Tags: christianity


in which kevin rediscovers the meaning of christmas

Goodbye, Jesus the neutral human Healer! You were level 30 when you died on the Plane of Earth.
But wait! The Shroud of Turin begins to glow!

Last weekend I went to a holiday party at the Silent Barn, a DIY art space on the border between Brooklyn and Queens. It was nuts. Over ten Christmas-themed bands played on five different stages, dressed as drunken Santas and 1920s orphans and sexy reindeer. There was a rainbow parachute, like the kind you run under in kindergarten, which served as an impromptu mosh pit as movie projectors flashed clips from Christmas TV specials across the side. There was a trio of elf girls shouting in a punk rock monotone about how badly they wanted to fuck Santa Claus. There was a tree on wheels, its lights flashing and oscillating to the music as college kids leapt onto it and slam-danced it across the room. There was a band that opened with the frontman exploding out of a strobe-lit Frosty the Snowman ornament, under which he had been hidden since the beginning of the show. Near the end a freestyling Santa Claus reached into a black trash bag and hurled plush monkeys and Thai calendars into the crowd. At the finale of his act he tore off the top of his costume to reveal a T-shirt emblazoned with the word GOD.

That was secular Christmas.

Yesterday I went to church. Because, you know. Under all the consumerism and the TV holiday special sentiment and the pagan tree rituals, Christmas is still an actual Christian religious holiday. An important one, no less. Even if the event it celebrates is a couple months off the mark, and largely obscured by a potpourri of secular traditions, it's still an occasion to reflect on the human birth of God. Not, as we do on every other Sunday of the year, on his life and works, or his miracles, or the gruesome sacrifice of his death, and the legacy of all that entails--but on the simple moment of his being born, just a little baby in the arms of his mother, unknown to anyone but his parents and a trio of shepherds as the son of God. It is the one day a year we dwell upon the humanity of God--the strange irony of the omnipresent creator of the universe being brought into the world as a mewling, helpless human infant, and what that entails in regards to his understanding of the human experience.

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  • Current Music
    Joan Osborne - (What If God Was) One Of Us
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the power of hymn

Those of you who know me well know I don't often sing hymns outside of church. When I do, it's usually in times of great joy, fear, epiphany, or sadness--and more often than not it's a little out of place. Folks generally don't make much of a fuss when I do this, probably figuring that it's some kind of Christian thing. And, you know, they're right. But it's not something I picked up at church, or at retreat, or from my OCF friends at Oberlin (who would kind of look at me funny sometimes on the rare times I did it in front of them, but not even have to ask, because they understood). It's not something that anyone or anything ever really told me to do, aside from Scripture, which merely says, in many places, that it is good to sing the praises of the Lord. It's something that, after reading the Bible and worshipping the Lord for a while, just sort of comes naturally. And I'm certainly not the only one who does it. persistent_sun, a Conservative Jew, sometimes sings the shema when he climbs to the top of a tree, in praise of God for making this beautiful world, of which the tree that he has just climbed is but one tiny part. Collapse )
  • Current Music
    Graham Ord - The Lord is Gracious And Compassionate
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jesus the christ has a posse

From their ideology, you'd think Christian anarchists were a bunch of delusionally idealistic, paranoid, hypocritical, theocratic, close-minded, solipsist crackpot zealots who oppose the state to the point of moral neglect.
From their ideology, you'd think Christian libertarians were a bunch of principled, devout, well-read, concilatory philosopher-kings who understand the realities of human nature and attempt, perhaps misguidedly, to reconcile it with the necessity of the state in a rational way.
Somehow, each side of the theocratic small-government camp has ended up with the other side's followers.

(For the record, I am neither.)

In a perfect world, Christian libertarians would behave like Christian anarchists, and Christian anarchism would have little reason to exist.
Alas, both philosophies are predicated on the existence of an imperfect world.

There's no questioning, however, that Christian anarchists have more impressive iconography.

This is the logo of Jesus Radicals, a site devoted to "challenging the church's involvement in the idols of miltiarism, capitalism, and the state." Yes. Your eyes do not deceive you. That is indeed the anarchist raised fist with a hole through the wrist.

Jesus in the style of Che Guevara, subverting the historical roots of anarchism and socialism with popular iconography of the Passion. From The Jesus Manifesto, which is far too sane and open-minded (and astonishingly free of kookery) to be a real radical leftist site. Their title banner is pretty clever, too.

Image from The Jesus Manifesto's current front page article Letters From A Common Sense Atheist series, which contains--unabridged--an exchange of letters between site owner Mark Van Steenwyk and Common Sense Atheism's Luke Muehlhauser. The letters are posted on both sites, and the debate is astonishingly respectful and insightful, with each participant intelligent, well-read, and well-informed about the other's side--none of the dewy-eyed naivete of undergrads discovering their side's viewpoints for the first time, or the typical befuddlement as to why anyone would think differently. A refreshing change from the usual exchange of insults, personal attacks, and canned arguments that dominate 99.98% of all Internet debate. And it's weirdly appropriate that their names are Mark and Luke.

