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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Two Responses to God's Interruption


At Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus, our Savior, but in the Gospel of Luke we read about two important and miraculous births: John (the Baptizer) to Zechariah and Elizabeth and Jesus to Mary and Joseph. Both of these supernatural conceptions are announced by Gabriel the angel. The reactions of those Gabriel tells sound the same at first, but they’re actually significantly different.

Gabriel tells Zechariah that his wife, who has never conceived a child and is past childbearing age, will conceive a child (John) who will be filled with the Holy Spirit in the womb and grow up to act like the prophet Elijah returned. Zechariah’s response is, “How will I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years” (Luke 1:18).

Gabriel tells Mary that even though she is a virgin, she will conceive the successor to King David (Jesus) who will be called the Son of God. Mary’s response is, “How will this be, since I am not intimate with a man?” (v. 34).

In both cases, it looks like the person Gabriel tells is shocked and can’t quite believe that this is going to happen. But Gabriel condemns Zechariah to be mute until John is born “because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time” (v. 20), yet Gabriel gives no rebuke to Mary at all. What gives?

I think we see the answer if we look more carefully at what Zechariah and Mary say. Zechariah says, “How will I know this?” Zechariah received a message from an angel in the temple. You would think that that is how he would “know this.” But Zechariah still doesn’t know it, because he doesn’t yet believe the message or the messenger.

By contrast, Mary says, “How will this be?” Mary assumes that this conception will, in fact, happen. She just wants to know how, which gives Gabriel a chance to cite the power of the Holy Spirit (v. 35). Mary believes from the outset.

Zechariah and Mary respond differently to major change wrought by God. Even though the change is for the better, it requires substantial adjustment of life and mindset and has costs that come with it. Even though Zechariah has been praying for years for a son (v. 13), at first he is unwilling to adjust to the reality that now he is getting one. He is skeptical and set in his way (a way that he doesn’t prefer, but he is still set in it) and not ready for God’s disruptive blessing. On the other hand, Mary’s response to God’s interruption has been lauded and echoed in the church for centuries since: “Look, the Lord’s slave. May it be done to me according to your word” (v. 38).

Jesus’ first coming was an interruption. His second coming will be too. And in his grace God interrupts our lives even now, sometimes with things that look like trouble at first. Mary is our model for how to respond to God when he brings disruptive change into our lives: with total, obedient submission to him.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Fame

Before I reach the end of this paragraph, I'm going to make a rather vulnerable personal confession. I have mixed feelings about this kind of thing, especially in a venue like the internet that can be read (theoretically) by every soul on the face of the Earth. Such public confessions can be helpful, inspiring, and thought-provoking to others (for classic examples see the psalms of David and the Confessions of Augustine). More often they are grotesque and embarrassing (and either repellent or addictively fascinating as a result). In fact, stay tuned for an upcoming blog post that addresses this very subject. But here and now, for the purpose of edification (we’ll see how it goes), I am going to make my vulnerable personal confession: for most of my life I have really, really wanted to be famous.

Now I expect you have some notion of how vulnerable I have made myself by admitting this. If not yet, hopefully by the end of this post you will. I expect you’re beginning to see how blazingly egotistical I have been and/or currently am, and like Charlie Sheen’s winning! I am putting it out there (though not quite as shamelessly) for your righteous judgment. Nevertheless, I’m not that worried about being judged for admitting that I’ve really, really wanted to be famous, because I think that most people reading this want to be famous too, or at least you know what wanting that is like. I actually believe this is a very common thing, which I’ll demonstrate in a bit. But I’ll talk about it along the way of describing my personal journey with respect to fame (yep, more awkward confession ahead).

It started a long while ago—I don’t know when, but it had to have been in childhood. Like you I absorbed stories in books (including the Bible) and TV and movies. Every story has a hero. The hero’s journey differs from story to story (though always falling into a few relentlessly predictable, cross-cultural categories; for more info see here), but the hero is always present. Like you I loved the stories. In particular I loved the story of the weak, inexperienced, or disregarded man or boy who takes a perilous journey and masters superhuman skill (physical, spiritual, or intellectual—the latter my favorite) to lead the tight-knit forces of good against impossible odds to defeat the forces of evil. I loved this favorite story of mine so much that, like you, I intended to live it. (Perhaps you didn’t know that you intended to live your favorite story, but if you think about what you daydreamed about and played pretend about and thereby practiced when you were a child, you’ll see what I mean.) In many ways I was strong and well-regarded as a boy, but in a few ways that were crucial to me I was weak and disregarded. I intended to correct that by living my beloved story, without knowing of course that that’s what I was intending.

