Jeff Pearlman

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“Put some fucking shoes on.”

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I had something happen back in October. I never wrote about it, but I’m high on coffee and life and feeling a bit frisky. So here I go …

I have an agent who represents me on some TV and movie stuff. It’s not a big deal, because—outside of selling the rights to a few books—I haven’t done much. But late last year my agent sent me to meet with a high-level production company (Name withheld on purpose). Before the meeting, I asked someone who knew the exec whether I should dress casually or in a suit or tie or … whatever. He said, “Oh, it’s very casual. Everyone out here is.”

So I went in wearing my normal garb—jeans, collared shirt, flip-flops. It’s me; it’s who I am. And, as soon as I shook hands with the guy, I saw it was perfect. First, he was youngish. Probably 32, 33. He also happened to be decked out in jeans, T-shirt and gray running sneakers. We were on the same level.

Anyhow, meeting went fine, but at the end he said something about my feet; something along the lines of, “For Christ’s sake, get some shoes.” I laughed, figuring maybe he was kidding. Then, a day later, he sent me an e-mail about what we discussed, with this PS …

“Also I know you’re a dedicated father and a new resident of orange county, but put some fucking shoes on  …”

•••

How to explain my emotions? Rage. Super rage. Pissed beyond belief. Perhaps slightly at myself for not wearing shoes. But mainly at this guy—this twerp whose IMDB page is as vacant as a 2 am Mahopac parking lot; who served as an asshole glorified assistant and will one day probably be an asshole company head.

Anyhow, I moved on. But wanted to share.

Nicholas Winton and the death of a quiet hero

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If you read one thing today, then again tomorrow and the next day and the next day, make it the New York Times obituary of a man named Nicholas Winton, who died in England at age 106.

You’ve almost certainly never heard of Nicholas Winton. I never heard of Nicholas Winton. Hell, 99.9 percent of the world never heard of Nicholas Winton. This was of his own doing because, frankly, he didn’t seem to think himself to be much of a big deal.

Which, in a sense, is why he is a big deal. A really big deal.

Back at the start of World War II, Winton organized the escape of 669 children (most of them Jewish) from what was then Czechoslovakia. He was, at the time, just another guy; a London-based stockbroker who, as the Times obit says, “canceled a Swiss skiing vacation and flew to Prague at the behest of a friend who was aiding refugees in the Sudetenland, the western region of Czechoslovakia that had just been annexed by Germany.”

Winton was disgusted by the refugee camps, and immediately created a mass-rescue effort. Writes the Times: “It involved dangers, bribes, forgery, secret contacts with the Gestapo, nine railroad trains, an avalanche of paperwork and a lot of money. Nazi agents started following him. In his Prague hotel room, he met terrified parents desperate to get their children to safety, although it meant surrendering them to strangers in a foreign land.”

I don’t want to steal all of the newspaper’s words, but Winton was a hero. Only he didn’t think of himself as a hero. When the war ended, he returned to his normal life, never uttering a peep about his deeds. It was only in 1988, when his wife discovered a scrapbook, that anyone knew of his bravery.

And here’s the thing: People like Winton are far too rare. We live in an age of barking and self-promoting; of Kim Kardashian selfie books and LeBron James crowing how he’s the best player on the planet. We Tweet out our accomplishments, then double down on Facebook. Our egos generally eclipse our deeds, only we don’t see it as such. We’re No. 1! The Man! All eyes on me and win at all costs. It’s ugly and sad and all consuming.

I’m assuming Nicholas Winton didn’t have a Twitter account.

New logo, new funny Tweets. But Gannett still sucks

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In case you’ve been asleep or watching movies or tracking Luke Ridnour’s whereabouts or doing anything but caring about what’s going on with America’s media scene,  Gannett has some exciting new stuff going on. Like this—a new logo …

Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 1.37.11 PMAnd this—funny little Tweets …

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And this—feel-good little endeavors to make everyone experience the same jolt of perkiness that comes with a free Starbucks beverage …

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And more and more and more. Gannett, you see, is re-branding itself, and the excitement begins now! No longer can you refer to the company as a newspaper chain. Nope, it’s a “next-generation media company.” One with slogans like, “One community. One voice. One family.” and positive Twitter takes such as, “All across the nation, #NewGannett employees gave the highest of fives to ring in a whole new venture.”

I get it. Truly, I do. Companies reinvent themselves all the time. It’s pretty Americana. But—and this is a big but—here’s the thing: Gannett is evil. When I say “evil,” I’m thinking George Steinbrenner-hiring-a-private-investigator-to-follow-around-Dave Winfield evil. It’s a corporation that destroyed newspapers; that dumbed everything down; that laid off thousands upon thousands of people via a conference call. It’s truly the worst company I’ve ever worked for. A terrible cesspool of hell.

All the Gannett stuff of the past few days actually reminds me of something TV Guide did a decade ago. One Monday, the magazine laid off a solid 30 percent of its staff. It was bloody and ugly and heartbreaking. Then, on Tuesday, it held Milkshake Day to make all the remaining employees feel better.

Gannett is Gannett—and if you’re an employee who doesn’t believe me, well, sleep with one eye open. The milkshakes are inevitably coming.

Tyson v. Spinks v. me ever betting on sports again

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As my friend Andy Dallos noted on his Facebook page today, Mike Tyson and Michael Spinks fought for the heavyweight championship of the world 27 years ago.

