Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Halloween Trivia

Monday, October 31st, 2011 by JEL

I have lots of Halloween memories of going out trick-or-treating with my friends. Most of them are weather-related. The unbelievably frigid year (and being made to wear winter parka and snow pants underneath my costume). The balmy year. The pouring rain year when the bottom of the paper bag I was using to collect the goods got all wet and disintegrated dumping my load.

My kids will remember this Halloween for the same reason. With the weekend storm, two trees laying on my roof, wires down all over town, and thousands still without power, our town has requested that no trick-or-treating take place. In other words, Halloween has been cancelled. If you find yourself in my position, with two glum kids to entertain, check out this article.

In the 7th century, Pope Boniface IV introduced All Saints Day to replace the pagan festival of the dead, and observed it May 13. Finally, in the 8th century Pope Gregory III changed the date to Nov. 1. By the 9th century the influence of Christianity had spread into Celtic lands, and gradually blended with and replaced the older Celtic rites. It is believed that Christians were attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related, but church-sanctioned holiday. Halloween means All Hallows Eve, or the night before the “All Hallows” also called “All Saints Day” or “All Souls Day” observed Nov. 1. In old English the word “Hallow” meant sanctify. Roman Catholics, Episcopalians and Lutherans used to observe All Hallows Day to honor all saints in heaven and was one of the most significant observances of the church year. Participants made sacrifices in honor of the dead and offered prayers for them.

This Jack-O-Lantern story was new to me:

The story of the jack-o’-lantern is about a shifty farmer named Jack who tricked the devil into climbing a tree to pick a piece of fruit. When the devil reached the highest branch, Jack carved a large cross in the trunk, which made it impossible for the devil to climb down. In exchange for help to get out of the tree, the devil promised never to tempt Jack with evil again. When Jack died, he was turned away from Heaven because of his dealing with the devil and because of his sins and Jack was turned away from hell because of his trickery with the devil. Condemned to wander the earth, Jack carved out one of his turnips, took an ember from the devil and used it for a lantern to light his way. As he wandered the earth as a ghost, he became known as “Jack of the Lantern.” In Ireland and Scotland, people began to make their own versions of Jack’s lanterns by carving scary faces into turnips or potatoes and placing them into windows or near doors to frighten away Jack and other wandering evil spirits.

In Search of Inspiration

Monday, August 8th, 2011 by JEL

After the debt fiasco in congress, the weekend’s helicopter crash, and the stock market cratering (again) today, I went searching for some positive inspiration. I found the video below. The production is very nice, albeit a bit treacly for my taste, but the message is right on target. I also happen to own a Canon AE-1.

More Than Belief Talk

Friday, August 5th, 2011 by JEL

Chad Holtz wrote a great piece this week over at The Christian Century. In it he talks about the need for a “Christian Ramadan”—a need for Christians to show their belief instead of just talking about it.

My last year at Duke Divinity I sat in on a panel discussion between Sam Wells, dean of Duke Chapel, and Abdullah Antepli, Muslim chaplain to Duke University. (Imam Antepli also spoke at Wild Goose this summer.) In the course of their discussion about Islam and Christianity, Imam Antepli said something that disturbed me a great deal about my faith. It went something like this:

“When I ask a Muslim what makes them a Muslim I get an immediate response which includes things like, I pray 5 times a day, I take care of the sick and the poor, I do not eat this or that, I fast on a regular basis and I observe Ramadan.   These practices make me Muslim, they would say.”

Imam Antepli then said the thing that damned me and I think most Christians,

“When I ask Christians what makes them Christian I usually get an odd look, and an uncomfortable silence ensues.  At most, they might say that they believe in Jesus.”

Believing in Jesus is just fine, I think we can all agree.   But Muslims believe in Jesus.  Heck, Jesus said that even demons believe.

