Be like Mike?

Outside of limited trips to the neighborhood grocery store, most of us have largely been stuck at home during the past eight weeks due to the pandemic lockdown. I’m a reader, so to keep myself occupied, I downloaded six ebooks and bought two hard-copy, used books from Amazon third-party sellers. Many people have whiled away the surplus hours by binge-watching movies and series on Netflix, Amazon, or other streaming services. In the midst of this high demand for home entertainment, somebody at ESPN (Entertainment and Sports Programming Network) timed it perfectly with the release of “The Last Dance,” a ten-part documentary, which focuses on Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls basketball team during their heyday in the 1990s. The first two episodes premiered on April 19th followed by the release of two additional episodes each of the next four Sunday nights.

Sports-starved American males (and undoubtedly some females) are captivated by this series. ESPN previously had good success with its “30 for 30” series about interesting sports stories, but “The Last Dance” documentary has to be shattering all kinds of audience records.

Michael Jordan played for the Bulls from 1984 to 1993 and 1995 to 1998, leading the team to six NBA championships in that span, and is arguably one of the top-three sports icons of modern times. That very short short-list also includes Babe Ruth and Muhammad Ali. What made Jordan so good? Not only was he blessed with extraordinary athletic ability, he was also driven to be the very best.

In his push to win championships, Jordan took no prisoners. He even savagely bullied his own teammates. This series provides many unflinching and sometimes even painfully revealing insights into Jordan’s and the Bull’s rise to the top of the National Basketball Association.

A massive advertising campaign once encouraged all of us to “Be like Mike.” The man still enjoys worldwide fame and adulation to a degree that few others have known.

After having watched the latest episodes of “The Last Dance” this past Sunday night, I was doing my morning walk through the neighborhood and listening via earbuds to a sermon from John MacArthur regarding the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-12:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Argh! It struck me how VASTLY different the teachings and example of Jesus Christ are compared to the values of this world as exemplified by the adulation accorded to Michael Jordan. I’m not privy to Jordan’s spiritual beliefs. The man has kept his religious views, if any, so private despite thirty-six years of media scrutiny that they frustrate any and every google search. However, it doesn’t appear from the many interviews and behind-the-scenes segments in this series that Michael knows and loves the Lord.

I don’t want to be like Mike, I want to be like Jesus Christ.

Postscript: Featured in one of the episodes is a quip from Larry Bird in a press interview immediately after 23-year-old, Michael Jordan, scored 63 points in a playoff loss to Bird’s Boston Celtics on April 20, 1986. “It’s just God disguised as Michael Jordan,” said the exasperated Bird. Ach. That’s going WAY too far, Larry!

Inside the Vatican – Worldly grandeur but no Gospel

Inside the Vatican
Oxford Films, 2019, 1h 54m
Originally broadcast on PBS April 28, 2020

1 Star

(Note re: single star: While the production standards of this documentary are quite high, the false “spirituality” it promotes is deadly)

I noticed an advertisement for this 2-hour, PBS documentary, but wasn’t able to watch the entire production the night it was broadcast on April 28th. I’m pretty strict about my “lights out at 10 p.m.” policy. However, I was able to watch the entire documentary the following day via the PBS website (see link at bottom).

Evangelical Vatican-watchers will find this “inside look” at the Vatican somewhat interesting as well as grievous and disturbing. The Vatican, of course, is the home of the pope and the central administration headquarters of the Roman Catholic church, with a population of 800 residents and 4600 employees working within the walls of this 120 acre, city-state (roughly the size of Central Park in NYC).

The filmmakers focus on several of the Vatican departments and individual employees including members of the following:

  • Diplomatic corps
  • Ushers aka “sediari” or chair-bearers
  • Choir
  • Preservation/maintenance workers aka “sanpietrini”
  • Groundskeepers
  • Social Media
  • Language translators
  • Security

Interspersed with these examinations of the Vatican’s various working departments are adulatory segments devoted to pope Francis. The pope is portrayed as a high-minded, progressive reformer (an admiring journalist says he’s no less than a “radical”) determined to neutralize the conservative and traditionalist opposition within the church. We see Francis as the enemy of clerical privilege; Francis as the protector of children from predatory priests; Francis as the champion of the planet’s environment; Francis as the benefactor and sponsor of immigrants, the homeless, and the incarcerated.

