Whether Pope Francis is kissing a disfigured man with boils, washing the feet of a young muslim woman, driving his own car while refusing to live in the papal apartment, or simply denouncing excessive consumerism in typical ‘counter culture’ fashion, he has been doing some noteworthy things since assuming the papacy earlier this year. Even from an evangelical perspective, there are a lot of positive aspects to be gleaned from the change in tone at The Vatican.
However, as cheerleaders of The Pope have seemingly come out of the woodwork this year, it has not been to share how Jesus is working in their lives or how their personal Christian walk is going. On the contrary, most often it has been to rave about all the great things Pope Francis is doing.
Seriously, why Santa? I concede it’s all probably harmless, and “all in good fun” — but why? Wouldn’t kids be more grateful if they knew from day one their gifts came mommy, daddy, grammy, grandpa, or better yet — are blessings from God? Why base their formative years on a fairy tale? Because “everyone else is doing it” and you don’t want your kid to be left out? Is that really a good enough reason? These are genuine questions I’m asking as a new parent who hasn’t had to deal with it yet, and I’m honestly looking for feedback from parents.
The reason I hear the most is that “doing Santa” is a family tradition with many wonderful childhood memories, and parent’s want to re-live these memories with their own children. I don’t have a problem with that, and I respect how people choose to celebrate the Christmas season with their families. The purpose of this blog, however, is to think ‘counter culturally.’ And with that goal in mind, I try to step back and simply evaluate why our culture is so set on carrying on the ruse of jolly old St. Nick with kids, some well into their school-age years.
In my previous blog post I shared a sentiment that there’s nothing inherently bad about Black Friday. And I stand by my conclusions for families that bond over shopping experiences, and are financially responsible in finding the best deals for which they can use to bless their loved ones with holiday gifts. However, for those of us who are grateful we don’t have to leave the comfort of our homes on Thanksgiving and bargain hunt until tomorrow, it’s the Puritans to which we should be thankful.
Maine is one of just 3 states that have preserved Thanksgiving Day from the onslaught of Black Friday consumerism. It’s no coincidence that the other 2 states, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, are both also New England states. “Why”, you ask? Because the reason major retail and grocery stores remain closed on Thanksgiving is a remnant from the New England-based Puritan-inspired “Blue Laws”.
There’s nothing inherently bad about Black Friday, and now large national retailers have decided to open on Thanksgiving. However, Maine is one of just 3 states that have state laws in place that say “no so fast” to this intrusion on the sanctity of post-turkey, supposedly family-strengthening activities such as afternoon napping and uninterrupted football watching.
As if the irony wasn’t already bad enough that we had to wait until the next day to forget everything we were thankful for, and immediately run out to worship at the altar of “spend now, worry about paying later”. Now in 47 states the turkey isn’t even cold before we can hit the stores and buy things we don’t even want for people we don’t really like.
However, I’m not anti-Black Friday…
I can simply no longer stand attending sporting events.
Here are my 12 reasons why…
I’m a tad late on the uptake of this one, but the following quote was uttered by Marcus Mumford- the 26-year-old lead singer of Mumford & Sons- in the April edition of Rolling Stone:
“I don’t really like that word. It comes with so much baggage. So, no, I wouldn’t call myself a Christian. I think the word just conjures up all these religious images that I don’t really like. I have my personal views about the person of Jesus and who he was. … I’ve kind of separated myself from the culture of Christianity.”
As a blogger who attempts to write about how Christianity can and should relate to culture, his final phrase caught my eye. Is it Jesus [and His claims] that Marcus has a problem with, or is his issue with what he perceives as the “culture of Christianity”?
Recently I was perusing CNN.com when a certain article, linked only about half way down the front page, caught my eye. The article was a community-submitted blog post called “Why I Raise My Children Without God”, and as someone who blogs about Christian perspectives I could not resist reading this mother’s take on things. I must admit I immediately felt an inner grieving of the Holy Spirit for her and almost clicked away after the first paragraph. However, I forged ahead and read through the whole article wincing with every sentence.
After finishing the article I sat in utter disbelief of this mother’s utter disbelief, and pondered what to do next. Should I just put it out of my mind and let her charges against God go unanswered, joining the large chorus of atheism becoming ever more prevalent in our fallen society?
Then I read it again…
There recently has been an uproar over the City of Bangor calling the Christmas Tree a “Holiday” tree in downtown’s West Market Square- even though they made this change 15 years ago. I find it disingenuous for city officials to have made this change in the name of political correctness- especially because no other faith-based holidays use a tree as a major symbol. However, what I consider even more disingenuous is people getting all worked up about this being an example of “taking Christ out of Christmas” when a majority of these same people only want to talk about Jesus Christ this time of year, and only in this context.
What’s most unfortunate is the large percentage of the American population that have taken Christ out of their lives year around. Then when the Christmas season comes they become the flag-bearers for keeping His name stamped on pagan traditions and in the stores that promote the greed and materialism our Savior was so dead-set against.
It would be insincere to say I was surprised by the results of the same-sex marriage vote in Maine this time around. I uphold that as a supporter of traditional marriage, it was out of principle- not hate- to vote No on Question 1. But a majority of Mainers have spoken, and because we live in a democracy rather than a theocracy, we must begin to move beyond the debate over civil marriage as Christians.
While there are many places in Scripture that seem to exactly describe where our culture is today (Romans 1:24-32 is one New Testament example), the question that remains is what are we to do about it? One thing we should NOT do is just gloss over such warnings and ignore the Word of God at these uncomfortable points, or explain them away as not applying to our current situation. But correction and reproof from Scripture are for those inside the church, not those on the outside (see 1 Corinthians 5:12-13).
So what about the people “on the outside”?
While bumper stickers, yard signs and Facebook posts are liberties we cherish as free speech, none of these change hearts and minds when it comes to the cause or candidate we champion …personal relationships do.
The fall political season is in full force, and with each year seeming more polarizing than the last, this year is no exception. In pre-social media days, we only had bumper stickers and yard signs at our disposal to passive-aggressively show our allegiances. But to share our personal opinions or have a debate with someone we actually had to talk to the person- either face to face, by phone, or sit down and rant over email. Each of these options usually allowed for more reasoned outcomes because saying something to someone’s face takes a little more tact, picking up the phone was work, and by the time an email was written one would have had some time to cool off.
Enter social media into the mix…