Latina Muslims: the drumbeat continues

muslimwomanThe Washington Post had an interesting story on Sunday about Latino immigrants converting to Islam. I find conversion stories fascinating, and I wish newspapers would do more of them. It makes for very good copy.

That said, I have to point out that Sudarshan Raghavan’s story reminded me a lot of Chris Jenkins’ Washington Post story from five years ago. Same lead and same point, more or less. Both stories claim they are about Latinos (a word signifying either males or a mixture of males and females) converting to Islam. But no Latino Muslims are quoted in either. Raghavan attempts to explain a bit about what led to the conversions:

The converts hail from throughout Latin America. In Islam, some say they see a devoutness and simplicity they find lacking in Catholicism. Like the tightknit Latino culture, Islam places emphasis on family, which can make it easier for converts to adjust.

Yet some are as motivated by feelings of alienation in a nation that is divided over immigration. Latino women find what most westerners rarely see — a respect for women, unlike, some converts say, the machismo culture in which they were raised.

Raghavan also writes that one woman converted after a priest failed to give her a satisfactory explanation of Christianity’s Triune God. Another felt that Catholics didn’t have a deep connection with God. She also felt that Muslims handled race better than Catholics.

But as I said, this is a story about Muslim Latinas. I found this section to be particularly interesting. The woman quoted says she used to wear tank tops and go salsa dancing:

[Convert Jackie Avelar] said it doesn’t bother her that women in Islam have different roles, roles that many westerners describe as repressed. Where they see inequality, she sees respect. A respect, she said, she doesn’t see often in Latino culture.

“The way Latin men portray women, it’s terrible,” Avelar said. “You look at Spanish CDs, and you see women in bikinis on the cover.”

Before Islam: The day laborers at a nearby 7-Eleven whistled and cat-called — “Oy Mamacita!” — as she passed them.

After Islam: The day laborers stared in silence as she, in her hijab, passed them.

“The fact they stayed quiet, I was like, ‘Alhamdulillah!’,” said Avelar, reciting the Arabic phrase “Praise be to Allah.”

“I love the respect that I get from the opposite sex [when I'm] in hijab.”

niqabsThe Post shows which blogs are commenting on articles, some of which were ironic, or showed the views of other Muslim women.

Many of the stories about Muslim conversions from Latin and Hispanic groups make it seem like the first time these groups have been in contact with Islam. As if Spain wasn’t conquered by Muslims in the 8th century.

I really wish these stories would delve much deeper into the theological reasons that these women convert from Catholicism to Islam. I always leave each piece wanting to know much, much more about why and how the conversion happened.

Last week the Post had another article on Muslim women that made for an engrossing read. Faiza Saleh Ambah wrote that many Saudi women love covering up and resent emancipation efforts by U.S. women. Considering how many Muslim women in the States do not wear black niqab, it is interesting to see that this is yet another area where Muslim thought is not uniform. Of course, it’s obvious and reasonable that all Muslims would not interpret all Scripture the same way. But sometimes when you read the news, it seems like we are expected to believe that all Muslims, say, think that publishing cartoon images of Muhammad should be punishable by death.

Photos via Flickr.

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666 ridiculousness

666The idea of doing a post on the fact that today is June 6, 2006, and that somehow has religious significance made my head hurt due to its absolute silliness, and my colleagues suggested that I list six reasons why this is the case. Feel free to contribute your own reasons for agreeing or disagreeing.

But first, a quick rundown of the news articles: here is a BBC article on what I guess is a legitimate news event and another on that wonderful little Michigan town dubbed “Hell” and its celebrations. And Tim Townsend of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch took a look at a wide range of issues.