I remember it well.

At the time, I was 15 and a boxing fanatic. Tyson was the talk of the sport; the excitement-in-the-ring heir to Sugar Ray Leonard and Marvin Hagler and Muhammad Ali and Larry Holmes. He was dynamic and scary and hard-nosed and violent and damaged and …

I thought Michael Spinks would win.

I really did, though—sitting here now—I’m unsure why. Spinks held the championship belt, and he beat Holmes to win it. He was a savvy fighter, all angles and spots. Not terrifying or overly powerful, but smart enough to handle what the young, choppy Tyson threw his way.

Hence, as a bunch of Mahopac High School students gathered on the couch in Ari Pollack’s house, I bet $5 on Spinks. Literally, the opening bell rang, the fighters exchanged early blows and I said, “Spinks has this! Spinks has this!”

Pop! Pop! Pop!

Spinks was knocked down—twice. The non-battle ended in 91 seconds. Lou Hanner, my classmate, stood up. “Hey Pearlman,” he said. “Pay up!”

It was the last time I bet on a sporting event.

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John Martignoni

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Several months ago I was driving around California, listening to talk radio, when I stumbled upon a man who swore that prayer works.

I listened and listened and listened, scoffing with each word. I couldn’t understand how this Catholic dude was so certain in his faith, when so many things seem (in my opinion) to point toward his wrongheadedness. I mean, God? Really? When we live in a world of cancer and ISIS and heart attacks and Al Queda and suicide bombings and on and on? C’mon.

But John Martignoni kept talking, kept pushing, kept insisting. And, at that moment, I thought to myself, “This guy would make an awesome Quaz.” So here we are …

John is the founder of the Bible Christian Society, an apostolate “dedicated to explaining and defending the Scriptural foundations of the Catholic faith.” He also hosts EWTN’s Open Line program every Monday at 3 pm Eastern/12 pm Pacific, and is big enough that there’s a website out there dedicated to well, thrashing everything he says. Now that’s oomph.

One can follow John on Twitter here, and visit the Bible Christian Society here.

John Martignoni, you’ve been blessed with the 213th Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: So John, I really appreciate you doing this. And I want to start with this: A couple of nights ago I was driving home, listening to your radio program, and a caller was talking about how everything was falling apart in his life, and he prayed and prayed and prayed, but nothing had improved. And he asked you, “Is there more I can be doing?” And your answer, more or less, was “God answers prayers by either saying no, yes or you won’t know what the answer is—but He’ll answer.” Which really had me scratching my head. Because, if that’s the case, aren’t you saying, “Prayer is a waste of time—because you’ll likely get the same results by flipping a coin?”

JOHN MARTIGNONI: Jeff, I appreciate you giving me the opportunity to be Quazed. I am truly humbled.

Now, regarding your question, your analogy of prayer to flipping a coin is a bit flawed, and I think it is because you don’t view God as a person, but rather as some sort of impersonal “force” that’s out there somewhere—if He exists at all. A Christian, however, views God as a person and He relates to us in a personal manner.

A better analogy would be a child asking his parents for a particular birthday gift. Do you believe he has the exact same odds of getting that birthday gift as he would if he didn’t ask his parents but simply flipped a coin instead? Was he wasting his time by asking his parents for what he wanted? I think, and correct me if I’m wrong, that you would say the child has a better chance of receiving what he wants if he asks his parents for it than if he didn’t ask his parents and simply flipped a coin, right? Just so the Christian in prayer.

To continue along those lines, what if the child asks for something that is potentially harmful to him? What if a 6-year old asked for a .357 magnum for his birthday? Would the parents go ahead and give him that potentially harmful gift for his birthday? No, of course they wouldn’t. What if that 6-year old asks for a .357 magnum every year for the next 10 years or so, and still doesn’t get it? But, come his 22nd birthday, his parents get him a .357 magnum. His request was finally answered, but way way after he wanted it to be answered. Or, maybe instead of a .357 magnum, his parents bought him a deer rifle because he was really into hunting. Prayer answered—he got a gun—but just not in the exact way in which it was asked for. Or, maybe he never got his .357 magnum, or anything at all like it, ever.

Just so God in answering prayer. Sometimes the person will get what he/she asked for immediately. Sometimes he/she will get it, but much later. Sometimes he/she will get it, but in a different form than how it has been asked for. And, sometimes he/she will never get it.

God knows better than we do what is good for us. Quite often we unknowingly ask for that which will actually harm us. A lot of people pray to win the lottery. But a lot of people who win the lottery have their lives ruined and end up wishing they had never won it. The fact is, Christians look at things from a different perspective than atheists/agnostics. For a Christian, the proper perspective is an eternal one, not a temporal one (Matthew 6:19-21). If you are praying for something, and God knows that if you get this particular thing it will end up ruining your soul and putting you on the path to Hell, should He give it to you? Yes or no?

Now, I know the folks who don’t believe in Hell and Heaven and Satan and God will scoff at this particular point, but for the sake of argument, let’s say that Heaven and Hell—eternal bliss and eternal pain—do indeed exist. Should a parent give his or her child a birthday gift that will give the child short-term pleasure but that could result in serious injury or death? Should God give someone something they ask for if it will give that person temporal pleasure but result in the damnation of their soul?

