Archive for December, 2008

Mall Santa Claus’ in Civil War (sadly, not satire)

Posted: December 28, 2008 by limabean03 in Uncategorized
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war-santaI heard this story on NPR and tried to dig it up on their website but couldn’t find it. This report, from the Telegraph is the best I could do. I don’t even know what to say to this…

Rival Santa Claus leaders have been engaged in a decidedly unfestive power struggle that has polarised the lucrative US grotto market and forced hundreds of Father Christmases to choose between warring rival groups.

The hostilities have spilled on to the internet, in this case Elf Net, an online chat group where Santas go to exchange information on belt supplies and beard dyeing.

Organisers of the annual convention in Kansas of the Amalgamated Order of Real-Bearded Santas, fear it will be disrupted by splitters from rival groups such as the Fraternal Order and the Red Suit Society.

The trouble started last year with a row on the board of the Amalgamated Santas, a 700-member group which was set up in 1994 by 10 Santas doing a television commercial in Hollywood.

Tim Connaghan, the organisation’s chief, was forced out after a rival board member, Nick Trolli, accused him of unethical behaviour by acting as a booking agent for 200 members hired for Christmas events and taking a $25,000 consultancy free from a film company.

Mr Trolli took over but he also proved controversial, expelling some 20 members for offences that included maligning fellow Santas on Elf Net.

In January, one of the banned members tried to gatecrash an Amalgamated Santas board meeting in California.

read it all here. There’s another link on a legal blog here. For a bizzare look into the Santa civil war, why not go to the source and see the Rebel’s website here and the “Unionists” here. This is so weird.

Thanks to Charlie Jordan for finding this. The atheist who wrote this article, Matthew Parris, describes the regeneration associated with faith and the work of the Holy Spirit in a far more moving and convincing way than most Western Christians. I recommend you read the whole thing

Before Christmas I returned, after 45 years, to the country that as a boy I knew as Nyasaland. Today it’s Malawi, and The Times Christmas Appeal includes a small British charity working there. Pump Aid helps rural communities to install a simple pump, letting people keep their village wells sealed and clean. I went to see this work.

It inspired me, renewing my flagging faith in development charities. But travelling in Malawi refreshed another belief, too: one I’ve been trying to banish all my life, but an observation I’ve been unable to avoid since my African childhood. It confounds my ideological beliefs, stubbornly refuses to fit my world view, and has embarrassed my growing belief that there is no God.

Now a confirmed atheist, I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.

read it all here

swearinng-in
James K.A. Smith in Introducing Radical Orthodoxy: Mapping a Post-Secular Theology writes (quoting Cavanaugh in Radical Orthodoxy)  “Both the church and the modern state have a story to tell:  The modern state is ‘founded on certain stories of nature and human nature, the origins of human conflict, and the remedies for such conflict in the enactment of the state itself’; the Christian story is a narrative of creation, fall, redemption.  But…’both ultimately have the same goal: salvation of humankind from the modern divisions which plague us’.  Thus, “the modern state is best understood…as a source of an alternative soteriology (or theology of salvation) to that of the Church.”  Nothing I could find illustrates this point more clearly than this little article from CNN postulating on what Bible verse Obama will pick for the swearing ceremony.  Note that many of our previous presidents have chosen verses for themselves that the church has historically understood as pointing towards the Messsiah, Jesus of Nazareth.  This means that presidents have borrowed both the language of the Christian church and the theology of the Christian church, particularly the language and theology associated with the savior and transferred it to the government and the nation state.  This points to the ingrained and heretical assumed messianism of American politics.  A heresy that I think much of the church in America has bought into. What then is the proper way for a disciple of Christ to live as a witness to the true Messiah? 

From CNN:
If Obama wants to stress that theme again on January 20, he may prefer to follow Bill Clinton’s lead from the 1997 inaugural and open the Bible to Isaiah 58:12: “Thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations, and thou shalt be called the repairer of the breach.”

Questions of war and peace are always in the back of any president’s mind. Obama campaigned in part on a promise to end America’s war in Iraq.

Shortly after winning the White House on a similar pledge to end another divisive conflict — this one in Vietnam — Richard Nixon took the oath with a family Bible opened to Isaiah 2:4: “And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”

With the polls showing an overwhelming majority of Americans convinced the country is on the wrong track,Obama might hint at a back-to-basics message by doing what Woodrow Wilson did in 1913. During his first inaugural, Wilson opened the Bible to Psalm 119, which concludes “I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments.”

Speaking of a return to basics, what about America’s first president? What did George Washington do?

Almost 220 years ago, in 1789, Washington opened the King James version of a Masonic Bible to Genesis 49:13 — “Zebulun shall dwell at the haven of the sea; and he shall be for a haven of ships; and his border shall be unto Zidon.”

read it all here

whitewashed-sanctuary

I highly recommend this entire lecture to Episcopal pastors in the Reformed tradition. It is wildly enlightening in seeing how the popular sentiment behind the Anglo-Catholic revival (I say popular sentiment because most of the prime movers of the A.C. revival were orthodox, godly men) of England led us into the current syncretistic mess and allergy to confession that the Episcopal Church currently faces in the U.S. I personally found it of great historical interest (J.C. Ryle seems to be fighting a similar battle) in this regard and many others. I also recommend this lecture to those who are interested in deepening their understanding of the aesthetic, particularly in worship. Read the whole thing, because it is easy to be deceived by the excerpted paragraphs below. Kuyper is not rejecting the aesthetic, as he makes clear throughout the essay. Nor is he rejecting “high church” liturgies, in fact he helped republish an old high church reformed liturgy (Forma Ac Ratio, which was influential in the Episcopal prayer book) and goes out of his way to convey the “liturgical” aspects of historic Calvinism. I think what he is aiming at, to repeat myself, is the popular sentiment behind the need for symbolism. So read it carefully, and read it all.

