America, worship your God

“God made us in his own image and likeness and we have never stopped returning the favor.”

In a different shade of the same habit, we have recast St. Nicholas completely in our cultural image, ascribed to him God-like qualities, and religiously sung and spoken of our mythical cultural invention for generations.

If our mythical figures are reflections of our cultural values, what does this picture of Santa Claus reveal about us?

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So Christians care about the “reason for the season”?

If you’ve been around as long as me (27 years), you’ve probably heard stories of “Christians” wringing their hands supposedly about our culture’s “recent” and widening lack of respect for Christmas.  Every year I hear another call to boycott store A or B (Wal-Mart or wherever else) that says “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”  Notwithstanding the fact that most Christians go right back to shopping at whatever store it is on December 26th, I find Christian calls to retrieve the “reason for the season” pretty empty given that Christmas has been a worshiping at the altar of the God of Consumerism for a long long time now.  I have some empathy for people who long for the good ole days of “Merry Christmas” at the register and nativities on courthouse lawns I guess, since our pagan culture at least gave a nod to Christianity in those acts.

But yesterday, I had a little moment to reflect on how the old adage “Do as I say and as I do” applies when it comes to Christians demanding our culture respect Christmas.  I was in the office at the church this week, and on two different occasions, I happened to be mildly listening to the radio that was on over in the secretary’s office. Now, mind you, this is a “Christian” radio station.  I had already heard “Jingle Bells” earlier in the day, which is pretty benign I guess as far as having nothing to do with Jesus but not really pushing anything else other than loving sleigh rides and grandma’s house.  But later,  you could say that  in the other room there arose a strange clatter, and I sprang from my desk to see what was the matter.  I heard the strains of a familiar song  floating through the air, a song that goes something like this;

They know that Santa’s on his way
He’s loaded lots of toys and goodies on his sleigh
And every mother’s child is gonna spy
to see if reindeer really know how to fly

And so, I’m offering this simple phrase
to kids from one to ninety-two
Although it’s been said many times, many ways
“Merry Christmas to you”

Seriously, Spirit FM, seriously?  I must say that there is little to no hope for our culture regaining widespread respect for Christmas when Christians play “Christmas” songs about Santa and reindeer.  Evidently it’s “Do as I say, NOT as I do.”

And while I’m on my high horse, I’m gonna go ahead and say this.  If or when Bethany and I have children, I will tell them Santa is false from the very beginning in addition to instructing them to ruthlessly destroy other kids’ belief in that great figment of imagination.  In the spirit of John Howard Yoder*, I’ll bluntly say that Santa Claus is the bastard child of an actual, goodness-to-life Saint (Nicholas) and the Germanic god Woden and any “believer” in him (whether actual or just to perpetuate a cute cultural story) needs to be told he is not at all a harmless figure. To be fair, I would expect the same approach from any committed Wiccan or Muslim or atheist to tell my kid that Jesus is false/crazy/an-absurd-figure-who-certainly-was-no-God.  So I’m not crusading to knock off pagans who love their Santa stories and waiting in line on Black Friday to feed their feelies; I’m just advocating telling them they’re following an empty, sad life that removes the possibility of true joy.

 

*JHY famously said that Islam is the bastard child of Christianity and Judaism’s failure to love the polytheistic people group that Muhammed  was a part of.  In the absence of their caring, Muhammed came up in desperation with a monotheistic system to rescue his people from their hopelessly fragmented and ignored culture.  Now, maybe JHY could have used a different term, but I don’t think he meant it as an epithet, but just to illustrate that the child is the result of the unwise decisions of the parents.

Focus on the Family, partisan political hackery and a “Letter from a Christian in 2012”

My lovely wife sent a link to me on Friday that astonished me; as in, my jaw hit the ground.  The link was from a letter written by James Dobson’s political action group on October 22nd entitled “Letter from 2012 in Obama’s America.”  If you’ve got the time to skim something for about fifteen to twenty minutes, I’d encourage you to follow the link to the letter to get an idea of where Dobson went with it.  If you want my summary of it, I’ll give it to you in precisely sixteen words:  a fearmongering childish unwise piece from a leader I’ve come to expect these things from.