I realize by putting “Christian” and “Ramadan” in the same sentence, let alone right next to each other, is asking for trouble in today’s world. But read Holtz’s column and think about the way you show your faith. He ends with:

So, thank you, my Muslim brothers and sisters, for reminding us this Ramadan season that we Christians need to embrace our liturgy – our way – to greater degrees.    May we become known increasingly more for the bread and wine we consume at every mass, the widow and orphan we stand beside, the absurd ways we turn the other cheek, the radical ways we forgive, the devotion we have to our scriptures and prayers, and the affection we have for Christ’s body, the Church.

What About the Animals?

Friday, June 17th, 2011 by JEL

I became a vegetarian 11 years ago after reading a book and realizing I could no longer hide behind ignorance. Going off in the woods and shooting your own turkey is one thing (still not for me); buying a package at the grocery store that results from a brief, miserable life of suffering is something else entirely.

As I’ve worked on this blog over the past year and a half, I’ve wanted to see more on how Christianity sees the plight of animals. Today I found Laura Hobgood-Oster’s piece:

Yes, once we open our eyes to see them, animals are everywhere in the history of Christianity. But at least in recent memory, animals have been ignored and even demeaned by Christians and Christianity. Humans became the sole focus of most forms of Christianity and, as a result, cultures influenced by Christianity have not been kind places for most animals.

In the U.S., where approximately 75 percent of adults identify as Christian, the lives of many animals are miserable and short. According to statistics provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in 2010 almost 10 billion animals were killed for food in the U.S. alone. That is the equivalent of almost thirty animals per person. Thirty animals per person! The vast majority of these animals live in cramped, filthy conditions. They are forcibly removed from their mothers, who are treated as breeding machines not as living, breathing beings. In the Bible God is compared to a mother hen who protects her young under her wings. In the U.S. a mother hen is kept in a battery breeding cage, she is never allowed to protect herself or her young.

Several years ago I was honored to be part of a documentary produced by the Humane Society of the United States entitled “Eating Mercifully.” We examined the history of Christianity and asked how beliefs intersect with practices of eating. Christianity, which not only focuses on justice for humans but also has a rich tradition of thoughtful eating, is no longer living up to its own calls for compassion. Numerous saints chose diets that caused the least amount of pain and suffering to others. Fridays were traditionally a day of fasting or, at the very least, of not eating meat. Christians seem to have forgotten that what we eat is a reflection of what we believe.

(Much) Better Than the Couch

Monday, April 11th, 2011 by JEL

This past Saturday night, after a long day of chores and dragging kids to and from birthday parties and soccer games, when all I wanted to do was watch the Masters and collapse on the couch, I instead grumblingly followed the lead of my wife who had secured tickets to entertainment for the evening. It beat the couch. By a long shot.

We had the distinct pleasure of watching/absorbing Regie O’Hare Gibson perform his poetry. He’s a past National Poetry Slam champion, so you knew he was going to have some chops. But the man’s chops are so very serious. His poems were incredibly well written and beautifully performed, but also devilishly clever. When his message could have been delivered with justifiable anger, it always found its way via the wide-eyed wonder of sheer positivity.

If you have the chance to see him in your area, jump at the chance. In the meantime, view a sample below:

Valentine’s Day

Monday, February 14th, 2011 by JEL

Happy Valentine’s Day! May you all have a secret admirer sending you love notes and gifts of chocolate.

Each year I have to re-acquaint myself with the history surrounding this holiday. There are 2-3 different sources, but I like this one the best:

“Citing text found in a Roman catacomb, the Church holds that Valentine of Rome was a Roman priest who was executed on his namesake day, around 269 A.D.

At that time, the emperor Claudius, known as Claudius the Cruel, had difficulty recruiting soldiers for his unpopular military campaigns. Blaming the romantic bonds of matrimony and family life for the low enlistment, he abolished marriage.

Valentine had been caught by Claudius illegally marrying couples, and was arrested. Before being clubbed, stoned and decapitated, Valentine fell in love with a girl thought to be the daughter of his jailer.

The night before his grisly death, the priest sent his love a letter, signing it “From your Valentine.” According to some versions of the story, he miraculously healed his love of her blindness.

In death, Valentine, known as St. Valentine, is revered by Catholics.  He is the patron saint of young people, epilepsy, travelers, bee keepers, engaged couples and happy marriages.”