Every one who, moving in the finite, becomes aware of the existence of something Infinite, has to form a conception of the relation that exists between both. Here two possibilities present themselves. Either the Infinite reveals itself to man, and by this revelation unveils the really existing relation; or the Infinite remains mute and silent, and man himself has to guess, to conjecture, and to represent to himself this relation by means of his imagination; that is, in an artificial way. Now the first line is the Christian one. The Infinite at sundry times and in divers manners spoke in times past by the prophets, and in these late days has spoken to us by his Son�this Son being not a silent mystery, but the eternal, creating and speaking Word. Paganism, on the contrary, being destitute of revelation, wants the symbol, and creates it in its idols, “having mouths but they speak not, having ears but they hear not.” Symbol means a fictitious link between the invisible Infinite and the visible finite. It is derived from sumballein; i.e., bringing two different spheres together. Symbolism is the grasping of something outward and material, upon which the imagination may put the stamp of the unseen and unspeakable. The symbol is the middle link, being related from one side to what you can see and grasp, and from the other side to what you feel, fancy and imagine. As soon, therefore, as the consciousness of the Infinite revives in the public mind, in antagonism to a God-given Revelation, the demand for the symbol necessarily and immediately declares itself. So it was in the Grecian world, so it is now. Of course there exists also an unconscious, ever-changing relation between the Infinite and the finite in the actual phenomena of life; but this relation, being always partial, successive and momentarily gauged, cannot satisfy the soul. What she is longing after is a comprehensive impression of the Infinite in its totality, in its all-pervading and all-permeating action; and this sensation no finite phenomenon is able to stir in us, just because it is finite. What the soul want to realize is a grasping of the Infinite as such; and such an infinite sensation Symbolism only can produce, just because it puts an invisible stamp upon a visible or palpable phenomenon. In the Freemasonry you see quite the same thing. Freemasonry aims at the Infinite, but rejects all revelation, and therefore it created from the very first, and still advocates, the most explicit and elaborated symbolism. Spiritism, on the contrary, is almost choked with thirst for revelation from the other side of the tomb, and consequently knows of no symbolical fancy whatsoever. (more…)

I found this over at Steve Wood’s blog. I’ve posted it here exactly as I found it. Do go over and pay Steve a visit. He’s got a lot of really cool material up.

This video of Penn (from Penn & Teller fame) was my surprise of the week. Here’s the money quote:

“I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. If you believe that there’s a heaven and hell and that people could be going to hell – or not getting eternal life and you think that it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward . . . how much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?”

While I would prefer “evangelize” to “proselytize” I like his point.

Here’s the clip:

The Revelation to John

Dec 15:                        A Love Grown Cold                 (Rev 2.1-7)

 

“They that see God cannot but praise him.  He is a Being of such glory and excellency that the sight of this excellency of his will necessarily influence them that behold it to praise him.  Such a glorious sight will awaken and rouse all the powers of the soul, and will irresistibly impel them, and draw them into acts of praise.  Such a sight enlarges their souls, and fills them with admiration, and with an unspeakable exultation of spirit” –Jonathan Edwards, “Praise, One of the Chief Employments of Heaven” (Thanksgiving Sermon, Nov 7, 1734)

 

We begin today’s class with an important principle from Jonathan Edwards, namely that in beholding the excellency of God we are drawn into acts of praise that affect the deepest and most remote compartments of our soul.  That is why we do Bible study. That is why we take Bible study one step farther and do Biblical theology, and farther still to systematic theology.  These are an attempt to behold God, grounded in the revealed word that he has given us, that we might behold him and be given “an unspeakable exultation of spirit.”  I have said this many times before, and I say it again.  THE KEY to spiritual growth lies not in applying Biblical principles to your life, but in beholding God and having his majesty and the depth of his love, mercy, kindness and righteousness transform the heart and reorient our desires. 

 

And yet even this pursuit can be corrupted and turned from its original end, as we shall see in our reading today, we see a church whose love has grown cold.  What is striking about this, is that their love grew cold when they were so well equipped to behold the majesty of God.  So there is a lesson for us here.  When knowledge of God becomes more important than God himself, then our doctrine has become our idol, replacing our “first love” with cold dogma.  May God save us from this!  Let us see what Jesus has to say to the church in Ephesus, and see how we might be turned from this sad situation. (more…)

santa1Thanks to Charlie Jordan for forwarding this thought provoking article.  The author’s logic is the type that makes me squirm while simultaneously perking my interest.  At the end of the day, I like it…I think

I suspect that fairy tales and Santa Claus do prepare us to embrace the ultimate Fairy Tale, the one Lewis believed was ingrained in our being. New research from the Université de Montréal and the University of Ottawa indicates that children aren’t overly troubled upon learning that Santa is a myth. But the researchers remained puzzled because while children eventually abandon Santa, they keep believing in God. Lewis would say this is because God is real, but Mr. Dawkins fears it is the lasting damage of fairy tales. While Mr. Dawkins stands ironically alongside Puritans in his readiness to ban fairy tales, Christian apologists like Lewis and Chesterton embraced them, precisely because to embrace Christian dogma is to embrace the extrarational.

Today’s Christian apologists, by contrast, seek to reason their way to God by means of archaeological finds, anthropological examinations and scientific argumentation. That’s all well and good, but it seems to miss a fundamental point illuminated by Chesterton, which is that, ultimately, belief in God is belief in mystery.

read it all here