Saturday, July 17, 2010

American Boys Don't Play Baseball

Every spring, I am more and more saddened to hear reports from the boys of our church when I ask them what sport will take them out onto the newly greened grass. It was once unusual for a boy to respond that he signed up for a spring sport other than baseball, but the opposite is increasingly true--the boys I know rarely play baseball. Below are what I think are some contributing factors:

Baseball involves a lot of rules. Soccer involves few. A boy can play soccer effectively if he understands five basic instructions: "1) Put the ball into that goal; don't let the ball go into your own goal. 2) Only the goalie can use his hands. 3) Throw the ball in if the other team kicks it out of bounds. 4) Stay onside. 5) Don't foul." The explanation of the Infield Fly Rule alone is more complicated. Sure, the basic operating rules of baseball are simple enough, but an alien observer could explain very few of the rules of the game after merely watching others play baseball. Many of the rules are tied to specific or rare circumstances and some would even seem to be contradictory.

Baseball requires critical thinking and planning. Soccer decisions are mostly reactive. Generally speaking, a boy can learn to play soccer better just by giving it a try. It doesn't take expert instruction to realize that he has a better chance of coming into possession of the ball if he remains in open space; he will quickly realize that dribbling the ball too much often results in a turn-over. A boy can even improve his game IQ just by mimicking better players. Conversely, to play defensive baseball in even the most basically effective way, a boy needs to spend a significant amount of time considering what to do with the baseball if and when it is hit to him. To play even the simplest position in baseball, right field, one needs to have considered at least four different circumstances before the fall is fielded every time the ball is fielded. Every time a new batter comes to the plate, the right fielder needs to have considered: How many outs are there? What runners are on base and what is their configuration? Where should I throw the ball if I catch a fly ball? Where should I throw the ball if I field a single or a double? If the ball comes to a soccer player's feet, he usually only needs to decide if he will pass, dribble, or shoot.

Baseball is not fast-paced. Soccer is fluid and continuous. Although a baseball game is highly segmented into shorter, individual pieces--each batter, each half of an inning--to the ignorant or uninterested observer, it can seem to drag on. From afar, there is not much difference between watching players in a baseball field and watching someone do yoga--there are very few moving parts. Despite the numerous complaints about boring World Cup games, the ball is continually moving in a soccer game and players are almost never stationary.

Baseball involves failure on an individual level. Contrasted with youth soccer, in which an average field player will almost never be perceived to have "blown it," failure is built into the game of baseball. On average, Derek Jeter strikes out every six at-bats. Joel Pearce hit safely in exactly one at-bat during the 1995 Hackettstown Little League season and didn't really come close in the other 30-something. Errant throws, botched ground balls, and dropped flies are all more likely to occur than be avoided in any one inning of any Little League game. When a baseball player misses a fly ball or strikes out, the failure is acutely individual. The team doesn't strike out--little Johnny strikes out. Goalie is the only position in soccer where failure perceived to have been individual. No casual observer blames the other ten players when the ball gets by the goalie, but everyone unfairly blames Bill Buckner for blowing an entire World Series in one play.

Baseball requires a significant group in order to play even a casual game. Nearly every other sport can be enjoyed with a reduced number of players. One-on-one basketball is extreme as an exception, but 3-on-3 or 4-on-4 hockey, football, and soccer all very closely resemble the original sport when adjusted to accommodate a low turn-out of players. Even a drastic modification of the playing field and rules still requires in excess of ten baseball players to enjoy baseball competitively. The group needs a field, bases, a bat, enough gloves for the field positions, and a baseball. Soccer can be played with a ball and two trash cans in a street.

I think that reduced attention spans and a general avoidance of failure-rich activities are the most disturbing culprits in the reasons baseball is losing ground. I have not even mentioned the decline in black Major League stars, World Series games starting at 9:00 p.m. EST, or the glut of other extra-curricular activities as tertiary contributing factors.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Christianity and Liberalism - Doctrine

It wasn't until I left home for Geneva College that I ever came across someone who confidently asserted that doctrine was not an important aspect to the Christian life. Before my time in Beaver Falls, PA, I had certainly met others who by their practice showed that doctrine had no place in their life. Yet on the campus of a reformed Christian college I first came to know many who tried to intellectually defend the idea.

