John McEnroe Learns The Price Of Telling The Truth

And make no mistake, John McEnroe was being charitable. You can listen to the NPR interview here.

Don’t get me wrong: I enjoy watching women’s tennis.

Back in the day, I was a huge Martina Navratilova fan. While I hate her politics, she was a phenomenal athlete. She fundamentally changed the shape of the women’s circuit. Once she got serious, she became the fittest superathlete that women’s tennis had ever seen. In her prime, Chris Evert had no chance against her.

But had she played against her male contemporaries–Connors, McEnroe, Lendl, Wilander, Becker–it would not have even been close. Even a lower-tier men’s player would have destroyed Martina, and she knew it.

And while Serena Williams is phenomenal–in their primes, I have no doubt that she would annihilate Martina–let’s not kid ourselves: if she played even a mediocre player on the men’s circuit, it would be a rout. She would be lucky to win a single game. When they were teens, the Williams sisters each played a set against the #203-ranked men’s player. He didn’t even take it seriously, and he still beat both of them: 6-1 (against Serena), 6-2 (against Venus).

Some of my friends–who, like me, have played a fair amount of tennis–and I were discussing this. One guy made note that the speed of Serena’s first serve is in the same league as the men.

And to her credit, Serena has clocked serves as fast as 128 mph, which is impressive.

The problem, however, is that winning in against the men requires more than simply having a big serve. Speed only gets your foot in the door. To win against the men, you need speed, placement, spin, and even surprise. This is because the men are quicker than the women, they will pick up her motion and have good anticipation. Many of her big serves that would go unreturned against other women would come back, down the line–or at her toenails–at 100+mph against the men. She would have a hard time following her serves into the net.

One of the guys observed that, to hold consistently against the men, she would probably need at least 40 aces.

That would never happen. The big-servers among the men past and present almost never hit that many aces. In fact, since 1991, only 11 different men since have hit 44 or more aces in a match. A big server is lucky to hit 20 aces in a 5-set match.

In his upset victory against Jimmy Connors in the 1983 Wimbledon Quarterfinals, Kevin Curren, one of the best-serving men of the 1980s, blasted “only” 33 aces (a phenomenal number).

In the 1992 Wimbledon final, Andre Agassi endured a 37-ace barrage (a Wimbledon finals record) from Goran Ivanisevic, one of the biggest servers on the tour, to prevail in 5 sets.

Serena Williams would have to serve bigger than those guys–on a consistent basis–just to have a chance of holding her own serve.

Complicating matters is her second serve. On her second serve, against the women, she wins the points less than 50% of the time.

And that’s just when she serves.

Against the men, she would need to be able to return serves consistently. Against the men, those serves will come in a lot faster, and with more spin. The men will have a lower toss which will make their serves harder to read and anticipate.

Even their second serves are going to be coming in faster, and with more spin. She will have a hard time attacking the second serves of the men, in contrast with the powder-puff second serves of her female opponents. Her chances of breaking serve against a man would be remote: she would need for him to provide some free points via double-faults.

Aside from serves, she would have quite the challenge with the ground game: including baseline play, approach shots, ability to close in on the net, and volleying. At the net, the men will hit the ball straight into her body–it will come in faster than she is used to seeing–and they will jam her, forcing her to hit weak volleys. They will hit passing shots crosscourt and down the line, with heavy topspin. They will draw her to the net and stretch her with low-trajectory offensive lobs. Their defensive lobs will have heavy topspin, and will extend rallies that normally end quickly for her. Individual points will become more expensive physically for her than they are now. This will wear her down over the course of the match.

If she manages to take one set–the chances of that happening are close to zero–she’ll still have to take two more if she’s in a major tournament. She will need the endurance to go five sets where, in the women’s circuit, she only needs to prepare for three sets.

Serena is a great player on the women’s tour, I would suggest that she is the best women’s player of all-time.

But against the men, she would have no chance.

