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Thursday, January 25, 2018

Jason Stellman, Doing Jason Stellman Things

Jason Stellman is that one ex-Reformed guy who started the Drunk Ex-Pastors podcast with his friend Christian Kingery. He apparently had various side-gigs going on, but in true Stellman fashion, decided to write another book called, "Misfit Faith." (I'm too lazy to find and type out the subtitle.) There's a podcast of that same name, too.

I must have listened to the first 15 of DXP before poverty struck, to be quite frank about it. So it went on, it changed here or there, and meanwhile, I'm receiving communications privately asking me about Stellman, have I talked to him, et cetera, because the show is making them uncomfortable. Well, OK, that's nice. But I'm literally just a guy who spent one weekend 5 years ago with him, and we've both been "corrupted" by Bryan Cross. Fair enough. Here's absolutely what I do know: I liked him right away. His leftism should have scared me away, but it didn't. We had a big political discussion that weekend, and I came away thinking what I always tend to think: As long as I know that you care about people, the fact that we don't agree on any one thing isn't, of itself, a problem.

I have no idea his difficulties from that time forward, and I can almost guarantee that we disagree on loads of things. And we start from different places and contexts, theologically. Fair enough. But if you had been Jason Stellman, uber-Reformed Christian pastor-guy, suddenly dragged by the force of the truth into the fold of the Catholic Church, you might have the look of a man who has to blow (most) things up, and start over. You know, evangelicals and Reformed don't know how to handle progressives, to say the least. Abortion politics, theological orthodoxy, and a confluence of other things made us Republicans, or so we thought.

 I was angry about abortion, when I was young. I'm pretty sure I could have been legally aborted, the day I was born, and I wanted whomever it was to PAY for that monstrosity. I hated Democrats as much as Stellman could have said he hated Republicans. I grew up reading Ayn Rand, and the political book that moved me and shaped me more than any other was "Radical Son," by David Horowitz. Like crying-on-the-pages moved. You can see the wheels turning: If they're the compassionate ones, why...? You can live a whole political life functioning on woundedness and outrage, and I think that was me. I was probably 34 before I could reasonably listen to another point of view.

What if Jesus lets a little light in, and you don't know what you thought you knew before? Maybe we come at it from different directions, but we're much the same: We need to know you care, before we care about what else you're selling. I find that Stellman's kind of people are those you meet in bars late at night. If you're the right sort of person, the guards will come down. If not, we all know where the battle-lines are. Maybe he's just trying to let different people know that it's OK to let the guard down. You're safe here, we're all screwed up, but let's talk about being human. There's always some humor with him, but in the end, he's about pretty intimate things. There was my "enemy" that evening 5 years ago nearly six, and he made me think. He showed me that things aren't what they seem. What could we find out about ourselves and each other if we just listen? This was supposed to be about suffering. Oh, well. Maybe next time.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Federer Is In The Quarterfinals. As Usual.

This Federer kid has a bright future in tennis. But seriously, here we are again. The 19-time Grand Slam champion has a chance to win another here at the Australian Open. It certainly appears as though he's simply outlasted his rivals, except Rafael Nadal. He deserves to be considered along with Roger as the greatest male tennis player ever.

Federer is back in peak form, or so it appears. At 36. Still. Novak Djokovic could scare him, for a time. Nadal always could. But the truly astonishing thing is, I don't think there is anyone left. One of these very young guys has to knock him off the mountain. He could lose here; his next foe, Tomas Berdych, is quite capable. Grigor Dimitrov has the game to beat Federer. Marin Cilic could, too. Bottom line, though: Federer is the favorite.

There is a great beauty in Federer's game, after all this time. Even when he's playing poorly, he can cut loose the kind of artful shot that you tell people about, like guys do in bars when talking about football. They say that a legend is someone who--at least once during a game or match--makes you turn to another person and go, "Did you see that?" That's Roger Federer, routinely.

When will it end? I'm running out of useful sports comparisons. I compared him to Ali beating George Foreman in 1974, but that was nearly six years ago now. We went from thinking he'd never win another major title, before that Wimbledon title in 2012, to now wondering if anyone can stop him, except himself. It's true that sportswriters write career obituaries too quickly, but to have doubted him in the summer of '12 was good sense. And since then, he's made all the doubters look ridiculous. Can you imagine if those two back-to-back Wimbledon finals in '14 and '15 had gone his way? Or how about the US Open final in '15?

And here we are again. Still talking about Roger Federer. His entire career is an extended, "Did you see that?" It's a dominance that is gracious, chivalrous. The most generous account of Federer's opponents is given by Federer himself. I don't recall what they call the sportsmanship award in tennis, but I think he's won it a dozen times, at least. What does it say when both the fans and your peers name you their favorite?