theodicy

Theodicy on the sports page: Did Glover Quin really say God took out Jordy Nelson?

Theodicy on the sports page: Did Glover Quin really say God took out Jordy Nelson?

It's time for another weekend of preseason National Football League games -- those meaningless revenue generators in which the league's top players try to get ready for the new season, while doing everything they can (praying even) not to get hurt.

This brings us, whether most sports reporters know it or not, to centuries of debates about the sovereignty of God.

Yes, one of the hottest topics in sports news this past week (click here to scan the nearly 2,000 news articles) was whether Detroit Lions defensive back Glover Quin was crazy when he said superstar Green Bay Packer wide receiver Jordy Nelson's season-ending knee injury had something to do with God's plan for his life. Looking at this from the viewpoint of Packer fans, you could even say this was another one of those stories that centered on "theodicy" questions (previous GetReligion discussions here) about why God allows evil to exist.

From a journalism perspective, what this sad case study demonstrates is that there are times when it is simply wrong to yank one tiny simplistic soundbite out of a long, complex quotation about a complex topic.

Here is the top of an ESPN feature examining the wreckage in this case:

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Detroit Lions safety Glover Quin defended himself ... after his comment about the injury to Packers receiver Jordy Nelson and the will of God caused a backlash in social media.
Quin, when asked ... about Nelson's injury, said he respected Nelson and hated to see him hurt. But as part of the answer, Quin also said "God had meant for Jordy to be hurt." The comment was part of a bigger answer on what Quin believes about how and why injuries happen. ...

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Logical Southern question for Dylann Roof: Young man, where do you go to church?

Logical Southern question for Dylann Roof: Young man, where do you go to church?

Lord have mercy. I have spent the past three days moving from Baltimore to the hills of Tennessee and, while no one can unplug completely from news in the age of smart phones, I have been packing in a house with no WiFi, at the wheel of a car and finally unpacking in a house with no WiFi. I have been as unplugged as I have been in ages.

So, first, a word of thanksgiving to the other GetReligionistas for carrying on during two amazing days of religion news at the national and global levels. And much of my personal email, of course, has come from friends and colleagues concerned, and praying, about the vision of heaven and hell that unfolded in that Bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.

Of course I have questions and, yes, the word "theodicy" in relevant.

Most of my questions concern the actual content of that Bible study, the hymns, Bible talk, prayers and fellowship that, briefly, made Dylann Roof think twice about his mass-murder "mission." What was the religious content of this nearly one-hour gathering? At the very least, what was the Bible passage or passages they were studying? Wouldn't that add context and details to his stunning drama?

it's clear that the press, so far, has been -- understandably -- locked in on the basic, human details of this scene, with hints of spirituality. The top of a new Washington Post story shows this approach, starting with the Bible study itself -- in vague terms -- and its leader, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney:

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Arizona Republic examines evil through the eyes of a victim

Arizona Republic examines evil through the eyes of a victim

The mystery of evil may be a religious concept, but it's still the focus of many anguished essays. The Arizona Republic brings the question horrifically home via an interview with a priest who was scheduled to say a requiem Mass last night for a fellow cleric.

Both men, fathers Joseph Terra and Kenneth Walker, were attacked a year ago -- in the ironically named Mother of Mercy Mission in Phoenix -- when Terra opened the door of their rectory. He was beaten suddenly and savagely with an iron rod, with the side of his face smashed and a finger mangled. His friend Walker (the subject of this tmatt column a year ago) was shot fatally.

The suspect, ex-convict Gary Michael Moran, is mentioned only briefly in this new article; he was picked up after he boasted about beating and robbing a priest, the Republic says. Nearly all the focus is on Terra: how he's healing, physically and emotionally, and how he carries on after what happened.

The brutal incident has, of course, sharpened for Terra some classic Christian themes like theodicy, forgiveness, redemption and grace. Still, the Republic says, he sat down for an interview only reluctantly, with spare sentences, carefully choosing words, "guarding his emotions." But he gradually opened up on his memories of that night and his thoughts about living the ideals he preaches.

The Republic cites Terra on forgiveness, but without the facile, high-minded way that many media treat the topic.

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Was there a religion ghost in the life and haunted film career of Sir Christopher Lee?

Was there a religion ghost in the life and haunted film career of Sir Christopher Lee?

Sir Christopher Lee was not able to attend the New York City press events held just before the 2002 release of "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers," but it sure seemed like he was there, based on the number of times members of the cast and creative team made references to him.

There were members of Peter Jackson's team -- especially co-writer Philippa Boyens -- who knew the fine details of J.R.R. Tolkien's worldview and masterwork, including the ways in which his Catholic faith influenced its symbols and substance. In one famous quote, the author called the trilogy a "fundamentally religious and Catholic work."