James McDonald, Another “New Calvinist” Bully, Leaves

I never really liked James McDonald from the get-go. It wasn’t that his preaching was “bad”–the few times I heard him preach, he was decent–it was that so many others were so high on him that they thought I was out of touch for not being on their bandwagon.

But at the 2013 Act Like Men conference in Indianapolis, something about his demeanor just wasn’t right. There was something about his presentation that screamed of heavyhandedness. He wasn’t “loud”; he just seemed like someone trying to be all tough, as though that somehow made him worthy of being up there.

(Matt Chandler and Mark Driscoll also preached at that conference. Chandler was excellent; Driscoll was good–say what you want about his leadership style–but McDonald did not strike me as a credible pastor. Like I said, it wasn’t that he was teaching anything erroneous; he simply did not come off with pastoral gravitas.)

TWW has this piece on his “resignation”. And, for all my issues with Deb and Dee, I can’t say I disagree with their assessment of McDonald.

It really seems to me that some of these high-profile conservative preachers–Driscoll, Tullian Tchividjian, McDonald, Mahaney–are falling for the same dynamic that defined the televangelist disasters: a combination of (a) heavyhanded leadership with no accountability, (b) a love of money, and (c) along the lines of (a) and (b), a sense of entitlement.

I’ve long-observed the ministry in America as a corporate ladder. You go to college or Bible School, then on to seminary to get the MDiv (and perhaps even a doctoral degree). In ministry, you may start out as a children’s minister, a music minister, a youth minister, or even work interim pastoral roles (also called “pulpit supply”). Of course you get married, because singles generally have very limited opportunities in the ministry.

When you get out of school, you start out at a small or medium-sized church. If you have good speaking and social skills, and manage not to piss off the wrong people, then you go places.

Even better, if you are innovative, then you can start your own church. You might have the charisma to attract a small following, and then–through word of mouth–others start coming to your church. People are attracted to charisma: a pastor who can operate like a CEO projects “E.F. Hutton”-level gravitas, and we all know what happens when E.F. Hutton talks…

But here’s the problem: charisma is not character!

I’m going to say it again: charisma is not character!

Guys like Driscoll, Tchividjian, McDonald, Mahaney, and even Chantry, have strong charisma. They have the qualities that you expect in Alpha Males, at least with respect to the Church: no matter which church they are in, they are going to be sought out as leaders.

But were any of these guys ever vetted for character? And if so, to what extent? Many denominations will place great emphasis on sound doctrine, and rightly so.

But what about character? What about leadership style? What about financial expectations? And yes, what about sexual baggage?

(Yes, the latter is fair game. If you’re a would-be overseer, it is fair to expect that you are not perverted: you are not into porn, or sexually-attracted to the same sex or to children. It is also fair to expect that you are not the type of person who supports leaders who are, and that, if accusations surfaced, you are predisposed to transparency and reporting to the proper authorities.)

If no one in McDonald’s–or Driscoll’s–inner circle had the presence of mind to notice a problem, then shame on them. And if they did, and refused to confront them–then they were derelict in their duties.

Ultimately, your sin will find you out. As I often put it, you will never outrun your character: that will always catch up with you.

And if you are a bully, you will find that, once a church wakes up, you might be in for a rude awakening.


Is America Heading for Civil War?

I hope the answer is no. I hope David French of National Review is correct in his assessment. OTOH, I do not share his optimism.

If the two sides each had a “live and let live” mentality and didn’t mind the “Red” and “Blue” regions breaking up, this would have a peaceable resolution.

Having said that, I don’t see the Totalitarian Left–which dominates the Deep State–tolerating any breakup. Governor Moonbeam is going to want “Red” America to bail out California. And as businesses bail from Illinois, Washington, Oregon, and New England, those regions are not going to be thrilled at the prospect of funding their socialist scams without the support of the “Red” states.