"My church doesn't really get caught up in confessions and creeds--we just read and teach the Bible," a friend would humbly boast. "No creed but Christ," and "Deeds, not Creeds" are popular phrases among those of like mind. Is a higher state of Christianity being achieved by claiming to reject doctrine? Can all creeds be reconciled with each other? Is the Sermon on the Mount and the life/example of Jesus all we need in this life?

The second chapter of J. Gresham Machen's Christianity and Liberalism, "Doctrine," deals with some of these seemingly innocuous conjectures. The entire text can be found here. Any boldface in the excerpts below are my emphasis.

“At the outset, we are met with an objection. ‘Teachings,’ it is said, ‘are unimportant; …creeds are merely the changing expression of a unitary Christian experience, and provided only they express that experience they are all equally good. The teachings of liberalism, therefore, might be as far removed as possible from the teachings of historic Christianity, and yet the two might be at bottom the same.’...Such is the way in which expression is often given to the modern hostility to ‘doctrine.’ But is it really doctrine as such that is objected to, and not rather one particular doctrine in the interests of another? Undoubtedly, in many forms of liberalism it is the latter alternative which fits the case. There are doctrines of modern liberalism, just as tenaciously and intolerantly upheld as any doctrines that find a place in the historic creeds. Such for example are the liberal doctrines of the universal fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of man. These doctrines are, as we shall see, contrary to the doctrines of the Christian religion. But doctrines they are all the same, and as such they require intellectual defense. In seeming to object to all theology, the liberal preacher is often merely objecting to one system of theology in the interests of another. And the desired immunity from theological controversy has not yet been attained.”

“If all creeds are equally true, then since they are contradictory to one another, they are all equally false, or at least equally uncertain. We are indulging, therefore, in a mere juggling with words. To say that all creeds are equally true, and that they are based upon experience, is merely to fall back upon that agnosticism which fifty years ago was regarded as the deadliest enemy of the Church. The enemy has not really been changed into a friend merely because he has been received within the camp. Very different is the Christian conception of a creed. According to the Christian conception, a creed is not a mere expression of Christian experience, but on the contrary it is a setting forth of those facts upon which experience is based.”

“But if any one fact is clear, on the basis of this evidence, it is that the Christian movement at its inception was not just a way of life in the modern sense, but a way of life founded upon a message. It was based, not upon mere feeling, not upon a mere program of work, but upon an account of facts. In other words it was based upon doctrine.”

“The primitive Church was concerned not merely with what Jesus had said, but also, and primarily, with what Jesus had done. The world was to be redeemed through the proclamation of an event. And with the event went the meaning of the event; and the setting forth of the event with the meaning of the event was doctrine. These two elements are always combined in the Christian message. The narration of the facts is history; the narration of the facts with the meaning of the facts is doctrine. ‘Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried’--that is history. ‘He loved me and gave Himself for me’--that is doctrine. Such was the Christianity of the primitive Church.”

“The new law of the Sermon on the Mount, in itself, can only produce despair. Strange indeed is the complacency with which modern men can say that the Golden Rule and the high ethical principles of Jesus are all that they need. In reality, if the requirements for entrance into the Kingdom of God are what Jesus declares them to be, we are all undone; we have not even attained to the external righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, and how shall we attain to that righteousness of the heart which Jesus demands? …The Sermon on the Mount, like all the rest of the New Testament, really leads a man straight to the foot of the Cross.”

“Let us not deceive ourselves. A Jewish teacher of the first century can never satisfy the longing of our souls.”