Not only am I amazed that Steenwyk and Muehlhauser present each others' letters so candidly on each other's sites, I'm impressed by Steenwyk's humility in choosing this pastiche of the Sistine Chapel ceiling to represent their dialogue. It's a little insulting to his own point of view but it dramatically frames the context of their conversation. The digital wristwatch on the atheist's wrist is a nice touch.

An increasingly popular Christian anarchist symbol, which repurposes the Spanish Revolution circled A to be an alpha and an omega. (This and other Christian anarchist icons at Squidoo.)

...okay, even I agree that this one makes no sense.

good news, bad news

Good news: Hurrah! Super Typhoon Parma has miraculously done a 180 degree about-face and is now moving away from both Taiwan and the Philippines, where it will dissipate harmlessly in the Pacific. Also, Typhoon Melor, which looked like it was going to hit Taiwan head-on, is curving east away from the coastline. Local news has returned to its regularly scheduled reporting on the size of the steaks visiting NBA players will be eating. (But not, curiously, the names of the players that are coming or what teams they play for.) I guess God figured we've finally had enough?

(Update: Oh. So this is what's going on with the NBA thing. Wow, the hype for this game is absurd.)

Bad news: Damage from heavy rainfall outside the typhoon's rim has been pretty bad. Not as bad as the Philippines, but still pretty awful. And Melor's going to run right smack into Japan. :(

Also, that whole thing about the Taliban bombing that U.N. World Food Program office in Pakistan has me pissed off. Not like I had any sympathy for the Taliban to begin with, but seriously, guys. The World Food Program. That's, like, one step short of raping orphans in the name of Islam. How desperate and blinded by ideology do you have to be to believe that God finds such behavior even remotely acceptable?

Bad news about the Good News: The Conservative Bible Project. Because, clearly, if you're a Christian values-centered activist and the Bible and your politics disagree, it's the Bible that has to be changed. (Bear in mind that, despite their protests to the contrary, the original Greek and Hebrew texts do not support their revisions.)

More in-depth Taiwan update later...got job-searchin' to do.

Asian women waiting for you in NEW YORK, NY!
- Facebook targeted advertising, upon logging in from Brooklyn

Women: Get your U.S. green card now!
- Facebook targeted advertising, upon logging in from Taipei

the left hand of god

Park Slope United Methodist Church is the leftest church I've ever been to. In spirit, the traditional Methodist rituals are all there, intact, printed on the bulletin as in any other church. In practice...well, they have the right idea in that they recognize the significance of the liturgy more than the form, but their unconventional means of worship caught even me by surprise. Printed on the bulletins are the phrase, "UNTIL ALL CAN BE MARRIED WITHIN THESE WALLS, NONE SHALL BE MARRIED WITHIN THESE WALLS" (a reference to their official stance on gay marriage). Last week's sermon challenged the traditional perception of "Doubting Thomas" in John 20:24-31 as a cynic weak in faith, casting himself instead as living evidence that those who question allow others to believe in faith. Today's was on Biblical perspectives on consumerism and environmental sustainability (they dug up a long-abandoned Catholic holiday to devote one day a year to stewardship of the earth). Their hymns are about racial equality and scientific progress. The farewell prayer has everyone holding hands and singing jubilantly, "Shalom, my friends, we'll see you again! Shalom, salaam, adios!"

It is low church enough to give an ultra-conservative hardline Anglican-Episcopal-Catholic a heart attack, and that makes it, in many ways, the ballsiest church I have ever been to. Because of, not in spite, of its emphasis on being a house of peace--a place where gay couples kneel together in prayer, and elderly white women share bagels with elderly black women, and a mentally challenged lady plays hide-and-seek with small children in a courtyard lined with violets and buttercups. Not well suited to inuring a congregation against sin, I guess, but it really wasn't meant to be. It's not a personal relationship with God kind of church. It is not a place to find God's purpose for you, to train you in your crusade against the self, to help you wrestle with sin, or attain some ephemeral sense of self-betterment in the eyes of God, or achieve some sort of spiritual destiny. It is, instead, in every sense of the word, a sanctuary. A place where any willing soul can walk through its doors and not feel judged, or belittled, or guilty or afraid, but welcomed and loved, and worship together in the love of Christ. God bless.

Also, everyone in youth group is married. That's Park Slope for you, I guess. In good weather like today, the streets are aflood with beautiful women and their husbands.

Today, after services, I met an middle-aged black man named Siles who a fellow congregant described, not figuratively, as both a poet and a prophet. When I told him what I did for a living, both at home and at work, he smiled at me and said, with authority, "Don't you worry. You will be more than a programmer someday."

I hope so, Siles. That side of me is eating me alive.