May 1, 2017

Saturday Ramblings: December 17, 2016

st-nick-framed

RAMBLER OF THE WEEK

Today, a week before Christmas Day, we celebrate Saint Nicholas of Myra as our Rambler of the Week. This fourth century saint has been venerated for centuries throughout the world for his giving spirit. His care for children and penchant for secret gift giving has brought him great renown.

Somehow, the power of modern culture turned him into something quite different. A human saint was replaced by a jolly old elf. A patron of the poor became a judge of who’s naughty and nice. A church bishop became the CEO of the world’s largest toy factory. A man who walked among his parishioners and served the people in his community became a cosmic delivery man who visits everyone everywhere on one night during the year in his magic sleigh. A saint of the church became an icon of popular culture and a vehicle for commercialism. A story rich in human experience became a modern fairy tale we trot out every year to try and put some magic in our children’s eyes during the season. We have “disney-ized” this saint in a multitude of ways.

Understanding more about the true St. Nicholas may be a way to restore some sense of dignity to Christmas and resolve the “Santa Claus” dilemma for Christian people. To be sure, when you start to read about him, it will become clear that many of the stories are legends arising from a spirit of hagiography. Nevertheless, the stories, exaggerated though they may be, emphasize Christian virtues and are consistent in venerating praiseworthy character qualities. I believe we can read and tell them as vehicles of Christian imagination, while recognizing a kernel of truth and a foothold in history.

Nicholas was from Myra, a province of modern day Turkey. St. Nicholas was a real man, dedicated to following God, who gained a reputation for his generosity and kindness. He lived long ago, in the fourth century, born to wealthy parents who raised him as a devout Christian, but who died in a plague when he was young. Tradition says that he took his inheritance and gave it to the poor to pursue a religious life. He was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man, and was known for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his special concern for those at sea (it is likely his family owned a shipping company).

One story about him involves a poor man who had three daughters. Because the father could not afford to pay a dowry for them to be married, they were in danger of being taken away and made slaves. On three different occasions, it is said that a bag of gold appeared in each one of the daughter’s stockings or shoes which were by the fire to dry. The gold had been tossed in through an open window by a secret benefactor, St. Nicholas. This led to the tradition of hanging stockings by the fire or, in some countries, putting shoes out in which small gifts are placed, such as candies, coins and other treats.

Many other stories are told of St. Nicholas, some obviously myths and legends, but all of which make some point about the kindness, generosity and helpfulness of this man.

Oh yeah, like all of us he could lose his cool too. Legend has it he punched Arius in the face during an argument about the Trinity at the Council of Nicaea. Naughty Arius!

The best overall site that I have found for further information on St. Nicholas is The St. Nicholas Center.

A good example to remember at all times of the year, not just during the Christmas season, we celebrate St. Nicholas today as our Rambler of the Week.

• • •

SORRY, I COULDN’T HELP IT

Donald Trump for Christmas card by The Print Shop. Photo courtesy of Ben Riddell.

Donald Trump for Christmas card by The Print Shop. Photo courtesy of Ben Riddell.

Hillary's email Christmas card by The Print Shop. Photo courtesy of Ben Riddell

Hillary’s email Christmas card by The Print Shop. Photo courtesy of Ben Riddell

See more “anti-Christmas cards” at Religion News Service.

• • •

THREE LOCAL STORIES OF INTEREST

indiana_poster_siteNo matter where you live, there are always intriguing things to observe and talk about. Here are three stories from my part of the world (central Indiana) that I found interesting this week.

TOWN’S ENTIRE POLICE FORCE RESIGNS

From the Indianapolis Star:

An entire Indiana town has no police officers after every single one walked off the job. The officers blame the Bunker Hill Town Council for the situation.

…In their resignation letters, the officers accuse council members of asking them to “do illegal, unethical, and immoral things.” They cited examples like asking police to run background checks on other town councilors to find their criminal history. The officers also claim they were threatened when they said no.

Another issue they brought up in the letter was their safety. The officers say they were all forced to share one set of body armor, putting their lives on the line while they were out making arrests and serving warrants.

…On top of all that, [Town Marshal Michael] Thomison says his resignation was personal. He was diagnosed with cancer last year, but when he was ready to go back to work in May, Thomison says they would only allow him to work part time. He blames the town councilors and plans to file a lawsuit against them. “They came at me and said it is costing the town way too much money because of my insurance and they said we are taking you down to part time,” said Thomison.

636024987820583880-10-talbotTHE END OF GAY BARS?

Half of Indianapolis’s gay bars have closed since 2015, signaling the changing of generations in the LGBTQ communities.

The Indianapolis Star reports:

Gay bars are up against two major cultural shifts.