No, prayer is not the same as flipping a coin. Just as a child asking his parents for a particular birthday gift is not the same as flipping a coin. Sometimes the answer is yes, sometimes the answer is no, sometimes the answer is not now, and sometimes the answer is yes, but not quite in the way you wanted. But it does require faith—the faith of a child in a parent to protect them and look after them and do what is best for them.

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J.P.: I’m gonna say something you clearly disagree with, and I’d love to hear why I’m wrong. Namely, I feel like churches use faith as the ultimate weapon. If something great happens—See! Faith pays off! If something awful happens—You just need to have faith! If someone dies, even though you prayed and prayed—Hey, God works in mysterious ways! If you win the lottery—God is rewarding you! To me, there’s another word for it. Well, two words: Shit happens. But the church seems to sell people on the power of faith for all circumstances. I just don’t buy it. Again—why am I wrong?

J.M.: Actually, I agree with you, in part. You appear to be making an assumption, though, that Catholic Christians are like many of the Christians you probably see on TV or hear on the radio. Not necessarily so. There are a lot of ministers on the airwaves who preach what is known as a “Health and Wealth” gospel. The focus is on God wanting you to be healthy and wealthy in this life. If you are, it’s because you have faith and, if you’re not, well, it’s your fault because you don’t have enough faith. Send me $25 and I’ll pray for you to get that faith. So, yes, I would not buy what those folks are selling.

For the Catholic Christian, however, faith is not a weapon that necessarily yields material benefits or temporal cures. Faith does have power for all circumstances, but again, it is more about the eternal perspective than the temporal perspective. Faith is indeed a powerful weapon, especially when wielded with hope and the ultimate weapon—love. But it is a weapon that yields victories in the spiritual realm for those who wield it, not the material realm. Jesus promised His followers that they could count on suffering in this world (see Matthew 5:11-12; 10:21-23; 24:9; Luke 9:23-25; John 15:18-19; amongst others). Being healthy and wealthy in this life are not bad things, but they are not the goal. Living a long time in this life is not a bad thing, but it is not the goal. The goal is to get to Heaven, and to take as many people with you as possible. Quite often, as we see in the case of the wealthy young man (Matthew 19:16-22), material things can keep you from Jesus. The material can become your god and lead you away from the spiritual; lead you away from the one true God.

So faith does indeed have power in all circumstances, but if someone is trying to tell you that if you just have faith then everything will be all peaches and cream, then they are selling you a bill of goods.

One other thing: I find it interesting in your question that you recognize that there is bad (“shit”) and there is good (that which happens when the shit isn’t). You also seem to have a sense of right and wrong that you use to judge things. Well, why do you recognize some things as being good and some as being bad? Right or wrong? Aren’t those value judgments? Aren’t those type of judgments entirely subjective sans God? I mean, who are you to say that a minister using “faith as the ultimate weapon” is not a good thing? What if that minister feels it’s okay to do that? What if that is a legitimate bearing on his particular moral compass? By what right do you pass judgment on him? In other words, if morality is entirely subjective, which it is without God, then why does something like what you described bother you? Isn’t it okay for those ministers to use faith that way if they think it’s okay to do it? Just something to think about …

J.P.: Here’s what I know. You’re on the radio, you love Jesus, you’re the founder and president of the Bible Christian Society. But how did this happen. Womb to now? Where are you from? When did you first start thinking about God and religion? When did you realize this was what you’d do for your career?

J.M.: Well, I’ll give a short summary here, but if someone wants to have some of the details filled in, they can click on My Conversion Story.

Anyway, I was born in Huntsville, Alabama—home of the space program. I was raised Catholic, but learned little about my faith growing up. I basically left the faith when I went off to the University of Alabama and was pretty much a hellion for about 13 years or so—breaking many Commandments many times over. I received a Bachelor’s degree in corporate finance and then an MBA. My goal was to be a millionaire by 30. Went to work in the defense industry as a cost analyst. Got tired of that. After several years, went back to school (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill) to work on a PhD in finance. Didn’t like it and left the program after one year, but during that year I had come back to the faith through a series of “coincidences.” Went to work for a year as a finance instructor at the University of North Alabama. Then volunteered for Covenant House (they work with runaway and throwaway teens living on the street) in Anchorage for about eight months until the cold got to me in mid-December. Left Alaska for Guatemala with the intent of spending three months learning Spanish at an intensive language school and then working for Covenant House in Guatemala City. After two months, I got some unfriendlies in my system, lost 15 pounds in three weeks and had to come home to the United States for medical treatment.

Landed in Birmingham, Alabama, and got a job working in the investments division of a bank. Stayed in banking for a few years, but gave that up to go to work for a Salesian ministry (the Salesians are an order of priests and brothers in the Catholic Church—like the Jesuits, Franciscans, and such) in a poor area of Birmingham as their business manager. I oversaw the workings of two youth oratories, a free food pantry, free medical/legal clinic, free furniture warehouse, a job training program and other such programs aimed at helping the poor, and particularly, the children of the poor. One day I heard a particularly vile anti-Catholic program airing on the radio that was being broadcast by an evangelical station in Birmingham. I called to complain and that they should allow a Catholic to come on and respond. They ignored me. I don’t like being ignored. I wrote them a letter threatening to picket the station, boycott their sponsors, and other such things until they allowed a Catholic on to respond to that program. I didn’t mean me, but that’s the way it eventually worked out. I went on their station’s afternoon live show for an hour and a half one day and caused quite a stir. The response to that hour and a half led, several months later, to me having a one-hour-per-week live program, talking about the Catholic faith, on that very same station—the largest Evangelical station in Alabama.