However, various members of the team agreed that Lee was, in many ways, the official keeper of the Tolkien flame during the filming, the person whose knowledge and love of the books made him care, fiercely, about getting key details right so that the spirit of the books would soak into the movies. Several people said that they thought Lee was, himself, a Catholic.

Was Lee a believer and, if so, of what stripe? I thought that this detail might surface in the obituaries over the past day or so, but apparently journalists were not interested in the role that explorations of good and evil -- incarnate evil, especially -- played in his life and work. Alas, this didn't happen.

Now I really regret that he wasn't at those NYC round-table interviews. What did Lee say years earlier? I'll come back to that.

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A deeper religion hook inside the spiritual drama of the 'Rare Bird' memoir?

A deeper religion hook inside the spiritual drama of the 'Rare Bird' memoir?

If you know anything about the world of religious publishing these days, you know that publishers are very, very aware that "spiritual" content is good, and can lead to massive "crossover" sales, while explicit "religion" is bad and can shove good books into narrow niches.

Thus, we live in the age when religious publishers -- the kind of folks who publish doctrinal books -- are trying to start not-so-religious special branches with cool names that try to fly under the media radar, publishing books that reach out to the non-doctrinal masses with faith that would be too foggy for the publisher's normal readers.

Right now, one of the imprints that is making news is called Convergent Books, which is part of the evangelical WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group. However, as this report in the conservative World magazine notes, both are operating under the secular corporate umbrella that is Penguin Random House. 

This brings me to some questions that GetReligion readers have been asking about that Washington Post feature focusing on blogger Anna "Inch of Gray" Whiston-Donaldson, author of the memoir "Rare Bird" about the death of her young son, Jack. The headline on this Style piece says it all: "She let her son play in the rain. He never came back."

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Brazil's faith in football: What happens after the apocalypse?

Brazil's faith in football: What happens after the apocalypse?

If you know anything about the sport the world calls "football," then you know that an apocalyptic event took place yesterday in Brazil.

If you know anything at all about the host nation for the 2014 World Cup, then you know -- everyone chant the mantra together -- that football is the true religion of Brazil. Here is a typical blast of this faith language, drawn from today's Los Angeles Times piece about Germany's 7-1 shredding of what is left of this year's battered Brazilian team.

It had been 64 years since Brazil staged a World Cup at home. And in a country so passionate about the sport it is worshipped like a religion, even now that 1950 final loss to Uruguay is remembered as a national tragedy.

This year's team, though, was expected to erase that stain. And when the Brazilian government lavished a record $11.5 billion on the preparations for this World Cup, the pressure on the national team increased. A World Cup title was seen as the only way to justify the cost. So hundreds of fans began gathering daily outside the gates of the team's training facility while hundreds more lined the roads when the team's bus would pass.

All of them were seeking deliverance as much as they were a championship.

Finally, if you know anything about football in Brazil, if you have watched any of the national team's matches over the past decade or more, then you know that many members of the team are outspoken Christians. In fact, several of the young superstars are part of the emerging face of born-again and Pentecostal Protestantism in this historically Catholic nation.

In a fine feature before the Germany match, BBC covered the essential facts and added some color, as well. The first statement is crucial:

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God, prayer and the winner of the Super Bowl

THIS WEEK, the question doesn’t come from a “Religion Q and A” reader but a headline in The Record, the daily newspaper in the New Jersey county that’s hosting a certain athletic event: Spiritual suffering, physical and mental illness, anxiety and loneliness, natural disasters, oppression, wars, terrorism, kidnapping, senseless murders, broken families, kids without dads, homelessness, addiction, materialism, privation, pestilence, prejudice, impossible decisions that must be made, and all manner of other woes and perplexities are abroad in the world. How could the Deity possibly be concerned about the outcome of a mere football game on Feb. 2, no matter how big the TV audience is?

Still. Though such claims of divine attention seem theologically suspect perhaps there’s more to be said about an underlying question: Is it proper to bother God with prayer about life’s trivialities like this? “Religion Q and A” wrestled with a few of the big issues concerning prayer in a Nov. 30, 2013 item, but what do religious figures think we’re supposed to do about “little” prayers?

Personal gridiron prayers are baked into American pop culture. In a January poll for the Public Religion Research Institute, 26 percent of Americans said they’ve prayed to God to help their favorite team, and 19 percent thought God actually plays a role in who wins.

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What was the demon Adam Lanza locked in that hard drive?

From the beginning, there was a familiar moral tension at the heart of news coverage of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. It’s hard to ponder such a hellish act without wanting to be able to name the demon, to link the actions of the young gunman to some kind of logical motive.

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That holy ghost in Baylor head coach's guilt and grief

Right now, Baylor University coach Art Briles is one of the hottest leaders in college football, the creator of the hottest offense in around. Last night, the No. 6 Bears clawed the No. 10 Oklahoma Sooners to the tune of 41-12, even while losing three of their top four players on offense to injuries of various kinds.

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