“It all changed with smartphones,” [bartender Jack] LaFary said, referring to the widely held theory that mobile dating apps like Grindr, by facilitating meetups online, helped render bars unnecessary. “When I first came out, you went to a gay bar to meet gay people. But the smartphone changed that, and it was an all-of-a-sudden thing. Business just dropped, and it wasn’t a gradual thing. It was, like, boom.”

Part two of the double whammy: A growing tolerance toward lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Gay marriage is now legal in all 50 states and many foreign countries. Ellen DeGeneres just got a Presidential Medal of Freedom. Same-sex couples hold hands on sidewalks, in shopping malls and in bars — and not just in gay bars but in boy-meets-girl bars, too.

There are “as many or more” gay people as there used to be, said Steve Warman, 69, a longtime bartender at Greg’s Our Place, a gay bar on 16th Street, “but they just have many more options than they used to have. When I was young, gay bars were our social outlet. Now you can go anywhere and not feel uncomfortable. Now you can go to a straight bar and be gay and not feel like you’re going to be beat up or thrown out.”

Entrepreneur magazine saw the end of gay bars coming a decade ago. In its September 2007 issue Entrepreneur noted the increased acceptance of gays and predicted of gay bars that by 2017 “the very best of them will endure; the rest won’t.”

knightstown-indiana-christmas-tree-crossTHE CROSS AND THE CHRISTMAS TREE

Knightstown Indiana is famous for its iconic Hoosier Gym, a tribute to Indiana high school basketball. But lately it has been in the news because of controversy involving a Christmas tree and a cross.

Again, from the Indianapolis Star:

During the holidays, Knightstown, population 2,100, decorates a large evergreen tree in its town square. For many years, the tree was topped with a star. “But the star broke, so someone put up a cross,” said Kevin Richey, a lifelong resident who owns the Hoosiers Home Court Cafe in Knightstown’s downtown district. “That was four or five years ago. Nobody said anything.”

This year, young Joe Tompkins objected. Tompkins caused a firestorm in the small Henry County town this past week by joining forces with the ACLU’s Indiana chapter to file a lawsuit forcing the removal of the cross. Knightstown’s town council ordered the cross removed to avoid a court case it said it couldn’t win.

Some in the town are going to fight to restore it.

But on Thursday evening, as more than 50 people gathered at the town’s Sunset Park Shelter House to see whether the council would vote to permanently remove the cross, council vice president Kevin Knott stood up to deliver a slow and measured speech in the manner of a preacher.

Some attendees held large white, wooden crosses above their heads as Knott spoke: “It’s a humbling experience when you know your community is speaking to you. I hear you loud and clear.”

“I have heard what you all have said and you elected me to represent you,” he said. “I cannot and will not support the resolution.”

Residents erupted in celebration as the council voted to table the motion. Council members said they hope to negotiate with the ACLU to come to another decision.

During the meeting, residents made impassioned statements about preserving the town’s traditions. Some asked what Jesus would do.

“We have the right to stand up for our freedoms,” said Aaron Magee, 27, who has lived in the town his entire life. “This town needs Christ. This country needs Christ.”

Others in Knightstown are taking a different approach. They are raising money to support Tompkins’s family. The family is dealing with serious illness and financial concerns at the same time they are feeling the pressure of criticism and conflict over the cross matter.

• • •

SEND IN THE DRONES…

Amazon made its first customer delivery by drone last week, carrying a package containing popcorn and a Fire TV video-streaming device several miles to a two-story farmhouse near Cambridge, U.K. It took 13 minutes.

• • •

AND THEN THERE’S THIS GUY…

Photo courtesy of Phelan Moonsong

Photo courtesy of Phelan Moonsong

Also from RNS:

A Maine man named Phelan MoonSong is now the proud carrier of a state-issued driver’s license that shows his bespectacled eyes peering out beneath a pair of pointy goat horns emanating from his forehead.

“My horns have become very important to me, the feel of them on my head,” MoonSong told The Wild Hunt, a website for pagan news and commentary. “They are like a Spiritual Antenna.”

When he wore the horns to the Bangor, Maine, Department of Motor Vehicles, a clerk asked if they were implanted in his head. He said they were not. He told the clerk he was a “Priest of Pan” — a neopagan with an Earth-based spirituality — and they were part of his religiously required garb.

The clerk snapped his picture but told him he needed to send the state various documents showing the horns were religiously required attire.

…MoonSong sent the state documentation from four scholarly tomes on pagan traditions, including one titled “Pagan Religions: A Handbook for Diversity Training.” He also fired off a personal essay about why his horns were important to him, according to the website.

Last month,  when he called Maine’s secretary of state’s office, which handles driver’s license photos, he was told his horns would have to go.

MoonSong then appeared at the state’s motor vehicle office — horns firmly in place — and mentioned he was seeking help from Maine’s Civil Liberties Union, a civil rights advocacy group.