The response to my weekly radio program led to two things happening:

1) My being invited to speak at local parishes about the Catholic faith and the Bible. Some of my talks were recorded and wound up being aired on several Catholic stations around the country through EWTN Global Catholic Radio. People started calling, wanting copies of the talks. Then they started calling asking if I could travel to their state to speak to their parish. An apologetics apostolate (ministry) was born—the Bible Christian Society. It just kept snowballing until I was traveling all over the country and sending out tens of thousands of tapes/CDs all over the world each year.

2) A full-blown Catholic radio station came to Birmingham about a year later and I wound up as the general manager of the station. I did that for about four years, but the Bible Christian Society was taking up so much of my time,that I went full-time with that in January of 2003.

I was on my own with the Bible Christian Society for about six years when the bishop of the Diocese of Birmingham asked me to become his Director of Evangelization (2009). So, I do that, but I still also run the Bible Christian Society—traveling to give talks and distributing CDs and mp3s and writing an email newsletter that has more than 30,000 subscribers in over 70 countries—and I run the Catholic radio station in town, and on Monday afternoons, 2-3 pm (Central), I host a radio program on the EWTN Global Catholic Radio Network, which is now on about 250 stations around the country. One of which you heard me on.

And, between all of that, I managed to fit in a wife and four beautiful kids.

Now, when it comes to knowing I would be doing this for my career, I tell people that I never planned to do it—I still don’t—but that I got dragged into it kicking and screaming. But, since I find myself with the responsibility of having people who want to hear what I have to say and who want to read what I write, I am taking the responsibility seriously and doing the best I can with the little I’ve been given, for as long as God gives me the opportunity.

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J.P.: You devote yourself to teaching Catholicism, and trying to get others to follow. But how do you know you’re right? Hell, there are hundreds of other clergy from hundreds of other branches of Christianity and different religions who are equally certain they’re right. So … what if you’re wrong? I mean, surely you must admit to the possibility, no?

J.M.: Well, I know I am right because everything I teach is in conformity with the faith of the Catholic Church. They are also in conformity with reason. I know the Catholic Church is right based on logic, common sense and the evidence of history and science. When it comes to Christianity, you are indeed right—there are actually tens of thousands of Protestant denominations, each of whom are certain they are right. I have dealt with a couple thousand or so Protestants firsthand over the last several years, all of whom believe they are right and I (i.e., my Catholic beliefs) am wrong. They cannot answer my arguments, though. I even have a YouTube series entitled: Questions Protestants Can’t Answer.

I always ask questions of anyone who believes the Catholic Church is wrong—questions that are based on the aforementioned common sense, logic and history (as well as biblical questions), that Protestants cannot answer in a consistent manner. Just a quick example, a series of questions I would ask Protestants goes like this: How long ago did Jesus live? Two thousand years ago. Did Jesus found a church? Yes. How many churches did Jesus found? One. Can the one church Jesus founded 2,000 years ago in Israel be the Presbyterian Church of America? Um … hello? No, it can’t be. The Lutheran Church? The Anglican Church? The Methodist Church? And so on. The answer to all of those questions, based on history, common sense, and logic, is no. In other words, none of those Protestant churches can be the church Jesus founded in Israel 2,000 years ago. So we can eliminate a lot of this nonsense of tens of thousands of churches by just using some good ol’ fashioned common sense. I have a number of such questions that I ask, that have never been answered in a consistent manner. I follow the same strategy with atheists/agnostics as well.

So, no, after going through the arguments—using logic, common sense, history, Scripture, and science—I do not admit to the possibility that I could be wrong, as long as my beliefs are in accord with the teachings of the Church. I didn’t mention this above in my “bio,” but when I first came back into the Church after being out for so long, I asked a lot of questions and I did a lot of doubting. I rejected a number of Church teachings. But, upon thoughtful examination of what the Church teaches and why, I discovered that all of the evidence points to one and only one rational conclusion—the Catholic Church is right in what it teaches, and it teaches that Jesus is God and that He loves us so much that He was willing to die for us on the cross in order to save us. I believe that if someone is truly open to hearing the truth, and they thoughtfully, rationally, and carefully examine the evidence the Church presents on her own behalf, that they will come to the same conclusion that I have arrived at after years of searching. The Catholic Church is not afraid of being questioned. What I so often find, though, is that people ask questions not wanting to hear the answers and they do not respond logically and rationally to the answers that are given. Rather, they quite often attack those who provide the answers.

However, one thing I tell each and every person who challenges me is that I will carefully listen to and evaluate their arguments, if they will do the same with mine. And I tell them that if they can prove to me that the Catholic Church is wrong on any single one of its doctrines … just one … then I will renounce my faith, because it wouldn’t make sense to belong to a church that could teach error. After all, could a church founded by God, teach error? And I am absolutely serious when I tell them that. Truth does not fear error, it is the other way around.