With that, here are the reasons 666 stories hurt my head:

  1. 666 is just a number. It is the sum of the squares of the first seven prime numbers, if you were interested.
  2. People commonly associate 666 with the “Number of the Beast” mentioned in Revelation 13:17-18. The text does not mention June 6, 2006. The current calendar was not used when Revelation was written. I also doubt they abbreviated their dates the way we do.
  3. Some people believe the “Number of the Beast” is actually 616. Nevertheless, there is still no significance to 6/6/06.
  4. If you are going to do articles on people doing things to make 6/6/06 significant, please do articles on why people are visiting the slots on 7/7/07. Wait, that’s dumb, don’t do that. While I’m at it, reporters writing on this should do an article on my favorite day of the year, November 11, and talk about how I enjoy watching my digital clock show all ones at 11:11 a.m.
  5. In Unix a file permission of 666 grants all users read and write permissions on the file. Apple’s first computer, the Apple I, was priced at $666.66. I think Apple computers are great. So are iPods.
  6. In Chinese, 666 sounds similar to the word meaning “Things going smoothly.” People pay extra in China to get 666 in their cell-phone digits.

All reporters writing about the significance of 6/6/06 must include and ask questions relating to these six reasons for me to do a follow-up post. They must also get serious answers from those making the news because there are more important things to write about in this world. But if questions like that are asked, reporters will realize the silliness of 6/6/06 stories and my head will stop hurting.

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The separation of church and sports

bible and baseballTo the sophisticated readers of the New York Times, this article acts as a warning: your Major League Baseball games could soon be infiltrated by religion! To others it raises the often-asked question of whether Christians in America will succumb to the “fine and potentially dangerous line” of mixing Jesus and marketing, as a friend said to me recently.

The NYT is more concerned with the former and fails to leave room for the latter. But that’s OK. The separation of church and sports is what immediately jumps out and most appropriately fits into this news story. The article is reasonably fair and sticks largely to reporting the facts, rather than interpreting and predicting. A more thorough and nuanced story is due at some point comparing this trend with the one brewing in Hollywood.

Here is how the story kicks off, at a minor-league indoor football game:

Before kickoff, a Christian band called Audio Adrenaline entertained the crowd. Promoters gave away thousands of Bibles and bobblehead dolls depicting biblical characters like Daniel, Noah and Moses. And when the home team, the Birmingham Steeldogs, took the field, they wore specially made jerseys with the book and number of [B]ible verses printed on the back.

Donnie Rhodes, a children’s minister at Gardendale’s First Baptist Church near Birmingham, took 47 sixth graders to the game by bus and said it was the perfect outing. “It was affordable, safe and spiritual,” he said. “And the kids just thought it was the coolest thing.”

Mr. Rhodes and his students were at the latest in ballpark promotions: Faith Nights, a spiritual twist on Frisbee Nights and Bat Days. While religious-themed sports promotions were once largely a Bible Belt phenomenon that entailed little more than ticket discounts for church and synagogue groups, Faith Nights feature bands, giveaways and revival-style testimonials from players. They have migrated from the Deep South to northern stadiums from Spokane, Wash., to Bridgewater, N.J.

This story is definitely worth telling, particularly the major-league angle. The smaller leagues are significant, but less so from a news perspective. Those organizations will do anything to sell tickets. Fireworks have long drawn a crowd at a baseball game, and if partnering with the local megachurch sells a thousand extra tickets, it wasn’t too hard for team executives to put the two together.

I doubt this will spread to the NFL — it has little trouble selling tickets — but NBA ticket sales have been struggling for years and everyone knows Major League Hockey could use a boost. I’ll be watching for local newspaper coverage or lack thereof.

The best part of the article came at the end, when writer Warren St. John showed a tongue-in-cheek attitude toward the trend and quoted event promoter Brent High, president of Third Coast Sports:

While Faith Nights may be good for the box office and perhaps even the soul, there is one area where all that spirituality does not seem to have much effect: the scoreboard. On Faith Nights over the past two years, the Nashville Sounds have compiled a record of 15-17.

“On Faith Night, God cares a lot more about what’s happening in the stands than about what happens on the field,” Mr. High said.

