American Jesus Madness: Round One Picks

Yes, American Jesus Madness is a thing. I first stumbled across it near the end of last year’s tournament so I didn’t do a full bracket. I’m still not entirely sure if you’re supposed to vote for who inspires you, who entertains you, or what exactly, so I’m probably going to do some of each. Here’s the breakdown of the first round.

American Jesus Madness 2013 Bracket

Ok, time for the picks.

Tim Tebow is the reigning champion, but he faded away from the American Christian conscience (as well as from football relevancy) while Ray Lewis won a SuperBowl while constantly citing his faith. I’m taking Ray Lewis.

I’m very torn on the next one: #RickWarrenTips vs anything that Mark Driscoll tweets. Driscoll provides a consistent stream of “I can’t believe he said that!” but #RickWarrenTips was an absolutely hilarious meme for a day. I want to see #RickWarrenTips win just because Rick joined in on the meme and that makes me like him even if I do find his teachings somewhat lacking.

On the next one I’ll pick for entertainment/frustration value. I’m a big fan of Scot McKnight’s work but he just doesn’t have nearly the voice that Albert Mohler does. We can always count on Al to say something stupid, whether its completely missing the point of A Year of Biblical Womanhood or declaring all Catholics as going to Hell.

I honestly can’t think of a whole lot that Pope Benedict XVI did. On the other hand, I’m very intrigued by how Pope Francis will shape the world’s biggest church. Will we see a Vatican III or other meaningful reforms? How will we see his love of simplicity and care for the poor come through in his leadership? Clearly I’m taking Francis.

I’ll again take the frustrating entertainment value of Mark Driscoll over the general principle of Christian Humility that he doesn’t understand at all (except when he means it as: you be humble by shutting up and listening to me).

I don’t pay much attention to Joel Osteen but whenever I see photos of him, it is clearly his smile. Mullets are awesome but I don’t think this one should be close at all.

I haven’t seen any of History Channel’s The Bible. As I understand it, it shows a crazy amount of bias, but it does so honestly, unlike the intentionally-satirical DJesus Uncrossed. I’m going to take the intentionally-satirical this time and say DJesus Uncrossed which gave us some great follow-up conversations about whether we really see Jesus that way.

Mark Sandlin is the only one on the bracket I had never even heard of, although I do know of and appreciate his work for The Christian Left. I’m clearly taking Justin Lee, though, who more than anybody else seems to be making an impact for bridging the divide between LGBT Christians and conservative Christians.

In the next one, I can’t in any good conscience vote against Rachel Held Evans for the disgusting Biblical Womanhood movement. I’m hoping she avenges last year’s 2nd-place finish by claiming the title this year.

Ken Ham provides a lot of amusement with his efforts to convince us all that humans rode dinosaurs to work 6000 years ago. Peter Enns is one of my favourite scholars, encouraging us to see a better way of reading the Bible (especially the Old Testament). I doubt Enns is a big enough name to get very far, especially against the winner of Held Evans/Biblical Womanhood in the next round, but I’m still taking him this round.

Hobby Lobby, a for-profit business, tried to argue that it was their religious freedom to deny healthcare to their employees. Chick-fil-A’s owner made one comment – stated pretty respectfully in my opinion – that he didn’t personally support same-sex unions. There was no evidence this effected hiring practices or treatment of LGBT employees. In my opinion, we got huge controversy for Chick-fil-A and small controversy for Hobby Lobby when it should have been the other way around. I’m taking Chick-fil-A because he actually understood that there is a separation between his own beliefs and the rights of his employees and because a lot of innocent Chick-fil-A employees – including LGBT employees – were harassed over it.

In the Rob Bell showdown, I’ll take his new tan over his missing glasses.

In a heavyweight fight for the first round, we have the uber-Reformed/uber-Conservative/uber-Complementarian Gospel Coalition versus the process theology of Homebrewed Christianity. Now, I’m an open theist, not a process theologian, but I definitely enjoy a lot of HB’s podcasts, combining some good entertainment value with challenging theological concepts, so I’m taking Homebrewed.

I didn’t know the background story for Ann Voskamp vs Tim Challies but the breakdown explained it: Challies called Voskamp’s book “dangerous,” so Voskamp invited him over for dinner, Challies apologized (although I don’t think ever took her up on her offer). I do like Challies more than most neo-Reformed thinkers – he says a fair bit of stuff I can respect in between the parts that drive me crazy – but how can you not vote for the kind of enemy-love that Voskamp showed?

John Piper drives me crazier than anybody else. Even more than Mark Driscoll because at least Driscoll is his own caricature. Piper commands a lot of respect while teaching a lot of scary stuff and generally lacking any sense of pastoral sensitivity. Come on Christian Decency: we could use some for a change.

And finally, Stephanie Drury is the queen of Christian social media, against Tony Jones, the foremost defender of Emergent Village thinking. I like most of Jones’ work – he is a bit more liberal than me on some points – but Stephanie Drury is one of my favourites to win the whole deal.

So here’s my total bracket (no, I didn’t take the time to make this a photo) based on who I think will win, not necessarily who I want to:

Second Round

Ray Lewis vs #RickWarrenTips

Albert Mohler vs Pope Francis I

Mark Driscoll vs Joel Osteen’s Smile

DJesus Uncrossed vs Justin Lee

Rachel Held Evans vs Peter Enns

Chick-fil-A vs Rob Bell’s New Tan

Homebrewed Christianity vs Ann Voskamp

Christian Decency vs Stephanie Drury

Third Round

Ray Lewis vs Albert Mohler

Mark Driscoll vs DJesus Uncrossed

Rachel Held Evans vs Chick-fil-A

Homebrewed Christianity vs Stephanie Drury

Final Four

Ray Lewis vs Mark Driscoll

Rachel Held Evans vs Stephanie Drury


Ray Lewis vs Rachel Held Evans (a repeat of the athlete vs Rachel final)


Rachel Held Evans

Ryan Robinson

It is easiest to identify Ryan as both theologian and tech guy. By day, Ryan is a Technical Consultant work with PeaceWorks Technology Solutions. There, he works on websites, CRMs, and SharePoint implementations. Along with blogging here, Ryan is a founding member of the MennoNerds blogging network and a contributor to the book A Living Alternative.