I want to pause for a moment to point out that there was nothing inherently bad in what I was doing. Not only is it entirely natural—indeed, I think God made us this way—but also every story that deep and resonant in humankind accurately depicts the person and work of Christ from one perspective. Therefore, to live such a story faithfully, relying on Christ to live it in and through oneself, is to become like Christ, which is the goal of our salvation. But that’s a topic for another time.

Anyway, the thing about stories is that the hero is the center of attention. In fact, in most stories (i.e., written in the third-person limited or in the first person), the hero absolutely dominates the reader’s or viewer’s attention. And so when one goes about living one’s favorite story, one dominates one’s own attention and expects to be the center of attention of every other character in the story too—all the other people in one’s life. That’s what I did, again without knowing it.

Now, the hero in a story isn’t trying to be famous. The hero simply is famous because, unknown to the hero, readers are reading about him or her and viewers are watching him or her. The hero is just living the hero’s life, doing the hero’s job. Very often within the story the hero will become famous as a fitting conclusion to the narrative (the final, wordless scene in Star Wars, Episode IV comes to mind), but even in such endings fame was never the hero’s goal or intention. But to the reader or viewer who is trying to mimic that story, becoming famous as a result of living out the story is naturally expected and even becomes the objective. In addition, the imitator is only conscious of one person who is narrating his story: himself. So he automatically assumes the center of attention.

I broke gender-neutral character in those last sentences because that’s what I personally did. It became more pronounced—and awkward—during adolescence. I dreamt of being Aragorn at Helm’s Deep, of being Churchill during the Blitz, and in my social and spiritual world I tried to live accordingly with all the success and then adulation those heroes earned. Unfortunately, being a hero when the rest of the world doesn’t know they are characters in your story can lead to embarrassing and goofy results. Nevertheless, it also occasionally produced wonderful results, moments when really good things got done, people were really helped, and I took a step closer toward living the purpose for which God had created me that resonated with those stories.

But meanwhile, whatever benefits to the world may have resulted from me being the center of my story, there was the constant corruption of the brute fact of wanting to be the center, wanting people to look at me and tell me how wonderful I was. As a devoted lover of Jesus through adolescence and into young adulthood, I knew that this was sinful and battled it. But I often missed or neglected it, usually (because I was on my way to becoming a pastor by then) in the name of what I would accomplish for the kingdom of God, which I usually was careful to phrase “what God would accomplish through me for the kingdom of God.” Because again, I knew that that was right. The Spirit within me rejoiced at Galatians 2:20 and 1 Corinthians 15:10, but my flesh craved my own glory. Within me was the desire to be glorious by reflecting the Lord’s glory like the moon and also the desire to radiate my own glory like a rival sun, and I was very conscious of both desires, especially during my seminary years.

It was not long after that, while I was at my first church as pastor, that I read David McCullough’s biography of John Adams. I found a kindred soul in that important man, but no place more than in his repeated admonition to himself and others through his entire life about how terrible a vice ambition was—a vice that he hated in himself but that drove him to perform incredible acts of service to the United States that millions have inherited the benefits of. I knew that I had a lust for glory, a lust to be Number One, but I also knew that this wickedness was woven tightly together with a desire that God himself had built into me to be exactly the hero that he had created and saved me to be for his glory and honor and for the benefit of the world.