Now, I have a question for you: You say you are an agnostic, but doesn’t that means that you basically give lip service to the idea that God “might” exist, but you essentially live and behave as an atheist? Agnostic in theory, atheist in practice? That has been the case with every one of a number of agnostics I’ve come across. So, my question for you is: If you are truly open to the possibility that God exists, then isn’t the answer to the question of whether or not there is a God, the most important thing you could be searching for, since the ramifications could be quite eternal? Are you then, earnestly seeking that answer? [Jeff’s answer: I call myself an agnostic to be nice and because it’s possible aliens harvested eggs or something. But when it comes to the idea that this one all-knowing being loves us, but sends us to hell if we don’t believe and accept. Well, I’m an atheist]

With Janel, his wife.

With Janel, his wife.

J.P.: I know many people who believe, strongly, that we need to teach God and the Ten Commandments in our public schools. This strikes me as an awful idea—as an agnostic Jew, I don’t need my kids learning this stuff from a public school teacher. What’s your take?

J.M.: Let’s see, you’re opposed to having public school kids learn that lying is wrong, that murder is wrong, that stealing is wrong, that adultery is wrong and that honoring your mother and father is right? Those are all things you would oppose being taught to public school kids? I do indeed think the public schools should be teaching the Ten Commandments. Of course, the teachers need to be properly instructed on how to teach them, but I do indeed they need to be taught. Furthermore, I think the intellectual/philosophical proofs of God’s existence should be taught. I think the public school kids ought to have all of the information available to them about the arguments for God, and against God, in order to make a decision as to what they are going to believe and why they believe it. Do you not believe it is a good thing to have as much information as possible when making a decision, and particularly a decision as important as this one? [Jeff’s answer: I don’t think it’s the place for public school—period]

Again, as an agnostic—which means, as I understand it, that you are open to the possibility of there being a God—why is your default position an atheistic one rather than a theistic one? If the Judeo/Christian God does indeed exist, then shouldn’t His Commandments be talked about in public school?

J.P.: So the Bible is the word of God. But it was, by all accounts, written down by man. Meaning, God didn’t send the book—he sent the messages, which were inscribed. If this is the case, John, and if man is fallible, isn’t it possible the Bible contains mistakes, and perhaps we shouldn’t take it quite so literally?

J.M.: The Bible was indeed written down by man. Man is indeed fallible. However, God inspired the authors to write what they wrote. God is the primary author, and man is the secondary author. If there is a God and He is who He says He is, then no, the Bible cannot contain mistakes, as God does not make any mistakes. There are passages of the Bible that we may have trouble understanding and that might be confusing to us, and that we may have trouble reconciling—the Church Fathers have recognized this for 2,000 years—but that does not mean there are mistakes in the Bible. It just means that there are holes in our understanding of the Bible. It just means that sometimes we have to dig a little deeper to uncover the meaning in any given passage.

The evidence to back up what I just said about God inspiring man to write an inerrant Bible is way too involved to get into in a venue such as this, but suffice it to say, once again, that my belief in this matter is based on logic, common sense, history and science. It is not, as some would believe, simply blind faith. Blind faith is not the faith of Catholicism. For the honest inquirer, I would be happy to spend time to give the reasoning behind my statements here.

J.P.: Why don’t churches deal more with climate change? It strikes me as a natural fit—God’s creation being destroyed by man. No?

J.M.: Well, first of all, climate change is always occurring. Sometimes the world is in a cycle of warming, sometimes it is in a cycle of cooling. Not much the church, or anyone else, can do about that, is there? But, I suspect you are referring to so-called man-made climate change, which, until just a few years ago, was commonly known as “global warming.” Ever ask yourself why the purveyors of this crap changed the verbiage? Maybe because the evidence of global warming was melting away, and also that there was little to no proof that the supposed global warming was being caused by man?

By the way, are you aware that the models that are used by these purveyors of climatic doom—the ones that predict what the temperature is going to be 50 years from now and so on—are models that are written down by man? And, if man is fallible, isn’t it possible the models contain mistakes and perhaps we shouldn’t take them quite so literally? I mean, if the models that are used by the weathermen today cannot always predict within even a few degrees what the temperature is going to be one week from now, how is it that basically those same models are said to be capable of absolutely predicting within a half a degree what the temperature is going to be 50 years from now? Let’s talk blind faith, shall we?

But, let’s say the earth is warming and that this warming is proven to be indisputably caused by man. So what? Why is that necessarily a bad thing? What if that turns out to be actually preventing another ice age? That would be a good thing, wouldn’t it? Another thing, did you know that the oceans were actually about 100 feet or so higher than they are now something like 100 million years ago? Doesn’t that mean that the earth was a lot hotter then than it is now? Somehow, though, life survived and the earth survived. So, why is global warming a bad thing?

So sorry, but I’m not drinking the global warming/climate change Kool-Aid. I thought it was pretty funny last summer when the ship that went down to the Antarctic to prove to the world that global warming was occurring got stuck in an ice flow that was much wider and thicker than anything recorded down there in a long time. Global warming crusader ship stranded in record ice flow. I think the word is ironic.

