Monday, August 27, 2007

Michael Vick's Mea Culpa

It is not unusual to hear super star athletes give their testimony of how they have given their lives over to Jesus. But few of them have come immediately after pleading guilty to federal crimes. Today at his post plea agreement news conference Michael Vick stood up and took responsibility for all that went down, and said that during this time he had sought forgiveness from Jesus and turned his life over to God. Here is the link to the video highlights---

Michael said that going forward the focus would be on Michael Vick the man, not the football player. He apologized to all the kids he had let down, and told them to learn a lesson from his immaturity and bad judgment. He denied nothing, and accepted responsibility for everything, casting no aspersions on his fellow defendants.

Watch the video, and see what you think. Should we believe the man who lied to everyone that matter until his co-defendants decided to rat him out? Is this the new contrite Michael Vick, on his way to prison and an orange jump suit instead of an Armani 3 piece suit? We must hope so. And what exactly went wrong? Why did a million turn to dog fighting when he had plenty of thrillers and spills on the gridiron? Where did he go wrong? There are a lot of contributing factors, of which I will list just some:

1) money is power, and it also is intoxicating, especially a lot of money. People begin to believe that they can do anything, buy anything, get away with anything because they have the money. They begin to believe they are not like the average person, are immune to tarnish or harm, or can pay lawyers to get them out of tight scraps. They think they can 'afford' to be reckless, feckless, and just plain immoral and will not have to pay the price. The Michael Vick story tells us otherwise-- it tells us as Numbers 32.23 once said "be sure your sins will find you out." Or as Paul was to put it in Galatians "whatsover a person sows, that shall they reap". Sooner or later, sin comes a cropper.

2) A second problem here is the cult of personality, and the idolizing of sport's stars, putting them up on pedestals as if they were role models. For the most part they are not and shouldn't be viewed that way. But with sports omni-present on TV and sports stars making huge money, sports stars become vicarious heroes of the wanna bes. If your favorite player does this or that, then you think, 'well if its alright for him, it bound to be alright.' This is the logic of teenagers and young adults looking for approval, a sense of self worth, even a measure of premature fame.
3) And unlike Biblical culture, our culture is fixated on youth. 'Youth must be served' is our motto. So we watch endless programs with the young and the restless-- swimsuit models with barely any swimsuit and barely old enough to be beyond being called 'jail bait', young athletes, young this and young that. We even made up a phrase for it--- 'the Pepsi generation'. How very different this is from the culture of the Bible where it was the oldest and wisest who were most revered in society, and youth was deemed to be wasted on the young, who were too immature to appreciate such life and vitality. And here is an important Biblical point--- the person to be admired is the one smart enough to realize that youth and beauty are fleeting and vain, and cannot be recaptured once gone, but eternal life, is forever. Life is not too short when its eternal, and you have the gift of eternal life.

4) A fourth problem, and it really is a problem is 'gangsta culture' where we idolize and emulate the bad boys and bad girls of society. Youth think that this makes them macho or tough, when all it really does is make them jaded and used up and abused before they are even old enough to vote. It hardens them against all the possible good influences out there in the world. Rap culture is of course wrapped up in 'gangsta culture' but it does not have to be. I have met Christian rappers who are more like beat poets or even prophetic voices without the usual expletives and some of what they do is positively interesting and creative. Of course much of this culture has grown out of the inner city problems in the 'hood, but surprisingly enough it has been embraced by suburban and urban kids who have not had it rough growing up, but rather embrace the culture as they think it makes them cool, or tough, or more likely to be looked up to by their version of the in crowd.

All of this was in play in Michael Vick's case, and it produced a not unexpected tragedy. Here is a young man tremendously athletically gifted who let all those who love him down, and most of all let himself down by allowing himself to be swept up by the siren song of trying something 'bad' and 'dangerous', and 'on the edge'. Not to mention involving cruel, and wicked abuse of animals.

I do not know what will transpire with Michael Vick, but I do know we should pray for him. I do know that I hope he has embraced the Lord and truly sought forgiveness. I do hope his momma is right about him.

In the meantime, it is not enough to sigh a sigh of relief and say "there but for the grace of God go I." In the meantime, we should look in the mirror and ask how we have been enablers of such dark and dangerous behavior, by financing such stuff. And this of course involves our stopping from supporting such stuff with our entertainment dollars, or even our regular dollars.


Scott Bailey said...

I think you should add horrible parenting to the list. Look up Michael's brother Marcus who was a highly touted college football quarterback but instead through behavioral issues basically threw away a NFL career.

When both of your children are this poorly prepared for real life even when they have been ridiculously blessed with physical attributes you have done a VERY bad job as a parent.

If you want a glimpse of her parenting faculties take a look at her "defense" of Michael, in which she says, "They want to send my baby to jail, and for what?"

Well done Mrs. Vick. Well done.

Ben Witherington said...

I hear you. As an ACC guy it was painful to follow the trajectory of Marcus Vick who often came across as a thug, not a college student.

David Wood said...

Dr. Witherington,

Sorry this is off topic, but it seemed like a good place to contact you.