Through all those adolescent and young-adult years I experienced fame occasionally because I was good at things and I got to do them in public, particularly things of a musical or religious nature. But there were a couple of experiences with fame in my first pastorate that started to reshape my understanding of it. The first was just being a pastor itself. My first call was very humble and very challenging: a crumbling (physically and institutionally) urban church of a few dozen mostly elderly people in an immigrant neighborhood, a church whose last good days were in the Kennedy administration and whose best days were in Taft’s. The church was still enduring a traumatic situation with the previous pastor when I came and much was in disarray. It was the kind of task that only a crazy, desperate, or God-compelled person would do, and I happened to be all three. In fact, it was the perfect situation for someone who wanted to live out the story that had enchanted me my whole life, and I threw myself into it wholeheartedly. Modest as the ministry was (the eyes of the flesh would likely call it pathetic), it was still the first time that I had a captive audience of people to look at and listen to me every week, and even within a small orbit, being the center of attention is what fame is. But I found that what came along with fame and the heroic story was a whole lot of really hard work with seemingly little payoff and occasionally downright suffering and despair. In the stories I was used to, the very difficult, painful, and demoralizing times always had a bit of romance and nobility around them, but that’s not how they were in real life. In real life they totally sucked; there’s really no better way to put it. The tedious parts in the stories (like all the walking in any journey tale) are elided by the author into a page or two so as not to lose the reader’s attention. But in real life you endure every second of them in all their boring, unabridged dreariness. And this is intrinsic to fame; I’m sure it’s true of almost everyone who has earned fame and maintained it for any appreciable length of time: the stuff beyond the camera’s eye that no one else sees, regardless of how their story differs from mine.

As it happened, after all that hard work and tedium I concluded my ministry in that church with my personal story unconcluded. I left the church far more stable and better off than I had found it, which was well worth celebrating and giving thanks for, but it hadn’t turned around. The hero didn’t win; the miracle didn’t happen. So I went to my next church, which though still small was considerably larger than the first and where I was correspondingly more famous both within the church and in the community. And sure enough, the work was much harder and the suffering much, much more severe.

But I’m getting ahead of my story. The second thing that I discovered about fame while I was at my first church actually had nothing to do with being the pastor of a church. It had to do with being a contestant on Jeopardy! Really. Now it happens that when you’re a contestant on Jeopardy! (I’m just warning you for when it happens to you) you sign a legal waiver about as thick as a phone book that may yield Sony Pictures Studios and/or the estate of Merv Griffin the rights to your firstborn child. But one thing it definitely says is that you can’t tell anybody (except, the non-lawyer contestant coordinators tell you, your spouse and your boss, maybe your parents) that you’re on the show or what happens while you’re on it under penalty of death (or something). So it wasn’t until two days before the air date that I told everyone I knew all over the world that I was going to be on the show if they happened to want to tune in. That night we had a party at the church parsonage with guests from at least three different social circles of my wife’s and mine to watch the show. And I won (with “What is Indiana?”). Celebration reigned. The phone calls started pouring in, then the e-mails the next day. People I had lost touch with were finding me and congratulating me. I was featured on my college’s website and in their alumni publication, also (strangely) the Marion (Ind.) Chronicle-Tribune. (Note: I’m not from Indiana. That’s where my alma mater is.) I was stopped by strangers at stores. I spoke to my son’s kindergarten class. It was amazing. This was, like, real fame—people nationwide seeing me, strangers knowing my name. And most powerfully of all, finally, really, indisputably being the center of attention of basically everyone I knew or perhaps had ever known. It was awesome.

Then, the next night, I lost (by missing “What is ‘queue’?”). It was funny: I knew I was going to lose, but I found myself weirdly hoping that what would happen on TV would differ from what happened in a studio in Culver City two months before. The run ended 24 and a half hours after it began. I got a few calls and a few e-mails, and then that was it. Everyone (Alex Trebek included) went back to their own lives, being the central characters in their own stories, and I was back to being much lonelier in mine. And in that moment I understood for the first time why certain celebrities do utterly embarrassing, self-disgracing things to keep themselves on TV and celebrity mags: the attention of other people is the most addicting drug on the planet. I had a one-day dose of it (well, portions of it lingered through the week), and I already felt a sharp jolt in the withdrawal. Frankly, I don’t know how actual celebrities who have grown accustomed to it over years and then lose it handle the experience. (I guess like Sunset Boulevard.)

