The answer is as plain as black and white—Persecutions? Yes.

“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Pope Francis (L) prays as a Jewish Rabbi looks on at the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site, in Jerusalem’s Old City on May 26, 2014. Pope Francis faces a diplomatic high-wire act as he visits sacred Muslim and Jewish sites in Jerusalem on the final day of his Middle East tour AFP PHOTO/ VINCENZO PINTO (Photo credit should read VINCENZO PINTO/AFP via Getty Images)

Late last evening, while watching Clemson finishing out on top over Ohio State
in a battle in the Fiesta Bowl, a breaking news alert popped up on my phone…

The initial report was that there had been a stabbing outside of a synagogue
in New York.

“Oh Lord,” I thought out loud, “not again!”

As the facts started to come in more clearly, the attack had actually happened
inside the home of a Rabbi who lived next door to a Synagogue in Monsey, New York.

Reports were that a man had entered the home, where Hasidic members of a synagogue
had gathered prior to going to celebrate the 7th night of Hanukkah,
and began hacking people with a machete.

The news headline read:
New York Jews continue Hanukkah celebrations after stabbing at
rabbi’s home that left 5 wounded

The story explained that
Five people were stabbed at a rabbi’s home in New York during a Hanukkah celebration
on Saturday night —
but that didn’t stop worshippers from continuing their prayers at a synagogue next door.

Soon after the attack in the suburb of Monsey, located just 35 miles north of New York City
in Rockland County, Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg and his followers gathered at the adjacent synagogue,
which the rabbi leads, and sang together in prayer.

The Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council for the Hudson Valley tweeted a video of Rottenberg
and his followers continuing their celebration of the seventh night of Hannukah.
“The grace of God did not end and his mercy did not leave us,”
they sang, according to a translation of their song posted online.

Here’s a link to the initial story
https://www.foxnews.com/us/new-york-hanukkah-stabbings-five-wounded-synagogue-celebrations

The following day, I ran across a post shared by a fellow blogger…
The post seemed more than ironically timely as it addressed an alarming concern…

The concern being that there is a troubling rise in growing antisemitism while being
mirrored by a simultaneous decline in Holocaust memory.

Meaning—attacks on Jews is on the rise while the history of the Holocaust
is fading.

Fading as many young people have little to no grasp of the darker side of
20th-century history.
Just considering the almost rabid fascination by youthful generations with socialism
then this should not be terribly surprising—but terrible it is.

Here is the post along with a link to the full article.

A Growing Monster
December 29, 2019
by Anna Waldherr

A Europe-wide CNN poll in November 2018 found a rise in anti-Semitism and a
decline in Holocaust memory [1].
Anti-Semitic incidents in Germany rose by almost 10% in 2018, to a 10 year high [2][3].
In December 2018, a Greek Holocaust Memorial was desecrated for the fourth time [4].
In January 2019 a synagogue was vandalized in the Bulgarian capitol Sofia [5].
In June 2019 planned construction on the site of mass graves dating to the
Holocaust came to light in the Ukraine [6].
By July 2019 anti-Semitism in the United Kingdom had spiked [7].
A video showing West Ham soccer fans singing an anti-Semitic fight song about
rival club Tottenham Hotspur (which has a largely Jewish fan base) was posted to Twitter.
There is a monster growing in Europe. Anti-Semitism has increased substantially since
the 2015 immigration crisis [8].
France reported a 74% increase in violence against Jews.

“An alarming pattern of anti-Semitism is spreading across Europe,
from France to Germany to Sweden and elsewhere on the continent…
Antisemitism is not, and cannot, remain just a Jewish problem.
This is an issue that affects all Europeans, and Western society as a whole.”

–Ronald Lauder, Pres. of World Jewish Congress

[1] CNN, “A Shadow over Europe” by Richard Allen Greene, 11/27/18, https://www.cnn.com/interactive/2018/11/europe/antisemitism-poll-2018-intl/.

[2] France 24, “Anti-Semitic attacks rose sharply in Germany in 2018, report says”, 2/13,19, https://www.france24.com/en/20190213-anti-semitism-hate-crime-jews-germany-afd.