His horns were approved and he expects his license soon.

• • •

QUESTIONS OF THE WEEK

This picture has nothing to do with the "happy rat" story.

This picture has nothing to do with the “happy rat” story.

Magi, wise men, or kings?

Is your congregation holding services next Sunday, on Christmas Day?

Why do many Christians think Calvinists are arrogant jerks?

Again, why are mainline churches declining?

What are some “end-times” teachers saying about President-elect Trump?

Does natural history give you nightmares?

Why are evangelicals averse to baptizing babies?

What does a happy rat look like?

Why are so many airline pilots depressed?

• • •

DON WE NOW…

The other night, as Gail and I were out Christmas shopping, we noticed and commented about how ugly Christmas sweaters have truly become a thing, pervasive in many stores.

Well, yesterday was National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day. In case you missed it, we’ve perused a few of the best ugly sweater websites to bring you samples. It’s still not too late to have that festive gathering featuring tacky holiday attire.

men_s_baby_jesus_sweater

Why be content with asking Baby Jesus into your heart? Carry him with you on your sweater!

men_s-romantic-sasquatch-christmas-sweater_2

Feeling like a sexy beast this Christmas? Then the Sasquatch Romantic sweater is for you.

men_s-santa-unicorn-sweater_1

If it was Jesus riding the unicorn, I might think we were looking at some bad 1960’s-70’s Sunday School material. But no, it’s cosmic Santa to the rescue.

sweater-collageOf course, we have to represent “the friendly beasts” on Christmas.

men_s-santa-break-the-internet-sweaterAt least Santa kept his pants on…

men_s-hanukkah-sweater

Why should Christians get to have all the fun? And no, Franklin Graham, this is not persecution.

• • •

Just a Note: There will be no Saturday Ramblings next week. I will be enjoying Christmas Eve with my family and church family.

Until then, this is for all you Christmas over-achievers:

 

Comments

  1. Have an absolutely wonderful Christmas with your great family, Mike!

  2. Not sure I approve of saints but somebody ought to punch Joe Tomlins in the face. And the gays , and the ACLU (if that’s not to ante semantic to say so). Hope Trump goes after them next. M

    • You’re a tough broad Dot. Are you from Philly? I’m certain that’s anti-semantic but whose worried about semantics? You keep on keepin on there Dotro! Trump will get all the linguistically challenged and put them in the pokey where they will have time to learn the art of decipherin’.

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        “You’re a tough broad Dot….”

        This assumes facts not in evidence. Trolling is easy: no toughness required.

        • Yes. I don’t generally call women ‘broad’, that is except for my wife. She really is a tough broad from Philly!

    • I guess it’s time for me to ask my Ultimate Question, which I reserve for any and all persistent trolls…

      Why are you here, Dottie?

    • That Other Jean says:

      I’m in favor of the exact opposite of everything Dottie wrote in this morning’s message.

    • And if Trump does ‘go after them next’ (the gays) . . . . . you can count on millions of real Americans defending their brothers and sisters from Trump’s persecution.

      People are already making plans to defend those Americans who live at the margins when ‘the troubles’ begin ……. if you want to shame someone, Dottie, I suggest you start with the soon-to-be ‘Bully’ in Chief ………. now THERE’S a project for a good Christian woman to undertake: that shameful sack of greed is just waiting to be exposed and impeached

      Dottie, if Trump is your idol, well that explains more than you realize

      • “I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you.” – John 16:1-4a

        Lots of evangelicals are all spun up about being persecuted. I do often wonder nowadays, though, if *they* are the ones who will actually end up doing the persecuting…

        • Christiane says:

          unfortunately, there seems to be a ‘war on women’ in patriarchal circles (neo-Cal Southern Baptists) with a lot of ‘contracts’ for members and enormous amounts of belittling of women by men in certain ‘churches’

          these people are their own worst enemies

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Lots of evangelicals are all spun up about being persecuted. I do often wonder nowadays, though, if *they* are the ones who will actually end up doing the persecuting…

          If you KNEW They were all out to get you, wouldn’t you try to Get Them First?

          (Fictional Type Example: Magneto in the first X-Men movie. As a child he survived the Shoah; as an adult with Mutant superpowers he became obsessed with the Mundanes doing the same to the Mutants as the Nazis did to his family, to the point that in the second movie he plots and tries a total genocide against the Mundanes to protect the Mutants. Whom he comes to think of as the next advance in Evolution, Homo Superior.)

          And in American Christianese, “PERSECUTION!” means being stopped from Persecuting everyone else. (In the name of Righteousness, of course.)

      • I saw a big Confederate flag flying from the flatbed of a pick-up truck this afternoon. I see this happening more and more lately, and I don’t even live in the South. Burning Confederate flags in a public place in DC would be good as an act of protest, except that somebody would make a profit from selling them.