A little later, while I was at my next church, I had some other experiences that continued the shift in my attitude toward fame. A big part was my deepening relationship with my friend Ted, whose writing career had begun to blossom, and I was eagerly living that with him and cheering him on. Over the years I got to see Ted dealing with the accoutrements of fame that I wouldn’t have known or expected: not only being famous but then not being famous, but also being famous but not being as famous as that guy, being famous but getting flamed on message boards, being famous but struggling to land the next project and provide for one’s family, being famous but wrestling with sucking up to someone more famous to keep working. It was also through Ted that I found myself in the living room of someone else who was just starting to be famous, then later became fairly famous (in one Christian sphere). That person seemed not terribly unlike me, and as months and years passed I found myself wanting a seat at the same table of fame he had been invited to but realizing that I wasn’t going to get one. It was the identical experience of looking enviously at the cool kids’ exclusive lunch table in junior high. That renewed experience sickened me, and it sickened me that I was sickened by it.

Ted was also the person who pointed out to me that it has only been fairly recently that a pastor would even consider that he might become famous. For a long time (though not in all times and places) being a pastor was like being a plumber: you could expect a lifetime of doing a humble job with a modest degree of being known and respected in a local community, and that was it. In the Megachurch/Conference Circuit/Book Deal/Blogosphere Era, however, stocked as it is with celebrity pastors, every pastor thinks at some time or another, “If I just get ________ to happen in this church, people will know my name too” (see earlier post). We may or may not indulge that thought, but we can’t help thinking it.

But then I realized that pastors aren’t the only ones thinking this. We have even more recently entered the Facebook/Twitter/YouTube Era, in which everyone thinks this. Everyone has the opportunity to “Broadcast Yourself” courtesy of YouTube, and everyone has a shot of their cute video going viral and landing oneself on The Today Show. Everyone (in theory) gets to have “followers” eagerly following them on Twitter to gain intimate access to their lives. And everyone can make themselves the center of attention on Facebook, whose very structure is designed to enable a person to construct their public persona (“Here’s what I like . . . here’s what I do . . . here’s what I’m thinking . . . ”) around which the rest of one’s world can revolve. Everyone, no matter how small the circle, can make oneself the center. Everyone can be famous—or at least try to.

Please don’t think that the irony that I am analyzing this and exposing my soul on my own blog named after myself is lost on me. I can say, though, that I’ve (at least half the time) gotten beyond writing here for the sake of who or how many might read. My journey with fame, particularly the aforementioned hard work and suffering associated with it, has brought me to a point that I never thought I’d come to. It’s a point where I’d rather not be famous, a point where I like the notion of proceeding through a whole life of not being known and not having to pay the costs associated with being known. That sentiment is not total; I feel the old, vain urge reemerge from time to time. But my general attitude, I think, is over that. That might be godliness. It might be simple, natural maturity. But it might also be fear.

Because here’s the thing: the Bible says not to seek fame (that’s how I take the prohibitions against “selfish ambition”), but it doesn’t say not to have it. Lots of godly people in the Bible had it, and they had it not because they strove for it but because it came as a result of doing exactly what God wanted them to do. (Moses and David spring to mind.) I think that God has had me on a journey to come eventually to prefer being unknown to being famous, but that’s not the final stop. The next stop is to prefer God being famous such that it really doesn’t matter whether I am famous or not. Note that this is not quite the same thing as what precedes. No doubt it is preferable to desire to be low than to desire to be high, because this is what Jesus did. But this calculation is still about self—it’s about where I am. Much better to say, “God, if me being a nobody will work to accrue to your fame in this world, then I will do that. But if me being a somebody will do it, then I will do that instead. I really don’t care one way or the other as long as you get more fame in this world.” That is really what Jesus did.

In the end, my long-held and now only barely surrendered desire to be famous has, at its root, doubt. When I want to be famous in this world, I quite simply doubt the reality of the kingdom of God—I doubt that it is here; I doubt that it is coming; I doubt that it is precious like the treasure hidden in the field or the expensive pearl; I doubt that it contains rewards that far surpass those of this age; I doubt that it is eternal. And when I seek God’s kingdom, I don’t reject my fame so much as I embrace his. I have faith, without which I cannot please God, because I believe that he rewards those who earnestly seek him (Heb. 11:6). I realign myself in the solar system of glory: no longer desiring to be kindled into white-hot flame but happy to bask in his blazing radiance, reflecting it brightly to all who see me, revolving around him forever as the center.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Mentality of Spiritual Wealth

So let me tell you what's been blowing my mind for the past few days.