[3] New York Times, “The New German Anti-Semitism” James Angelos,
5/21/19, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/21/magazine/anti-semitism-germany.html.

[4] Times of Israel, “Greek Holocaust memorial vandalized for 4th time this year”, 12/17/18, https://www.timesofisrael.com/greek-holocaust-memorial-vandalized-for-4th-time-this-year/.

[5] The Jerusalem Post, “Synagogue in Bulgarian Capitol of Sofia Vandalized by
Stone-Throwing Incident” by Zachary Keyser, 1/22/19,
https://www.jpost.com/Diaspora/Synagogue-in-Bulgarian-capital-of-Sofia-vandalized-by-stone-throwing-incident-578217.

[6] Israel National News (Arutz Sheva 7),
“Ukraine plans construction atop Holocaust-era mass graves” by Cnaan Lipshiz, 6/18/19, http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/264735.

[7] CNN, “New report shows spike in British anti-Semitism” by Ivana Kottasova, 8/1/19, https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/31/europe/antisemitism-incidents-rising-gbr-intl/index.html.

[8] The Guardian, “Anti-Semitism rising sharply across Europe,
figures show” by Jon Henley, 2/15/19,
https://www.theguardian.com/news/2019/feb/15/antisemitism-rising-sharply-across-europe-latest-figures-show.

A Growing Monster

Then if things weren’t troubling enough, a story broke Sunday morning about a
gunman walking into a church outside of Fort Worth, Texas and killing parishioners.
The gunman entered the church during communion and opened fire with a shotgun,
killing two and critically wounding another before being fatally shot by
quick-acting parishioners.

Texas church shooting leaves 2 dead, witness says gunman opened fire during communion

https://www.foxnews.com/us/texas-church-shooting-texas-injured-active

When Evil attacks our Spiritual foundation, we have always struggled to understand.

Yet here’s the thing, Evil is not something to be analyzed or neatly understood.
It does not play by the rules.
The fallen light-bearer is now the father of darkness.
Rules do not apply to Satan or to the Evils he relishes upon this realm we call home.

And yet the mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, went on a news talk show Sunday
morning and tried to blame life in Washington and the hate that is seemingly
generated there, on the latest spate of attacks on Jews in his city and state.

Because we all know that when we have no answers, we blame Trump.

But Trump is not Satan…contrary to popular belief.

Persecution against both Christians and Jews has been with us throughout the ages,
yet there is an alarming uptick taking place across the globe.
Physical persecution to emotional and psychological persecution.

Might time be of the essence for both Light and Dark?

Faith, belief, God, Jesus, love, kindness, forgiveness, the family, honor,
righteousness…these are all components of our true essence…the piece
of the Divine which continues to reside in our souls.

And each and every one of those components is an enemy of the Darkness.

I read today that many Jews are now afraid to wear anything that
symbolizes their faith in fear of being attacked.

This while many Christians are being told that, at places such as work and
school, they are not allowed to have a Bible on their desk or to wear
a cross or other religious symbols.

As the shadows grow long, remain steadfast…
for your God will not be moved by man nor darkness.

You will be hated by everyone because of me,
but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.

Matthew 10:22

Winning or the tale of a “Damn Good DAWG”

“The real glory is being knocked to your knees and then coming back. That’s real glory. Thats the essence of it.”
― Vince Lombardi

slideshow_1379930_uga.1120_bs2
(one dog in the continuous line of the last 7 UGA bulldog mascots / AJC image)

Attending the University of Georgia during the late 1970’s and early 80’s was a magical time full of pure wonderment and joy.
It was a time of National Championships, Heisman Trophies, broken records, sUGAr raining from the sky, and all of the things of which legends are made.
Those were heady days in which to be a college coed.
It helped if you liked football.

Being raised in the South, I indeed not only liked, but loved college football, as I still do. I do not speak of the round variety of futbol played world over—but rather I speak of the humble and odd oval pigskin variety which is the epitome of the quintessential slice of Americana.
Blame it on my father, for I was raised watching as well as loving college football.

Those exciting days of fame made oh so sweet by the likes of Herschel Walker, Vince Dooley and Larry Munson have all but long disappeared from the forefront of University of Georgia. Those legend makers have retreated back into the shadows where they now live as the ghosts of Glories past. Their phantasm images remain ready to haunt old, as well as new, fans and coaches alike as each season the hopes of the DAWG Nation silently, noisily, fantasizes “will this will be the year???”

