Courage and grace under fire

Screen Shot 2020-08-02 at 4.00.07 pmYou’ve probably never heard of Jonathan Isaac. But that needs to change, because he’s shown himself to be a man worthy of some attention.

Isaac is a promising young forward for the NBA’s Orlando Magic. He’s long and athletic with brilliant defensive instincts and a developing offensive game. If things break his way, he could be something special. (After I wrote those words but before I got around to posting this, Isaac tore his ACL in a game and probably won’t play for at least a year. He still has time, but the mountain is a little steeper now.)

But that’s not why he deserves to be talked about. He’s worth our attention because he has shown extraordinary courage, integrity, and grace at a unique moment in the league’s history, and he has done so in the name of Jesus Christ.

The NBA’s restart this week has, unsurprisingly, been marked by players banding together in carefully orchestrated protests. Every player from every team has linked arms, donned a ‘Black Lives Matter’ t-shirt, and knelt during the playing of the American national anthem.

It’s been a powerful show of unity and commitment. And, of course, the players have every right to protest and advocate in this way, and most are doing so for generally admirable reasons.

But one man stood out from the crowd. Continue reading

The double standard of non-discrimination

Photo Courtesy: NBA

The NBA, which I love, has just made a big decision. It has announced that it’s moving its 2017 All Star Game from Charlotte, North Carolina, as a direct, specific response to North Carolina enacting law HB2. Known as the ‘bathroom bill’, HB2 says people must use the bathroom that matches the gender on their birth certificate. The NBA regards this law as discriminatory, and is taking a stand by removing its showpiece event from the state. The NBA is being widely praised for this move; key figures have described the decision as ‘[a] stand for inclusion and respect’ and ‘extremely poignant’. Continue reading

Engaging our culture, or selling our souls?

Have evangelicals fallen into the trap of validating all sorts of entertainment choices in the name of ‘cultural engagement’?

LeoLast year, I shared some thoughts on how Christians ought to engage with and consume popular culture, based around the final episode of Breaking Bad. It’s a perennial question, one that will continue to confront Christians for a long time to come.

The latest incarnation of this issue centres around the film The Wolf of Wall Street, the Oscar-nominated film starring Leonardo DiCaprio and directed by Martin Scorsese. I haven’t seen it, but I greatly appreciated Trevin Wax’s insights over at The Gospel Coalition. For me, here is the big question: “I never subscribed to the fundamentalist vision that saw holiness in terms of cultural retreat or worldliness as anything that smacked of cultural engagement. I don’t subscribe to that position today. But sometimes I wonder if evangelicals have swung the pendulum too far to the other side, to the point where all sorts of entertainment choices are validated in the name of cultural engagement.Continue reading

Census delivers few surprises on religion in New Zealand in 2013

New statistics on the spiritual and religious landscape in New Zealand make alarming (yet sadly unsurprising) reading

Graph Arrow DownThis month, Statistics New Zealand has begun releasing key data from the 2013 Census. A wealth of information is already available online, with all the details being rolled out between now and June 2015. I especially enjoyed ‘What if New Zealand were a village of 100 people?

Of course, we all know what they say about lies, damned lies and statistics, and the story of a nation can never be reduced to mere Census figures. But statistics do have their place. As Jed Bartlet once said, “Numbers, Mrs. Landingham. If you want to convince me of something, show me numbers.” Continue reading

A Breaking Bad Idea

Is it healthy or wise for Christians to watch and enjoy a program so deeply laced with violence and darkness?

ImageIn case you were living in a cave and missed it, last month featured a genuine ‘television event’: the final episode of Breaking Bad. Though I’ve never seen a single episode, it was enough of a sensation to capture my attention and leave me with some big questions.

My first experience of the show came when I was browsing some DVDs in a store last year, saw the cover for Season 1, and thought, ‘Why is Bryan Cranston standing there in his undies?’ I read the back cover and shrugged: chemistry teacher is diagnosed with cancer, so decides to start making methamphetamine to provide for his family – a slightly strange (even unpleasant) topic, some potential, but nothing special. Continue reading

Top Ten West Wing Episodes – Part 2

If you missed the first half of the list, click here for Episodes 6-10 on our Top Ten West Wing Episodes. But it’s time for the best of the best: the Top Five West Wing episodes ever!

5. Somebody’s Going to Emergency, Somebody’s Going to Jail (2.16)

This episode made the list for one reason and one reason only: Big Block of Cheese Day. I love Big Block of Cheese Day, or, as Toby calls it in Season One’s edition, ‘Throw-open-our-office-doors-to-people-who-want-to-discuss-things-that-we-could-care-less-about Day’ (or ‘Total Crackpot Day’, as Josh refers to it). I could easily have chosen ‘The Crackpots and These Women’ (1.5), but Big Block of Cheese Day 2.0 gets my vote, thanks to the Organisation of Cartographers for Social Equality. Continue reading

Top Ten West Wing Episodes – Part 1

Click here to jump straight to Part Two – my Top Five episodes ever!

West Wing CastI watched my first episode of The West Wing in 2003. By that time, the show was more than halfway through its run of 155 episodes. I’d heard of the show, and I’d started to realise that it had a fanatical following. As a fan of Aaron Sorkin and with a long-running interest in American politics, The West Wing was already my favourite show in theory before I’d ever seen a single episode in reality. But for some reason, I took a long time to actually get around to tuning in.

Once I finally experienced it for myself, I realised it was more wonderful than I’d ever imagined. Since then, I must have watched the entire series at least half a dozen times. Basically, I’m content to watch Season 7, Episode 22 and go straight back to Season 1, Episode 1 (while my long-suffering wife longs to add some new shows to our DVD rotation). Continue reading