“As a matter of fact, however, in the modern vituperation of ‘doctrine,’ it is not merely the great theologians or the great creeds that are being attacked, but the New Testament and our Lord Himself. In rejecting doctrine, the liberal preacher is rejecting the simple words of Paul, "Who loved me and gave Himself for me," just as much as the homoousion of the Nicene Creed. For the word "doctrine" is really used not in its narrowest, but in its broadest sense. The liberal preacher is really rejecting the whole basis of Christianity, which is a religion founded not on aspirations, but on facts. Here is found the most fundamental difference between liberalism and Christianity--liberalism is altogether in the imperative mood, while Christianity begins with a triumphant indicative; liberalism appeals to man's will, while Christianity announces, first, a gracious act of God.”

“It is often said that the divided condition of Christendom is an evil, and so it is. But the evil consists in the existence of the errors which cause the divisions and not at all in the recognition of those errors when once they exist.”

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Thoughts on the World Cup

With the World Cup final a few days away, I am nearly ready to return to my normal state of soccer hibernation for the next three years and eleven months. While my international soccer enthusiasm may wane back into a dormant state, I can say with certainty that I am already looking forward to 2014's tournament more than I ever expected.

2010 marks the year of the World Cup into which I most passionately invested myself. I have watched every game that was possible for me to watch (all of two), listened to games on the radio (three) and watched highlights of all 38 games played. I have checked scores on my Blackberry and solicited pre-game analysis from people born in England, Portugal, and Ecuador. While I have not gone so far as to refer to the game as "fĂștbol" or report scores using the word "nil," I have jumped into this World Cup with both feet. I have been an ardent soccer fan for a month.

Below are some rapid-fire thoughts on this year's tournament and/or international soccer in general:

1. Soccer on a high definition TV is amazing! Granted, so is any other sport, but the improvement over what the '92 World Cup looked like on the 14" tube set in my parents' bedroom is indescribable. For the record, the high definition screen I was watching was in the Electronics section of the Costco in New Rochelle, NY.

2. Is there a reason that the tournament must always be referred to as the "FIFA World Cup?" Is this to distinguish it from another World Cup? Who doesn't think soccer when one hears "World Cup?"

3. Let me address the "Why Americans Don't Like Soccer" theories as briefly as I can. The biggest reason professional soccer isn't big in America is because--are you ready for this?-- professional soccer has never been big in America. Duh. Do people really expect a sport to permanently catapult into the top American tier because of spiked interest every four years? The secondary reasons are related to our society's fascination with shiny objects, immediate results, and sex appeal. Watching soccer takes patience. Investing time to watch a soccer match does not always reward one with a winner and a loser. Americans who complain about soccer generally reveal more about themselves than they do identify flaws in the game.

4. In a related note, have those who were complaining about low scores noticed how the per-game goal counts have increased in the elimination round? That teams can strategically settle for a tie in group matches leads to conservative play. Conservative play leads to fewer goals.

5. I have heard several voices complain about the perceived ambiguity of stoppage time. However, I have not heard any of those same voices state the obvious advantages to a running clock--the greatest of which is the predictable time frame in which a soccer match is completed. Coming from a fan who must suffer through 18 Yankees-Red Sox games a year at up to four hours a match-up, regularity in game length is a breath of fresh air!

6. The US-Algeria game was the first soccer game I ever listened to on the radio. Not only could I not bring myself to turn the game off, but I was physically reacting to the drama of the moment. My stomach was in knots and my chest was pounding throughout the entire game.

7. There were some bad calls. There were just as many really bad calls. It would serve the public well to remember that we are the first generation to have the seemingly omnispective power to observe, review, and judge every single call in crystal clear, super slow-motion video. Officiating may not be getting worse--we may just be more aware of it than ever.

8. The sentiment that there is an anti-American conspiracy among FIFA officials speaks to a conceitedness than the American soccer fan hasn't earned yet.

9. From my days as a junior varsity soccer star in high school, I remember yellow cards only being awarded for fouls that were clearly intentional. Further, I can recall the issuance of perhaps three red cards in three years of playing high school soccer--those were for intentional fouls that were also malicious and/or dirty. It seemed like players in this World Cup were receiving yellow cards on a whim or for sneezing at someone.