        I’m ready to come to the defense of whomever is in need of it. If they start registering Muslims, I plan on having my name on that list.

        • –> “If they start registering Muslims, I plan on having my name on that list.”

          I was thinking the same thing.

          • Stryker4570 says:

            Dear Lord, Trump isn’t ‘Coming for the Muslims’ You guys need to start breaking out the tin foil hats.

            • The President-elect’s irresponsible, violent rhetoric has raised a militia of supporters (like the Confederate flag flyers I’ve been seeing so much in the last months and weeks) who expect and want him to “come for the Muslims”. Maybe he should explain to him that they should take him seriously, but not literally; apparently they didn’t get the memorandum-tweet.

            • I admit to a bit of tin foil hat-ism, but I can also paint a scenario, however unlikely, where the Make America Great Again rhetoric meets Narcisstic Bully With Power and creates just that scenario.

              • Related to this line of, is Trump serious or not, did anyone see Trevor Noah’s piece on The Daily Show in which he shows clips of Trump actually telling the big crowds of supporters that he wasn’t serious about many of his campaign statements. The big one was the call to arrest Hillary. When the crowd started chanting “lock her up” he said- “no that played well during the campaign but now- we don’t care.” Another thing was he talked about how lame he thought “drain the swamp” sounded when he first heard it. The whole thing was just crazy.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          You may be seeing a lot more Confederate Battle Jacks flying after today.

          Today is when the Electoral College actually meets, and there have been media and C*E*L*E*B*R*I*T*Y calls for Electors to “Vote Your Conscience, not the way your State voted” and “Remember Who Won The Popular Vote”. Funny how we have to do away with the Electoral College when it goes against The Party, and how we have to retain it when we can get it to Elect The Correct President. Heads I Win, Tails You Lose, Praise Hillary!

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            P.S. This is exactly the same built-up resentment that was responsible for Trump’s core support in the fist place.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            After-action report.

            The Electoral College had more “faithless electors” this time than in the past 100 years combined. And turned out to be as unpredictable as everything else in this election cycle:

            Two Red State electors went from Trump to Hillary.
            FIVE Blue State electors went from Hillary to Anybody But.

    • Nobody deserves punching in the face, especially if he or someone in his family is going through treatment for cancer. I’m not in favor of his lawsuit, but if I lived in the community I would feel duty-bound as a CHRISTIAN to give to the fund helping his family.

      When St Nicholas punched Arius, he had to ask Arius’ forgiveness before he was allowed back in the council, even though there was more sympathy for him than for Arius. Even St Nicholas didn’t get a pass on that one.

      Dana

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Didn’t we have a kinky Gigapastor in Seattle who preached about “punch them in the nose and throw them under the bus” for anyone who didn’t get with his Vision?

        • Hardly the same thing as the venerable Nicholas – the other guy should not even be named in the same breath.

          D.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            My own names for The Other Guy (depending on the blog’s language restrictions) include “Bee Jay” and/or “Deep Throat” (from his unique exegesis of the Song of Solomon) and/or “I Can Beat You Up” from his above bragging. Sometimes I just include a link to the “Buttery Doughy Guy” song from Mystery Science Theater 3000.

  3. I like Moonsong’s goat horns but if he really wants to get after it he might start head-butting his neighbors and eating their flowers, shrubs and garbage. That’s when the goats themselves get ya a license. Maybe a little totem of sorts on the mantel would suffice. It would save a lot of explaining.

  4. Why are Main-Lines declining? Follow the birth rate…

    • Main line decline?

      Yes to birth rates but also to things like hiring a 26 year old married female to be the senior pastor of a notable mainline church in my town.

      I might surmise that many internetmonkians have no theological bias about hiring as a senior pastor a woman [ I certainly do however ] but if you think men will flock to churches who’s senior pastors are women, you are not paying attention to the realities of life.

      There’s a lot of men in our time who give at least lip service to feminism but down in the inner gut, think the senior pastor should be a guy, think the foreman should be a guy, think the coach should be a guy, think the ref should be a guy. It’s in our male D.N.A.

      Do women plant and build strong congregations? – Scant evidence

      Do women maintain strong congregations? – Scant evidence

      Is the mainline in decline? – massive evidence for the last few decades

      It doesn’t appear like it.

      • If you don’t think women maintain strong congregations… you need to start looking beyond the pulpit and seeing who really does the day-by-day grunt work of keeping most congregations functioning.

      • “down in the inner gut, think the senior pastor should be a guy, think the foreman should be a guy, think the coach should be a guy, think the ref should be a guy. It’s in our male D.N.A.”