This documentary is a Francis “puff piece” on a grand scale. A couple of Francis’s conservative Catholic opponents are interviewed (a journalist and the founder of the Dignitatis Humanae Institute), but they’re merely a few gnats in this very pro-Francis ointment. Many conservative and traditionalist Catholics rue the day that Francis was elected pope and pray for a quick end to his tenure. Francis views his doctrine-bending reforms as pragmatic necessity in order to maintain the church as a relevant world institution while conservatives view his reforms as heterodoxy and even heresy. The film points out that Francis has been busy “stacking the deck” by appointing like-minded cardinals to ensure the next pope shares his progressive views.

Some off-the-cuff observations while watching this documentary:

  • There’s plenty of “impressive” pageantry and ceremony at the grandiose Vatican, but the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone is nowhere in sight. The Roman Catholic church teaches a false gospel of salvation via sacramental grace and merit.
  • In close to two hours of watching this documentary, with all of its recorded religious pageantry and spectacle, I did not hear the name of Jesus Christ mentioned one time. Jesus Christ and His apostles would have had nothing to do with this grand-scale pomp and ostentatiousness. This documentary doesn’t delve into church history, but the Roman bishops adopted the Caesarean imperial model including the pursuit of wealth, territory, and political control. The regal trappings of the papacy outdid those of European monarchs. “But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” – Acts 3:6.
  • One of the featured personalities, Mark Spyropoulos, a lead vocalist in the Sistine Chapel Choir, reluctantly admits on camera that he’s an agnostic. The chorister speaks for hundreds of millions of “cultural Catholics.” For those Catholics who say that they do “believe” in God, what they actually believe in is their obligation to merit their salvation, as their institutional church teaches.

“For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” – Romans 10:2-4

I would recommend this documentary only to evangelicals who are curious to see the worldliness of the Roman Catholic religion.

https://www.pbs.org/video/inside-the-vatican-o0uz0h/

Video availability expires 5/26/20.

“Messiah” on Netflix: Use discernment ⚠️

Messiah – Season One
Produced by Michael Petroni, Mark Burnett, and Roma Downey
Featuring Mehdi Dehbi, Michelle Monaghan, Tomer Sisley, and John Ortiz
Netflix, 2020, Ten episodes

3 Stars

A fellow-blogger recently re-blogged a cautionary post about a new Netflix series called, “Messiah.” Curious, I did a little digging and discovered the new series is about the rise of the end-times messiah, er, or is it the end-times anti-Christ? I’m not big into eschatology, but decided I would give this new series a spin. My wife and I watched the ten episodes of the series in successive evenings, an anomaly when it comes to me and television. The summary below by necessity leaves out a lot of details.

Plot (spoiler alert)

A young man (Dehbi) miraculously brings peace to war-torn Syria and then treks to Israel with his growing group of followers. On the steps leading to Al Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the enigmatic al-Masih (“the Messiah”) announces he is going to usher in an era of peace into the world. The CIA becomes concerned about this religious rabble rouser and a top agent, Eva Geller (Monaghan), begins to investigate. Al-Masih next shows up in Texas, seemingly saving a church from a tornado. The pastor (Ortiz) is convinced the reticent al-Masih is the second coming of Jesus. Seekers from across the nation flock to Texas to get a glimpse of the messiah. Pastor Felix leads al-Masih and a caravan of credulous followers to Washington D.C.. Al-Masih subsequently shocks the city and the nation when he seemingly walks on top of the water of the reflecting pool in front of the Lincoln Monument. The President of the U.S. consults with al-Masih who advises him to withdraw all military personnel throughout the world as part of the new era of peace. CIA agent, Geller, isn’t buying al-Masih’s schtick. She discovers he is actually an Iranian named Payam Golshiri, whose dossier includes an apprenticeship as a magician, studying in college under an anarchist professor, and being treated at a psychiatric facility for a “messiah complex.”

Just when al-Masih is to appear on national television, he is abducted by a Shin Bet (Israeli internal intelligence) agent (Sisley). Simultaneously, a White House official who fears the President is falling under al-Masih’s spell leaks the CIA’s classified dossier on Payam Golshiri to the media. Feeling he’s been duped, the disillusioned pastor Felix returns to Texas and burns down his church. The plane bringing al-Masih to Jerusalem crashes, but the enigmatic young man “miraculously” survives. Viewers are left to wonder whether al-Masih is the genuine Messiah, the anti-Christ, or a self-deluded megalomaniac. The cliff-hanging ending is served up as incentive to watch a (possible) second season.