10. To my admittedly untrained eye, it seemed like the American team doesn't quite possess its own style of play. Watching the US team look tentative and give up a goal early in nearly every match made it seem like they were starting each game waiting to react to the other team's plan of attack. It never seemed like the US set out to take control of the tempo or style. Maybe we're not that good yet.

11. The brazen deception of the Ghana players in the closing minutes of the elimination game against the US was offensive. I know soccer players are bred to hit the grass writhing in pain if they're even given a dirty look, but such excessive, obviously fabricated/phantom injuries were beyond the pale.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Christianity and Liberalism - Introduction

It occurred to me recently that I have been a member of an Orthodox Presbyterian Church my entire life and I had never read anything by J. Gresham Machen. I started my first reading of his classic work Christianity and Liberalism earlier this year and have almost completed it.

From the first chapter, I have been struck with Machen's clarity and conviction of truth. His language is not flowery or grandiose, but his statements are as fine and sharp as a scalpel. In clear, concise language he identifies the errors in liberal theology as they are manifested in a number of ways, and Machen calls the reader to instead see and believe what God's Word says.

Each chapter addresses one way in which liberal doctrine/theology conflicts with, or is in complete contradiction to orthodox Christianity. The chapter list is as follows: Introduction, Doctrine, God and Man, The Bible, Christ, Salvation, The Church. Read piecemeal or collectively, the chapters reinforce Machen's bold conclusion: Liberalism is not Christianity, but is, in fact, a completely different and false religion.

Below are some excerpts from the chapter titled Introduction (the entire chapter can be read here). Any bold face type is my own emphasis.

"Clear-cut definition of terms in religious matters, bold facing of the logical implications of religious views, is by many persons regarded as an impious proceeding...Light may seem at times to be an impertinent intruder, but it is always beneficial in the end. The type of religion which rejoices in the pious sound of traditional phrases, regardless of their meanings, or shrinks from "controversial" matters, will never stand amid the shocks of life. In the sphere of religion, as in other spheres, the things about which men are agreed are apt to be the things that are least worth holding; the really important things are the things about which men will fight."

"Vastly more important than all questions with regard to methods of preaching is the root question as to what it is that shall be preached."

"The modern world represents in some respects an enormous improvement over the world in which our ancestors lived; but in other respects it exhibits a lamentable decline. The improvement appears in the physical conditions of life, but in the spiritual realm there is a corresponding loss. The loss is clearest, perhaps, in the realm of art. Despite the mighty revolution which has been produced in the external conditions of life, no great poet is now living to celebrate the change; humanity has suddenly become dumb. Gone, too, are the great painters and the great musicians and the great sculptors. The art that still subsists is largely imitative, and where it is not imitative it is usually bizarre.”

“This unprecedented decline in literature and art is only one manifestation of a more far-reaching phenomenon; it is only one instance of that narrowing of the range of personality which has been going on in the modern world. The whole development of modern society has tended mightily toward the limitation of the realm of freedom for the individual man. The tendency is most clearly seen in socialism; a socialistic state would mean the reduction to a minimum of the sphere of individual choice. Labor and recreation, under a socialistic government, would both be prescribed, and individual liberty would be gone... It never seems to occur to modern legislatures that although "welfare" is good, forced welfare may be bad. In other words, utilitarianism is being carried out to its logical conclusions; in the interests of physical well-being the great principles of liberty are being thrown ruthlessly to the winds.”

“The result is an unparalleled impoverishment of human life. Personality can only be developed in the realm of individual choice. And that realm, in the modern state, is being slowly but steadily contracted. The tendency is making itself felt especially in the sphere of education. The object of education, it is now assumed, is the production of the greatest happiness for the greatest number. But the greatest happiness for the greatest number, it is assumed further, can be defined only by the will of the majority. Idiosyncrasies in education, therefore, it is said, must be avoided, and the choice of schools must be taken away from the individual parent and placed in the hands of the state...Such a result is being slightly delayed in America by the remnants of Anglo-Saxon individualism, but the signs of the times are all contrary to the maintenance of this halfway position; liberty is certainly held by but a precarious tenure when once its underlying principles have been lost...The dominant tendency, even in a country like America, which formerly prided itself on its freedom from bureaucratic regulation of the details of life, is toward a drab utilitarianism in which all higher aspirations are to be lost.”