        Even if this is so, that does not make it right.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        > Do women plant and build strong congregations? – Scant evidence

        Do men? Scant evidence. I am surrounded by abandoned church facilities; those that haven’t already been plowed under [literally] or turned into apartments. Within a couple more years they will all be wiped away.

        All those were run by men.

        • Yet that doesn’t increase the number of strong congregations built by women. Your example and argument have nothing to do with it. There ARE male led strong congregations, but where are the female led ones, outside the Religious Science types?

          • Adam Tauno Williams says:

            So if someone identifies a single “strong” female-led congregation then the argument is over?
            On the contrary I would then anticipate the conversation to move to quibbling over the meaning of “strong”.

            That male leadership results in a failure rate possibly worse than that of small businesses [which is somewhere between 7-9 out of 10] does, to me, indicate there may not be any mojo regarding male leadership. There must be some other variable(s) moving through the wires.

          • Nadia Boltz-Weber

            • senecagriggs says:
              • Clay Crouch says:

                I remember when couple of women over at the Warburg Watch sent you scurrying with your tail tucked in. I bet that left a mark!

                • Seneca Griggs says:

                  I wear that badge proudly actually. I was a constant problem to their narrative – support for the feminist gospel. I had questions they couldn’t answer. So they made sure I wouldn’t bring doubts to their amen chorus.

                  If you leave on your own, maybe then you are “scurrying with your tail tucked in.”

                  If they ban you, they’re admitting defeat.

                  • It’s not “admitting defeat” if a blog owner bans someone because they keep belittling people and showing no interest at all in actual dialogue. It’s called “good moderation”. I’ve commented over at TWW myself on several occasions, even disagreed with them on some points. But I haven’t been banned – maybe because I haven’t gone out of my way to unnecessarily provoke them?

                    If you get banned, *maybe* it’s because you are a martyr for truth… but odds are it probably means you were being a troll.

                    • seneca griggs says:

                      Nope, I wasn’t a troll and I VERY CAREFULLY never attacked anyone – only untruths. Heck, I even got rid of snark but they didn’t like what I had to write.

                  • If they ban you, they’re admitting defeat”

                    If they ban you, it means it’s time to start your own blog.

              • Sure. And what man does anything significant without the “support” of women?

              • How ’bout “mutually supportive”?

                http://stpaulsfay.org/overview/

          • Clay Crouch says:

            My diocese, The Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina, has over 47,000 members and 117 parishes. It has been led by a woman for over a year. Does that count?

            Women in pastoral leadership in mainline denominations is a relatively new arrival. TEC has been ordaining women to the priesthood for just a little over 40 years. Men have had a big head start.

            What do you mean by “strong congregations”? Large?

            • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

              What do you mean by “strong congregations”? Large?

              Large enough to have several big-box Franchise Campuses with Lead Pastor/Head Apostle’s face beamed onto the giant Telescreens every Sunday?

      • Who would want to be part of a church that thinks the position of “pastor” should only be held by males, thus rejecting the Gospel of the Kingdom and the New Creation? It may be a “church,” but it’s not modeling the Kingdom and the Gospel, simply the same old, same old patriarchal ideas and structure that were a result of the Fall, and not a feature of the Resurrected New Human, which is Christ’s Body, the church.

        • Stryker4570 says:

          thus rejecting the Gospel of the Kingdom and the New Creation?

          How so?

          • Any attempt to center ethics and spirituality on OT principles, even if Christ is shoehorned into the equation, is a denial of the New Covenant and New Creation. The book of Hebrews is a long commentary on how Christ and His work fulfilled *and replaced* the older Laws and covenants (see chapters 7 and 8 in particular). Christ did not incarnate, die, and risexperience again to put a seal of approval on “timeless, unchanging Mosaic moral laws”. Christ IS our Law.

      • There’s a lot of men in our time who give at least lip service to feminism but down in the inner gut, think the senior pastor should be a guy, think the foreman should be a guy, think the coach should be a guy, think the ref should be a guy. It’s in our male D.N.A.

        It’s not in our male D.N.A.; it’s in with the other yet to be excreted waste product down in the inner gut. In other words, it’s a load of crap.

      • I presently attend a Main Line. The Rector is a woman. The congregation is vibrant. I have no preference when it comes to the sex of the Rector/Priest. I do however have as a non-negotiable that the Rector/Priest is seriously in love with his/her congregants.

      • There’s a lot of men in our time who give at least lip service to feminism but down in the inner gut, think the senior pastor should be a guy, think the foreman should be a guy, think the coach should be a guy, think the ref should be a guy. It’s in our male D.N.A.
        Uh, no. No to D.N.A. (DNA doesn’t have periods). No to the idea (not a shred of scientific evidence). No to this statement as a metaphor. And no the idea that you are allowed to speak for all guys.