With that, major-league teams should take note: bringing Christians to the stands does not put God on your side, at least according to the Times’ analysis.

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Joy and sorrow unfolding online

angel05It has been hard to know what to write about the news coverage of the mysterious and tragic case of the switched identities of Taylor University students Whitney Cerak and Laura VanRyn.

On one level, the story was simply too close and too overwhelming. Please understand that my temporary office here at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities is, literally, next door to our organization’s media team. Taylor University is a very active member of this global network of schools, and almost everyone who works here has friends and colleagues at that grief-stricken institution. So we were closely watching all the events that followed the original crash. Then came the revelation of the mistaken identities.

On one level, it is understandable that so many newspapers and networks downplayed the religious element of this story, other than mentioning that Taylor is an evangelical Protestant school. The story was so complex and confusing that it was hard to cover the basic facts and keep them straight and, of course, many questions remain unanswered. I guess the USA Today banner story is as good an example as any of the basic story template. It covered the details of what happened, then ended this way:

The Ceraks’ joy was mixed with sympathy for the VanRyns. … “Our families are supporting each other in prayer, and we thank our families, friends and communities for their prayers,” the families’ statement said.

In the cemetery where Laura’s body was buried five weeks ago, the temporary nameplate that had marked the future spot of Whitney’s headstone was removed Wednesday. It was unclear when Laura’s casket would be exhumed and taken 175 miles south for burial near Grand Rapids.

On their blog Thursday, Laura’s family cited Psalms 18: “In my distress I call to the Lord; I cry to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice. … He reached down from on high and took hold of me.”

The family added: “This is our prayer this morning. God’s Word is sufficient, no matter what your circumstance.”

That article included input from the Detroit Free Press and, as several GetReligion readers noted in private emails, it was that newspaper’s religion columnist who actually attempted to wade into this whirlpool of joy and grief. Columnist David Crumm recognized that this story was, in a very real sense, unfolding on the Internet and he went there to find what people were saying and feeling.

The starting point — the place where the mistaken identity story first broke — was at the website dedicated to Laura VanRyn and to her recovery. When the family discovered what had actually happened, the site told the emerging story of Whitney’s recovery and the VanRyn family’s efforts to cope with their confusion and grief.

Here is one posting from the site, as published in the Free Press:

Your testimony of Faith in our Lord Jesus Christ is the greatest honor you could bestow on Laura’s life. Thank you for living the life, despite circumstances. Laura is looking down from heaven right now and is so proud of you all as is our Savior. You have inspired us all to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. Thank you for representing our Lord Jesus Christ and bringing glory to Him through this circumstance.

– Anonymous

Crumm also noted that Taylor had opened an online forum to allow people to voice their prayers online — leading directly to a column on that topic.

This tale of mistaken identities is a mystery, a medical thriller, a family drama — but, at the heart of it for the families of Whitney Cerak and Laura VanRyn, it’s a spiritual story of communities reaching around the globe to support them.

Prayer usually is invisible, but not in this case, thanks to a forum at an Internet site — — hosted by Taylor University, the evangelical Christian college in Indiana attended by the young women. Since the crash on April 26, more than 1,000 prayers have been posted.

vanryn cerakPeople from around the world have posted prayers at the site, including notes from Taylor alumni who have spread out in a network of ministry and work.

Crumm noted that people were clearly struggling to find some way to respond that recognized both the joy in one family and the sorrow in another. Counselors admitted that they did not know how they would handle this combination of emotions and the spiritual questions that would follow in their wake.

Milford funeral director and author Thomas Lynch said any spiritual counselor would find it difficult to help families sort out such a situation. “It’s so perplexing,” Lynch said. “One would be tempted to say there’s a miracle that a lost daughter is alive, but does the other family then turn to the book of Job to learn about how bad suffering can get? This is very difficult all around.”