“A public school system, in itself, is indeed of enormous benefit to the race. But it is of benefit only if it is kept healthy at every moment by the absolutely free possibility of the competition of private schools. A public school system, if it means the providing of free education for those who desire it, is a noteworthy and beneficent achievement of modern times; but when once it becomes monopolistic it is the most perfect instrument of tyranny which has yet been devised. Freedom of thought in the middle ages was combated by the Inquisition, but the modern method is far more effective. Place the lives of children in their formative years, despite the convictions of their parents, under the intimate control of experts appointed by the state, force them then to attend schools where the higher aspirations of humanity are crushed out, and where the mind is filled with the materialism of the day, and it is difficult to see how even the remnants of liberty can subsist. Such a tyranny…is certainly far more dangerous than the crude tyrannies of the past, which despite their weapons of fire and sword permitted thought at least to be free.”

“But whatever solution be found for the educational and social problems of our own country, a lamentable condition must be detected in the world at large. It cannot be denied that great men are few or nonexistent, and that there has been a general contracting of the area of personal life. Material betterment has gone hand in hand with spiritual decline.”

“In setting forth the current liberalism, now almost dominant in the Church, over against Christianity, we are animated, therefore, by no merely negative or polemic purpose; on the contrary, by showing what Christianity is not we hope to be able to show what Christianity is, in order that men may be led to turn from the weak and beggarly elements and have recourse again to the grace of God.”

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Disney World By the Numbers

Because of the persuasive solicitation of our dear friends the Kennedys, Becca and I recently enjoyed our first vacation to Walt Disney World. We spent six nights at the Pop Century resort on the Disney campus in a room next door to Kyle, April, and their three children. We spent two days traveling (by means of our Honda Pilot) each direction, spending a night in Richmond, VA both legs.

Instead of compiling what would certainly become lengthy, verbose lines of prose, I have compiled a list of the elements of our Disney trip that can be numerically quantified. The list can be found below.

0: The number of DVD's played in our vehicle during the trip. Zero is also the number of iPod's plugged in, video games played, and laptops used (we did periodically check Facebook, Gmail, and our bank account via Blackberry during the trip).

2: The number of calf muscles that I sunburned on Wednesday. For not applying a single dollop of sunblock, I consider myself to have made out very well.

3: The number of maps we picked up at state Visitors Centers.

4: The number of Disney characters with whom we had our picture taken (Buzz, Woody, Mr. & Mrs. Incredible).

8: The number of rides that Liam went on. Toy Story Mania, Studio Backlot Tour, Kilimanjaro Safaris, Small World, Jungle Cruise, Peter Pan's Flight, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.

10: The number of rides that Becca went on. Toy Story Mania (twice), Studio Backlot Tour, Kilimanjaro Safaris, Small World, Cinderella's Golden Carousel, Jungle Cruise, Peter Pan's Flight, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Soarin'.

18.3 mpg: The lowest gas mileage for any one tank on our trip (the last tank used arriving in Disney).

19: The number of rides I went on. Tower of Terror (twice), Rock 'N' Roller Coaster, Toy Story Mania (twice), Studio Backlot Tour, Star Tours, Expedition Everest (twice), Kilimanjaro Safaris, Small World, Cinderella's Golden Carousel, Jungle Cruise, Peter Pan's Flight, Pirates of the Caribbean, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, The Barnstormer, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Mission: SPACE, Soarin', Test Track.

21: The number of CD's listened to during the trip. We also repeated three of the 21 discs.

22.8 mpg: The peak gas mileage for any one tank on our trip (the first tank used leaving Disney).

48: U.S. state license plates spotted during the trip. The only two we didn't see were Montana and Kansas. We also saw plates from five Canadian provinces as well as ones for D.C. and "U.S. Government."

$160.97: Dollars spent on gas for the trip.

1,180: Minutes spent driving home from Disney (205 minutes of this was spent taking breaks).