    • So Conservative churches grow mainly by keeping the women pregnant. How nice.
      It’s also much simpler. Jesus lived, Jesus died, Jesus rose, I get to go to heaven. All you need to know, now go have more babies. The modern world inundates us with facts, non-facts, choices, marketing, tragedy, and problems every day, all day and religion is a lot easier to fit in if it’s simple. It frees you from having to wrestle and wrestle with deep spiritual things.

      Having church growth the birthy way also reinforces what I’ve long thought about church membership falling in some part because it’s no longer seen as a terrible thing to be a non-church attender. It’s not a thing people do out of habit any more. Their kids grew up & moved away so mom & dad don’t feel the need to keep up appearances. Business networking is done elsewhere. We are more multi-cultural so we are exposed to myriad other beliefs. People just aren’t that interested anymore, but if you have a bunch of kids, at least for a while, you can make your kids show up and then you’ll have to as well. If you attend a very conservative church, chances are you homeschool or send the kids to a parochial school, thus limiting their interaction with the bigger world. They won’t be taken in by what they don’t know and they’ll stay in church. At least for a time….

      I have two friends that have stepped away from church in their late middle age. Both said they just got tired of it; tired of the constant harping on witnessing, tired of the political maneuvering within the church, tired of the focus on certain sins above others. I am sure they aren’t alone.

      • If Conservative Protestant churches grow mainly by keeping women pregnant, let’s not forget that it’s a pattern and habit set by traditional churches, Roman Catholic, Protestant and Eastern Orthodox, for centuries. In fact, its one of the characteristics of Christianity through most of its history: most of its members have been made by reproduction, not conversion. I guess that’s true of most religions, after their missionary beginnings. And this is a problem for the continuation of any religion in a modern setting among people adhering to modern lifestyles and values, particularly when women are economically and socially empowered: pretty soon the birthrate will drop off, as women become more educated and less reliant on men for sustainable lives.

        • I might add, this is why conservative political, social and religious movements in the West seek to limit access to birth control and abortion. You can’t go back to the “good old days” or “Make America Great Again” unless women are having as many children as they did in the days of yore. This is particularly true for white nationalists and identitarians: they can’t reclaim the world for whites unless whites start having more kids.

          • Funny thing is, the NT does very little to support this “marry and have oodles of kids” model. Christ and Paul held celibacy up as the Christian ideal, not the OT patriarchy…

            • Paul and the rest of the early Christian community believed that Jesus taught an imminent Parousia, within their lifetime; when this did not occur, the early Church had to learn ways to accommodate time and adjust to continued existence in history. Getting married and having kids is part of that adjustment; if they had not done so, they would’ve gone the way of the celibate American Shakers as quickly as the Shakers did. Without robust reproduction, movements do not last long. Adjustments had to be made; but now new ones need to be made, that involve the social and political empowerment of women. Any attempt to step backward into a former model of accommodation with the exigencies of prior history is bound to fail disastrously, especially when it’s harnessed to ethnocentric tribalism and nationalism, something the NT explicitly rejects for Christians, and for humanity. Such tribalism and nationalism is “under the judgment of God,” if I may be so bold as to utter a little Christianese.

              • Btw, here is an example of how the early Christian community misinterpreted Jesus (regarding the imminence of his return), and incorporated that misinterpretation into the Scriptures; either that, or Jesus was predicting an imminent return, and got it wrong.

              • the early Church had to learn ways to accommodate time and adjust to continued existence in history. Getting married and having kids is part of that adjustment; if they had not done so, they would’ve gone the way of the celibate American Shakers as quickly as the Shakers did.

                Just so – but that is still a far cry from “If we outbreed the heathen we will rule the world!” (and I have seen *that very argument* made in Dominionist literature).

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            That’s what Quiverfull is for.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        “””falling in some part because it’s no longer seen as a terrible thing to be a non-church attender.”””

        It is telling that nearly everyone chooses to phrase it that way.

        Rarely does someone say: “they no longer felt the need for the community, sense of place, support, or wisdom” the church was providing.

        This no-longer-terrible-not-to description is a side-ways admission of church’s failure.

        “”” stepped away from church in their late middle age. Both said they just got tired of it;”””

        I can introduce you to many of those.

        That church is so often described as tiring should be something the church is more concerned about. …. Come to me you who are heavy laden, and I will give you greater burdens?

        • Klasie Kraalogies says:

          Succinct observations. Especially the last sentence.

        • William H. Martin Jr says:

          I went to Methodist church in my younger family days. I was raised Methodist and actually think about going back to where I started. Haven’t worked that out yet as I hate methods. Doesn’t seem like a good fit. Chances to serve in some ways are more open in smaller churches. Anyways went back because Dad died in 95 and my mom went there and I didn’t want her to be alone. Working light to past dark everyday mostly all the time. The asked me to be a part of the board of trustees. Never really said what that meant. I soon found out they wanted me to work more and fix stuff there and it was for years as they never mentioned that either. Not only that the head was rather rude at times and kind of bullied or shamed you into saying yes. They started a for profit daycare under the ruse it was church affiliated and received money. Didn’t sit well with me. Didn’t say anything. i soon just walked away from the whole thing. Way too much.

