Thursday, February 25, 2010

"Groupthink" 2010 style

Writing in the winter issue of God's Revivalist and Bible Advocate, Kenneth Farmer finds striking similarities between Orwell's "monstrous machine" and today's political talk radio/TV. The whole article is well worth reading, but these are some highlights.

In George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, the "Two-Minute Hate" was a daily period in which party members of the society of Oceania were forced to watch a film depicting the party's enemies and encouraged to express their hatred for them and their principles. This actually was a form of brainwashing leading to party members being whipped into a frenzy of hatred and loathing, culminating at times with members feeling compelled to physically assault the telescreen. Imagine that!

. . . most of us will admit to listening to some talk radio. And having enjoyed it. But for some of us, this has changed; and here is how it happened.

The first thing that starts to get on our nerves is the arrogant tone. Once noticed, it is somewhat analagous to the grinding noise accompanying the Two-Minute Hate film. Orwell likened the sound to "some monstrous machine running without oil." Even for other voices which seem less arrogant, there is the growing awareness of wasted time . . .

The extreme voices get the headlines, the 24-hour news cycle elevates things of momentary insignificance to issues of importance, and you HAVE to take a side. Or so we are led to believe.

Don't allow the political hucksters to determine your views. When you take your stands, do so in a manner that is becoming of a Christian. For if we are "sound in speech which is beyond reproach" those who may oppose "will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us" (Titus 2:8).

Amen to all of that! Read it, print it, and pass it on -- here.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Jerry Bridges on "Gospel-Driven Sanctification"

The problem:

As I see it, the Christian community is largely a performance-based culture today. And the more deeply committed we are to following Jesus, the more deeply ingrained the performance mindset is. We think we earn God's blessing or forfeit it by how well we live the Christian life.

Most Christians have a baseline of acceptable performance by which they gauge their acceptance by God. For many, this baseline is no more than regular church attendance and the avoidance of major sins. Such Christians are often characterized by some degree of self-righteousness. After all, they don't indulge in the major sins we see happening around us. Such Christians would not think they need the gospel anymore. They would say the gospel is only for sinners.

For committed Christians, the baseline is much higher. It includes regular practice of spiritual disciplines, obedience to God's Word, and involvement in some form of ministry. Here again, if we focus on outward behavior, many score fairly well. But these Christians are even more vulnerable to self-righteousness, for they can look down their spiritual noses not only at the sinful society around them but even at other believers who are not as committed as they are. These Christians don't need the gospel either. For them, Christian growth means more discipline and more commitment.

Then there is a third group. The baseline of this group includes more than the outward performance of disciplines, obedience, and ministry. These Christians also recognize the need to deal with sins of the heart like a critical spirit, pride, selfishness, envy, resentment, and anxiety. They see their inconsistency in having their quiet times, their failure to witness at every opportunity, and their frequent failures in dealing with sins of the heart. This group of Christians is far more likely to be plagued by a sense of guilt because group members have not met their own expectations. And because they think God's acceptance of them is based on their performance, they have little joy in their Christian lives. For them, life is like a treadmill on which they keep slipping farther and farther behind. This group needs the gospel, but they don't realize it is for them. I know, because I was in this group.

Do these groups describe anyone you know? Maybe you can relate to that last one yourself. Here's the solution:

Gradually over time, and from a deep sense of need, I came to realize that the gospel is for believers, too. . . . Christians need to hear the gospel all of their lives because it is the gospel that continues to remind us that our day-to-day acceptance with the Father is not based on what we do for God but upon what Christ did for us in his sinless life and sin-bearing death. I began to see that we stand before God today as righteous as we ever will be, even in heaven, because he has clothed us with the righteousness of his Son. Therefore, I don't have to perform to be accepted by God. Now I am free to obey him and serve him because I am already accepted in Christ (see Rom. 8:1). My driving motivation now is not guilt but gratitude.