Comments

Christians who know their Bibles will know right away that the al-Masih character has no connection with the Scripture prophecies regarding the second coming of Jesus Christ:

“For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” – Matthew 24:27

We know that the Bible foretells the coming of the anti-Christ at the end times, but many do not know that Islam also teaches the coming of al-Masih ad-Dajjal, a false messiah who will eventually be defeated by Jesus Christ. This series seems to incorporate elements from both the Bible and Quran regarding the anti-Christ.

There was some initial concern among both Christians and Muslims as to the identity of the mysterious al-Masih character. The show’s producers and Netfilx were banking on the uncertainty to generate interest. Some Muslims jumped the gun and mounted a petition calling for subscribers to boycott Netflix for its provocative “anti-Islamic propaganda.” After watching the series, it’s clear the show’s creators don’t intend for the al-Masih character to be Jesus Christ returned because it’s revealed that he’s actually Iranian Payam Golshiri with an unflattering past. So the question is whether he’s the anti-Christ or a mentally-unbalanced imposter. The show is interesting because it does demonstrate how the anti-Christ could possibly rise up and gain the allegiance of people worldwide, including both nominal (c)hristians and Muslims.

I don’t think Gospel Christians need to be overly alarmed by this series, but we should be discerning. One of the producers, Roma Downey, is a Roman Catholic New-Ager who, with her husband, Mark Burnett, has given us such Biblically-challenged television series as “Touched by an Angel,” “The Bible,” and “A.D.” We definitely shouldn’t be getting our theology from Downey and must remain ever-cautious and discerning, but we can view this series strictly as entertainment material and, yes, even use it as an opportunity to evangelize. Our unbelieving oldest son who lives here in town would not be caught dead reading the Bible, but he’s expressed interest in watching “Messiah.” We’ve already had a few discussions with him about the series and the coming anti-Christ.

The Two Popes: A ham-fisted plug for pope Francis

The Two Popes
Directed by Fernando Meirelles, screenplay by Anthony McCarten, and featuring Anthony Hopkins as pope Benedict XVI and Jonathan Pryce as pope Francis
Netflix, 2019, 125 minutes.

2 Stars

Back in February 2019, I reviewed an interesting book, “The Pope,” by Anthony McCarten, that contrasted the doctrinally conservative, pope Benedict XVI, with his successor, the progressive reformer, pope Francis. See me review here.

Netflix produced a film based on the book and released it for streaming this past December 20th. Just as in the book, the sharp contrast between the conservative Benedict and the progressive Francis is the theme of the film. Benedict is portrayed as hopelessly out of touch with the world with his rigid clericalism and doctrinalism. Francis, in contrast, is presented as a breath of fresh air who is willing, make that eager, to eschew clerical privilege and bend/circumvent doctrine in order to reach people with the progressive version of the Catholic works-righteousness “gospel.”

This film is a biased representation of the current battle within the Catholic church between conservatives and the Francis-led progressives, with Francis the clear favorite. Pro-Francis screenwriter, McCarten, “swings for the fences” at the end of the film with Benedict XVI/Hopkins admitting the error of his rigid ideology and fully embracing Francis’ reforms. The two characters seal the deal over Fanta and pizza, watching a soccer game, and dancing the tango together (VERY creepy in light of the current clerical abuse and homosexuality scandals in the RCC). What a “hammy” ending and it’s all pure fiction.

People love Francis for being so “down to earth,” but neither in conservative Catholicism’s rigid doctrinalism or in Francis’ doctrine-bending “pastoralism” can be found the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone.

While “The Two Popes” is garnering a lot of accolades at the various Hollywood awards shows, I would recommend this pro-Francis puff piece only to serious evangelical Vatican-watchers. Everyone else should use the two hours for something more productive.

Underwhelmed in Buffalo at restaurant featured on Triple-D

A couple of Saturdays ago, I was doing my usual evening channel surfing and came across “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives” on the Food Network cable channel. Triple-D is one of the few shows that I’ll actually stop and watch. Gregarious host, Guy Fieri, does a great job.

So, in this particular episode, Guy took a trip to nearby Buffalo, New York and the Blackthorn Restaurant & Pub at 2134 Seneca Street. He focused on the restaurant’s specialties: beef-on-weck (sliced roast beef dunked in au jus on a salted kimmelweck roll, a Buffalo favorite), crab cakes, and beer and cheddar soup. If you watch the show, you know that Guy showers profuse superlatives on every single gastronomical creation he reviews, as if each and every one were the absolute greatest thing he’s ever tasted. The hyperbole was flowing during his visit to Blackthorn’s as well.