However, just because I don’t buy the global warming garbage doesn’t mean I don’t believe man should be a good steward of the earth. He should be, and indeed, the church teaches as much. Pope Francis has made several statements in this regard, as did Popes Benedict and John Paul II. In fact, Pope Francis is coming out with an encyclical letter in the near future on the stewardship of the earth. Why, he might even buy into the whole global warming thing, I don’t know. But whatever his point of view on it, this encyclical will be about taking care of our planet. So, yes, the church cares about the environment as well as the people that live in it. That’s why we want an environment that can sustain life for our future generations, and why we want our future generations to have life. So we fight against the rape of the earth and the murder of our future generations in the womb. To be morally-consistent, we believe one must do both.

J.P.: John, have you at all changed your thoughts since the Pope came out with his position on climate change?

J.M.: When the Pope speaks authoritatively on matters of faith and morals, we are, as Catholics, obliged to give it the assent of faith. The same, however, does not hold true when the Pope speaks on matters outside of faith and morals—science, math, politics, economics, etc. When it comes to man-made global warming, that is not a matter of faith and morals.  The Pope has his opinion on that specific issue, and I respect his opinion, however, it is just that—an opinion. I will hear it and respectfully consider it. However, since this is an issue of science, not faith and morals, we are free to disagree with him on this matter. As for my thoughts on the matter, I will consider changing my mind when the meteorological models can accurately predict the high and low temperatures of every day for the next month here in Birmingham, within one degree.  When they are able to do that, then I will believe they might, one day, be able to accurately—within a degree or two—predict what the average world-wide temperature will be in 50 years. Until then, though, I’m not buying it.

Family shot back in 2006

Family shot back in 2006

J.P.: I’m the great-grandson of Holocaust victims. My great-grandma was killed in the gas chambers at Auschwitz for one reason: She was Jewish. Hence, I just can’t believe you’d want to convert Jews (millions of whom have similar stories) to Christianity. After all they’ve been through, after the struggles for survival. It just seems, well, messed up. Tell me why I’m wrong?

J.M.: Well, to consider converting to Catholicism as if it would somehow be adding to the suffering of the Holocaust is a bit “messed up,” don’t you think? Are you aware that all of the first Christians, for a number of years after Jesus’ death, were Jews? Christianity is not a departure from Judaism, it is a fulfillment of. That’s why someone who is Jewish and familiar with the synagogue service is actually more at home in a Catholic Mass than most non-Catholic Christians are. Also, you might want to read the story of St. Edith Stein. She was a Jewish philosopher in Germany in the 1920s and 30s. She was a student/colleague of Husserl and Heidegger. Brilliant mind. She wound up converting to Catholicism and becoming a nun. She didn’t think it too terribly burdensome and painful to do so. She died at Auschwitz.

If the Catholic Faith is true, than convincing someone of that truth no more adds to the suffering of the Holocaust than convincing someone of some mathematical or scientific truth does. Think about this. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that the Catholic Church is right about God and about Jesus and about salvation and the Bible and all the other things it teaches that Jews would disagree with from a theological point of view. Would it be an act of charity to share that truth with the Jewish people, or would it be “messed up”? Which is the greater act: to share truth with others, or to keep it to yourself and refuse to share it with others? Now, you may not agree that it is the truth, but that is not the point. The point is, we believe it is the truth. Given that belief, how should a moral person act?

The concern of the Catholic who is attempting to convert a Jew, or a Muslim, or an atheist, or an agnostic, or a Mormon, or a Baptist, or anyone else is the salvation of one’s soul. The Catholic believes that a person, any person, has the best chance of salvation in and through the Catholic Church. Given that belief, it is out of love that we reach out to anyone and everyone to share the wonders of our faith with them. You might disagree with our arguments, or find them un-persuasive, but you cannot disagree with the reason behind our making them and presenting them to one and all. It is done out of love.

J.P.: I don’t see any good reason why homosexuality is sinful. Like, none. I mean, is it an anal sex thing? Because the gays I know are kind, compassionate loving, good parents, great role models. And it seems like the Catholic church has taken the sinful role of damning quality people to hell for no real good reason.

J.M.: Well, if there is no God, then there is nothing that is sinful, right? However, even if there is no God, it can still be argued that same-sex acts are contra nature. From a Darwinian perspective, what is the number one law of nature? Survival of the species, right? Well, for the survival of the species, nature has designed men and women in a complementary fashion for the purpose of procreation—for the purpose of the continued existence of the species. I mean, pretty much anyone with a modicum of intelligence can look at a man’s body and a woman’s body and come to the conclusion that nature designed them to join together. Do you come to the same conclusion, however, about two men’s bodies and two women’s bodies? No, you don’t. In other words, the joining of two men’s bodies is contra nature. It is a priori unnatural. It runs counter to the design of nature and, by extension, to nature’s No. 1 law—the survival of the species. And, sorry to be a bit graphic here, but can you name me a doctor who believes it is a healthy thing for someone to rub human feces (“shit”) on their sexual organs? Or, to get it all over your fingers and hands? Is that healthy? Would you consider fisting, especially between two men, a healthy act of love? Is it an act of love to ignore the health risks of such a lifestyle? Do you know the incidence of AIDS, rectal cancer, tuberculosis, and many other diseases among males who are same-sex attracted?

And, when it comes to two women, that, too, is a priori unnatural. For starters, two women cannot join together—they are missing something that is rather important in the joining process.

Suffice it to say, that same-sex activity is contra nature. And, if there is a God of nature, then it is contrary to the God of nature.

