Christine M. Flowers: THE BOOK OF LE-VICK-TICUS

IDON'T believe much in redemption, despite a strong New Testament upbringing that taught me to value salvation.

The Old Testament seems more just, with its emphasis on punishment and its concern for the innocent.

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But every now and then, you come across a case that challenges your beliefs. For me, Michael Vick could be one of them.

I say "could" as opposed to "is" because the football season is only three games young, and our new QB has some yardage to cover before he convinces me that he deserves a . . . pass for his sins.

What got him a spot on the Leavenworth farm team can't be excused, explained or excepted, as in "He's a good guy except for what he did to those poor dogs."

So far, it looks like Vick has gone the distance in making amends, despite the grouching of animal lovers who think there's a special hell for people like him. I get that, because I think there's a hole in your soul if you're able to torture man's best friend for sport.

But if we're willing to get all empathetic for cop-killers and plead for their despicable lives to be saved from a righteous needle in the arm, it's time to take a step back and cut Vick a break for his unsportsmanlike conduct (for which he's paid a hefty penalty).

So while I'm definitely a fan of the OT (Old Testament, not sudden death), there are a couple of parables in the sequel that fit the Vick story.

The Prodigal Son

Like the man in the parable, Vick was given many gifts, and squandered them on wild living. He lost his wealth and his reputation. He came home (well, slightly north of it), seeking forgiveness. And he's welcomed back. Andy Reid's explanation: "This was an odd situation." I prefer Luke, who had a better ear for the dramatic: "He was lost, and is found."

The Lost Sheep

(I hesitate to include animal parables, but, whatever.)

I'm not sure if Vick is the only lost soul in the NFL. In fact, I'm fairly certain he's not. But he's definitely one of the most famous players to ever go from locker room to lockdown.

And the fact that he made his way back to the pocket, and isn't sheepish about being there, says something about his willingness to bleat the odds against him.

For as the Shepherd told us, "There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over 99 righteous people who need no repentance."

Or as Andy would say, "Um, I take full responsibility for that."

The Good Samaritan

There's a guy who really put himself out for Vick.

He lobbied the coach to hire him after his stint on the chain gang ended. He picked him up when others wanted to leave him on the sidelines (or in the, um, doghouse.) He was his brother's keeper. Of course, that guy is now throwing passes (and not yet throwing up) in D.C.

But Donovan McNabb really was a good Samaritan who managed not only to help Vick redeem his reputation but replenish his bank account.

Vick is lucky that D Mac was one of those who, as Luke wrote, "have mercy." Although he might be a little less neighborly this weekend.

The

Arrogant

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A lot of players in the NFL have a built-in sense of arrogance. Kevin Kolb never did, and acted with class and dignity for the past three years. So while Michael Vick seems to be saying and doing all the right things just now, he should look at his backup for lessons in how a real leader acts and not listen to all the talking heads on ESPN and elsewhere telling him how great he is.

As Luke said (or was it Vince Lombardi?), "Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." That means you, No. 7. Don't fumble this humble. And by the way, Kevin, your time at the table will come.

The Divided Realm

The only color that should matter when talking about our new QB is Eagles green. All the comments about racial divisions are as stupid as John Street accusing Michael Nutter of not being black enough. For, as Luke wrote: "If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand." Or get into the playoffs.

This journey through the parables comes with a caveat.

If Vick racks up more losses than wins, these warm feelings might evaporate as quickly as dew on Astroturf. And then it's back to Deuteronomy: Vengeance is fine, sayeth the Lord.

Christine M. Flowers is a lawyer.

E-mail cflowers1961@yahoo.com.