Beth Miller, also an author and a United Methodist youth counselor in Ann Arbor, said, “What a confusing tragedy. It’s like something by Shakespeare. “There’s no simple theological answer to this one, except, I think, to say that this is a strong reminder of how powerfully our lives are all connected in a global community.”

The story is not over, of course.

Newspapers in the Midwest are sure to follow Cerak’s recovery and major networks will, I imagine, jockey to land the first interview with the girl who lived. There are a number of dramatic scenes in the lives of both families that will, like it or not, draw close media attention. What happens to insurance claims? The wrongful death lawsuits from the original crash?

And this past weekend, the family and friends of VanRyn gathered for a memorial service. The young woman’s boyfriend stated what many were thinking:

At an emotional memorial service Sunday for VanRyn, 22, of Caledonia, her boyfriend, Aryn Linenger, poured his heart out again to 2,000 mourners. He said the bizarre identity switch that allowed those closest to VanRyn to believe they were tending to her in the hospital has made them feel they have been fooled by God.

“There’s been many times in these past couple days where I’ve been mad at God, and I questioned how he could allow this to happen to me,” said Linenger, 25, of Brighton. “Like it was the biggest trick he’s ever played on me in my life.”

I am sure that the weblog at Christianity Today will continue to follow this story. Please alert let us know if you see MSM articles that focus on the faith elements in the events that are ahead.

UPDATED: Sure enough, the CT weblog has posted a new collection of links for coverage of the Cerak-VanRyn story.

HCG0255 mnAlso, Phil de Haan — the excellent media coordinator for Calvin College — sent me the link to a Sunday column in the Grand Rapids Press by feature writer Charles Honey. Click here to read “Faith helps two families through times of mourning, rejoicing.” Here is how that feature opens:

They are mere words on a page, but they touch like a soft hand on a parent’s grieving shoulders.

“‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways,’ says the Lord.”

It is the prophet Isaiah speaking to Jerusalem 2,700 years ago, and to Laura VanRyn’s family today. The Bible passage was placed by VanRyn’s family on her Web log May 6, a day they believed she was making great progress in recovering from an April 26 car accident. The blog reported VanRyn yawned and swallowed in a cute way, and wore pigtails.

Of course, hopeful progress was being made that day — by Whitney Cerak.

While Whitney’s family grieved her apparent death in that same accident, VanRyn’s family surrounded Whitney with love and the word of God, unaware VanRyn already had died.

God’s thoughts were not those of the VanRyn or Cerak families that day. But they believed God was with them. They still do …

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Explaining doctrinal divides

inclusiveness largePeople keep asking me why I refer to Roman Catholics as “Roman” Catholics instead of just “Catholics.” David Haldane’s story from the Los Angeles Times is one good example of the many uses of the C-word.

Like Catholic priests everywhere, Bishop Peter Hickman dons a white tunic each Sunday to celebrate Mass in a sanctuary laden with incense and crosses.

Unlike most, he’ll often have lunch with his wife and children afterward.

“Marriage promotes growth,” says Hickman, 50, who has fathered five children, been married three times and divorced twice. “People who’ve never been married have a hard time knowing themselves.”

Marriage and children aren’t the only things separating Hickman from nearly all Roman Catholic clergy. The church he has pastored for more than 20 years, St. Matthew in Orange, operates much like any other Catholic church, and offers what appear to be the same sacraments. Yet it ordains female, married and openly gay priests, recognizes divorce, accepts birth control and premarital sex, blesses same-sex unions and, most important, rejects the authority of the pope.

Occupying cramped storefront quarters in a strip mall, Hickman and his church have become the center of the nation’s largest coalition of liberal independent Catholic churches, the Ecumenical Catholic Communion.

This story is sort of a better-rendered version of the women’s ordination story from last week. Which is not saying much. Both stories are about movements within or without Roman Catholicism where the basis of the division is doctrinal. And yet the story talks very, very little about doctrine. And it’s not like the doctrinal divides raised in the story are complex or arcane.