So, if doing something that is contrary to the design of nature and contrary to the design of nature’s God—and it’s also something that can be very harmful to a person’s health—isn’t “sinful,” then I don’t know what is.

But, I wish to correct you on something—the Catholic Church doesn’t condemn anyone to Hell. We choose our own paths in this life. The Church simply warns folks of where certain choices might land them. This is not done out of spite or malice or hatred, it is done out of love. Believing what we believe, it would be the most heinous act of hate and/or indifference toward our fellow man to say nothing, would it not. Whether someone is “kind, compassionate, loving, good parents, great role models,” or not is not the point. There are many people who commit many and varied types of sins—great and small—who could be described in the same manner. Going to Heaven or going to Hell is about accepting God or rejecting God. And it’s about repenting and asking for forgiveness for the sins we do commit. And with God, it’s sort of an all-or-nothing thing. You can’t say, “Well, yeah, I’ll accept God on this, but I reject Him on that.” It’s all in.

Finally, I find it quite curious that you would describe anything anyone does as being “sinful.” If there is no God, then nothing the Catholic Church does is sinful, as there is no such thing as sin. So by what moral authority do you call the Catholic Church “sinful” in its teachings on homosexuality? [Jeff’s note: Why does a God-like creature need to determine right v. wrong? Why is it impossible for humanity to devise such a system?]

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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH JOHN MARTIGNONI:

• Five reasons one should make Birmingham, Alabama his/her next vacation spot?: 1) It’s only 90 minutes from Huntsville, Alabama, which is God’s country; 2) It’s on the Robert Trent Jones golf trail—some of the best golf courses anywhere; 3) Some of the best micro breweries around; 4) Home of EWTN Television and Radio—largest religious broadcasting network in the world; 5) The incredibly beautiful Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament is close by in Hanceville, Alabama, just 45 minutes north.

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Don Drysdale, Ted Cruz, Benjamin Netanyahu, The A-Team, Snoop Dogg, chopped carrots, Carson City, Black Friday, Guy Laroche: 1) Benjamin Netanyahu (anybody who can run a country surrounded on all sides by folks who want to kill you has got somethin’ going on); 2) Don Drysdale (if you had Fergie Jenkins on the list instead of Drysdale, I might have had to make him No. 1 and Netanyahu No. 2); 3) The A-Team (I love it when a plan comes together); 4) chopped carrots (can’t go wrong with carrots); 5) Carson City (always loved the Ponderosa); 6) Ted Cruz (better than your average politician, but still a politician); 7) Snoop Dogg (don’t much care for his music, but got nothing against him on a personal level); 8) Guy Laroche (don’t know who he is, but he’s got to be better than #9); 9) Black Friday.

• I hate doing my laundry. Any advice?: Join a nudist colony.

• Best joke you know?: An infinite number of mathematicians walk into a bar. The first one orders one beer. The second one orders half a beer. The third one orders a quarter of a beer. The fourth one orders an eighth of a beer and so on. After the 8th or 9th order, the bartender pours two beers and says, “You guys ought to know your limits.”

• What’s the most confusing Bible verse you’ve come across?: Well, I don’t know if “confusing” is the right word as much as “difficult” is. There are a number of Bible verses that can be difficult to understand, but I guess one that I have wondered about and that no one really has a good handle on exactly what is being talked about, is 1 Corinthians 15:29—baptizing on behalf of the dead. People have their theories as to what is being mentioned here, but no one knows for sure.

• Who wins in a 12-round boxing match between you and Dr. Oz? What’s the outcome?: Well, I don’t know who Dr. Oz is, but if he could go 12 rounds, then he would win, because I would probably need an oxygen tent after three.

• One question you would ask Roger Ebert were he here right now?: How did you come back from the dead?

• Why is dropping the occasional curse such a bad thing? I love cursing: I used to love cursing as well, especially on the golf course. Even had one guy who saved a particular “off color” message I left on his answering machine for a couple of years and he would play it every so often for friends because it was so creative in its use of cuss words that it would leave ‘em laughing. Anyway, why is cursing a bad thing? Well, first of all, if there is no God, which means there is no objective standard of good or bad, then cursing is neither a bad thing or a good thing, right? However, if there is a God, and you believe in Him, then you might want to pay attention to what He says, “From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, this ought not to be so.” (James 3:10) If you wish to imitate Christ with your life, then cursing is not really the way to do it, is it? After all, from what well within a person does cursing generally spring? Somewhere that is positive and joyful and content? Or somewhere that is a bit dark, a bit negative, maybe a bit angry? So, the question is, is one imitating Christ through cursing? If no, then don’t do it. If yes, then have at it.

• What’s the greatest gift you’ve ever received? (and I don’t mean “the gift of Christ.” I’m talking a physical possession): A really awesome chess set for Christmas when I was 12-years old. I was a big Bobby Fischer fan.

• In exactly 23 words, can you make a sensible argument why butter tastes better than Nutella?: No, I can’t.

li’l gal with aGlock and Jesus

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Over the past few days I’ve engaged in Twitter dialogue with someone who goes by “li’l gal with aGlock.” Her actual Twitter ID is @HiCaliberLilGal, and she seems like a sincere and likeable person. Wait, lemme re-phrase. I probably agree with 2 percent of what she writes, and I’ve found some of her sentiments to be sorta disturbing. But, I’m pretty sure she’s not disgusting or disturbing. She’s merely someone I disagree with on social issues. Or, put different, when one posts images like these …

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… we’re not on the same page.

