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#196 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 11/11/96
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* Who's God Throws The Best Punch?
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HOLYFIELD-TYSON ~~ CUT AND JAB, OR THE SECOND COMING?
No doubt about it, there was a helluva' fight last night in Las Vegas.
The oddsmeisters put a 25-1 underdog tag on Evander Holyfield, saying that
he couldn't out punch a beefed-up Mike Tyson, who in the minds and sports
columns of some has come to symbolize just about everything wrong with "the
sweet science." Those odds cuiously dropped to 6-1 when Holyfield and Tyson
stepped into the ring at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. The smart money was on
the champ, and 47 of 48 sports writers polled by the Las Vegas Review-Journal
predicted a Tyson cake walk. It didn't happen. And 11 brutal rounds later,
Holyfield was describing his decision-verdict over "the Baddest Man on the
Planet" as the will of god, and the sports reporters were acting like it was
the second coming of Christ.
This was a bout that on so many levels was repleat with religious themes.
There's Tyson, a "jailhouse Muslim" whose rape conviction led to a stint in
the slammer, and who was variously described after last night's
less-than-credible jabbing performance as everything from a "beast" to a
"shark" who likes to hang out in flashy hotel rooms and "lap-dancing" joints
in Manhattan. And there's Evander, a born-again Christian who has huddled
with televangelist Pat Robertson in his dressing room before bouts, and who
sported a "Jesus is Lord" baseball cap and gown inscribed with "Phil iv, 13",
a reference to the bible passage which reads: "I can do all things through
Jesus, which strengthens me."
It was good versus evil, the "great religious hope" against some cash cow
for a much-disliked Don King. Had Tyson landed one of his lethal deliveries
instead of sustaining 21 unanswered blows by Holyfield, well, there would a
different spin on today's sport headlines, and a lot less gushing by Pat
Robertson and crew on the Monday morning "700 Club." The truth is that Jesus
wasn't in the ring, and that Evander Holyfield employed a simply and
systematic strategy in dismantling any threat the 222 lb. reigning champ had
to offer. He delivered a medley of punches that Tyson just couldn't answer,
and floored the champ for only the second time in Tyson's 47-fight career. In
the sixth round, Holyfield dumped Iron Mike onto the canvas, and opened a cut
over the left eye. By the top of the ninth, Tyson was wobbly and on the
ropes. And in the 11th, referee Mitch Halpern had to salvage Tyson and call
the fight for Evander Holyfield.
The fact that Holyfield is an exuberant religious proselytizer who invokes
God and Jesus with every jab seems to have captivated the sports-writing
establishment, and bathed last night's slugfest with a near-metaphysical
cache. He was "guided by an unwavering inner spirit," mused USA TODAY, and
Holyfield himself wasn't shy on recounting how "I prayed during training. I
prayed when I got into the ring. I prayed when I was fighting him..."
Columnist Bryan Burwell gushed that "Holyfield's excellent night rescues
boxing," as if Evander and his spirit-world corner men had managed to
vanquish the infidels and retake Jerusalem for the pope. Would he, or any of
the other sports columnist, have been so generous if Tyson had won? Or if
Tyson had been upset by some other Buster Douglas stand-in? We doubt it.
Another Religious Symbol?
Evander is already a bit of a poster-boy for religious causes, having
flirted with Pat Robertson, religious performance-artist and faith healer
Benny Hinn, and even signed on to the Advisory Committee of the "National
Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools." Mr. Hinn has been the
recipient of considerable Holyfield largesse , and no doubt last night's
winner's purse of at least $45 million could go a long way in compensating
Holyfield, and spreading the true word.
His involvement with faith healer Hinn is even more bizarre than last
night's clobbering of Mike Tyson. Operating out of Orlando, Florida, Hinn
has managed to become one of the most successful -- and controversial --
televangelists and religious crusaders peddling spiritual goods in the belief
market place. His daily television program "This Is Your Day" is pumped into
millions of households on 90 cable outlets, and reaches overseas to Russia,
Norway, Iceland, Italy, South Africa, and down to Latin America. His World
Outreach Center boasts a home-congregation membership of over 10,000 people.