Well, there was only one thing for me to do. I announced to my wife that we would be driving to Buffalo the following day. If you know my wife, you know she never passes up a trip to a restaurant. That Sunday, after church, we made the 60-minute drive to Blackthorn’s in Buffalo. I was worried the traffic on the Thruway would be heavy because of football, but the Bills were playing the Giants at New Jersey that particular day.

So, we arrived at the restaurant in the South Buffalo, Irish “working-class” neighborhood around 1 p.m. and were seated at our table. Bills fans were whooping it up upstairs and on the outside patio as they watched the Bills and Giants battle on big screen TVs, but it was relatively quiet where we sat. I scanned the large menu and settled on the “Triple D Platter” (see photo above), which, according to the menu featured “the items selected for the Food Network show Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives…a mini beef-on-weck, mini crab cake, small cup of Irish beer-cheddar soup and tater tots” for $16. The multiple “mini”s scared me, so I bumped up the soup order from a small cup to a bowl. My wife ordered a prime rib sandwich, one of the day’s specials, that came with french fries and gravy and she also ordered a bowl of the soup.

The waitress brought out the soup first. I make a decent beer-cheddar soup myself, so I was looking forward to sampling what Guy had raved over. Ach! I would give it only a “C.” It was way too thick and the large amount of potato cubes were an obstacle. My wife was disgusted and only ate a few spoonfuls.

Next came the mini beef-on-weck and mini crab cake. “Mini” was a very accurate adjective. I was underwhelmed by the small amount of food on the “platter.” Adding insult to injury, the roast beef was overcooked. The crab cake was tasty, but was gone in a few bites. The same with the two jalapeno-cheddar tater tots. I gave the items on the “platter” a “B,” but the portion size a “D.” My wife ate only half of her smallish prime rib sandwich, saying it was also overcooked. After I was done with my micro-platter, I finished off my wife’s bowl of soup because I was still hungry.

After paying the bill, we hopped into our car and started the long trek back to Rochester. As we ambled down Seneca Street, which eventually turns into Center Road, we spotted Schwabl’s Restaurant up ahead. Ah, the regret! Folks, don’t listen to Guy Fieri when it comes to roast beef in Buffalo. If you want an excellent and ample medium-rare beef-on-weck sandwich in Buffalo, you have to go to Schwabl’s.

Postscript 1: While doing my research for this post, I was surprised to learn that the particular episode of “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives” that featured the Blackthorn Restaurant & Pub in South Buffalo had originally aired way back on 02/01/2010.

Postscript 2: No, this post does not mean I’m considering a new occupation as a restaurant critic. 🙂 But this experience reminds me that the things of this world, even when they receive a great deal of hype, ultimately disappoint. Yes, we praise God for delicious food, but many people make food their religion.

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” – 1 John 2:15-17

Postscript 3: If you’re trying to lose weight, I definitely recommend that you avoid watching “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.”

I don’t usually sit around and watch paint dry…

…but when I do it’s because my wife has one of the “Star Wars” movies on the TV in the other room.

 

Disclaimer: I don’t mean to offend those who do enjoy “Star Wars.” However, I have a reputation for being very closed-minded about the “Star Wars” franchise that I need to uphold and this frivolous idea somehow popped into my head last night that I thought some might enjoy. 🙂

“God Friended Me” – Review of pilot episode

I finally got around to watching the pilot episode of CBS’s new religious-themed show…

God Friended Me
Pilot Episode – Originally broadcast Sunday, 9/30/18 on CBS
Featuring Brandon Micheal Hall, Violett Beane, and Suraj Sharma
Directed by Marcos Siega and written by Steven Lilien & Bryan Wynbrandt

Plot

Miles Finer (Hall) is a young single living in New York City and working at an internet security firm by day while attempting to interest Sirius Radio in his New Atheism podcast diatribes. He begins receiving mysterious Facebook friend requests from god, which he initially dismisses as a hoax. (g)od then directs him to save John Dove, who just broke up with his girlfriend and attempts to commit suicide by walking in front of a subway train. (g)od then directs Miles to Cara Bloom (Beane), an internet magazine writer. Persistent Miles enlists Cara in helping him determine who is at the bottom of this Facebook god sham. Miles’ computer software-savvy friend, Rakesh (Sharma), traces god’s IP address to a house in New Jersey, but Miles and Cara find nothing there except for a porch swing similar to the one she used to sit on as a child waiting for her absent mother to return home.