Minutes spent driving to Disney (210 minutes of this was spent taking breaks).

2,021: The number of miles traveled between departure on April 23 and arrival home on May 1. I drove every mile!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Caesar's Rendering

Earlier this year, I took advantage of the graciousness of my employer and used a vacation day (carry-over from 2009) to avoid traveling during a snowstorm. I took advantage of the snow day by filing the appropriate Scott Pearce Family Tax Return documents for 2009. Some observations:

- I have been, and continue to be grateful to God that our government encourages Christian tithing by allowing those monies to be deducted from one's income.

- By giving tax breaks to families who pay for child care, the federal government encourages an activity that weakens families. Tax breaks for child care also make it easier for families to live as two-income families; the increased prevalence of two-income families adds increased financial pressure to families committed to living on one income.

- There are several ways in which Income is qualified as Earned Income or Other on the tax forms. Income that is not earned is certainly not a new phenomenon, but the stigma attached to unduly benefiting from the work/property of others has hardly been lower than it is today.

- Because we wrapped our furnace pipes with insulation in October, we received a "tax break" equivalent to a few pennies. The federal government would like me to believe that it has rewarded my behavior by giving me those few pennies as incentive. Because I am smarter than the federal government thinks I is, I know that the insulation was placed as an act in *gasp* my own self interest. In the form of lower natural gas costs this winter, the insulation saved us the equivalent of a payment on Becca's car. In the form of tax break "incentives" the federal government ensured that we can stock the car with one (1) air freshener.

- I will always strive to "render unto Caesar what is Caesar's" with a submissive and willing spirit, but I will also always fervently pray for and hopefully vote for leaders who will tax me less. Dollar for dollar, I can do more good with my wealth and property than can any government on earth.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A Toast, An Ode, A Tribute:

To my darling wife, on the occasion of the completion of a year of Motherhood.

I had known you to think of others more highly than yourself, but I did not know selflessness until I had seen you as Mother. Never with such intimacy have I seen the life of one so devoted to the lives of others as yours has been.

I have known your heart to be capable of great love in our romance. What foothills were the heights of affection and adoration previously scaled--and how grand the pinnacles of love and devotion which you have ascended as a mother! If it weren't so strange to compare you to a furry animal, I would deem you my mountain goat of love.

Your commitment to our marriage has not lessened in the year we have shared with our son. In fact, you have daily defied mathematical order. You and I, Love, were one when we were two. Somehow, with a child, we two are still one even as we three have become one.

Sleeplessness and physical exhaustion have not weakened your pursuit of personal holiness. A blonde-haired, blue-eyed hunk has not come between you and the husband of your youth. The toddles of our toddler have not kept you from your quest for domestic dominion.

I have been witness to wonders in this year past. Our son has breathed with his own lungs for one year, he has fed with his own mouth (and how!) for every day of the past 365. We have seen the body, mind, and soul of William Isaiah Pearce grow for these months, and we are richer for it. These are wonders--indeed what wonders!--yet you are more wonderful.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Five Years Without Television

At the start of our life together, my bride and I resolved that we would not get television service in our apartment for at least the first year of our marriage. June will mark five years since the resolution, and we have not connected our television to anything but a DVD player and an electric outlet.

Too much time has passed for me to remember if our resolution was based on the advice of someone whose crown was greyer than our own. If so, it also escapes me to whom we owe the acknowledgment of wisdom. Perhaps we found the recommendation in a book or magazine, perhaps we just saw it lived out by couples that we admired. Regardless, enough time had passed at the end of our first month without television to know with certainty that we had made a good decision. By the end of the first year we knew that we would never look back.

Below is a brief list of ways in which my life is different because we have not had television for five years. The perceptive reader will notice that they are all advantages.

We've Saved Money. This is perhaps the most obvious (and certainly the most tangible) advantage, and not one to be glossed over. If cable would have cost us $50 a month (probably a low estimate), then in 60 months we've saved $3,000. Very small is the list of things for which I would willingly part with $3,000. Access to "So You Think You Can Dance" does not make the list.