The independent group supports premarital sex, for instance. Could we get just a little bit of an explanation on that one? How did that doctrinal divide form? And on what basis?

Also, I’m not sure I would have chosen that headline. In my mind, saying Faithful, Yet Not Traditional Catholics implies that we’re talking about Roman Catholics. It also implies editorial favor. I’m sure the group members considers themselves faithful. I’m also sure that Roman Catholics consider them heretical. Should we really pick sides there?

The story has some nice, brief history about independent Catholic movements. It also quotes from a bunch of people who think this independent Catholic movement is great. And there’s the one guy condemning their behavior. But that’s all right since the story is really just about the independent movement rather than any sort of debate within the Roman Catholic church. It also has some nice, brief history about independent Catholic movements.

But the way the story ended went a bit too far, I think:

“We dream of a Catholic Church that’s open to everyone,” Hickman said in a recent Sunday sermon. The Roman Catholic hierarchy, he said, “betrays the Gospel they are called to preach. We pray they will be delivered from the demonic hold they have been caught up in.”

All of which sounded just fine to Tony Bomkamp, a 52-year-old graduate of Mater Dei, a Roman Catholic high school in Santa Ana. “I like the inclusive aspect of this church,” he said. “It’s the perfect balance: still Catholic but with everyone invited. That resonates with me. It’s what Jesus would have done.”

Is it me or is this inclusiveness angle a bit overplayed in this story? I mean, at this point it might be nice to have someone from Rome representing the church’s viewpoint. Or someone who points out that calling one group demonic while claiming to be open to everyone is a bit interesting. Or someone who can discuss whether Jesus’ love of sinners included approving their sin?

By the way: That’s an inclusiveness window from a Presbyterian church.

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Problems on the abortion beat

18 weeks ultrasoundEarlier this week, newspapers in the United Kingdom reported some abortion figures from the Office for National Statistics. From 1996 to 2004, 20 unborn children in late pregnancies were aborted because ultrasounds showed that they had club feet.

The deformity is fairly common and readily corrected by surgery or physical therapy. Another four babies were aborted because they had webbed fingers or extra digits — also easily corrected. In 2005, a healthy baby was aborted at the sixth month because part of his foot was missing.

The story spread rapidly and was linked to by a number of blogs. Almost all of the reaction about the abortions was negative, even in the stories, such as this one in The Sunday Times:

News of the terminations has reignited the debate over how scanning and gene technology may enable the creation of “designer babies”. In 2002 it emerged that a baby had been aborted late — at 28 weeks — after scans found that it had a cleft palate, another readily corrected condition. . . .

Naomi Davis, a leading paediatric surgeon at Manchester children’s hospital who specialises in correcting club feet, said: “I think it’s reasonable to be totally shocked that abortion is being offered for this. It is entirely treatable. I can only think it is lack of information.”

Stories quoted a number of people expressing outrage that unborn children are aborted for treatable conditions. And other stories were devoted to clerical condemnations.

But that is so dog-bites-man, isn’t it?

Being shocked is reasonable, as the pediatric surgeon says. So wouldn’t it instead have been interesting to substantively interview advocates of abortion? How do they feel about aborting a fetus because of cleft palate? On what basis do they support it? If they don’t support it, why not? Also, in general, the implications of designer babies and the intolerance of imperfection could better be covered by media outlets.

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Trying to out the Christian baseball team

baseball prayerSometimes a reporter has an idea for a story, but the facts just don’t hang together tightly, and the story must be modified to fit the facts on the ground. Usually this means the story is less dramatic.

Bob Nightengale’s USA Today cover story Wednesday on the supposed religious revival in the Colorado Rockies’ clubhouse is such a story. It was a good idea to interview a bunch of major league ball players about their faith and how they believe it gives the historically horrific organization sudden success, but the article needed to be adjusted to fit the facts. It wasn’t, and that’s too bad.