Back at Miles’ apartment, a photo mysteriously appears on his laptop, that of his deceased mother while she was in the hospital, surrounded by family and medical staff, which sends Cara exiting in a tizzy. Miles had become embittered against God when his mother was cured of breast cancer, but subsequently died in a car accident on the way home from the hospital. Oy! With help from his estranged minister father, Miles determines the nurse in the photo is Cara’s mother, who had abandoned her as a child. We find out that Cara had tracked her mother to NYC, but is ambivalent about contacting her. Miles encourages her to meet with her Mom, but when the reunion goes sour, Cara frantically dashes across a nearby street and is hit by a car. As she lies in the street, very close to death, a driver gets out of his car and comes to her aid, saving her life. The driver just happens to be….you guessed it….John Dove, the gentleman Miles had saved at the start of the show. Dove also just happens to be a doctor. As Cara recovers in the hospital, her Mom visits and they reconcile. Miles then reconciles with his minister father.

Comments

As expected, the god that’s presented in this show is the same feel-good deity presented in previous shows such as “Highway to Heaven” and “Touched By An Angel,” a god who is mainly concerned with fixing broken temporal relationships. The God of the Bible was not presented and neither was the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In fact, Jesus was not mentioned throughout this entire pilot episode. Followers of most any religious stripe could watch this show with its generic deity and not be offended, which is obviously by design. The Facebook tie-in is a none-too-subtle gimmick to hook millennial viewers. In an awkward effort to demonstrate that the god of “God Friended Me” is not some kind of a “Puritanical prude,” Rakesh takes a brand new female acquaintance to Miles’ apartment for sex and god seems to be quite fine with that because the occasion is “providentially” used to disclose information vital to the happy ending (i.e., the photo of of Miles’ and Cara’s mothers).

The god of this show is a far cry from the God of the Bible. After watching the pilot, I doubt if I’ll be watching and/or reviewing any more episodes.

Postscript: My wife is much more of a “glass half-full” type of person, and she insists that this show, even with its very faulty theology, is better than having no shows about God on the big three networks. Comments?

“God Friended Me” debuts this Sunday, 9/30/18

Several months ago, I had posted that CBS had improbably planned another religious-themed television series, even after cancelling its disastrous “Living Biblically” show. The pilot episode of new series, “God Friended Me,” will be debuting this Sunday at 8 PM Eastern.

The show launches with Brandon Micheal Hall as Miles Finer, an outspoken atheist who receives several Facebook friend requests from God and subsequently has his world turned upside down.

I certainly don’t expect this show to present the God of the Bible and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Rather, I do fully expect that the (g)od of “God Friended Me” will be the same feel-good, faux deity portrayed in Michael Landon’s “Highway to Heaven” and Roma Downey’s “Touched By Angel.” You know the one. No sin, no repentance, no salvation in Jesus Christ by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, just a lot of Oprah-style religious cotton-candy that will appeal to the all-good-people-go-to-Heaven crowd.

But can the Lord use something like “God Friended Me” to draw a person to Jesus Christ? Absolutely He can! So with that thought in mind, I’m hopeful.

If you’d like to watch the pilot episode before Sunday evening, just click here.

Reviews of each episode to follow.

TBN’s Rogues’ Gallery

I don’t watch a lot of television, but when I channel surf, I usually scoot right past channel 50, Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN). The cable channel is a cesspool of heterodoxy with its stable of prosperity gospel and Rome-friendly televangelists. The other day, I got the idea in my head to list all of the TBN “entertainers,” so using my limited Microsoft Excel spreadsheet skills, I copied and sorted all of the shows scheduled on the cable channel during a week’s time span and came up with the list below. Based upon my own knowledge and/or with a little Google research, I categorized each televangelist as to whether they were propagators of the prosperity gospel and/or supporters of ecumenism with Rome. A “Y” means Yes, an “N” means No, and a “?” means I could not determine the status. Generally, prosperity gospelers are too busy picking out their next Mercedes or airplane to care about doctrinal differences with Rome. There are also several on the list who, while not flagrant prosperity gospelers themselves, make a habit out of hanging out in prosperity gospel circles.