Nor do I see a Beltway apparatus being amenable to an amicable split. They’ll fight it, and probably with real artillery.

I don’t like the prospect of war. I have blogged against that on these pages: Christians, as far as it depends on them, cannot afford to pick that fight with government.

People who want that war have not thought this through.

(1) The day you so much as aim a firearm–or any other piece of weaponry–at a government agent, your life as you know it is over. That means your family–from your children to your relatives–will not be safe. If you’re lucky, you will be in hiding for the rest of your life.

(2) Go ahead and gush about 1776, and how we kicked King George’s ass. That is not the general outcome of these wars. That our Revolution produced the most free and prosperous nation in world history is no guarantee that any such revolt will provide a similar outcome. More often than not, a civil war generally ends poorly.

What David French has provided is a best-case scenario, and I hope he is correct.

The cynic in me says we are heading for Civil War II. And it will make the first one look benign.

I say that because there are simply too many trigger-happy morons on each side.

Southern Baptist Convention Continues Decline

I generally do not cheer at reports like this one. After all, there are a lot of good people in the Southern Baptist Convention–particularly missionaries both here and abroad–who will suffer as a result of the decline of the SBC.

At the same time, given the institutional coverup of sexual abuse scandals in their churches, I cannot say that I have any desire to see the SBC prosper.

And don’t start the, “SBC churches are autonomous, so the convention is limited in what they can do” line. Puhleeeze.

The same convention that has booted churches for endorsing homosexuality cannot take action against churches who cover for predatory ministers?

(If you try to shovel the “Baptist Churches are autonomous” argument over here, I will cyber-waterboard you without mercy.)

The current SBC President, Steve Gaines, would know of such coverups: he was directly involved in one at Bellvue Baptist Church where he was pastor. One of his ministers was known to have abused his son; Gaines sat on that knowledge. As far as I am concerned, he is no different from Ted Haggard. That the SBC has made him their President is a global disgrace.

Amy Smith of Watch Keep was well-connected at Prestonwood Baptist Church, a prominent hub of the conservative theology that has defined the Southern Baptist world for the last 35 years. Her father was a deacon there.

When she blew the lid on a whitewash of a sexual abuse scandal at Prestonwood, she became persona non grata in her own family. You can read about it here.

And sadly, the leadership of the SBC has shown no desire to get to the bottom of this problem. They have passed resolutions, even called for commissions to investigate the problem of sexual abusers in their ranks, but provided zero teeth to them.

I am not surprised that there are sexual abusers in the Church. They flock to the church (that’s where the children are) for the same reason that the robber hits the bank (that’s where the money is).

And as I’ve often said, the sexual predator is not the creepy-looking pervert; in fact, they are affable, charismatic, popular, well-respected, often married and with children of their own. Christians expect evil people to look evil; in fact it’s the other way around: just as Satan appears as an “angel in white”, the most vile people often look good and respectable.

Israel’s first king–Saul–was the best-looking man in the kingdom. He looked like he would make a good king, but–due to his lack of regard for God’s ways–he nearly led Israel to destruction.

Baptists, like the Israelites of old, have a long track record of picking leaders who, like Saul, look good and respectable, but who are evil and vile.

Even worse, when the extent of their depravity becomes known, churches are more prone to resort to CYA than to do the right thing and contact the authorities. As bad as the predators are, the Church compounds this by an order of magnitude by (a) not reporting accusations to authorities, (b) allowing the offender to resign and move, (c) disregarding, or making light of, the impact of the abuses on the victims, or, worse, (d) attacking the victims and/or those who blow the whistle on the coverups.

The SBC has a sordid history of doing exactly that. And it reflects a body whose leaders are fixated on their own self-interests rather than those of the Father.

Until they reverse course, I will root for their demise.

TWW’s Reflections on Driscoll at Mars Hill

I am writing with respect to Dee’s post here.

First, a little of my background.