The truths contained in that last paragraph rocked my world around eight years ago. They can't be repeated too often. There will always be tension in the Christian life. A tension between what we know ourselves to be and what we desire to be. Desire will always outstrip performance for the growing Christian. That tension is itself an evidence of growth -- the person who thinks he's "arrived" is the one in real danger. The gospel -- preached and applied to ourselves daily -- is what will keep us going, saving us from despair on the one hand, and "easy believism" on the other. It provides the fuel to struggle against sin and grow in godliness. It points me away from myself and toward Jesus. And the real miracle is, the more I look to Him the more I become like him. Wow!

Read the whole article @

Monday, February 22, 2010

Back at you, Dick

Yesterday on Meet the Press Gen. David Petraeus argued against the "enhanced interrogation techniques" a/k/a torture that continue to be defended by the former Vice President. Not only defended, but bragged about. The commander of CENTCOM went on to advocate abiding by the Geneva Conventions and closing Gitmo. I suppose the good general will now be accused of being soft on terrorists. I can hear it now. What kind of a name is Petraeus anyway? Sounds foreign. Maybe he's not a REAL American.

Here's the tape.

Augustine: facing the wrong way

And what did it profit me that I could read and understand for myself all the books I could get in the so-called 'liberal arts', when I was actually a worthless slave of wicked lust? I took delight in them, not knowing the real source of what it was in them that was true and certain. For I had my back toward the light, and my face toward the things on which the light falls, so that my face, which looked toward the illuminated things, was not itself illuminated. Whatever was written in any of the fields of rhetoric or logic, geometry, music, or arithmetic, I could understand without any great difficulty and without the instruction of another man. All this you know, O Lord my God, because both quickness in understanding and acuteness in insight are your gifts. Yet for such gifts I made no thank offering to you. Therefore, my abilities served not my profit but rather my loss . . .

St. Augustine, Confessions (9.15.20)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Sean, Tiger and atonement

The ideas of sin and guilt before God are rapidly becoming alien concepts to contemporary Western society. Most Americans or Europeans don't go around worrying about forgiveness of sin like we did in centuries past. Yet that pesky law written on our hearts continues to rear its head now and again. Freud notwithstanding, notions of guilt and the need for forgiveness from someone persist.

Recently I watched an interview with Sean Penn about his humanitarian work in Haiti. Whatever you think of Penn's politics you have to admire his commitment. He spent several weeks in Haiti immediately after the earthquake and as of this writing is back for a second tour. You might also recall Penn helping to rescue Katrina flood victims in the aftermath of that disaster. Clearly he's a celebrity whose commitment to helping people in need goes beyond merely appearing on a telethon or writing a check. The interviewer asked Penn about his motivation for doing what he does. The answer was revealing, and I think honest. "Paying for sins or something."

Yesterday Tiger Woods broke his silence. I didn't watch the TV coverage, but I did read the transcript of his statement. It's hard not to be cynical about these public celebrity mea culpa's, but there's much to admire in what Woods said yesterday. For one thing, he acknowledged that the sincerity of his apology will be measured by his actions in the years ahead. He frankly acknowledged the betrayal of his wife and children. He also placed the blame squarely on himself and defended his wife from tabloid rumor and innuendo. He was blunt in describing his behavior, using words like "selfish" and "foolish". He spoke of the corrupting influence of money and fame. He admitted bringing "shame" on himself and his family. "I have a lot to atone for" he said.

How does Tiger plan to atone for his moral failures? He talked about getting back to his "core values" and living a "life of integrity" -- the need to become a "better person" and a "better man." All good things. For the sake of his family and many fans I hope he achieves those goals. Woods also pointed to a return to Buddhism as a source of inspiration. "People probably don't realize it, but I was raised a Buddhist, and I actively practiced my faith from childhood until I drifted away from it in recent years. Buddhism teaches that a craving for things outside ourselves causes an unhappy and pointless search for security. It teaches me to stop following every impulse and to learn restraint." Christianity both agrees and disagrees with that critique of the human condition. You probably know where I'm going with this.