On Monday I attended a workshop based on (but just scratching the surface of) a book entitled Bridges Out of Poverty: Strategies for Professionals and Communities, which is based on the work of educator Ruby K. Payne.  The basic premise of the book is that the differences between the upper class (inherited wealth), middle class, and lower class (generational poverty) are at least as much mental as financial.

An interruption here to clarify that last sentence.  First, the book asserts that these three classes are not neat, airtight categories.  All people fall along a continuum from extremely poor to extremely rich without clear lines separating when one group ends and another begins.  Second, this is looking at patterns of wealth over generations.  So a person isn't considered to be in the upper class based on how much money the person has but based on how many generations the person's family has had that much money.  So also with the other classes.  Consequently, depending on the fluidity of the society there may be many people who don't fit neatly into any one class because their family's position has moved up and down over time.  Third, in this schema the middle class is a broad category, encompassing everyone from financially stressed but thrifty, steadily employed folks to self-made millionaires.  What binds together such disparate people is their common approach to the world.

That brings us back to where I left off.  Bridges Out of Poverty investigates the differences between "old money," the middle class, and the generationally poor that go far beyond how much money they have.  The classes think differently and approach the world differently.  They have different beliefs about what money is for; they view and use time, food, and humor differently; they have different reasons for wanting to be a charming, affable person; their families are structured differently; and they have different motivations that compel them toward different concepts of their destiny.

Here's an example.  A typical person accustomed to poverty is focused on immediate survival, so their view of time doesn't extend much beyond getting through the present moment, and money, when acquired, is to be spent immediately toward that objective.  If such a person receives a windfall—as large as signing a huge professional athletic contract or as modest as an Earned Income Tax Credit refund—that amount of money doesn’t change the person’s basic approach to money and time.  Since getting through the moment is what matters, since money is to be spent, and since there is little belief that a person’s choices can change anything about their destiny, the temporarily rich person still uses the money like a poor person, using it to generate momentary satisfaction with one’s friends and thereby burning through it rapidly.

While the typical person in generational poverty has the small time horizon of a day or two, the typical middle class person has a time horizon stretching over weeks, months, years, or a lifetime.  For this person, money is meant to be managed, not spent, so that it will last through some defined, intermediate future.  But the typical heir of “old money” looks much farther than that.  For this person, ensuring that their needs are met is a non-issue.  But they recognize that their status and security is the result of generations prior and carries with it the responsibility to extend it to generations to come, so money is meant to be conserved and invested.  A generationally wealthy person’s time horizon extends far beyond the span of their own life in both directions.

This got my wife and me thinking, what are the applications of these observations to spiritual wealth, as for example in 2 Corinthians 8:9: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that although he was rich, he became poor for your sakes, so that you by his poverty could become rich”?  All of us started out spiritually poor, and everyone who is in Christ has become spiritually rich (see e.g. Eph. 1-3).  But not everyone who has received these riches has had the change of mind to start living like a rich person.

Some people received the riches of God’s grace to be forgiven and reconciled to himself and were delighted about it.  They were cleansed and guaranteed eternal life.  But sometimes they doubt it once they’ve committed a sin.  They wonder, am I really saved?  Will God really forgive me?  They fall down and plead for God’s mercy or avoid him in fear, a corner of them hoping that he will still include them in his family.  All they’re looking for spiritually is assurance of salvation, because they’re not confident that the mercy they received yesterday will carry over to today.  If they think about anything else, it’s about getting God’s help to get through some earthly crisis right now—sickness, divorce, etc.—or the hope that someday in heaven it won’t be like this anymore.  This saved individual has all spiritual wealth in Christ but lives like a poor person, entirely focused on the present moment, questioning whether the mercy of God is available and then using his gift of salvation—perhaps also using corporate worship—as an escape from a hard life, and that’s all.

Some Christians act like the spiritual middle class.  They also are delighted to be saved by grace, but they long for something more.  They recognize their present lack of Christ-likeness and see in Jesus the great resources to enable them to change and become godly in their thinking and conduct.  Their spiritual time horizon extends from conversion until death, and they are looking to receive and manage the resources of God’s grace to develop a career of holiness over the course of their earthly journey—or at least until old age, at which they may retire from the spiritual ordeal and live off the dividends of godliness that they spent their Christian life steadily amassing.  Because these Christians look beyond the day-to-day far enough to see the gap between who they are and who God wants them to be, they invest themselves heavily in a variety of means of spiritual growth (daily Bible reading and weekly small groups come to mind).  However, they do not invest themselves heavily in anything that extends Christ-likeness beyond themselves.