The cover article was quickly followed by reports in The Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News. Both articles quoted players and clubhouse managers who expressed deep disappointment with Nightengale’s article. I get the feeling that no one was happy with the piece — otherwise you’d think one of the newspapers would have found that person. The consensus seems to be that Nightengale’s story falls flat on its face when it comes to portraying the Rockies clubhouse accurately.

After reading through the USAT article a couple of times, and before reading the local newspaper articles, I found myself coming to a similar conclusion, despite minimal knowledge of baseball culture and nearly no previous information on the Rockies. Nightengale overreaches in stating that the Christian aspect of the team is “from ownership on down.” That’s a rather grand statement. It’s an apparent overstatement in this case.

I think the Rockies’ story is a bit simpler and less controversial. The article strongly implies that one must be a Christian to be a member of the organization. Such is not the case. Such a policy would be idiotic for a major league sports organization.

From what I can tell, recruiting players of character has become a top priority at the organization, and those players tend to back up that reputation of good character with their words and actions. It’s definitely a good story and it should be told, but the premise of the article falls through quickly:

On the field, the Rockies are trying to make the playoffs for the first time in 11 seasons and only the second time in their 14-year history. Behind the scenes, they quietly have become an organization guided by Christianity — open to other religious beliefs but embracing a Christian-based code of conduct they believe will bring them focus and success.

From ownership on down, it’s an approach the Rockies are proud of — and something they are wary about publicizing. “We’re nervous, to be honest with you,” Rockies general manager Dan O’Dowd says. “It’s the first time we ever talked about these issues publicly. The last thing we want to do is offend anyone because of our beliefs.”

The article implies that O’Dowd is backing up the article’s premise — that the Rockies ball club is an explicitly Christian organization. Nightengale reaches for anything and everything to make it stick:

  • No racy magazines in the clubhouse (despite a player’s denying this in the Rocky article); only sports and car magazines and the Bible
  • No obscenity-laced music
  • Only hushed cursing
  • Scripture quotes (references not noted) in the weight room
  • Chapel is full on Sundays
  • Tuesday prayer meetings are well-attended
  • Front office executives pray together

Those quoted in the article supporting the premise that the team is stocking up on Christians in an attempt to bring the Rockies out of mediocrity support these moves on a theory known as the prosperity gospel. And the article seems to buy into that theory. The Rockies were a horrid team for many years. They have also had some personnel problems. But it’s nothing that would make the Dallas Cowboys of the 1990s blush. The theology that success will follow Christians has no basis in the Gospel of Christ or in reality.

A quote in the Post article backed up the impression that the Christian dimension of the team is driven by character, not the other way around. Nightengale’s view of the team doesn’t quite fit the reality on the ground:

“It was just bad. I am not happy at all. Some of the best teammates I have ever had are the furthest thing from Christian,” pitcher Jason Jennings said. “You don’t have to be a Christian to have good character. They can be separate. It was misleading.”

[First baseman] Todd Helton and Jennings were quoted supporting the article’s premise regarding religion’s role in the clubhouse. But both said they never were asked about religion, and were questioned only in general terms about the clubhouse environment.

“I wouldn’t say it was accurate. (The writer) asked me about the guys in here and I said it’s a good group. We work hard and get along well,” Helton said.

Then there is the section dealing with former Rockies player Mark Sweeney, who speculates that some members of the organization are just playing along with the whole religion thing to hold on to their jobs. Since when do reporters include the speculations of former employees? Does Sweeney know this for a fact? I doubt he does. I wonder if Nightengale was able to get any of the current Rockies to talk about this. Perhaps they asked that their concerns not be mentioned publicly. If so, Nightengale should have said that anonymous players agreed with Sweeney’s assessment. If not, Sweeney’s speculations are worthless.

