A few months ago, I found myself in a debate with a self-styled theological expert who made a stunning claim: sharing one’s faith wasn’t the duty of every Christian. That’s certainly what our squishy on truth society believes, but increasingly, it seems, so do the culture warrior Christians.
My first challenge in such a piece as this is to try to say what I intend to say as simply as I can, without bogging us down in too much philosophical jargon. On the other hand, one of the problems that Christians have faced is trying to describe their positions, or to combat harmful ideas contrary to them, whilst lacking the philosophical framework that makes various errors easier to see.
I suppose we are much more aware of the lives of celebrities and of strangers, on account of the Internet. But doesn’t it seem like a lot of suicides are happening?
As regular readers know, I spend my days as a pastor. The last couple of years have been a unique time to be in ministry and, doubly so, as I found myself “planting” (starting) a new church in the midst of it.
I sit here thinking about how things aren’t going right. Plans I’ve made, how I’m feeling — stuff isn’t how I want it to be. Ironically, even plans I’ve made as a pastor for Holy Week aren’t how I had hoped. I get wrapped up in all of that and then I have to return to the central truth of Holy Week: it happened because we human beings have broken the world. That things aren’t how they are supposed to be is precisely the point.
It’s 3 a.m. and I’m on Twitter impatiently refreshing, looking for news from Ukraine. I check over on Ukrainian President Zelensky’s account, too, looking for signs he’s still alive and Russia hasn’t managed to find him yet. Probably a lot of you reading this are doing the same. Death looms large this Ash Wednesday, situated amidst the first global-level conflict of the Internet era.
We forget this all the time. Perhaps as we get older, we’re a little less oblivious and proud about it, but I don’t think we truly understand the fragility of our existence. Most people who start off essays like this have some sort of axe to grind; I don’t, at least not about this, but I was reminded by something I read.
During Advent, we all excitedly look towards celebrating Jesus’s birth. However, suddenly it is December 26 and the world resets to its ordinary preoccupations. That’s what is wonderful about observing the Twelve Days of Christmas: it helps us keep reflecting on God’s grace and the miracle of Christmas after the busyness of Christmas Day is past. Tim Butler has prepared a free devotional booklet for these next twelve days.
So. We’re three days from Christmas. These last couple of years the holiday, like everything else, has gotten a bit deflated as two presidents and a lot of medical bureaucrats, liking the feel of unexpected power, have succumbed to the irresistible compulsion to do something, whether it was advisable or not. The effects were troubling to some people more than they were to me, because for a number of years now I’ve enjoyed low-key Christmas celebrations.
There are special days and months that we celebrate in the secular society. Holidays for the birthdays of presidents, recognition of ethnic minorities, and days set aside to raise awareness for rare diseases and conditions. Most of this passes without notice, and much of it is unobjectionable. But I have noticed that some of it is, and that it forms a competing liturgy with the Christian one.