          Went to another church and the one guy a head of maintaining the building getting a salary. Came to me and said can you put down 1000’s of feet of tile because we are starting a day care under our non profit yet we will be able to charge. We need a bid and we want to pay you. I said that would work out as I had things I wanted to give money to within the church. Special funds and such. I was giving a lot at the time. Supplied all the setting materials out of pocket as the grout. At the end there was absolutely no conversation of getting paid. I spent weeks and paid my son. The man came up a year later and said he needed more tile laid. I smiled and said okay. Never went any farther. I have had dealings with people at churches and they always get me. I let it go and just don’t do anymore for them. I wonder sometimes should I give them my shirt too. It’s a hard one. Now if in question i try to do if it were free and then I can’t be disappointed. So it is only on free time same as with family.

          I put handicap showers for vets but I knew it was for free. Fixed things in strangers houses and when they asked how much I’d just say pass it on. I try to be generous but your word is your word i was always taught. That last line and I will give you greater burdens. I guess if it was something that would of brought pleasure it wouldn’t be a burden, like giving money that is something your heart wants to do isn’t a burden.

          • Those church thieves were disgusting, William! That’s what gives Christians a bad name.

            I haven’t had that happen to me, but that’s because no one in their right mind would ask me to do anything that involved skill!

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        So Conservative churches grow mainly by keeping the women pregnant. How nice.

        It’s called Bedroom Evangelism.
        AKA Quiverfull, AKA Outbreed the Heathen.
        And it’s as Darwinist as you can get — “Survival of the Fittest” orignally meant reproductive success over generations.

  5. “Why do many Christians think Calvinists are arrogant jerks?”

    Because sadly, we too often ARE. I used to tell people in my theology discussion groups that I believed in Reformed theology because it was the most biblically supportable system, and NOT because it’s advocates were the best witness for it. 🙁

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      Good response. I listen to a couple Reformed podcasts, even one that claims to take Reformed lightly… They are smart and interesting people, I do not doubt their sincerity,… but I would rather have a beer with any given IMonker.

      The reformed high-mucky-mucks have a legendary case of cultural myopia.

    • Reformed Theology make sense if you are a western thinking person and think that the bible is a comprehensive manual that can be cross checked, annotated, and cross referenced. It is like trying to preform it into a shape that “makes sense” when, in reality, it was written by a bunch of guys who were living in a different time and place than the western thinkers who began a full autopsy of the writers’ words.

    • I don’t think you’re an arrogant jerk, Eeyore, but if your mood matches your name I’m not surprised to learn you’re Calvinist and Reformed.

      My former Presbyterian church hired a minister who was both, and I lasted a couple of years and left for less unpleasant pastures. Every Sunday after the service, I was leaving feeling lower than a snake’s belly from being told “You’re utterly worthless and always have been. You were born that way and nothing you can do will be any use. But maybe God might forgive you, or maybe not.”

      It’s kind of funny you find Calvinism “the most biblically supportable system,” when I have always found it the least Christian system imaginable. Jesus was all about forgiveness and healing, and also about doing good things (“my Father’s will”) for other people. Calvinism of course is Paul, not Jesus, IMNSHO.

      • You haven’t seen me at my worst. 😉

        As far as “biblically supportable” – well, that was back in the day when I thought logically consistent systematic theology was the highest spiritual good, and before I started trying to take 1 Corinthians 13:2 seriously.

      • “Every Sunday after the service, I was leaving feeling lower than a snake’s belly from being told “You’re utterly worthless and always have been. You were born that way and nothing you can do will be any use””
        That is interesting. I know a young woman who attended a Lutheran school who says she was often told the same thing. She’s now an adult and mentions to me often how much that affected her way of thinking. She says it was a horrible way to think about yourself growing up; that you are worthless. I think the emphasis is supposed to be on the forgiveness part, but I think that often in lost in the “lost and condemned sinner” part. Way too often.

        • Baptist here, was taught the same thing.

        • Suzanne, what synod? WELS, perhaps, or some of the fringe LCMS types?

          I grew up LCA (now part of the ELCA), and never once did I hear that message. My Sunday school teachers stressed God’s love.

          • Numo, LCMS.
            I think the love part was there, but it got lost in the spiel of God loved you so much that He wants you not to suffer eternal damnation because that is exactly what would happen if you don’t believe because without God, you are trash. That kind of thing.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Nondenom at the time, heard the same from a LOT of preachers on Christianese AM radio.