Positive, Evolving Change

Monday, February 7th, 2011 by JEL

Brian McLaren was one of the first people who reviewed our book. I have always found him a voice of logic and reason in a spiritual world that is often lacking in those areas. This piece talks about his belief that Christians are in denial over the ongoing change of their faith. While he points out numerous areas where the Church has changed over the centuries, he still finds many clinging to the Old Testament and traditions mindlessly passed down through the generations.

“The call to be a Christian and a follower of God and of Jesus, that call is a call to the future and not a call to the past. My Christian identity is more about joining God in the healing, restoration and development and evolution of the world moving toward a brighter, richer and deeper future. Whereas the identity of joining the Christianity apart from an evolutionary understanding is joining the ranks and we’re holding the lines of something that is 2,000 years old.”

Evolving Christianity

Friday, February 4th, 2011 by JEL

Darwin’s work on evolution has been around for about 160 years, but religious denial of the theory is a fairly recent–and American–development. As is our slippage in science proficiency. I found this piece on the subject to be a bit scattered, but still with some interesting tidbits.

For instance, maybe the fact that more Europeans believe in evolution because they’re not as religious as Americans. Well, according to one study, no.

“Many studies have found Americans are not more religious in practice than people in other nations. We just lie to pollsters as to what we’re doing on Sundays. Philip Brenner at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research did a paper looking at ’500 studies over four decades, involving nearly a million respondents.’

The findings were summed up by Slate’s Shankar Vedantam, “Brenner found that the United States and Canada were outliers — not in religious attendance, but in overreporting religious attendance. Americans attended services about as often as Italians and Slovenians and slightly more than Brits and Germans.”

So really we attend church as much as other countries – even European countries. Americans, and apparently Canadians, just lie about it in astonishingly un-Christ-like numbers.”

The American Paradox

Monday, January 10th, 2011 by JEL

We’ve written many times in this blog about the competing forces of Christianity and capitalism, particularly in this country. I stumbled across this piece by Cahir O’Doherty and I couldn’t agree more. He talks about our war on a national healthcare system and our inherent disgust with helping poor people who get sick:

“Screw that, says America, toss ‘em out on the street instead. Don’t give us any of your bleeding heart liberal compassion about our fellow citizens. It’s sink or swim here, and it always was, and it always will be, and just why should it be any other way? No one helped me, I’m helping no one.”

That’s really the crux of the matter, isn’t it? We Yanks believe in pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps, and if you don’t have any bootstraps to begin with, well, tough luck. Problem is, so many in our midst call our country a Christian Nation, founded on Christian principles. Hence the paradox.

The solution? Look no further than Stephen Colbert:

“If this is gonna be a Christian nation that doesn’t help the poor, either we’ve got to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we’ve got to acknowledge that he commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition – and then admit that we just don’t want to do it.”

AOK Thursday: Where Kindness and Justice Meet

Thursday, September 16th, 2010 by JEL

Earlier this week Ft. Worth’s Broadway Baptist Church announced it was cutting ties with the Baptist General Convention of Texas. Ties that ran long and deep, since 1886. The issue was one of the convention’s articles that denies membership to churches that “act to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior.”

Broadway’s Pastor, Brent Beasley, wrote a letter to BGCT saying that his church is committed to:

“welcoming all persons into our church, including the outcast, those on the margins of society, and those who have not found that welcome in many other places, including, unfortunately, many churches.” [As a result, Broadway Baptist Church has] “become a vital and diverse community of faith, coming from many different backgrounds and representing many different perspectives, but united in the love and grace of Jesus Christ.”

So how is this “radical,” very Christian stance working out?

“These are good days at Broadway. Our finances are strong — our giving is ahead of expenses and well ahead of last year; the spirit of the congregation is positive and healthy; our worship attendance is on the rise; new families and individuals are finding their place at Broadway.  We continue to serve those in need in a multitude of ways.  We are focused on our mission in the present and beginning to look to the future, which is exciting.”