Later in that same day I came across a group on Facebook that I promptly joined called “A Christian Bipartisan Rejection of Focus on the Family’s Letter from 2012.”

I will say this, and I’m not exaggerating.  There have been few times that I’ve been this horrendously horrified to call someone a brother in Christ as I have now with James Dobson.  He is a confused, bitter, co-opted, unwise man.

I made a decision on Friday to write my own “Letter from a Christian in 2012.”  Maybe someone else will read it, but I wrote it to organize some of my thoughts as a counterpoint to Dobson’s rhetoric that smears the body of Christ.  I’d like to encourage you to read my equally long “Letter” that was intentionally written to parallel Dobson’s letter at certain points.  Maybe you can place them side by side and follow along simultaneously.  In case you didn’t see the link above, here’s the link to my “Letter”.

Letter from 2012

The marks of trauma…

This may sound ridiculous, but I think the Baltimore Orioles have put me in a mild state of what happens when persons are abused. You face the initial shock of abuse, then grow used to it, then become a shell who consciously doesn’t care but really does.

I mean, the last ten years with the Orioles has been dreadful. I’ve seen the early season runs followed by August and September precipitous falls, I’ve seen completely dreadful seasons, and I’ve endured nail-biter games this year while attending Camden Yards where the Orioles come back from two runs down to tie the game in the ninth, only to lose promptly from dumb mistakes in the tenth. I’ve been through it all.

…..sooooooo, I shouldn’t have been surprised when I opened orioles.com on this day (like any other). Last night (Sept 17), the Orioles were up 6-0 in the fifth inning. I was elated at the quick glimpse I had, but in a guarded way, since they’ve made a habit out of frittering those kinds of leads away. So, I brought up the website with some hope mixed with fear and trepidation…and my heart sank.

Lost. 8-7. After my heart sank, I quickly moved through the stages of grief. Denial that they could squander such a massive lead. Anger that they do this all the time, and it hurts to see. Bargaining, as I thought, “Orioles, I can hold steady through this, IF you promise you’ll work to get to .500 next year. Please?” Depression as I deeply sighed, viewing more of a the same. And a grudging acceptance; “This is the way it’s been for nearly half of my life, so why do I care as much as I do?”

I mean, geez, it’s not like the state of the universe or world is in jeopardy because the Orioles choke every year. So I can put it in perspective. But I just needed to talk this out as a form of therapy for something I care about.

Thanks, Internet, for your commitment to listening. Just knowing the collective global brain of billions of people has the potential to read such ridiculous whining has some kind of therapeutic effect.

I guess I’m experiencing a bit of what it’s like to be a Philadelphia sports fan; or a Chicago Cubs fan.

It’s clear that even in September with a lead in the NL Central, the Cubbies fans are hedging their bets; acting like they don’t care, pretending to have more fun with a beer and their friends than watching baseball. But on the inside, the ones who care are agonizing, living in denial of their active desire to win, keeping the mask of passive acceptance on as a protecting wall of sorts; the kind of wall with jagged glass and broken pottery on top to slice up would-be intruders…even the intruding feeling of Satisfaction when the Cubs win suffers lacerations in his hands.

“I’m a innocent good feeling!” Satisfaction protests in vain. ““Don’t you want to experience what I can give? Why must I, a pure, virtuous emotion, bleed as you lash out in fear?”
“Get away from me, cursed feeling of elation,” traumatized Cubs fans say, “with your mixed emotions that make me have hope. I won’t have hope until ten days after my team wins the World Series…in 2025. I won’t even let my mind consider this emotion. Don’t you know Zambrano’s arm is still sore and we’re depending on Rich “Ever-Injured” Harden and an inconsistent bullpen? Begone, you pox of Chicago!”
And so, Satisfaction slinks away, weeping, though acknowledging the Cubs fans’ point.

Oh, sweet catharsis of writing.

I feel better already.