          “Man sees a cute little baby — GOD SEES AN UTTERLY DEPRAVED SINNER!!!!!”

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Every Sunday after the service, I was leaving feeling lower than a snake’s belly from being told “You’re utterly worthless and always have been. You were born that way and nothing you can do will be any use.

        What if you’re getting the same message from home and school and they stack?

      • Actually, I would not typify Paul as a Calvinist, rather, as an Universalist. ;o)

        As Robert Capon said, “Calvin was half right.”

  6. a sheet of snow
    the call of geese
    all things are made new

  7. Yes, my congregation is holding a single service on Christmas Day, as opposed to it usual two on Sunday. Not many people will show up.

    • Richard Hershberger says:

      As will mine. Were I a better person I would find less hilarious the rationalizations and defensiveness of those churches that don’t.

      • Just to be clear: My Lutheran congregation will have a service on Christmas Day because it happens to fall on a Sunday this year; when the two do not coincide, my congregation has no service. I wish it were otherwise.

        • One word for that: TITHES!

          • Not sure what you mean, Oscar. In my congregation, no annual pledging is done, nor is tithing an active concept. Nor have these ever been the practice. My understanding is that, long before I became a member, people just didn’t come to services on Christmas Day, so they were discontinued.

            • Seneca Griggs says:

              My church will have a service Sunday morning. Our people will show up; probably more than usual.

              • …but will your church have two Christmas Eve services?

                • Several years ago Christmas Eve came on a Sunday, At the United Methodist church where I served on staff, we had our usual three Sunday morning services and our usual four Christmas Eve services that day. It was tiring but also joyous!

                • seneca griggs says:

                  Just 1 – an hour at the most

  8. No, natural history doesn’t give me nightmares, but current events do.

  9. Burro [Mule] says:

    December is chock-a-block with important Saints in our family, starting with St. Nicholas on Dec. 6, then St. Herman and St Lucy on Dec 13, and St. Sebastian on Dec. 18. The Virgin of Guadalupe is honored on Dec. 12, but I don’t have permission yet from my bishop to celebrate her day. Then there was the 75th anniversary of Pear Harbor, somewhat more somber.

    Then our anniversary on Dec. 10, and my birthday on the 23rd, and finally Christmas, but after Christmas, St. Stephen who is the patron of our parish on the 27th and St. Ignatius on the 19th.

    The Holy Innocents are celebrated on the 29th, and that is a big pro-life rally, usually, together with the Romans.

    Phew.

  10. On Tompkins,

    Since when does one normally put a cross instead of a star at the top of a Christmas tree? This new custom would be fine if it were a tree on church or private property, but, does smack of government endorsement of a particular religion if done with special government support as in this case. I guess the government could light up the tree for Diwali and put a statue of Lakshmi beside it to show they are being evenhanded (and allow the same for other religions). Diwali also can include fireworks which suspect would be popular with the kids.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > This new custom…

      Emphasis “new”. They are defending their five year old tradition. They are willing to spend public dollars to do so. Heh.

      • I expect the town council is hoping for a quiet retreat. They removed the cross this year, have postponed any decision for future years, and I expect a star will quietly show up next year. Unless of course someone tries to push for the town council to require the cross.

      • To be fair, Christian priviledge is a long standing tradition in the USA.

    • “Since when does one normally put a cross instead of a star at the top of a Christmas tree?”

      The operative word in that sentence is “normally” and the obvious answer is “Never.”

      Fifty-three years ago we put a cross with intertwined rings on top of our wedding cake instead of a plastic bride and groom. It seemed right at the time. Of course, that was back during our superfundamentalisticexpialidocious (translation: Independent! Dispensational! Missionary! Pre-millennial!) period.

      • You forgot Bible-Believing!

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          And Born-Again(TM)!

          (Did your wedding include a Rapture Ready/Don’t Be Left Behind sermon with an Altar Call at the end? Fifty repeats of “Just As I Am” instead of a wedding march?)

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Fifty-three years ago we put a cross with intertwined rings on top of our wedding cake instead of a plastic bride and groom.

        That’s also the sigil for ROMISH Marriage Encounter.

        It seemed right at the time.

        Called “Witnessing” for “Soul Winning”.
        How much Wretched Urgency was involved?

  11. William H. Martin Jr says:

    I don’t know to all but 2 questions. No natural history gives me no night mares. A happy rat would be fat. Calvinism scares me but I don’t want to judge and I’m pretty sure Calvin would have too but Pink would have also. i just don’t have the time for such things.

  12. Ronald Avra says:

    Everyone have a great Christmas.

  13. snowy fields
    give back the moon’s light
    and then some

  14. the downspouts drip,drip
    conducts melting snow
    into the sleeper’s dreams