But some Christians begin to recognize just how much spiritual wealth they have received in Christ, and it changes their approach to their spiritual life.  They act like the wealthy people that they are.  They give little thought to whether God’s grace is sufficient to save them and keep them though they never cease to be thankful for it.  Likewise they do not doubt that God will exercise his mighty power to conform them to the image of his Son and keep them to the end though they do apply themselves to that end.  Their main focus is on extending the wealth they have received in Christ to future generations, spiritual sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters who in turn will pass on the riches of God’s grace to still others.  They think far beyond their own life’s journey and into the life-journeys of others, journeys that they know will be reunited with theirs for eternity.  These Christians seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and though they may be financially poor they make many spiritually rich, because though they have nothing, they know they possess everything.  Their engagement in the church revolves around taking the wealth of Jesus by whatever means God makes available to those who have not received it yet.

The fact that a person may be financially poor yet behave like a spiritually rich person indicates that just as one’s earthly possessions don’t necessarily correlate to one’s heavenly ones, one’s worldly mindset may not correlate to one’s spiritual mindset either.  In other words, a person could handle the riches of this life as a poor person does but handle the true riches of eternity as the wealthy do.  Even so, I can’t help but wonder if a person’s bias toward handling spiritual wealth is naturally influenced by their approach to material wealth.  I also wonder if each church has a collective spiritual worldview as poor, middle-class, or rich like individuals do.  America is a predominantly middle-class nation, and most of its churches are composed of mostly middle-class people.  Are most of these churches spiritually middle-class too?  Are most of them bent on salvation and spiritual growth but missing the boat on mission?  Might that explain why Christian books sell as fast today as ever yet the percentage of disciples of Jesus in our nation’s population stays the same decade after decade?  What would a host of churches that think like spiritual “old money” look like?  Or rather, what would our nation look like if it was filled with such churches?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

When Becoming Nothing Is an Improvement

Yet another good article from Francis Frangipane.  Its title (copied as the title of this post) says it all.  God creates something out of nothing, and what he creates is good.  So being nothing can be a fine thing.  Enjoy.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Anniversary Redesign

Yesterday was the two-year anniversary of 1st Corynthians.  Even though the frequency of posting is down from those zealous and buoyant early days of the blog, the fact that it's still going with some regularity is, I've found, no small feat in the world of blogging, where bloggers start with high hopes and great ambition that comes crashing down when no one is paying you to do it.  So the fact that it's still going after two years is something to celebrate, and I'm celebrating by redesigning the look of the site.  I hope that you like it enough to keep reading for the next two years.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Tebow in the Lions' Den

Hey, readers.  Long time, no post.  Sorry about that.  I do have a number of ideas in the proverbial hopper that I want to get onto the blog and will soon.

Until then, I direct you to a post by Ted Kluck on certain Detroit Lions' mockery of Tim Tebow's trademark post-touchdown prayer.  I don't hide the fact that I like Ted's post a great deal.  But I also find the comments unusually interesting.  It's fascinating seeing Evangelicals who engage in groupthink in so many matters having such contrasting opinions of Tim Tebow's public persona.


And along those lines, have you given thought to how comfortable you will be with Tim Tebow as an Evangelical gatekeeper?  For a long time when the media wanted an Evangelical (or, as they usually named it, Fundamentalist) quote they would go to a few "reliable" sources—Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson come to mind, and eventually James Dobson and Ralph Reid.  But in the middle of the last decade—I think the turning point was the reelection of George W. Bush—the media started digging deeper and discovering more diversity and more of the beating heart of Evangelicalism than the tiny number of talking heads had given them access to.  But as time goes on the media could grow tired of putting in that much work and look for a new gatekeeper.  Tim Tebow's playing days will likely be over by then and his post-football public career (Congress?) will have begun.  Do you think he'll represent you well on Meet the Press?  For my part, I like him as a spokesman better than Falwell.  I'm not sure how much better.