As promised, I want to offer a breakdown of the first round matchups as a guide of sorts to voting.
Who or what you vote for and why is, of course, completely up to you, but I know there are plenty of people out there in internet land who are not familiar with everyone or everything in the tournament. So, every year I offer the guide to try and explain who and what is in the tournament.
Be aware, of course, that this breakdown is about as serious as the tournament itself.
Oh, and just like last year, if you have a breakdown of your own on your own blog, send me the link, and I’ll add it below.
And, of course, if you haven’t done so already, make sure you download the bracket, fill it out completely (i.e. every round), and email it to email@example.com before the end of the day on Monday, March 16th. You can still vote without filling out a bracket, but filling out a bracket is what makes this tournament so much fun.
Anyway, without further ado, here’s your breakdown for the 1st round of American Jesus Madness 2015
Pope Francis vs. Joel Osteen
In this clash of smiling titans, we bare witness to two figures who couldn’t be at more polar opposite ends of the Christian spectrum. Pastor Smiley is the poster child for the “God wants me to be rich” prosperity gospel. Pope Frank (is it cool if I call you Frank, your Holiness?), on the other hand, has made a name for himself by going out of his way to deny himself many of the luxurious perks that come with being pope. It would be easy to go ahead and declare the mega-popular bishop of Rom the winner, but don’t discount the bishop of Houston. After all, this non-sense doesn’t become a best-seller without a strong and blindly devoted following.
Pat Robertson vs. The Third Eagle of the Apocalypse
This is a battle to determine the craziest Christian in all of Christendom. Now, I know what you might be thinking, “Who’s this Third Eagle guy? No way he’s got anything on ole Pat.” While it’s true that Pat seems to be on a mission to somehow, someway say something even more ridiculous and offensive than he did the day before, but the Third Eagle is a man who’s found secret prophecies in Gangnam Style and devoted endless hours of his time to reveal the demonic phallic imagery at the Denver International Airport. Pat’s got the name recognition, but don’t underestimate the wonderfully weird musical stylings of the Third Eagle.
Ken Ham vs. Christians Against Dinosaurs
For a while it seemed like Ken Ham had the market cornered on science denying fundamentalism. I mean, this is the guy who went mono-a-mono with Billy Nye and preaches a gospel entirely dependent up on real life dinosaur rides. But just when he though his fundie crown was safe, along comes Christians Against Dinosaurs, a movement so absolutely insane I’m still having a hard time believing it’s not satire. Ham is still a force to be reckoned with, but with a growing army of morons, even the King of the Creation Museum may find their ridiculousness just too much to handle.
Saving Christmas vs. God’s Not Dead
This is a battle of two of the truly wretched films of our time. In one corner, we have Saving Christmas, the festive nightmare that rightfully won Kirk Cameron the Razzie for Worst Actor. In the other corner, we have God’s Not Dead, an absurdly awful movie that I’m pretty sure was based on a Facebook meme. Not matter who wins this battle, the fact that the both exist means the rest of us have already lost.
Yoga Pants vs. Christian Men Everywhere
It was a big year for yoga pants. They went from mundane workout gear, to national fashion trend, to the most controversial item of clothing since the bikini. Why the controversy? Because as countless blog posts and cautionary articles have made hear, men simply can’t resist the allure of women in yoga pants. It’s gonna be a tough first round matchup for Christian Men Everywhere. Do they have the strength to keep their minds pure and advance to the next round? Probably not.
50 Shades of Grey vs. Christian Women Everywhere
It was also a big year for 50 Shades of Grey, though there’s never been anything mundane about this horribly written waste of paper. After becoming a best seller, it was turned into a highly controversial movie that threatened the purity of Christian Women Everywhere. An anti-50 Shades campaign was valiantly waged before the movie’s release, but it couldn’t stop the film from becoming #1 at the box office….with the help of more than a few Christian ladies would prefer to remain anonymous. But now those anonymous sinners can join with their purer in heart counterparts for a chance at redemption if they can find the strength to whip themselves into holy shape and tie down, I mean bring down their kinky combatant.
Jesus Feminists vs. Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
Since 1987, the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood has been steadfastly dedicated to ignoring those parts of the Bible that conflict with their 1950s version of Christianity. Much to their chagrin, the Jesus Feminists have been on the rise in recent years. These women (and men) have the audacity to claim that equality means we’re all actually equal and not “wink-wink – just let the men do all the talking, you get in the kitchen and make dinner – equal.” The Jesus Feminists have certainly risen in both prominence and acceptance in recent years, but to advance to the next round they’ll have to defeat that most challenging of opponents: stubborn and willful ignorance.
Christians on the Internet vs. Christians in Real Life
You don’t have to be a blogger like me to know that Christians on the Internet rarely resemble their Real Life counterparts. Real Life Christians talk the talk and even walk the walk from time to time, but when they get on the Internet, it’s a whole different story….and I’m not just talking about their browser history. Some of the vile and most hateful comments on the Internet don’t come the troll living in his mom’s basement, they come from Christians. But at long last, Jekyll and Hyde meet face to face, or is it face to computer? Face to avatar? Face to ALL CAPS RANT?
