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THEISTWATCH FOR AUGUST 19, 1995 Contents: United States--ONWARD CHRISTIAN (AND MUSLIM) ATHLETES United States--WAR AGAINST ABORTION MARCHES ON IN CONGRESS United States--BIBLE BOOK BUSINESS BOOMS; EVEN ATHEISTS TAKE PART ____________________ ____________________ ONWARD CHRISTIAN (AND MUSLIM) ATHLETES by Conrad Goeringer My guess is that readers of this column, like me, place too much value on $39.95. That's the going pay-per-view price tag for Saturday's "Return of Mike Tyson," which pits the former heavyweight champ against a relatively unknown operator named Pete McNeeley. Sign up for the live broadcast from the Vegas MGM Grand and you'll probably get an earful of commercial promos, laudatory exculpations about "Iron Mike," maybe a few rounds. Don King, the promoter with the funny hair who is making famous the word "trickeration," will get rich, and you'll be out a couple of Andrew Jacksons, with a dull nickle (and maybe some even duller memories) to show for it all. Sports has always been a theatrical stage where more than just the touchdowns, home runs, long shots and KO's mattered. Years ago, a dyed-in-the-wool Boston academic --who also happened to be a zealous Celtics fan coined the term "Sportworld" to describe that complex matrix of sociological, theatrical, and psychological reasons why Americans especially play and watch "the game." Sports is the grand stage where some people get to act out that drama between good and evil. The underdog gets a shot at the odds-on favorite. There's "the agony of defeat," the "joy of victory," the drama of the game. There's shouting, cheering, weeping. It's more than somebody hitting a ball around, or running up and down a field of grass. Which may explain why, over the past twenty years, stadiums and arenas have been packed with fans doing The Wave, dressing in bizarre costumes, holding tailgate parties and nearly running out onto the field or court and playing the game themselves. This may be catharsis for post-modern homo sapiens, and maybe some people are creating their own "gods" and super-heroes such as Magic and Michael Jordan. We look up to them both literally and figuratively, and we spend big money to imitate even their Nike shoes and boxer shorts. How far does this analogy go? Sonny Liston was painted as the bad-assed ex-con with a punch which would KO the "respectable negro," Floyd Patterson. Floyd had done in the "Great White Hope" Johannsen. Later, Casius Clay changed his name to Mohammed Ali and went on the road for The Honorable Elija Mohammed. But he still stayed friends with the late Howard Cosell. Some of these sports celebrities are selling more than cars, soft-drinks and underwear. Christian "athleticism" has always occupied an important niche in the evangelical history of the United States. Those "clean cut," mostly White college jocks were a selling point in the outreach of groups such as Bill Bright's Campus Crusade for Christ. You could love both the coach and Jesus Christ. Mike Tyson didn't find Jesus during his three-year prison stint for rape. He did keep punching the bag and pumping the iron, and in between work-outs converted to Islam. He now wears a small, white Islamic headpiece, and greeted a recent pre-fight publicity conference with a Muslim salutation. He insists that "Nothing has changed about me," but that his study of Islam has made him "more conscious of life." The fact remains that Tyson is "hot property." He's worth about $50 million more after Saturday night, even if Peter McNeeley's 77-inch arm reach connects and decks Iron Mike. That's probably wishful thinking. Mike Tyson returns to boxing as an unstoppable money machine, and it will be interesting to see how King, and the other interests around Tyson, direct and use that capability. I'm also curious to see if Tyson becomes a mouthpiece for his new- found religion. Is his brand of Islam compatible with Louis Farrakhan's? Will Mike Tyson end up pushing the Koran like "Air" Jordan sells Ball Park Franks? We'll just have to wait and see. All the world IS indeed a stage, and a lot of it is devoted to farcical comedy. Especially the Saturday night presentation. WAR AGAINST ABORTION MARCHES ON IN CONGRESS by Conrad Goeringer The knock-outs aren't just in the boxing ring. Abortion rights took some hits during the THEISTWATCH break, so here's the bad news. The House of Representatives defunded the Title 10 family planning program. That affected some 4,000 clinics which provide counseling and referral for abortions. The House Appropriations Committee also voted 29-23 to allow individual states to establish their own guidelines on the use of Medicaid funds for abortions. That opens the door for religious conservatives to ban such funding, particularly in states where they have the political clout to do so. Rich women will still be able to travel