I'm putting together a two-volume set on Christianity vs. Islam for Kregel. The first volume will consist of four written debates on Christian topics, and the second will consist of four written debates on Muslim topics. The four Christian topics will be (1) the Resurrection of Jesus, (2) the Historical Reliability of the Gospels, (3) the Reliability of Paul, and (4) the Deity of Christ.

I already have participants for a number of the positions. I'm wondering if you would be interested in doing a written debate on the reliability of Paul. Since the exchange will be spread out over a period of a few months, the work won't be very time-consuming.

Please let me know if you're interested. I think this will be the best resource on Christian-Muslim apologetics in print.


David A. Wood

Anonymous said...

So Mr. Wick has found Jesus, now that he is in deep trouble. Kind of like Paris Hilton drawing strength from her Bible while she was doing her few days in jail.

Stuart, the cynical deist

Sara said...

I really don't understand the public outcry over this. I think what Michael Vick did was awful, but I'm looking at it from a vegetarian perspective. How ridiculous it seems to me to hear news reports about how Michael Vick should be locked up forever for electrocuting and strangling dogs and then a commercial promoting BOJANGLES WORLD FAMOUS CHICKEN. Chickens which undoubtedly were also killed by electrocution or while still alive were boiled or sawn in half. What is the difference? Why is it acceptable to electrocute a chicken but wicked to electrocute a dog? Is it because people eat the chicken? Does that make it right? Millions of baby chicks are thrown in the grinder on the first day of their life just because they are male. They're never eaten, just thrown in the trash or turned in to fertilizer or chicken feed. Much as I detest Michael Vicks treatment of his dogs, I feel more empathy for him. He is the victim of a society seething in unbelievable moral hypocrisy.

Ben Witherington said...

Hi David:

I will have to ponder that one. Who exactly would I be debating Paul with?


David Wood said...

Perhaps Ruqaiyyah Waris Maqsood, though I might have her debate the resurrection if Shabir Ally can't participate. (She's written around 40 books, including "The Mysteries of Jesus," by Oxford University Press.)

It's difficult to find a Muslim who will debate Paul on a scholarly level. The typical Muslim diatribe against Paul is rather ridiculous, amounting to little more than "Look, we have to blame SOMEONE for messing up Jesus' teachings!" I only know of Ruqaiyyah and a couple of others who could do a good job.

I hope you can participate. This is going to be a great set of books. And again, the work won't consume too much time. (If you send me an email, I can fill you in on the other contributors.)


D. Lynn said...

Why shouldn't we believe Michael that he sought Jesus in times of crisis. I know I did. Paris Hilton is bearing fruits of repentance--seen her lately?

Michael may have grown up in culture where dog fighting is ok. My dad was a coal miner and during those six month strikes we poached a lot of protien (wildlife.) To this day I have little worry about hunting seasons or trapping illegally though I am not hungry. Let's cast stones with car.

José Solano said...

Though I’m not a vegetarian I think Luke brings out a very good point related to hypocrisy in our society. Since I do find chickens very tasty and we know that Jesus ate lamb, and our type of teeth demonstrates we are, like apes, omnivorous creatures, a better comparison with dog fighting is probably boxing and even football itself. These are brutal sports viciously pitting human beings against each other.

As for animal fights, we still have legal cock fighting in Louisiana, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Island and Guam, 3 three territories and one state of the US. (Legislation to ban it has been passed in Louisiana and becomes effective in August of 2008.) New Mexico only banned it this year. I understand that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson participated in it. Wikipedia informs me that a game-cock is the mascot of the Univ. of South Carolina.

Throughout the world it is extremely common from Belgium to France (limited regions) and Italy, as well as in many parts of Asia and Latin America. Of course, we know of bullfighting in Spain, Mexico and elsewhere but all this is outside of the US. Incidentally, dog fighting had been banned under the Taliban in Afghanistan but it is again a popular sport.

In the US we still find that the brutal practice of hunting cougars with dogs is an acceptable sport in some states.

So, do I have a point with all this? I’m not sure that it’s anything more than a reflection.

I do believe brutal sports should be banned as it brings out our callous, vicious side. I can’t imagine the early Christians going to a boxing match. But in terms of sentencing someone involved in the outlawed animal fights I think a certain amount of leniency should be considered. I’m informed nevertheless that there is a significant “gangsta” deep criminal activity associated with these fights—as there has been in boxing—and the congregation/mixture of those criminal elements with gambling is worse, in my opinion, than the dog fighting itself. The two activities should be sentenced separately with the involvement in the dog fighting being a lesser offence for a first time offender. Perhaps a maximum 30 days in jail and a stiff fine would be sufficient for the dog fighting part considering the enormous enjoyment Americans get out of the legal brutal sports.

DanO said...

277 and counting: The number of homicides in Philadelphia, PA as of 9/1/2007. But where is the media blitzkrieg and outrage and the call for resignations of our politicians and leaders?
Pardon me, but the media spotlight is a farce and some of the responses here are chicken shit.
Our cultural hypocrisy won't end until human lives become more important to us than the spectacle of falling and rising celebrities and our sanctimonious soapboxes.