Friday, January 13, 2012

Camp Fire Girls

Warren Cole Smith shares the improbable story of how a chance encounter with a Camp Fire Girls leader turned him into a fiscal conservative:
It was the fall of 1981. The United States was coming out of a recession. Ronald Reagan had been president since January. Among his first acts in the White House had been to dramatically cut spending for social programs.

And the woman sitting next to me on an airplane was not happy about it.

I was sitting on the aisle, and she had the window. She worked for an organization called Camp Fire Girls, now called Camp Fire USA, and she couldn’t stand Ronald Reagan. I wanted to know why. She described an after-school program she ran that served hundreds of poor children. I remember thinking then that it sounded like a worthwhile endeavor. The program had received about $100,000 — almost its entire budget — from the federal government. Reagan had eliminated that funding.

In 1981 I was a young man whose thinking was in a state of transition. In 1976 I had voted for Jimmy Carter, but in 1980 I pulled the lever for Reagan, in part because I thought Carter had shown general incompetency regarding economic matters. I had graduated from college in 1980, in the midst of the Carter Recession. I then spent more than a year in a series of part-time and temporary jobs, all the while looking for full-time employment. I had voted for Reagan not so much because I was a conscious part of the “Reagan Revolution,” but because — like many who voted for Barack Obama in 2008 — I was hoping for change.

So when this Camp Fire Girl leader started railing against Reagan, I offered no defense. “That’s terrible,” I said. “Sorry that program got eliminated. What do you do now?”

“Oh,” she said. “I still run the program.”

I was confused. “I thought you said Reagan eliminated the program,” I said.
Smith goes on to recount the rest of the tale of how this conversation precipitated his conversion to conservatism. It's interesting. Check it out at the link.

Why Do They Dislike Him So?

Denver quarterback Tim Tebow has become something of a cultural phenomenon in the last couple of months, hated by some, loved by many (He was voted the most popular professional athlete in a recent ESPN poll). It's easy to understand why he's loved, of course. He's a great success story - told by most experts that he lacked the skills to be a successful pro quarterback, relegated to third string on the Denver depth chart, coming off the bench to lead his team to several dramatic last minute, last second, victories and propel them into the playoffs.

On top of that he is by all accounts a humble young man of outstanding character and leadership skills. It's a perfect script for a Hollywood movie.

So why is he disliked, perhaps even hated? Ostensibly, it's because he's outspoken about being motivated by his Christian faith and love for Jesus Christ. An article by Matt Higgins at CBS elaborates:
Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow has seemingly made himself the poster boy for Christianity, praying on the field after a win, putting Bible verses on his eye black during games and even starring in an anti-abortion ad during the Super Bowl, but one atheist group believes he’s doing it all for personal gain.

American Atheists — a New Jersey based group that promotes the separation of church and state — tells that the only reason Tebow is popular is because he constantly injects his Christianity among the public.
The only reason? There are others who have made no secret of their faith who have not achieved the level of celebrity that Tebow has. What makes Tebow different is the aura of the near-miraculous that surrounds some of his triumphs, particularly his role in the overtime win against the Pittsburgh Steelers. To the American Atheists, however, the amazing success of an unabashed Christian is like a chicken bone stuck in their windpipe:
When we watch a sporting event, we are all united for our team,” says David Silverman, president of American Atheists. “Tebow takes religion and injects it into the mix and divides the fan base.
Silverman seems to think that the Denver "fan base" is as narrow-minded and intolerant of other people's desire to express their deepest convictions as he is and that their common joy over the Broncos' success disintegrates as soon as Tebow kneels briefly in the endzone after a score. Presumably, Silverman is fine with the borderline-obscene dances with which some players celebrate their success, or the embarrassingly childish antics of other players who mimic and mock their opponents after a sack or a touchdown. Those ridiculous displays of arrested development are okay, Silverman would have us believe, because they're not "divisive," but an act of genuine humility and gratitude apparently just rips fan unity to shreds in Mile High Stadium.

Silverman states that Tebow’s repeated references to God in his post-game comments after a win is "bad" for football.
“(Religion) injects the divisive force into football,” Silverman says. “Why in the world are we talking about religion when we are talking about football?”
This is laughable. Anyone who has ever listened to athletes' post-game comments knows that they're usually as trite, banal, and hackneyed as the reporters' questions that elicit them. If Silverman thinks he's missing something important when Tebow takes three seconds to thank God for helping him to do his best then he hasn't listened to very many of those interviews.

Look. Tebow hasn't promoted himself. He never asked for all this attention. He just went about his business doing his job, and the media, always digging for a story, generated all the buzz about "Tebowmania," not just in the wake of his on-field success but also as a consequence of the mockery he has endured from other athletes, commentators, and people like Silverman. People talk about him, he doesn't talk about himself. As Higgins says:
The fascination over Tebow officially reached national heights when people across the U.S. started “Tebowing,” mimicking Tebow’s sideline prayers.
But Silverman, swimming furiously against the tide of opinion of everyone who knows the young man best, alleges that Tebow is a hypocrite:
Silverman believes that Tebow is “full of crap” when he publicly displays his Christianity on the football field and said his prayers are for publicity. “It’s not that Tebow prays, it’s that he waits for the cameras to be on him to do it,” Silverman says. “He’s totally faking.”
This is absurd. How does Silverman know this? Does he have access to Tebow's mind? Does he know something about Tebow that his teammates don't? Silverman's pinched, dessicated worldview has no room for the belief that someone can be absolutely sincere about their love for God.

Athletes give thanks all the time to different people - parents, coaches, mentors - for their success. Why is it over the line for someone to believe that God is the source of their ability and to thank Him for it?
Silverman says if Tebow is truly a Christian, he would pray in private, not public. “It is not surprising Tebow ignores Matthew 6:5 in which Jesus says, ‘When you pray, do not pray like the hypocrites in the street,’” Silverman says. “They pray to be seen praying. Pray in the closet.”
So this is it? Silverman thinks that Tebow is not sincere because he's praying where people might see him? Silverman simply fails to comprehend that the passage he cites is not about where one prays but about why one prays. Jesus is adjuring his followers not to pray with the purpose of bringing some sort of renown or credit to themselves but to pray with sincere gratitude to God.

Of course, Silverman doesn't think Tebow is sincere, but that's more a reflection upon Silverman's cynical and uninformed view of Christianity than it is upon Tebow whose sincerity no one closest to him questions.

David Silverman might be a pleasant enough fellow in person, but in this piece he comes across as sour, jealous, and petty. What a contrast with the guy he seems so bitter toward.