That same nagging and haunting question hangs painfully and often bitterly over the heads, as the awkward elephant in the room, of colleges and schools nationwide. As time marches on and Legends come and go, their parting often brings the anxious anticipation and hope of recapturing those long past days of not only winning and bragging rights, but of fame and fortune. Because isn’t that what football is all about now, the fame and the fortune?

We need not look only to The University of Georgia as a school, a team and a fan base which seeks out those days of glory gone by, but we may cast our glances to schools such as Ohio State who wistfully wonder if their glory days, which harken back to the likes of Woody Hayes, may rest on the steely shoulders of Urban Meyer, as Buckeyes continue to exorcise the demons of the ingrained image of a beloved and aging coach, who’s frustration with a player and a game gone a rye, lead to the infamous punch seen round the world.

Ghosts of glory may also be found on the campus of the University of Alabama who’s legendary Coach Bear Byant is the standard bearer for all of college football and of what it takes to create winning programs. His image is hallowed with not only Bama fans, but with college football fans, young and old nationwide as no one can deny the immortal houndstooth.

And then there was the sad and tragic toppling of a legend in Pennsylvania which was shrouded in mystery, denial, pedophilia, fame and the defamation of a once almost holy character. I won’t go into the details of Joe Paterno as I was once a stalwart Penn State fan. I continue to sort out the horrendous accusations of a heroic legend of a man who I can’t wrap my brain around having not known what evils were taking place in his “backyard”. . .

Yet it is to the hallmark of the ultimate American tale, the one of seeking a better life, hard work and success, coupled with a tragic premature ending, which most likely captures the imagination of many a sports fan—that of the legendary player and coach of the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame, Knute Rockne. Rockne immigrated with his parents to the US from Norway in 1903. He grew up in Chicago playing neighborhood ball. He played football in high school, but the lack of funding forced the would-be gridiron standout to head to the workforce. Four years of working at the Chicago post office, a 22 year old Rockne finally saved enough money to attend Notre Dame where he not only played football, earning the honor of All American, but where he also coached immortalizing the emotionally charged phrase “win one for the Gipper”

Sadly however, today’s college football, for good or bad, along with collegiate sports in general, has morphed into something almost unrecognizable, falling victim to the all mighty dollar. Today there is television and savvy marketing which brings not only popularity but millions upon millions of dollars to schools clamoring for a piece of the pie. Scholarships, advertisements, colossal stadiums, notoriety and endorsements run amuck. These are the things which now drive and dictate college sports. The winning at all costs mentality is sadly what keeps coaches with a job. And who wants to lose a multimillion dollar job?

Fans, alumni and sportscasters become a fickled lot. No longer is a winning record important but things such as key rivalry games and national titles now loom paramount. A beloved coach who “allows” the team to lose the hope of playing for, not only in a bowl game, as it must be an important bowl, but the loss of a potential national title, can quickly find any coach in the proverbial hot seat come Monday morning following any loss during the usual round of the sports talk shows hitting the airwaves.

Fans and alumni begin clamoring for a “head on the plate” as something must change and change quickly because we are a Nation of winners.
Americans do not like losers.

Enter Mark Richt, the current head football coach at the University of Georgia.

Richt2

If I had a son who played football, I would want him playing for a man like Mark Richt.
Richt is a man of conscience, who is driven and steered by a faith based compass. His is a deep based unwavering faith in a God of mercy and grace.
Ohhh, I can hear those who lead the atheist protest groups and those of the ACLU raising their wary little antennas worried we’re mixing Christianity on the field of play. My observation of Coach Richt is not of a man leading a team of Christian soldiers—he merely happens to be a Christian who happens to be a leading SEC football coach who happens to merely be a ‘lead by example’ sort of man.

When Auburn’s current quarterback, Nick Marshall, who was recruited and signed by UGA, was caught stealing from fellow teammates, Richt cut him from the team. Richt believes that for all actions there are consequences and that everyone must see those consequences through, as painful as they may be for everyone involved, even at the risk of winning. Nick Marshall has since worked his way back to a leading role in the SEC, much to Richt’s delight. Never smug or condescending, Coach Richt is a believer in second chances and the turning around of misguided character. He was pleased that lessons were obviously learned and that this young man is finally seeing a dream come true.

