponents—who profess equal devotion—to lose? If your opponents lose, does that mean they didn't have enough faith? If you lose, does that mean you don't have enough faith? The genie has no answer.

Most evangelicals turn the "genie in a bottle" theology on its head. That theology views God as the instrument. God proves Himself to you by making the catch or causing the fumble. But most evangelicals see the player as the instrument: The player glorifies God by playing his best. Petersburg says that his Browns players never pray for victory. They pray "that they play with honor, that that they play to their best ability, that they honor God in the way they play, that they play injury-free." It's not about who wins and who loses. It's about how they play the game.


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Former Champion for Christ , MorningStar, Victory Campus Min
Posted by: ExCult ()
Date: May 12, 2007 10:29AM


Listen up, jocks: God doesn't care if you score a touchdown. So do your praying in private, not in the end zone.

By Dan McGraw

September 28, 2002 | In the second week of the NFL season, Dallas Cowboy quarterback Quincy Carter heaved a 38-yard pass into the end zone. Cowboy receiver Joey Galloway was double-covered, but somehow outfought the defensive players for an amazing touchdown catch. In the middle of the field, in front of 70,000 fans and millions watching on TV, Carter pointed to the heavens in acknowledgment of the Supreme Being's role as touchdown-maker. And in the post-game interview, commenting on his stellar performance, Carter gave "credit to God for giving me the innate ability to perform."

It's kind of funny, but in Week 1 of the NFL season, against the expansion Houston Texans, Carter had the worst performance of his short career. Balls were bouncing at the feet of receivers and there were no touchdown passes, miraculous or not. And in the locker room after the game, God was never mentioned.

In the realm of jock theology, God seems to show himself only to the winners. While many athletes do their own dances or gyrations to gain attention from the fans and TV cameras, many others seek their own spotlight through very public prayer on the field of play. It is a curious trend in the "hey-look-at-me" form of self-promotion that has infected pro sports in recent decades. And it goes beyond making a sign of the cross before taking a few swings at the plate. It's almost as if these jocks are saying: "God thinks I'm special, so you should too."

It is impossible to watch a sporting event these days without some spiritual revival meeting breaking out. There are prayers before the game, prayers of thanksgiving for mighty athletic feats, kneeling in a circle after the game. We have prayers after touchdowns, heaven-pointing after home runs, signs of the cross before free throws. It seems most post-game interviews begin with the "thank the Lord" preamble.

Much of this jock Christianity moves from the simple thanking of the Lord to spiritual showboating. There seems to be a feeling that God is consumed with the outcomes of sporting events, and blesses the believers with victories. Jacksonville Jaguar quarterback Mark Brunell said that the reason his team upset the Denver Broncos in the 1997 playoffs was because "God has blessed this team ... We have a bunch of guys who love the Lord, and he has been with us." This year, the Jags are predicted to stink. Is that because the guys have stopped loving the Lord, or because of the team's salary cap problems?

Athletes often have what might be considered a kindergartner's mentality about religion, treating God as a good-luck charm. "I think that very often athletes seem to have a very simplistic and self-serving view of what God is and does," sportscaster Bob Costas said in an interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune. "It makes no sense that a God who, for all human understanding, can appear indifferent to major pain and suffering on a large scale or the illness of a child, would intercede to help get a first down."

The impression is given that the player's success is fused with God's will, and the God of sports games is a micro-managing deity. But even though the God of jocks pays attention to the most minute detail of the game, he doesn't bother with the losers. "If the player were consistent, he would point to skyward to mark the judgment of God after he got his shot blocked or struck out," says Robert Benne, director of the Roanoke College Center for Religion and Society. "I haven't seen that lately." Or as Philadelphia Daily News writer Jim Nolan succinctly put it in a column: "To fumble is human, to catch the winning TD, divine."