With people like “li’l gal with aGlock,” what it often comes down to is a pretty simple base. “li’l gal with aGlock” is 100-percent convinced there is an all-knowing God who created all and brought forth the rules of the world, presented in the form of the Bible. I am 100-percent convinced it’s nonsense.

This is a toughie, because “li’l gal with aGlock” and I somehow need to coexist in a nation that’s not overwhelmingly big; one that was founded by those who believed government and church had to remain separate; that her faith in God and my faith in no God need to survive in a peaceful and harmonic way. The problem is, “li’l gal with aGlock” doesn’t seem to understand how I think the way I do, and I don’t really understand how “li’l gal with aGlock” thinks the way she does. Like, I don’t get how someone can be both pro-life and pro-death penalty—especially when there have been cases of people erroneously residing on death row. Like, I don’t get how one can claim to love and worship Jesus Christ, man of peace, and also own a Glock (and brag about it—even when statistics show, decisively, that living with a gun in the home is far more dangerous than living without one). Like, I don’t get how someone can praise the creator, yet support a political party/movement that shows little-to-no interest in his (ahem, His) creation. The Republican Party has spent years trying to de-fund and abolish the Environmental Protection Agency. How is this Christian? I can understand one wanting to shrink the government. But … the EPA? The safeguard of the environment? Shouldn’t the most pious among us love the EPA?

From my vantage, the most difficult issue here is that “li’l gal with aGlock” and many of her cohorts see the world through a Godly prism. Which I understand, and can even appreciate. But that places Biblical expectations on those of us who think it’s all crazy talk. Gay marriage, for example. On her Twitter feed, “li’l gal with aGlock” has repeatedly posted examples of how gay marriage violates God’s laws. And, I suppose, that argument can be made. But what if you don’t give two shits about God’s law? What if you think there’s something that rises far above the Bible—namely, common sense and reason and decency and kindness and empathy and understanding and an allowing for change and evolution? What if you look at the Bible as, in many cases, a guide of what not to do?

Maybe—just maybe—natural v. unnatural is bullshit. Like, when someone argues that gay marriage is unnatural while simultaneously sipping Hi-C fruit punch from a Styrofoam cup, isn’t that kind of misguided? And weird?

Or perhaps I don’t understand.

Perhaps I never will.

Jeff Friedman

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Had a funny thing happen earlier today.

So we met some people here in California. Started talking for a while; guy was a big sports fan. He asked what I did, I told him I write sports books, the conversation continued for a spell. Then he said, “Wait a second! I hear you promoting your Lakers book on ESPN!” Then he turned to his wife and said, “He wrote a pretty well-known book!”

“Wow,” she said. “We’re walking with a celebrity.”

“Yeah,” he said. “When I heard the name Jeff Friedman, I knew it was you …”

A presidential moment

In case you missed it, the above video features President Obama singing “Amazing Grace.” It happened Friday afternoon in Charleston, inside the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church at the funeral of the Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney.

It is one of the most unique and special moments in modern presidential history. It’s right up there with this and and this and certainly this.

And yet, you won’t hear a word of praise from the right. Just as, were Barack Obama a Republican, you likely wouldn’t hear a word of praise from the left.

Why? Because we’ve turned toward ugliness in a real and horrific way. We are America and we are Americans, but we are divided so staunchly that it’s painful. One is no longer allowed, by unspoken law, to be an arch conservative and also say, “Today, Barack Obama was my president.” You can’t, because then you’re a traitor to your beliefs and your side.

I’m off to bed. Dammit.

 

Brian Brown’s Great Grandson …

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It’s, oh, 60 years from now. Sandra Brown, the granddaughter of Brian Brown, is in the living room. Her son, Brant, approaches with a question she’s dreaded.

“Mom,” he says, “what was my great-grandpa like?”

“Well,” says Sandra, rubbing her chin. “He was a handsome man.”

“Oh. What else.”

“He was very well-spoken. And when he believed in something, he took a stand.”

“What do you mean?”

A deep sigh.

“Well, back when he was in his late 30s and early 40s America didn’t allow two men or two women to get married. And great-grandpa was one of the people who led that fight.”

A bewildered look. “I don’t understand.”

“It’s complicated. See, he was in charge of a group called the National Organization for Marriage. They were pretty big and powerful, and your great-grandpa was in charge of the whole thing!”

“Wow! He must have been very smart!”

“Yeah … um, so, he thought being married meant you had to be a woman in love with a man, or a man in love with a woman. He was really concerned about what would happen if men could marry men or women could marry women …”

“That’s weird.”

“I know … I know. It seems really weird. But back then, it was a big fight in America. Then, on June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court—which is really important—made it law than women can marry women, men can marry men. That marriage is, first and foremost, about the love between two people.”

“Just like you love Mommy?”

“Exactly. Just like I love Mommy.”

Showtime Book
Love Me, Hate Me Barry Bonds Book
Sweetness Walter Peyton Book
The Bad Guys Won Book
The Rocket that Fell to Earth Book
Boys Will Be Boys Book

Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.

— Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach's Life