While I joined an Acts 29 church in 2008, I was never a Driscoll fanboi. At the time, I only knew a little about Driscoll, and had no idea he was behind Acts 29. Where I lived, that was one of the few decent churches, and some of my friends went there. They seemed pretty solid theologically, and were relatively laid-back in their style.

After we got engaged, MrsLarijani watched many Driscoll sermons online. She was trying to get a feel for Acts 29. She liked most of what she saw.

As for me, I’m not high on the celebrity preacher circuit and never have been. I like John Piper and Tim Keller, for example; at the same time I do not fawn on their every word either. I do not listen to their sermons regularly, although I have read a few of their books.

Fast-forward about 10 years.

Driscoll is long gone from Mars Hill. Mars Hill is itself long gone.

Having read a share of Driscoll’s work, I have reached some conclusions about him:

(1) I do not classify Driscoll as a NeoCal, at least not in theological terms. I am not sure that he’s really that “Reformed” in his theological leanings. Mohler? Definitely. Mahaney? You bet. Chandler? Most certainly. Piper? Yes. Keller? Maybe. (He’s PCA Presbyterian, so he’s more of an old-school Calvinist.)

But Driscoll? The only thing “NeoCal” about him is his approach to church discipline, and even in his case that might be a stretch: he wasn’t working according to any particular NeoCal playbook; his case was simply what happens when leaders are accountable to no one. Many of his elders were poorly-trained and had no idea how to apply Scripture properly.

(This was the same dynamic that forced Matt Chandler to apologize to a woman who was wrongly disciplined for seeking to end a marriage to a husband caught downloading child porn.)

(2) While I am not in agreement with some of Driscoll’s interpretation of Esther and The Song of Solomon–I do not think Esther was a slut but was rather in a lose-lose situation–I cannot say that his hermeneutical approach was bad. In the sermons I’ve watched, his preaching was good. One year, I attended an Act Like Men conference in Indianapolis, and Driscoll was one of the speakers. Nothing he said was controversial at all.

(3) Driscoll’s failings were not theological, but rather a failure to apply his stated theology to himself. This is a danger with every leader: when leaders–particularly ones that attract large followings–are not accountable (i.e., the rules don’t apply to them), you have all the ingredients for disaster.

(4) Driscoll’s record on sex is mixed. While he is too libertine by my standards, that’s not my issue with him. He seemed, however, to devote way too much time to the subject. Was this due to an obsession on his part? Was this due to so many folks at Mars Hill being mired in the hypersex culture of online porn, fetishes, and assorted perversions? I don’t know, as I cannot answer for Driscoll. But yes, it did seem that he had a fixation on the matter.

(5) Did he plagiarize? I dunno. He definitely did not do the best job in the world footnoting. That would have, at the very least, earned him the loss of a letter grade in an academic setting. His biggest sin in that area, however, is not the alleged plagiarism but rather the use of deceptive tactics to market his books.

(6) Is Driscoll a misogynist? I dunno. That terms gets thrown around any time someone makes tough statements about women. There was a period in his life during which he had marital problems. During that time, he said some things that were overly harsh about the opposite sex. Is that misogyny or just a season in which his attitude was bad? He should have refrained from preaching about women during that time, or taken a sabbatical. But, from what I’ve read and what I’ve heard from him, I would not categorize him as a misogynist.

Ultimately, Driscoll had to go. It isn’t that his theology wasn’t up to snuff, nor is this about incendiary e-mails he sent under pseudonyms 17 years ago.

In Driscoll’s case, it is about a pattern of conduct that reflects (a) a lack of maturity that is unbecoming of a minister of the Gospel, (b) dubious judgment, evidenced by his crashing a John MacArthur event, (c) heavyhanded leadership tactics–including abusive practices–that are incongruent with the Biblical criteria for would-be church leaders, and (d) potential financial malfeasance.

I would suggest that, unless and until he can show that he has resolved those issues, he has no business in the ministry.