A quick glance reveals this list of TBN’s 60 televangelists is heavy with prosperity, word-of-faith shysters and Rome-friendly ecumenists. BTW, Father Cedric on the list is, in fact, Roman Catholic priest, Cedric Pisegna. There are only a few on this list who I could recommend, like Charles Stanley and Ray Comfort. Several I have never heard of.

This listing is obviously not set in stone so any challenges or help with the “?”s will be appreciated. Forgive the wide columns, but incorporating an Excel spreadsheet into a WordPress post is a little messy.

Prosperity Ecumenical
Mark Batterson ? ?
Irvin Baxter ? ?
Reinhard Bonnke Y Y
John Bradshaw ? Y
Jonathan Cahn Y ?
Christine Caine Y Y
Ron Carpenter Y ?
Alicia Britt Chole ? Y
Ray Comfort N N
Kenneth Copeland Y Y
Gregory Dickow Y Y
Creflo Dollar Y ?
Jesse Duplantis Y Y
Tony Evans N Y
Karl Faase ? Y
Jentezen Franklin Y Y
Steven Furtick Y ?
Louie Giglio ? Y
Billy Graham N Y
Jack Graham ? Y
John Gray Y Y
John Hagee Y ?
Allen Jackson ? ?
T. D. Jakes Y Y
Robert Jeffress N Y
David Jeremiah N Y
Mark Jeske ? ?
Daniel Kolenda Y ?
Greg Laurie ? Y
Hal Lindsey ? ?
Max Lucado N Y
James MacDonald ? ?
Guillermo Maldonado Y ?
James Merritt ? ?
Joyce Meyer Y Y
Beth Moore ? Y
Robert Morris Y ?
Joel Osteen Y Y
Father Cedric N Y
Fred K. Price Y ?
Joseph Prince Y ?
David Rives ? ?
Pat Robertson Y Y
James Robison Y Y
Samuel Rodriguez Y Y
Sid Roth Y ?
Rabbi Kirt Schneider Y ?
Bobby Schuller ? ?
Jay Sekulow Y ?
Priscilla Shirer ? Y
Kerry Shook N N
Erick Stakelbeck ? ?
Charles Stanley N N
Perry Stone Y ?
Tommy Tenney ? ?
Holly Wagner ? Y
Don Wilton N ?
Andrew Wommack Y Y
Ed Young Y Y
Michael Youssef N ?

Senator John McCain’s funeral: An example of civil religion?

Last Saturday, I watched some of the funeral service for United States Senator, John McCain, which took place at the National Cathedral (Episcopal) in Washington D.C. It made me sad because, while there were some references to Jesus Christ, the Gospel was not presented. I was reminded of 2 Timothy 3:5, “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.” The service was a mixture of (c)hristianity and civil religion, all in keeping with the “good people go to Heaven” philosophy.

I surely do not mean any disrespect to Senator McCain or to his grieving family. Perhaps at some point in his life Senator McCain did accept Jesus Christ as his Savior. Articles on his religious views state that he did attend North Phoenix Baptist Church, a Southern Baptist megachurch, for many years with his wife and children, and a visit to that church’s website indicates they do preach the Gospel of grace there, but when asked if he was spiritually born-again, McCain answered no (see here). However, when asked by ecumenical celebrity pastor, Rick Warren, what being a Christian means, McCain replied: “It means I’m saved and forgiven” (see here).

The senator was ill for a very long time and was able to personally plan every detail of his funeral, but the Gospel was conspicuous by its absence. Instead, I heard from one of the speakers that the senator respected all religions:

“I can tell you everything we did together around the world and here in Washington and across America, he showed that same acceptance, respect, curiosity about everybody’s religious observances, and about everything else about them that was different from himself and his own experiences.” – former U.S. Senator, Joe Lieberman, speaking at McCain’s funeral service

I rarely attend a religious service these days where the Gospel is not preached, so to watch a service like the McCain funeral, that propagated a quasi-(c)hristianity/civil religion/all-people-are-God’s-children theology, was jarring and sad. I hope to see John McCain in Heaven, but it’s not altogether clear where he stood in regards to the Gospel. As we live out our lives, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us not allow others to have to wonder where we stand in relation to Jesus Christ and the Gospel!

“My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all the day, for their number is past my knowledge. With the mighty deeds of the Lord God I will come; I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone. O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds. So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.” – Psalm 71:15-18