Archive for December, 2010

Christmas…for Everyone

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010 by JEL

Before I head off for our annual Christmas break, I wanted to create one more post. Christmas is a season for many things: families and friends gathering, over-eating, purchasing and exchanging gifts, and talking about the sanctity of “Merry Christmas” against the rising tide of the supposedly militant “Happy Holidays.”

Take a breath and simply enjoy. The gifts are wrapped, the roast is in the oven (or the tofurkey for folks like me), all the hard stuff is done and you find yourself surrounded by people you don’t spend nearly enough time with. Enjoy it.

Here’s a great summation of what I’m trying to say. Holly Stewart eloquently writes:

“Christian or not, we can all learn valuable lessons from the story of Jesus’ birth. Great men and women can emerge from lowly beginnings. Humility is a cleansing force. The redeeming values of faith and love are not to be taken lightly. Devotion is its own reward. Giving is better than receiving.

So celebrate in your way, or not. It’s your holiday. It belongs to everyone. Fortunately for us, Christmas is big enough for the whole world.”

Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays. Be festive and merry. We’ll be back the week of January 3.

Christian Consumerism

Monday, December 20th, 2010 by JEL

What’s a Christmas season without a post about consumerism? As a person who went through 2009 without buying myself (virtually) anything other than food and energy, this post from Shane Claiborne was really fascinating to me.

Shane is an interesting, funny, charismatic dude. We featured a video of him speaking a few months back, and I always find his message to be relevant and lasered on point. He’s a Red-Letter Christian and works with the homeless in his neighborhood of Philadelphia. Read the whole post, but here’s a snippet to whet your appetite:

“I grew up in the Bible Belt. When I became a Christian, I learned I didn’t have to stop buying stuff — I just had to start buying Christian stuff. An entire world of retail spending possibilities lay before me: the Christian industrial complex. There were Christian t-shirts, bumper stickers, even Christian candy — “testa-mints” — peppermints wrapped in a Bible verse. We were taught “secular” was bad, and supplied with charts that countered popular mainstream bands with a Christian alternative. We burned our old tapes (which is what we listened to back in those days) and went to the Christian albums. We were often sadly disappointed. They just didn’t sound like Metallica. As a friend of mine quipped: “All these Christian artists say, ‘God gave me this song,’ and then you listen to it and know why God gave it away.” I later learned that Christian art doesn’t have to be a mediocre counterfeit of the original. And, I learned that Christianity is not about conforming to the world, but about being transformed by a God who is crazy about the poor, fond of toppling the powerful, and raising the lowly … and who I’m pretty sure would feel conflicted wearing a “God bless Rome” shirt or doting an “Army of One” sticker on the bumper of his SUV… I mean, hybrid. I mean donkey. Never mind.”

AOK Thursday: Giving

Thursday, December 16th, 2010 by JEL

In the spirit of the Christmas season (which, by the way, would be nice all year long), I thought as we’re giving each other gifts, we might re-examine the true meaning of giving. That is, giving to those less fortunate who are really in need. Jesus had something to say about the subject:

“If anyone sues you to take away your coat, let him have your cloak also. Whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and don’t turn away him who desires to borrow from you.” – Matthew 5:40-42

Brought to present day, here’s a nice story of a Waukegan waitress who took Jesus’ instructions to heart (whether she knew it or not).

The Largest Christian Nation

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010 by JEL

John Micklethwait, Editor of The Economist, says that China will soon become the largest Christian nation in the world. There are reportedly 100 million Protestants already and as many as 10,000 Chinese citizens become Christians every day. Mind boggling. He makes many interesting points in the video, such as Catholicism is popular out in the boonies, while American-style Evangelical Christianity is what’s popping in the cities.

Incidentally, China will also soon become the largest Muslim nation in the world. Things could get very interesting in the next couple decades. Watch:

A Holy Tree, Diminished

Monday, December 13th, 2010 by JEL

I never understood vandalism. Knocking over tombstones, smashing mailboxes, breaking windows, it just doesn’t make any sense to me how that can be an enjoyable way to spend your time. My tolerance stops abruptly at about the toilet-papering-trees point.

Last week, vandals got to the Glastonbury Holy Tree in England. Listen to the story:

A Double-Edged Sword

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010 by JEL

This piece, by Rose Marie Berger, puts Christians’ stance on repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) in an interesting light. A new Pew Research Center poll shows a majority of Americans, including Christians, now support allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly, and with equal rights, in the military.

That’s great, Ms. Berger says. But what about how Christians feel about the military, in general? When Jesus says “Blessed are the peacemakers,” He’s saying war is wrong. Killing sons and daughters and husbands and wives to settle politicians’ debates is wrong.

She points out that early generations of Christians refused to participate in war. What about current generations?

It’s His Birthday – Get Him What He Wants

Monday, December 6th, 2010 by JEL

Pardon the shameless promotion here, but as you’re scurrying around the Internet and the malls gobbling up presents to fulfill your Christmas shopping lists, I thought you might want to stop a minute.

And think.

Christmas, after all is meant to be a celebration of the birth of Jesus, not a celebration of the glowing credit card. One more plastic toy or electronic doo-dad is not going to make this world a more peaceful and tolerant home for any of us.

If you could sit Jesus down and ask Him what he really wants for his birthday, I’d bet He’d say “To be understood.” We just happen to know of a great gift for everyone on your list that makes His message easier to understand than ever before. Give it a shot >>

Apple Takes On Manhattan (Declaration)

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010 by JEL

There’s this thing called the Manhattan Declaration which describes itself as a “Call of Christian Conscience.” It was released last year by a bunch of prominent Christians “in defense of the sanctity of life, traditional marriage, and religious liberty.”

To promote their cause, they produced an Apple App for use on iPhones, iPads, etc. Apple originally approved the App but then pulled it after the Thanksgiving holiday because it “because it violates our developer guidelines by being offensive to large groups of people.” Offensive, presumably, to pro-choice people and those in favor of gay marriage.

I predict quite a backlash. Certainly there are apps out there right now that are violent, racy or otherwise offensive to large groups of people. Where do you draw the line?