We've Insulated Ourselves from Temptations to Covet/Consume Excessively. What regularly sets me aback when I do find myself in front of a television are the commercials (that and how much more of a sports game can be observed on an HD screen). They are excessive in number. They are increasingly explicit and immoral. They unabashedly generate urges of greed, indulgence, and lust to drive viewers to consume. I am subjected to enough indecency in my daily commute (five different strip clubs currently advertise on NYC taxi cabs)--I relish the fact that I can do something to tear down an altar of consumerism by not connecting our cable.

I've Watched Far Fewer Sports Games. While on the one hand I do miss the chance of witnessing truly classic sporting events as they happen, there are fewer matchups and sporting events that get enough of a rise out me anymore to make me pine for the good old days (the older I get, the truer Ecclesiastes becomes to me). These five years of my married life mark the first time I've actively tried to reduce the quantity and quality of time that I invest in the sports world/culture. Without television of our own, to watch any sporting event now necessitates buckling a seat belt, burning gasoline, and inviting myself over to my parents or Ben's house. In much the same way that politicians know the surest way to discourage any activity (tax it), I have found my craving for sports irreversibly quelled by the limited viewing access I've had for the past five years. [The following is partially unrelated and entirely anecdotal, but where else am I going to share it? I am more than a little tickled to report that I've managed to finish the regular season ranked 1st and 2nd in two consecutive Fantasy Football seasons while watching a combined total of maybe half a dozen NFL games.]

I Haven't Watched a Single Rap Video, Award Show, "Reality" Show, Dance Competition, or Dating Show For Five Years. I could identify fewer than 10 American Idol contestants by mug shot, and fewer than five contestants by name.

"We Don't Have TV" Has Become My Most Reliable Party Trick. People's reactions are telling (often alarming) when I confess that we've never had television. The most common reaction is an innocent but awkward pause in the conversation, but my revelation often kills the conversation completely. Rightly so--what is there for humans to discuss other than television? The saddest observations I've made occur when people react as if I'm neglecting a great service of personal betterment by remaining unplugged. "There are children in Africa who are dying to know who's getting voted off the island tonight--how can you be so indifferent?"

It Has Been a Practical Way For Me to Obey Matthew 5.29. In this verse Jesus says, "
If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell." It is no small understatement to assert that the temptation to lust and to crave what is sexually immoral is heightened by watching television. I know my weaknesses. I know the spiritual dangers contained within an hour of a network broadcast, and I know that the dangers are deliberate. A friend once candidly shared his observation that his former (huzzah!) cable provider placed the empty channel number where the Playboy channel would otherwise be immediately after the sports channels. Coincidence, or a cunning tactic? It doesn't make me a beacon of righteousness just because I never connected my cable, but the decision has certainly acted as an agent in the purification of my relationship with my wife.

It Has Furthered the Health of Our Marriage. Beyond the realm of sexual purity alluded to above, keeping television out of our home has forced us to *dramatic pause* TALK to each other far more. Granted, the elimination of the computer and Netflix might potentially contribute to the deterioration of at least a couple aspects of our relationship (after all, it is possible to have too much of a good thing, right?).

It Makes Us Better Hosts. Can anyone remember a significant conversation he or she has had during the Super Bowl? Or during Must See TV? What is ever learned about someone by watching television with them? When I watch football with a friend I always resolve to initiate conversation during the commercials. What happens more often than not is that the commercials are more interesting than the game and the moments are lost to shiny objects and cheap laughs. I wonder if my relationship with my college roommates would be deeper in the present than exchanging Christmas cards and an occasional phone call if we had spent fewer hours watching Joe Millionaire and Crank Yankers. Perhaps the factors contributing to the present distance relate more to geography and gender, but I think all four of us agree that we were at our relational best with the TV off.

Removing television from a home will not have the magical effect of promoting an immediate level of increased sanctity. Keeping a television from a child's room will not cause them to suddenly engage in dinner conversation. Yet for all the reasons above, it is highly unlikely that cable television will ever gain entrance into any place that we call home.