So let's do something about this. In the name of metaphysical neutrality, in the quest to stamp out spiritual fakery, I would implore the commissioners of the sports world to ban prayer on the field of play. No kneeling, no heaven-pointing. The sports leagues already ban taunting. What taunt could be worse than saying to your opponent that your God is more powerful than his?

I am not suggesting this on a whim. I know that sports and prayer have been conjoined for thousands of years. The Mayans had a basketball-type of game 4,000 years ago -- played in the temple compound and officiated by temple priests -- that concluded with the losing captain being ritually sacrificed. (You think those captains weren't praying for the ball to go through the hoop?) White Sox baseball player and evangelist Billy Sunday would preach about the evils of drink before games in the late 19th century. Notre Dame hitched its football team to the legend of "Touchdown Jesus," a mosaic built on a campus building in the 1960s that appears as though the Lord is signaling a touchdown. In the '70s, we started seeing a man on TV in a rainbow wig with his John 3:16 banner.

But now we have athletes that seem to think that prayer might be a good public relations gimmick, done more for the TV cameras than anything else. And it is also almost entirely evangelical Christian in nature, very narrow and exclusive in its focus. Jewish athletes like Shawn Green, the Dodgers' right fielder, have quietly asked for religious holidays off, just as the team's Hall of Fame pitcher, Sandy Koufax, did in an era earlier, but we don't see Jewish athletes draping a tallis over their uniforms. We might see Roman Catholics occasionally making the sign of the cross at the plate, but we don't see them praying the rosary on the bench to help start a rally. Muslim boxers don't kneel and face Mecca after they knock the crap out of someone.

Wary of spiritual showboating, the National Collegiate Athletic Association tried to ban prayer from its sports in 1995, but changed its policy after being sued by the Rev. Jerry Falwell's Liberty University. The new policy is a comical but predictable result of lawyers delving into spiritual matters. "Players may cross themselves without drawing attention to themselves," the NCAA policy states. "It is also permissible for them to kneel momentarily at the conclusion of play, if, in the judgment of the official, the act is spontaneous and not in the nature of a pose."

The NFL has its taunting rule, but it is even more subjective. Individual celebrations are permitted as long as there is no taunting, such as spiking the football in the opponent's face. "Choreographed demonstrations by two or more players" will be reviewed by the league, the rule says. But there is nothing in the rules to prohibit "spiritual spiking."

I asked NFL spokesman Greg Aiello if the league would consider legislating against end-zone prayer. He laughed and said it is the individual's right to express himself. I then asked him how tolerant the league would be of other religious demonstrations. For example, would the league permit a Santerian to sacrifice a chicken after a touchdown?

"I think that would be unnecessary roughness," Aiello joked. "Fifteen-yard penalty." "What about snake handlers?" I asked. "Don't the Oakland Raiders' fans already do that?" he answered.

OK, I was being a smartass, and so was Aiello. But in the larger sense, the question of which religion a league endorses is a serious one. Sports is the American idiom. Given our melting-pot culture, sports is the "civil surrogate" for a common American religion, as the late baseball commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti once observed. After the 9/11 tragedy, Christians and Jews and Hindus and Moslems all moved into our sports cathedrals to sing "God Bless America."

I realize the American Civil Liberties Union and the Christian Coalition would be joined together on any prayer ban, and would probably win on the grounds of freedom of expression. But couldn't the teams and leagues put some brakes on all the posturing prayer, maybe moving it to the sideline? Couldn't the networks quit showing it and dwelling on it? And more importantly, couldn't some of the leading clerics in this country explain to the athletes that God does not really care whether or not they get a first down?

It is curious that athletes feel the need to pray more so than, say, accountants. I know of no accountants who point to the heavens after they balance their ledgers. I do not kneel after writing a good sentence.

Maybe Brunell and Carter and the other heaven-pointers and end-zone kneelers should get some advice from the same Lord they are aligning themselves with on the field of play. In Matthew 6:5-6, Jesus explains how to pray: "And when you pray, do not imitate the hypocrites; they love to say their prayers standing up in the synagogues and at the street corners for people to see them. In truth, I tell you, they have had their reward. But when you pray, go to your private room, shut yourself in, and pray so to your Father who is in that secret place, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you."