As Nightengale attempts to delve into a controversy he himself has created with a poorly premised article — is it right for a ball club to be explicitly Christian? — the responses mostly reflect bafflement. It’s those questions that should be answered with an “I disagree with the premise of your question” answer.

Overall I am pretty disappointed with the story and I’m glad the local newspapers called USA Today out for it. There is definitely a story to be told here. The managers of the Rockies are openly Christian and their faith has helped them realize that they want to recruit players of character. But by no means is this a revival or an attempt to embrace “a Christian-based code of conduct” that the players “believe will bring them focus and success.”

On a side note, the photo that accompanied the article is incredibly lame. What are the newspaper’s art people implying here? That the players are looking, waiting, for the return of Jesus Christ? There are players who regularly pray together. Is this a photo of them praying? If so, say so.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the Flickr photo I found of Nomar Garciaparra praying before the start of a Chicago Cubs game.

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Pat Robertson can lift a ton … no, really

leg press machineThis has to be the most ridiculous Pat Robertson story ever. I’m only highlighting it to show how ridiculous Robertson coverage can be. Sometimes people should just ignore the guy. All this story is doing is driving up the sales of an energy shake.

To explain how Robertson and his energy shakes got into the news, we start with CBS Sports Online’s SPiN columnist Clay Travis, who wrote on May 22 that he heard from a reader that former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s claim that she could leg-press 400 prounds was “nothing” and that Robertson can leg-press 2,000 pounds. Oh and by the way, Robertson is 76 years old.

Travis predicted that Robertson’s gym didn’t even have 44 of those 45-pound weights. Considering my old gym, where I paid way too much membership money, had about 30 of them, for four machines, I was with him on that one.

But alas, Robertson can, according to his spokesman Christopher A. Roslan, leg press 2,000 pounds! Also known as a ton. Which is a lot of weight. A ton can crush and kill a man. I know this because newsprint rolls, at least when I was a kid, weighed about 2,000 pounds and accidents were known to kill.

Somehow I still doubt Roslan, and here’s why. Travis writes:

There is no way on earth Robertson leg presses 2,000 pounds. That would mean a 76-year-old man broke the all-time Florida State University leg press record by 665 pounds over Dan Kendra. 665 pounds. Further, when he set the record, they had to modify the leg press machine to fit 1,335 pounds of weight. Plus, Kendra’s capillaries in his eyes burst. Burst. Where in the world did Robertson even find a machine that could hold 2,000 pounds at one time? And how does he still have vision?

As something of a sports junkie, I found these initial articles relatively amusing. It’s pretty clear that Robertson is just trying to sell his protein shake, but so are lots of people, and this isn’t the first time someone has made a ridiculous claim of strength.

This story was destined to dwell in obscurity until the Associated Press, apparently with little else to do, decided to release the results of its investigation on Monday. It must have been a slow Memorial Day weekend:

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson says he has leg-pressed 2,000 pounds, but some say he’d be in a pretty tough spot if he tried.

The “700 Club” host’s feat of strength is recounted on the Web site of his Christian Broadcasting Network, in a posting headlined “How Pat Robertson Leg Pressed 2,000 Pounds.”

According to the CBN Web site, Robertson worked his way up to lifting a ton with the help of his physician, who is not named. The posting does not say when the lift occurred, but a CBN spokeswoman released photos to The Associated Press that she said showed Robertson lifting 2,000 pounds in 2003, when Robertson was 73. He is now 76.

Even the photo accompanying the story is controversial. Provided by the Christian Broadcasting Network, the date stamp reads Aug. 1, 1994, but a CBN spokesman said it is from 2003.

Apparently the leg-press isn’t even legitimate. According to CBN information, the 2,000 pounds were loaded onto the machine by two men and they then let the weight down on Robertson, who pushed it up once and let it back down once. I’m also told there is a video of the event. The AP investigation revealed that the weight was 1,000 pounds.

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