Christianity teaches that searching for satisfaction and security in anything else, or anyone else, than God Triune is ultimately unsatisfying. Buddhism offers "salvation" through the negation of desire, Christianity offers hope that our desires, and our actual physical bodies, can be redeemed. Buddhism offers a quest for self-atonement, Christianity offers atonement in the cross of Jesus Christ. Buddhism teaches moral transformation through a life of asceticism, Christianity through life in the Spirit. Tiger Woods and Sean Penn will find that paying for their sins themselves, whether in a life of good deeds or a life of self-denial, is a heavy burden to carry. The Apostle Paul, who had much to atone for, called that path slavery. May the brilliant golfer and the brilliant actor find the path of freedom that begins at the cross.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Humility and moral seriousness: requirements for knowing God

To whet my appetite for this Sunday's meeting of the Socrates Cafe of West Palm Beach (you're all invited!) I've been revisiting Loving Wisdom: Christian Philosophy of Religion by my friend and fellow elder Paul Copan. This book is an accessible entry point to a variety of topics related to apologetics and philosophy of religion. I heartily recommend it. You can read my full review of Paul's book ("Compelling, highly readable and accessible") at the Amazon link. I especially enjoyed reading again the chapter on the hiddenness of God. Here's a taste.

Humans don't need Ph.D's to know God exists and to put their trust in him. From the least of them to the greatest, God's presence and grace can be known. Those determined to resist or ignore God, on the other hand, can still find loopholes for nonbelief. Again, the evidence is ample, not coercive. . .

God doesn't want us to come to know him apart from knowing him as loving Lord and Father—personally embracing and committing ourselves to him. Purely intellectual knowledge of God's existence is inadequate; God doesn't want us to treat him as just another object of knowledge—like memorizing lines from Shakespeare or having figured out how a computer program works. He desires personal, loving knowledge.

So instead of being passively "open," we must be morally serious toward God who makes momentous demands of us. And we can't be morally serious seekers if we say we'll believe in God if and only if we have firsthand miraculous signs from him. We also must be humble and undemanding seekers, grateful for indicators or pointers to the God who hides, seeks, and graciously reveals. God, by his Spirit, will not disappoint (Rom. 5:5).

Copan, Loving Wisdom (Chalice Press, 2007), p. 138

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Remembering Gene

Gene Siskel died eleven years ago, in February 1999, from a brain tumor. He was fifty-three years old. He had suffered terrible headaches in those last several months, but he was private about his pain. He didn't talk about being sick or how he felt or what he expected or hoped for. He was stoic and solitary and quiet in his death. Siskel and Ebert were both defined, for most of their adult lives, by comparative measures: the fat one, the bald one, the loud one, the skinny one. Siskel was also the careful one. He joked that Ebert's middle name was "Full Disclosure." Ebert's world has never had many secrets in it. Even at the end, when Siskel knew what was coming, he kept his secrets. He and Ebert never once spoke about his looming death.

There are pictures of Siskel all over the brownstone — on the grand piano, in the kitchen, on bookshelves. The biggest one is in the living room; Ebert can see it from his recliner. In almost all the pictures, Siskel and Ebert — never Ebert and Siskel — are standing together, shoulder to shoulder, smiling, two big thumbs-up. In the picture in the living room, they're also wearing tuxedos.

"Oh, Gene," Chaz says, and that's all she says.

All these years later, the top half of Ebert's face still registers sadness when Siskel's name comes up. His eyes well up behind his glasses, and for the first time, they overwhelm his smile. He begins to type into his computer, slowly, deliberately. He presses the button and the speakers light up. "I've never said this before," the voice says, "but we were born to be Siskel and Ebert." He thinks for a moment before he begins typing again. There's a long pause before he hits the button. "I just miss the guy so much," the voice says. Ebert presses the button again. "I just miss the guy so much."

Esquire - "Roger Ebert: The Essential Man" by Chris Jones

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

God's faithfulness in the details

The Old Testament Book of Joshua has some of the most exciting action narratives in the Bible, but it has a lot of boring parts too. In fact, the majority of Joshua is lists of hard-to-pronounce names. Chapters 12 - 21 are a challenge for any reader determined to read through the Bible. There are lists of the kings defeated by Moses, lists of the inheritances given east of the Jordan, and west of the Jordan, lists of cities allotted to each of the tribes, and lists of the cities designated as cities of refuge (a reminder that God's will for Israel included justice for the exile and sojourner). What seems like mind-numbing minutiae is the climax of Joshua's account of God's covenant-keeping faithfulness to Israel. The Holy Spirit saw fit to inspire the writer to put it all down just so. The details serve to underscore the primary theological message of Joshua.