Hinn has attracted media attention, and even the concern of mainstream
religious groups for his claims of faith healing, his statement that he is a
channel for god, and his involvement with Evander Holyfield. For years, Hinn
claimed that he believed in "revelation knowledge," whereby truths were
revealed directly to him by god. He has also massaged new age and even
gnostic-manichean teachings into his ministry, maintaining that there are
nine spirits or manifestations of the deity, namely three bodies, souls and
spirits for each member of the Trinity.
Skeptics and even many religious groups are wary of Hinn's fabulous claims
as a faith healer, which explains the involvement between Hinn and boxer
Evander Holyfield. Following a diagnosis several years ago for a non-life
threatening heart condition which threatened to sideline his career,
Holyfield attended one of Hinn's faith healing marathons. Reportedly,
Holyfield ended up on the stage where he remained paralyzed for over an hour
as he "allowed the spirit" to enter him. He credit that miraculous event
with the beginning of a successful medical recovery, and reportedly presented
Hinn with $250,000
Punching Out Public Schools ?
Evander Holyfield is an Advisory Board member of a group known as the
National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools. This organization
is another one of those disingenuous schemes of sneaking religious exercise
back into the public education system, all under the guise of "informing
students of the importance of religion in world and national history," albeit
without supposedly "imposing the doctrines of any particular religious sect."
The Council wants the Bible taught as an "important literary form," which
would give students "insight into the world views of America's founding
fathers" and the "Biblical influences on their views on human rights."
The new champ who doubtless will be using his position in the ring to
broadcast the benefits of religious faith, has some interesting company
within this group, including some of the nation's most authoritarian
religious ideologists and anti-gay activists. There's Christian
Reconstructionist Howard Phillips (US Taxpayers Party), and Ted Baehr of the
Christian Film and Television Commission. Evander might want to take a look
in the mirror, then recall how Baehr and his "Good News Communications" were
grinding out phoney propaganda videos on behalf of the old apartheid regime
in South Africa which included questionable footage supplied by that
government's secret service.
Other participants in the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public
* D. James Kennedy ~ "700 Club" and Trinity Broadcasting Co. regular, head
of Coral Ridge Ministries, and one of the original inncer-circle behind Jerry
Falwell's "Moral Majority" group. Kennedy is also linked to cult leader Rev.
Moon (Unification Church) through the "Coalition for Religious Freedom."
* Russ Walton ~ Walton's involvement in religious-political activism goes
back to the 1970's when he participated in the so-called "Third Century"
movement, and authored an electioneering manual titled "One Nation Under
God." Walton now is active in Howard Phillip's US Taxpayers Party, and
founded the Plymouth Rock Foundation and the offshoot group known as
Christian Committee of Correspondence. The latter group is composed of those
"who desire to rebuild the biblical foundations of this nation...They join
together to learn the true Christian history of the United States, to study
scriptural principles of government, economics and education, and to apply
those principles to both their personal lives and public affairs."
While Mr. Walton has flirted with the Christian Reconstructionist idea of
imposing the death penalty for homosexuals, insisting that "Sodomy gnaws at
the vitals and rots the soul of the nation that permits it to go
unchallenged" ("Biblical Principles Concerning Issues of Importance to
Christians," by Rus Walton), homosexuality is actually a personal issue in
the Walton family. His daughter, Pam, is a lesbian filmmaker who has
produced gay documentaries; she has been estranged from her father since
* John Munday ~ Dean with Pat Robertson's Regent University.
