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Responding to the ESPN Christmas controversy

by Greg Belfrage

ESPN found itself mired in controversy this week. 

The sports network refused to air an ad for SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center during Saturday's NCAA Basketball game between Northern Iowa and Virginia Commonwealth University.

The reason? The ad was considered to be 'religious advocacy' because it mentioned "the birth of Jesus" and "God's healing". Cardinal Glennon was told those references would have to be removed in order for the commercial to air.

The Cardinal Glennon ad encourages viewers to send a "message of hope" to sick children at the hospital for Christmas. 

Tree of Hope 2013: Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center
Word of ESPN's refusal spread quickly via conservative media outlets, most notably Breitbart News. Bill O'Reilly picked up the story Wednesday night as part of his annual coverage of the war on Christmas. The resulting criticism of ESPN was fierce. The network reversed its decision early Thursday morning, saying they would air the original commercial as requested.
Read more at ESPN.com: Information regarding ESPN's position on ad

There are those who will praise ESPN for reversing course. I'm not among them. 

Doing the right thing under intense public pressure is hardly the same as doing the right thing of your own accord. I highly doubt the grinches at ESPN would have changed their minds if their decision had not been thrust into the national spotlight.

However, instead of getting angry at ESPN... I have decided to respond in a very different way.

I watched the ad for Cardinal Glennon and did as they asked. I visited GLENNON.ORG and wrote a message of hope for a sick child. When I was finished... I bowed my head and said a quiet prayer for them and their family. 

I also offered a prayer for the hardened hearts over at ESPN.

You see, anger may have caused ESPN officials to change their minds. However, only Christ has the power to change their hearts. 

Merry Christmas. 

Greg Belfrage is heard mornings 6am-9am on KELO Newstalk 1320 AM / 107.9 FM. Greg can be contacted at greg.belfrage@mwcradio.com. You can also follow him on Twitter.