Thus the LORD gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of it, and they settled there. And the LORD gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the LORD had given all their enemies into their hands. Not one word of all the good promises that the LORD had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass. Josh. 21:43-45

With this crescendo the writer makes clear that the conquest of the land, and the Sabbath rest that looks back to creation and forward to Christ, are because of Yahweh's faithfulness. Not Israel's faithfulness! For after Joshua comes Judges. Within a generation Israel would descend into chaos and idolatry, but God continued to work out his redemptive purposes through this rebellious and stiff-necked people. The covenant with Abraham stands. In Christ, the yes and amen of all the good promises, all will come to pass.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Misfit's theology of crisis

"Jesus was the only One that ever raised the dead," The Misfit continued, "and He shouldn't have done it. He thown everything off balance. If He did what He said, then it's nothing for you to do but thow away everything and follow Him, and if He didn't, then it's nothing for you to do but enjoy the few minutes you got left the best way you can—by killing somebody or burning down his house or doing some other meanness to him. No pleasure but meanness," he said and his voice had become almost a snarl.

"Maybe He didn't raise the dead," the old lady mumbled, not knowing what she was saying and feeling so dizzy that she sank down in the ditch with her legs twisted under her.

from "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" by Flannery O'Connor

Friday, February 12, 2010

Revisiting the "long take"

A while back on Friday is for film I wrote about the long take, and included one of my favorite examples from Robert Altman's The Player.

Recently blogger Mike Le compiled the 20 Greatest Extended Takes In Movie History. Check it out. But be warned: if you're a film buff this is a huge potential time waster!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Receiving the Word with great joy in Malawi

The books they're holding are Bibles. . .

Read the story behind the video here.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The salvation of a people

Salvation comes to each of us not, so to say, straight down from heaven through the skylight, but through a door that is opened by our neighbour. . . . The salvation of God is a consistent whole. From beginning to end it relates us to God only through a relationship with our neighbour. One is related to God's saving acts not by any kind of direct, unmediated spiritual experience, however it may be formulated. One is related by becoming related to God's people and to the history of God's people, and the central and decisive acts in the history of God's people, which are the substance of the apostolic message.

Lesslie Newbigin, from A Faith for this One World? (1961)

Kudos to Anderson Cooper

I normally don't have anything positive to say about the talking heads on CNN, FoxNews and MSNBC, but there are still a few actual journalists left on the 24-hour cable news channels. Mostly on CNN. Here's Anderson Cooper on why he's returning to Haiti after most of the newsmedia have moved on.

Later this week is the one month anniversary of the earthquake. To say things are getting better here is probably technically correct, but it's still miserable for hundreds of thousands of people.

The homeless are everywhere, the hungry are as well. They are still finding bodies all the time. Twenty-five people were shoved into old crypts in a city cemetery today. We watched the remains of a mother and her son being sealed into a crypt.

It's not the kind of misery that makes for headlines perhaps, and clearly it's not the kind of sorrow that demands a place on the nightly news, but it should.

There is more happening here than 10 American missionaries in jail. I guess I came to remind myself of that. No one deserves to die in silence, and no one's struggle to live should go unnoticed as well.

HT: Troy Livesay

Fly Turkish Air

Feel free to come up with your own slogan . . .

HT: The Daily Dish

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Image of Christ

One more Bonhoeffer post and I promise that will be it for a while. The more I read this brother the more he stands out as one of the outstanding Christians of the 20th century. When I read him some of the adjectives that come to mind are Christocentric, catholic, and Bible-saturated. Above all, he was a pastoral and churchly theologian, beginning with his doctoral dissertation Sanctorum Communio ("Communion of Saints") which Karl Barth called a miracle. Not a bad endorsement! Bonhoeffer's writings constantly point me toward the finished work of Christ and the visible Body he left behind. I thank God for him.

The following quotes come from the last chapter of The Cost of Discipleship. For me this book and Life Together are in the category of books I should read once a year.

