Few gestures can be as delightful as a hearty “Merry Christmas” this time of year. Yet the phrase has become embroiled in a “culture war,” the most recent salvo of which came from the pro-Christmas American Family Association, which sought to get its members to turn against retailer Costco, after Costco started favoring “holiday” over “Christmas.”
In a recent commentary at ZDNet, software developer Jeremy Allison considered one of the most problematic issues with adoption of the Linux operating system: even in cash strapped parts of the world, people don’t want it. I'm not too deeply disturbed those poor souls in Africa don't want Linux. What strikes me so deeply has to do with perception.
Churches are constantly trying to find ways to bring in people and convince them to come back each and every Sunday. Often the method of drawing people in has to do with offering a particular “style of worship” to get the people excited. OFB's Ed Hurst examines how we worship in an attempt to reach a “principle of worship.”
Churches have these huge expensive meetings in big expensive cities. Of course, huge expensive meetings require similarly huge advertising too. The only way to get advertising is buy it, and it's broadly more effective to go with the eager sponsors in the corporate setting. How much do we sacrifice spiritually? To what degree do we prostitute ourselves when we use the ways of the world because they are “smart” in the business sense? If, as Barna says, church and the gospel are merely a matter of marketing, then it's all good.
For centuries, the holy grail of a certain segment of the elite has been to boil down religion into something common to all faiths, thereby eliminating what is seen as one of the “major negatives” of religious belief – sectarianism and fighting between religious groups. Now, members of the TED Conference, at the behest of author Karen Armstrong, want to give it another go with the “Charter for Compassion.” Inevitably, it will fail.
In the 21st century, freedom of speech, long revered as the cornerstone of democratic thought, slowly but consistently is being eroded worldwide. This troubling pattern is not confined to illiberal places such as China, Russia or the Middle East, but increasingly is showing up in nations once thought to be paragons of liberal democracy - even Canada.
“Shouldn’t you say some words?” The humor and the weight of the story hung over me. Dr. David Calhoun, a master storyteller, related a tale of a man who had never tried sweet maple syrup straight from a tree before. The man’s friend offered to rectify the situation, and he accepted. As the man prepared to humble himself by letting his friend pour the sweetness into his mouth, he paused for a moment and asked that question. And it contains the profoundest wisdom; I summarize it thusly: We humans instinctively need to mark the moments of our lives with ceremony, with ritual.
The problem that has faced the Evangelical world as it looks towards the Bible is that while we have a very high view of Scripture, by and large, we do not seem to have a very high view of the story it tells. When we look at common ways of reading everything from the beginning text of Genesis to the crucifixion of Christ, from the establishment of the Israelites in Canaan to the final chapters of Revelation, they are often pulled out of context as propositional statements or, worse yet, separate or overriding stories. In his book Far as the Curse is Found, Michael D. Williams lays out a more constructive, Biblically consistent interpretative method that avoids the follies that cause pop-Evangelical interpretative methods to fundamentally miss the wonderful story of the Bible.
What is truth?
In three words Pilate asked the question of questions. What is truth? For a moment, the worldly Roman had moved off into something beyond this world. Truth.