* Two other members of the National Council on Bible Curriculum have links
to the anti-gay movement, and were involved in the secret "Glen Eyrie
Conference" held in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Hosted by the "Colorado For
Family Values" group, the two-day event was even described by the
Moonie-funded Washington Times as "two days of top secret meetings," designed
to lay out a nationwide, religious anti-gay agenda. Participants included
the Focus on the Family, Concerned Women for American, American Family
Association and the Christian Coalition. REV. RAYMOND KWONG of the
California-based Chinese Family Alliance was a Glen Eyrie strategist, and
serves on the NCBCPS Advisory Committee; he also appears in the anti-gay
video "The Gay Agenda." The Chinese Family Alliance is one of a nexus of
California groups working on behalf of "family values," and was involved in a
flap over high school materials in San Francisco which dealt with the problem
of female genital mutilation. The book, "Warrior Masks," was called
"disturbing, hdeous, nasty, gross, horrifying, insulting and totally
inappropriate for teenagers" by the group.
Another National Council on Bible Curriculum member with strong ties to
religious right, anti-gay groups is Colonel RONALD D. RAY, a military
historian and participant in the Glen Eyrie conclave. Ray is a former Deputy
Assistant Secretary of Defense who authored the controversial "Military
Necessity and Homosexuality," which argued for keeping homosexuals out of the
Sports Heroes As Religious Icons
The mythic linkage of athletic success, 'clean living" and religious
belief is deeply rooted in contemporary consciousness. There are a number of
religious evangelical groups which focus on recruiting "Christian athletes" ;
and the Promise Keepers movement with its emphasis on athletic metaphors and
venues has attracted nearly a million male participants for its "Rallies."
American evangelist Billy Sunday was widely praised as an example of
"Christian manhood" for his religious belief and wholesome lifestyle while
playing professional baseball, prior to embarking on a full-time career on
the stump for Jesus (see: "Preacher ~ Billy Sunday & Big Time American
Evangelism," by Roger Bruns.) The award-winning hit film "Chariots of Fire"
focused on the athletic prowess of missionary Eric Liddel, and his refusal to
compete on the sabbath day during the Olympic games because of his religious
beliefs. Religious television and radio programming and publications abound
with the "testimony" of athletes who credit prayer, god and religious belief
for their physical achievements.
As for Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson, last night's bout would have been
seen as a vindication of religious belief regardless of the outcome.
Holyfield had insisted "You can pray to some gods and some gods don't hear
prayers, but there's a god out there that do (sic) hear prayers..." His
reference to "some gods" could well have been Mr. Tyson's Islamic deity;
indeed, a Tyson victory (last night or in the rematch) could be dredged up as
proof that the Muslim deity is more efficacious, if not in reforming human
conduct, then certainly in giving one an athletic or mental edge.
The celebration of Mr. Holyfield's near-moral victory in the ring fits
aptly with the new religious wave of "muscular Christianity," a rejection of
problematic feminism or lurking, repressed homosexual cravings, and
certainly the attitude espoused by Promise Keepers and other religious-right
movements that men must re-assert their divinely-inspired roles as "head of
household" and "clean living," strong leaders of society. Tyson, the "beast"
and afficianado of morally decadent table dancing was exposed as what one
leading sports columnist, Bill Lyon, described as a "bully," although one is
left wondering how that label adequately describes a man with a 45-2 career
Mr. Holyfield certainly deserves credit for rigorous training and a
devastating performance against Mike Tyson inside the ropes last evening. .
But his credulous religious beliefs and associations with more sophsticated
and menacing representatives of the American religious fundamentalist cause
should be warning flags to anyone who seeks to elevate him to the status of a
AMERICAN ATHEISTS LAUNCHES NEW FTP SITE
The American Atheists ftp site is not up and running at
ftp.atheists.org/pub/. Eventually, there will be a complete directory of
back issues of AANEWS. There is already a long list of materials available
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releases and articles which have appeared in our publications.
Our thanks to Don Rivers, Wayne Aiken and Ed Gauci for their continued
work on the ftp site. We'll keep readers informed as new materials are made
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