to states permitting abortion; poorer women, however, will be penalized simply because they got pregnant. The Committee also voted 30-23 to prohibit funding of experimentation on living human embryos. This threatens important fetal tissue research which may hold clues in reversing degenerative diseases, including Parkinsons. These and other votes lead James A. Smith, head of the Southern Baptist Convention's "Christian Life Commission" to declare that "It's definitely a new day in Congress for pro-life Americans." The legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee added that this was "the beginning of a strong congressional response to the Clinton administration's pro-abortion extremism." And you thought that just because abortion was "legal" really meant something? BIBLE BOOK BUSINESS BOOMS; EVEN ATHEISTS TAKE PART by Conrad Goeringer Even though the United States is "saturated" with copies of the Bible, most individuals who consider themselves Christians have never read it and really know little about its contents, according to religious leaders and members of the American Bible Society. The group's vice president, Maria Martinez, recently told a meeting of the Women's Missionary Union that "The Bible has become a multi-billion dollar industry. . . . Yet some Christians who are in church on Easter Sunday don't know what they are commemorating." Martinez claimed that "Approximately 95 percent of all homes in the U.S. have more than one bible. Yet most Bibles that are sold are given as gifts, and people tend to use the Bible as a good-luck charm." She also quoted a research study which revealed that while 80 percent of Americans consider themselves Christians, half do not know the Biblical tale about Jesus delivering the Sermon on the Mount. Many others could not list the Ten Commandments. "This erosion of biblical knowledge among Christians results in the loss of personal witness," claimed Baptist Press in reporting Martinez's talk. But an unlikely group is also doing a thriving trade in Bible-related literature. American Atheists, a nationwide organization based in Austin, Texas, sells a number of tracts and books which fall under the heading of "Bible criticism." According to the organization's executive secretary Robin Murray O'Hair, its latest offering titled "All The Obscenities In The Bible" is finding a home on the bookshelves of many members and the just plain curious. Murray-O'Hair said that the 488-page book focuses on "incest, cannibalism, cruelty to children, misogyny, reproduction, marriage, circumcision, scatology, nudity, homosexuality, eunuchs, male virility, prostitution, sex in the New Testament, murder, hatred, suicide and human sacrifice." That, apparently, is just for starters. The organization also sells Martin L. Bard's "The Peril of Faith" which includes a section on "the contradictions and ethical ugliness of the Bible." But if you find the 175 pages of this book too daunting for an evening's quick read, there is a little tract called "The Spiritual Guide To Gracious Living." Miss Murray-O'Hair said that it's one of the most-asked-for items, and has to be re-printed on a regular basis. Included are headings on topics like hygiene, slapstick comedy, burlesque, and self-improvement. To give you some idea of the contents: under "Grand Opera," biblical literalists may read Isaiah 16:11, "Wherefore my bowels shall sound like a harp for Moab, and mine inward parts for kirharesh." American Atheists offers other Bible-criticism texts, including "The X-Rated Bible" (the title pretty well describes the contents!). Murray-O'Hair also noted that the American Atheist Bulletin Board has a heavy traffic from users interested in Bible verse. "People who call or write us want material that will help them win arguments with religionists," she said, adding that the group's FTP site likewise did a brisk trade in terms of "hits" for Bible verse. (You can order a catalogue of American Atheists Bible- buffoonery goodies by writing to PO Box 140195, Austin, TX 78714. The bulletin board is a good resource, too, for learning about "Grand Opera" and other subjects. Call 512-302-0223.) *********************************************************************** * * * American Atheists website: * * PO Box 140195 FTP: * * Austin, TX 78714-0195 * * Voice: (512) 458-1244 Dial-THE-ATHEIST: * * FAX: (512) 467-9525 (512) 458-5731 * * * * Atheist Viewpoint TV: * * Info on American Atheists:, * * & American Atheist Press include your name and mailing address * * AANEWS -Free subscription: * * and put "info aanews" in message body * * * * This text may be freely downloaded, reprinted, and/other * * otherwise redistributed, provided appropriate point of * * origin credit is given to American Atheists. * * * ***********************************************************************


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