With the loss of the God-like nature God had given him, man had forfeited the destiny of his being, which was to be like God. In short, man had ceased to be man. He must live without the ability to live. Herein lies the paradox of human nature and the source of all our woe. Since that day, the sons of Adam in their pride have striven to recover the divine image by their own efforts. (p. 299)

God sends his Son—here lies the only remedy. It is not enough to give man a new philosophy or a better religion. A Man comes to men. Every man bears an image. His body and his life become visible. A man is not a bare word, a thought or a will. He is above all and always a man, a form, an image, a brother. And thus he does not create around him just a new way of thought, will and action, but he gives us the new image, the new form. Now in Jesus Christ this is just what has happened. The image of God has entered our midst, in the form of our fallen life, in the likeness of sinful flesh. In the teaching and acts of Christ, in his life and death, the image of God is revealed. In him the divine image has been re-created on earth. (p. 300)

Through fellowship and communion with the incarnate Lord, we recover our true humanity, and at the same time we are delivered from that individualism which is the consequence of sin, and retrieve our solidarity with the whole human race. (pp. 301-2)

Indeed it is wrong to speak of the Christian life: we should speak rather of Christ living in us. "I live, and yet no longer I, but Christ liveth in me" (Gal. 2:20). Jesus Christ, incarnate, crucified and glorified, has entered my life and taken charge. "To me to live is Christ" (Phil. 1:21). And where Christ lives, there the Father also lives, and both Father and Son through the Holy Ghost. The Holy Trinity himself has made his dwelling in the Christian heart, filling his whole being, and transforming him into the divine image. Christ, incarnate, crucified and glorified is formed in every Christian soul, for all are members of his Body, the Church. The Church bears the human form, the form of Christ in his death and resurrection. The Church in the first place is his image, and through the Church all her members have been refashioned in his image too. In the Body of Christ we are become "like Christ." (p. 303)

Friday, February 5, 2010


HT: Current

Wong Kar-wai's cinema of longing

This is a slightly reworked post from 2008. I like it because it includes two subjects I love: Wong Kar-wai and C.S. Lewis.

Three minutes into 2046—the 2004 film from Hong Kong auteur Wong Kar-wai—the screen goes black and the words "all memories are traces of tears" appear. This will be the thread that runs through the film we're about to see. 2046 is a companion piece to Wong's masterpiece (I don't use that word lightly) from four years earlier—In the Mood for Love. He has been called—without hyperbole in my opinion—the world's most romantic filmmaker and lauded for the "visual splendour of his film aesthetic." And music, oh how he uses music! There are few films that made as big an impact on me as In the Mood for Love, which I first watched on the splendid Criterion DVD, and was my introduction to Wong's cinema of longing.

C.S. Lewis described his experience of being in a record shop and hearing Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries for the first time as "like a thunderbolt" because it conjured up "the stab, the pang, the inconsolable longing" he felt as a 14-year-old boy. The Germans (a more naturally romantic people) have a great word for this—sehnsucht—which means something like wishfulness or longing. German artists such as Goethe, Beethoven and Brahms richly mined the vein of sehnsucht in their books and music. Wong's films are shot through with this sense of longing—longing for lost loves, lost eras (especially the 1960's Hong Kong of Wong's childhood), lost years, and the music, fashion and art of the past.

Another major obsession is time. 2046 is separated by title cards which announce the day/month/year or sometimes simply "one hour later" or "1000 hours later". It takes the viewer effortlessly between present, past and future exploring how time works on our memories. Chungking Express (1994), another favorite of mine, features a protagonist whose girlfriend dumps him on April 1. He obssessively collects tins of pineapple with the expiration date May 1 (his birthday), reasoning that if they haven't gotten back together by May 1 then their love has expired. A pile of empty tins serve as visual metaphor for his frustration.

2046 was four years in the making, and in my opinion, is a penultimate film in which Wong synthesizes much of what came before. For instance, he brings back characters and musical cues from earlier films, and uses all of his formidable stylistic tools. In the Mood for Love has a fairly unified look and static style (very static to the irritation of some viewers), but in 2046 Wong alternates between the kinetic style of earlier films and the ravishing slowness of In the Mood, even throwing in a dash of future-noirish CGI. Think Blade Runner. It's worth noting too that Wong loves shooting at night, and with rain. But then, so have many of the best visual stylists.