So please, all of you jocks who feel the need to pray in front of 70,000 people and millions more on TV, do as the scripture tells you. Pray in private. We all know how God has blessed you and how wonderful you are. But God does not care if you score a touchdown. He does not care if you sack the quarterback. And maybe, just maybe, this God thinks all of us are special, not just our Sunday gladiators.


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Former Champion for Christ , MorningStar, Victory Campus Min
Posted by: ExCult ()
Date: May 12, 2007 10:39AM

My Lord!!! opportunity to get this grief off my chest! It's been more than 14 years since my family and I left what was then known as "Morning Star Christian Church." As all here seem to know, it was formerly a branch of Maranatha Ministries.

Right off the bat, please excuse me for unavoidably stepping on a few toes. Honestly, it’s part of the reason why I am writing this. It’s part of the “healing” which I hope starts to take place in my heart.

My wife and I became members of USC’s Maranatha Campus Ministries back in 1983. Being in our early 20’s, and still somewhat impressionable, we embraced the movement’s spiritual and behavioral culture with “skeptical” abandon. “Skeptical,” because, unlike most student members, we were one of the few married couples who had to deal with the challenges of working life. We were what are now known ••••.I.N.K’s (i.e., Single Income, No Kids). But, as good Christian people, we were trying to start a family.

Despite financial hardships, we tithed 10% of our income in accordance with our convictions. This left us with no other choice but to live in low income/high crime areas for several years. We did not mind at the time, given that we had no children. By contrast, pastor Phil Bonasso lived in the South Bay’s Torrance/Palos Verdes peninsula area. I particularly recall one Christmas holiday in which Phil opened his lovely rental home overlooking the Pacific ocean. The beautifully decorated 12 foot Christmas tree was a sight to see. I recall driving to our ghetto home that night with my precious wife thinking, “is that what my tithes are being used for?” I kept the thought to myself out of a sense of guilt for having the audacity to contemplate such a thing.

As we began having children, our family’s needs naturally increased. This made it difficult to justify giving the way we gave or raising children in the crime ridden neighborhoods we had become accustomed to. Regardless of the difficulty, we continued giving in like manner to the best of our abilities. This went on until the co-pastor personally TOLD (not asked) me to give above and beyond my regular tithe. Here was a man, who had no concept of the responsibilities of providing for a family, telling me to give even more. I refused. My response was taken as an affront to the hierarchy of the church. I immediately became a “brother with issues.”

There is one particular memorable incident involving Phil. The church members had been tasked with recruiting one new soul for Jesus within a certain amount of time. On the due date, I brought a young boy next door neighbor, the oldest of three boys. His father was a heavy drinker who occasionally aggressed the mother. At times I had heard this boy confronting the father. I figured this young man could possibly bring peace to a home on the verge of collapse. At the end of the meeting Phil approached me and asked where my recruit was. I pointed in the direction of the boy who was seated next to my wife. Phil looked at me with disbelief and asked, “couldn’t you find an older person to bring?” Obviously, he was more concerned with a recruit’s monetary potential than bringing a soul to Jesus.

By the time of this incident, Phil had twice asked me to seek another church. His third request came when he was informed of my frequent drinking of wine with dinner in the privacy of my home. In his words, this was “not tolerated” in his church where we were to raising “Marines” for God! Ha!

After nine years and three personal requests from Phil to leave, it was time to move on. Several months after leaving, a brother and his wife visited us. He and I spoke separately from the wives about our departure. When I shared the “wine” issue with him he was in utter disbelief. When I asked why he found it so difficult to believe Phil’s disapproval of wine drinking he responded that he himself often shared mixed drinks with the co-pastor. In addition, this man informed me of the keg parties I never attended at the single men’s homes.

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