Momentous achievements…

Last week, when my friend John Daubert and his wife came to visit the Myers plantation, we had a good time.  A part of that good time included John and I returning to a classic Daubert/Myers activity; playing Ken Griffey Jr. baseball on N64…but with an exercise twist.  

Long before the advent of the Wii, John and I were inspired by a boxing game we played at Kings Dominion (an amusement park here in Virginia), where you held “boxing gloves” attached to the console with wires and stood in a certain place where the computer could gauge your movements. To make a long story short, the boxing game was so active, I had dead arms for the rest of the day.   It was great fun.  The further you went, the more your body paid.

John and I were fully aware that playing the N64 was not so full of exercise, so we invented exercise to go with Ken Griffey baseball.  The rules:

1)  Every time your adversary scores a run, you do ten pushups.
2) Every time your adversary steals a base, you do twenty curlups.
3) Every time you get caught stealing a base, you do twenty curlups, and
4) Every time you strike out on a pitch you shouldn’t have swung on, you get punched in the nuts.

…ok, #4 doesn’t happen. Especially when John’s pitching with John Smoltz, who’s almost unhittable in the game as his fastball is quicker than the Orioles’ descent to mediocrity each season, thus making me anticipate the fastball, thus leading to John using a curveball that could hit the persons sitting behind the third-base dugout, which I of course swing at because I’m all jumpy and almost weepy from how scary the fastball is.

Well, this time we added another exercise to the game. I had recently gotten an exercise wheel at a local thrift store for a buck-twenty-five, and you could choose to cut your pushups or curlups and do half as many wheel repetitions.

We played three games. First time, Orioles (me)/Braves (John). 5-2 Orioles. Second game, Orioles/Braves again. 6-1 Orioles. Third game, the longest we ever played. Nineteen innings, Pirates (me)/Braves (John). 6-4 Pirates, after a massive clutch-ninth-inning comeback by John.

So, John’s total exercises before deciding to do some wheels: 170 pushups, 210 curlups.
My total exercises: 70 pushups, 150 curlups.

Needless to say, I got off easier, but the last game finished at 1:30 and we were both so spent by the end that we were giggling like schoolgirls. Just like old times. After finishing, we both almost wept as we considered how sore we would be in the morning, but then I remembered I had the magic potion: Powerbar Recovery. It didn’t even hurt in the morning, due to modern innovation…basically Eli Whitney, Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell (the innovators), Henry Ford (the organizer), and the Industrial Revolution at large is responsible for us not suffering. Essentially, human beings are completely self-sufficient now. Are you stabbed? Shot? A city of civilians nuked? Drink some Powerbar Recovery, and you’re golden. Basically.

I even have picture documentation of the event.

To the tune of “Oh, how I love Jesus”

“Oh, how I love church signs…”

Just in case you were wondering, your local Bible Church wants you to know…

church sign 1 church sign 2

In other news, what in the world? I’ve tried to think about this last sign semi-seriously over the last two weeks, and the only serious messages I can extract from it are unethical. Wow.

church sign 3

Why I live in community….

joshdefnall nate

For those that don’t know, I live in an “intentional community” house, and have been for almost two years now. The basic philosophy behind living in such a situation is related to the thought of Tom Sine, who wrote The Mustard Seed Conspiracy. In the book, he addresses how many young folks, bound down by the chains of debts and bills in their young adulthood, when living by themselves, are mostly merely surviving rather than actually living. This is an oversimplification, but I think it’s faithful to his thoughts.

Anyways, he suggests more young adults should live in some degree of community with some shared expenses and vision together in order to enhance their quality of life, which then gives them more energy to contribute meaningfully to their world around them, which then moves outwards through relationships…you get the picture.

One of my housemates, Abigail, is writing a paper on why one should consider living in community. She interviewed me and my roommate, Josh. Here are our deeply philosophical comments:

Why do you live in community?

Josh, “The lack of community.”

Nate, “I like Josh and I’s community that revolves around us passing gas. For example last night I was laughing (mostly silently and inwardly) at 1ish because in the dark silence Josh farted. Not only did it last about five seconds, and not only did it have three distinct tones, he said it had been working its way down for the last half hour. This is why I live in community.”