The guidance and teaching of young men is a big factor as to why Coach Richt is in the business of coaching—for you see coaching goes well beyond the calling and formulating of plays–anyone in education or who has ever played on a team under the leadership of either a good or bad coach knows.

Yet frustratingly, positive events for Mark Richt do not always come easily or readily as they do for his counterpart head coaches who seem to bask in the ever constant lime light of the big wins and success. Why that is, I’m not sure but somewhere I hear the idiom “good guys finish last” rolling around in my head. He and his team often seem plagued and deluged by a constant series of bad luck, bad breaks and bad calls year after year after year. The latest incident of famed running back Todd Gurley, who just finished sitting out a 4 game suspension handed down by the NCAA for the profiting of signing sports memorabilia, is just one case in point—

The crowning blow of Richt’s season, a season that had been so highly anticipated as the Bulldogs were highly touted, sitting atop leading polls back at the end of the summer, in this now surreal world of a college football playoff. . .yet all of the hopes and dreams which had slowly faded from losses to both SEC rivals, South Carolina and Florida, came crashing down on one particular play at the end of Saturday’s game against Auburn. Todd Gurley had come back from the suspension chomping at the bit to play.

His Heisman Trophy hopes already dashed by his own poor choices, Gurley still had some things to prove. The first play of the game, Gurley ran the kickoff back for a touchdown which was then immediately called back due to a Bulldog penalty–the continuing curse of the penalties has been a self inflicted slow bleeding demise for the Bulldogs. Gurley continued to work in tandem with teammate and fellow running back Nick Chubb throughout the game, gaining yards and racking up points. Yet it was during one of the final plays of the game when Gurley, running the ball, was hit. He goes down grabbing his leg yet eventually gets up, walking off the field under his own power. He wasn’t carted off the field, he could even be seen walking the sidelines. However it was a MRI which later confirmed the fears of the Bulldog Nation, Gurley had blown out his knee, tearing his ACL– ending not only his playing season, but his tenure at UGA.

Does one player make a team?
No.
Does one play make a season?
Sometimes.
However Gurley’s suspension and now torn knee are but a few pieces of the never ending litany of bad breaks which have besieged this most mild mannered coach and of this often maligned and under respected team.

Todd Gurley will have surgery to repair his knee. He will rehab and be as good as new. He will most likely be a high pick in the draft, going on to a lucrative career in the NFL.

There will be those who question Richt’s decision for having left Gruley in the game when it was clear the game was in their hands. There are those who have thought that Richt is not aggressive enough, too nice to be a head coach in one of the biggest powerhouse conferences of the game. There are those who clamor that Richt just can’t win “the big one” or that the team lacks consistency. He hangs on to his offensive coordinator, Mike Bobo, when others have called for Bobo’s head on a platter. Anything and everything that is wrong with the Bulldogs all comes back to Richt.

Yet one thing is certain, Mark Richt is consistent.
He does not bend under pressure. He does not acquiesce, he does not put his moral compass aside if its inconvenient for his audience.
He is a leader,
a quiet man,
a kind man.
He is often unruffled on the playing field.
He is steadfast, not one given to the emotional fits and tirades often displayed by so many other emotionally charged college coaches.
He is a rock during a crisis.
He consistently does the right thing by all under his command regardless of position, his paycheck, or pressure.
He is the example of how one human being should treat a fellow human being.

College coaches are often compared to opposing strategizing generals who formulate plans of attack against “the enemy”—a steely game of chess with the elusive checkmate hanging in the balance. I know that I would be more than happy to follow a man like Mark Richt into battle as he is cool under pressure and always has the best of his men in the forefront of his mind.

All those attributes are great and grand you say, but they don’t win football games.
What about the Glory days you ask.
What about the multimillion dollar endorsements?
What about all the money generated and brought to the schools that win?
What about the fame, the fortune?
Yeah, you’re probably right. . .
. . .but there once was a time when winning wasn’t everything.