Pretending Doesn’t Make It So

It was the fourth quarter in the Friday night football game between rival Texas high schools Keller and Richland (October 14, 2005), with Keller in possession on its own one-yard line. The Keller quarterback handed off to running back Lyndon LaPlante. LaPlante swept to the left and ran 99 yards to the goal line amid cheers from his teammates, his coaches, and his classmates in the stands. Here's a video of his run.

But LaPlante's run didn't count. Was there a penalty on the play? Had he stepped out of bounds? No. The whole thing was a set-up, probably inspired by "Radio," the 2003 film starring Cuba Gooding Jr., Ed Harris, and Debra Winger. Kevin Atkinson, the Keller coach, had long been planning to give Lyndon, who has Down Syndrome, this moment of glory. He cleared it with Richland coach Gene Wier and with the game's officials prior to the opening kickoff that it would happen on Keller's first offensive play of the fourth quarter. Even the fans were in on the gesture, as they rose to their feet and cheered.

"Man, it was awesome," LaPlante said. He was still holding the game ball when his mother woke him up on Saturday morning. "Everybody said, 'Lyndon! Lyndon! Lyndon!' I was crying with chills."

We applaud this act of kindness; it was a wonderful expression of love and appreciation that Lyndon and his family will always remember fondly. Nevertheless, Lyndon's touchdown didn't change the score; on the next play, Keller was right back at its own one-yard line.

My postmodern friends tell me, "Perception forms reality." But is it really true? Is reality totally subjective, or does reality exist objectively, whether or not we perceive it correctly? Teams, coaches, officials, and fans all agreed that despite Lyndon's perception, an objective reality existed that said: "No score."

We can apply this same principle again and again in our world. Children's test scores should be meaningful measures of their knowledge and skills. They shouldn't move on to the next grade unless they pass. Adults who are incompetent should not stay in jobs to fill a racial, ethnic, or disability quota. We should measure governmental programs or policies with objective standards. Those that aren't working we should fix or end. Why? Because if we ignore objective reality, it will come back to bite us in painfully objective ways, like collapsing bridges or incompetent bureaucrats.

The same principle holds true in the moral universe. Someone argues, "A universal moral code doesn't exist--everyone knows that. We can all agree that anyone who claims it does exist is a big liar." Do you perceive the contradiction? Making such a claim doesn't make it so.

Likewise you can look at your own life and say, "I am perfect in every way." But even if you convince yourself, that doesn't make you flawless. According to the Apostle John, if we should make such a claim, "We deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8). What could be worse? Only someone who claims not only to be perfect now, but also blameless in the past. John says "If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar, and His word has no place in our lives" (verse 10). That is one function the Bible fulfills for us: it calls us back to objective reality. We are sinners in need of a Savior--and not just One Who can make us feel saved, but One who saves us in reality.

Abraham Lincoln once asked a stubborn disputant, "How many legs does a cow have?" "Why, four, of course!" was the reply. Lincoln leaned forward and looked the man in the eye, "Well then, how many would it have if we called its tail a leg?" With a sneer, the man answered, "Five!" "Nope!" said Lincoln. "It would still have four, because calling a tail a leg doesn't make it so."

Steve Singleton,
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Thanks for the article. I never knew it was Abrahm Lincoln that said, "If you call a tail a leg, how many legs does a cow have?"

I have asked that question to many people, particularly about baptism. It seems like people call a lot of things baptism, which are not, in fact, baptism. Calling it baptism doesn't make it baptism. There are so many other applications of this simple principle, if we would only think, just a little bit. Keep up the good work.    

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