Dave Ramsey vs. Mark 10:21
If there’s anything Dave Ramsey hates more than debt, it’s being questioned about the incongruity between his “biblical” financial advice and what the Bible actually has to say about money, particularly what that Jesus fellow had to say. It’s a theological conundrum so confusing it’ll make our brain hurt. On the one hand, Dave says God wants him to be rich and live in a $6 million mansion outside Nashville. On the other hand, in Mark 10:21 God’s son said, “One thing you still lack. Sell everything you have and give it to the poor. Then, come and follow me.” It’s weird. In fact, it’s almost like Dave’s financial advice isn’t really as biblical as he claims. But that’s up to you, the voter to decide.
Chaplin Randy Beckum vs. Christian Patriotism
Randy Beckum’s name might not ring a bell, but you’ve probably heard his tale or at least one like it before. A chaplain at MidAmerica Nazarene University, he was recently demoted from his Vice-President position after delivering a sermon questioning American Christians love affair with violence and American military might. Not surprisingly, Christian Patriotism swelled on campus, outrage ensued, and “coincidentally” the President relieved Beckum of his VP duties and placed him on administrative leave. God bless America. If Beckum is going to overcome an entire nation of Christian Patriots and move on, he’ll have to wrestle victory out of their cold, dead hands.
Franklin Graham vs. Billy Graham’s Legacy
Billy Graham is one of the most respected and revered figures in the history of American Christianity. His son, on the other hand, has been on a warpath in recent year, waging a one-man battle to destroy his father’s legacy. It’s a campaign that only seems to increase in ferocity with each new day and each new anti-Obama, anti-Muslim, and anti-LGBT Facebook post he writes. It’s enough to make you wonder if Pat Robertson has hacked into Franklin’s Facebook account. But Billy is still hanging on in the mountains of North Carolina. He may not be in the greatest of health, but I think there may just be enough fight left in the preaching legend for a first round upset.
Fox News Christians vs. Liberals, Immigrants, Muslims, The Poor, & The Entire LGBT Community
If you watch Fox News long enough, you begin to forget where the Bible ends and Sean Hannity talking points begin. In the midst of the theological haze, only one thing remains clear: liberals, immigrants, Muslims, the Poor, & the Entire LGBT Community are enemies of the gospels that must be opposed at all costs. For America!! And Jesus!! Will the coalition of the outcast be able to dethrone the cable news crusaders? Or will they get lost in the Nothing But Spin Zone? Their fate is in your hands….or, I guess maybe just your index finger.
The Gospel Coalition vs. The Gospel
Ahh, the Bro-vinist Coalition. They’ve been fighting the…hmm, “good” doesn’t seem like the right word. Let’s just go with “fight.” They’ve been fighting the fight for years to bring us all together around the Bro-vinist version of the gospel and to their credit they’ve had great success. But standing in their way now is the actual gospel. Will they man up and do what it takes to make it through the first round? Or will the gospel with its wimpy, pacifist hero and women preachers pull off the upset of the century?
Matt Walsh’s Blog Posts vs. John Piper’s Tweets
If you follow John Piper on Twitter, then you’ve no doubt found yourself wondering aloud how such awful thoughts could come of out the mind of a fellow Christian, let alone someone so respected in many corners of the Church. Surely, you think to yourself, no one can top Johnny P…..but then you have the misfortune of learning that Matt Walsh is a real person that really exists and has a blog and then you accidentally read one of his vitriolic blog posts and you find yourself paralyzed by shock and disgust. As your clean off the mind vomit he just spewed onto your brain, you see your Facebook news feed filling up with links to his posts and your Twitter feed filling up with John Piper retweets and that’s it, you’ve just lost all faith in humanity. Hopefully, we’ll see an American Jesus Madness first in this matchup and neither one of them will get a single vote.
Forgiving Mark Driscoll vs. Hating Rob Bell
This might be the fiercest battle of the tournament because there are few things American Christians love doing more than showing off their forgiveness skills. But hating Rob Bell comes in a close second. And ever since he became friends with Oprah, what had become a national pastime is once again becoming a national obsession. Forgiving sure does make us feel great about ourselves, but damning Rob to hell is just so damn satisfying. And besides, he totally deserves it! I mean, sure Mark Driscoll was an egomaniac who abused his staff, plagiarized material for his books, misappropriated church funds, and manipulated the market to get his book on bestsellers lists, but come on. What Rob Bell did was way worse. He talked about hell!! It’s gonna be tough for folks to figure out which they love doing more, but if Rob pops up on Oprah between now and the time voting starts, you can count on his haters moving on to the next round.
Albert Mohler vs. Shane Claiborne
I know you might be thinking to yourself, “Self, this is a weird matchup. I don’t get.” Allow me to refresh your memory. Back in May, the Bro-Vinist Pope wrote an op-ed piece for CNN in which he conspicuously ignored the teachings of Jesus to declare that “Christians should hope, pray and strive for a society in which the death penalty, rightly and rarely applied, would make moral sense.” His opponent, the Abbot of Philadelphia, is decidedly less enthusiastic about the death penalty. Based on his reading of something called “the gospels” Claiborne has become a vocal and active opponent of killing people in general and convicted felons in particular. He claims it has something to do with loving your enemies, I don’t really know. Sounds like unpatriotic crazy talk to me. But for the sake of everyone on death row, here’s hoping that Shane can pull of the victory.
That’s my breakdown of the 1st round. If you’ve got your own breakdown on your own blog, send the link to firstname.lastname@example.org or post it in the comments, and I’ll add it below!!
MORE 1st ROUND BREAKDOWNS