I would have a hard time explaining to you what exactly happens in 2046 or its predecessor. Well I could, but it would sound absurdly prosaic. Asking the question "what's it about?" of these films reminds me of Steve Martin's line about music: "talking about music is like dancing about architecture." So true! One can't do justice to the works of a cinematic genius like WKW by explaining plot details. Snatches of music from a radio down the hall, a tear suspended in air, steam rising from a bowl of noodles, the sound of rain on a sidewalk, a passing glance or searching gaze—these are the more important details that go into creating something ineffable, intangible. An overwhelming sense of loss hangs over the proceedings, yet there are moments of uncontrolled hilarity. We're passing through a vale of tears, but laughter is a frequent and welcome companion.

Wong Kar-wai is in love with beauty, but I see hints in his films that perhaps beauty is his idol in a way that carries within itself the seeds of destruction. C.S. Lewis writes of beauty in the autobiographical Surprised by Joy:

The books or music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshipers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.

How sad to mistake the beauty for the thing really desired. Yet, beauty of the kind conjured up by Wong Kar-Wai seems (almost) enough.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Bonhoeffer on justification and sanctification

The New Testament clearly teaches that all Christians ("saints") have received the gifts of justification and sanctification. Like love and marriage, they go together like a horse and carriage. Both proceed from the same source -- the crucified and risen Christ, and have the same goal -- fellowship and communion with him. Though inextricably connected, they are different. This excerpt from The Cost of Discipleship is worth reading and rereading!

Justification is the means whereby we appropriate the saving act of God in the past, and sanctification the promise of God's activity in the present and future. Justification secured our entrance into fellowship and communion with Christ through the unique and final event of his death, and sanctification keeps us in that fellowship in Christ. Justification is primarily concerned with the relation between man and the law of God, sanctification with the Christian's separation from the world until the second coming of Christ. Justification makes the individual a member of the Church whereas sanctification preserves the Church with all its members. Justification enables the believer to break away from his sinful past; sanctification enables him to abide in Christ, to persevere in faith and to grow in love. We may perhaps think of justification and sanctification as bearing the same relation to each other as creation and preservation. Justification is the new creation of the new man, and sanctification his preservation until the day of Jesus Christ. (pp. 277-78)

From Philly to The Swamp

Today is National Signing Day. If you're not a college football fan that probably doesn't mean anything. Today is when high school athletes sign on the dotted line to play college football at Florida, Alabama, Texas, etc. It's the culmination of a crazy process in which grown men like me obsessively follow the whims and shifting "commitments" of teenagers. It's easy to get cynical, but there are some good stories too. For a select few today is a ticket out, a reward for years of hard work on and off the field.

Here's an article by Pat Dooley on one of the new Florida Gators:

The growth can be measured by the tangibles, the 310 pounds of man who will be leaving Philadelphia behind. The quick feet that helped him become a five-star recruit. The strength that allowed him to brush offensive linemen to the side as if they were flies on a sandwich.

Those you can measure. Those you can see. Those make it hard to believe he was so small when he was born you could hold him with one hand.

But the intangibles, to see that growth you have to know his story, how he has gone from premature baby to mature adult.

“I've made the best of it,” Sharrif Floyd said. “It helps you grow up fast.”

The defensive tackle from Philadelphia will sign a letter of intent to become a Florida Gator today. He already has plans to head south the day after he graduates from George Washington High School.

“I can't wait to get down there,” he said.

Floyd is one of those kids who had every reason not to make it out, every reason to get caught up in the mean streets of Philly. Instead, he is a 3.0 grade-point average student who has had recruiters salivating for two years.

“Whatever he gets, he deserves,” said Washington coach Ron Cohen. “He's worked his tail off for it.”

His story began when he was born three months premature. Floyd spent several months on a heart monitor before being released from the hospital. The world he entered was not a pretty one.

He would go to school wearing the same clothes day after day, sometimes with buttons missing. He didn't want to go to school because he was so embarrassed by the way he looked.

But he hung in there, stayed out of trouble and started getting big. Huge. As a ninth-grader, he was 6-foot-2 and 275 pounds.

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