The War on Christmas

The “War On Christmas” is bogus…except that it’s not.

The trouble with the War On Christmas is that there really is a war. And it really is about Christmas. It’s just not the war we hear about this time of year. It’s not the war being sold on cable television and being highlighted by purveyors of outrage — those who comb and dig for the least little offense attempting to magnify them in the hopes of riling up folks who are otherwise just trying to get on with life.

But there is a war. And it is about Christmas.

You see, there’s a mad man ruling over Jerusalem. He has power. He has an army. He has comfort and control and he wants to keep them both. His name is Herod, and like all people of privilege, his most pressing concern is keeping it. He’s the King and there’s nothing kings like less than the arrival of another king.

Over in Bethlehem, though, Christmas is going on – baby, manger, Joseph, angels, Mary, the star, the whole boat. This is the Christmas we like to sing about. This is the Christmas of pageants and preschool plays; it’s the Christmas we think about as we hang our stockings by the chimney and decorate the tree. It’s this Christmas that feels so wonderful in department stores as the muzak of “Silent Night” seeps through the rattle of blown-out speakers. This is the Christmas of City Hall tree-lightings and candy canes.

We love this Christmas. Who wouldn’t?

Some of us love this Christmas so much we’re offended when people appear to want to dismiss it, minimize it and boil the thickness of its traditions into a bowl of flavorless mush.

But the truth is, what we love most is only a part of the story. A small part.

Christmas is also a young couple living under suspicion of scandal. It’s Mary skipping town during the night to spend time with distant relatives while her tummy grew larger. Christmas is Herod ordering a genocide. It’s young mothers from Bethlehem to Jerusalem and all parts in-between clutching their baby boys as the soldiers draw knives. Christmas is fathers feeling feckless and weak with no way to stop the murder of their sons. Christmas is Mary and Joseph charting the route for a kind of Jewish Underground Railroad as they escape from Bethlehem to Egypt, not knowing if they would ever be able to come home.

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The Acts 15 Problem – A New Shibboleth

It’s Thanksgiving week. Therefore, next week we’ll all be treated to the all-but-non-existent, but deeply offensive war on Christmas. This war will be served to us by a conglomerate of agitated voices that couldn’t care less about Jesus and Christmas, but would rather keep Christians stirred up in order that we help them reach some kind of political end.

Here’s a repost concerning church and politics at this critical juncture in the church’s history.

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The American church has an Acts 15 problem, and we’re all to blame.

First, some background:

The first church controversy – way back in the first century – was about gate-keepers. Those first believers, commonly called “The Way,” were trying to figure out who was in and who was out of the church. The major question concerned what someone had to do or be before they could become a follower of The Way.

There were two major camps. The apostle Paul was proclaiming Jesus to Gentiles, and he proclaimed it to them without the burdens of the Jewish law . His message was about Jesus as the Sent One and anticipated Messiah. New believers were to turn from darkness to light and hold Jesus Christ crucified as first importance.

But another set of missionaries had another set of ideas. Some Jewish Christians thought the Gentiles should jump through some spiritual and religious hoops first: namely that the Gentiles should become Jews in practice. Gentiles thought and acted like Gentiles and this crew of believers didn’t want any part of the dirty Gentile habits. This group expected Gentiles to follow Jewish dietary laws and for the men, some, um…surgery. (snip, snip)

So the church called their first committee meeting – establishing a truly unfortunate precedent of having committee meetings.

At the meeting, as is always the case when preachers get together, a lot of speeches were given. Points were made. Arguments established. Points-of-view shared. But no decision was made…until James.

After all the sermonizing, James, the brother of Jesus, stood in front of the group and said something few church leaders have said since. What was that? That the Gentiles should not be burdened with Jewish law.

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Speaking The Truth In Love

The Christian way of being mean is telling those we’ve offended that we’re “speaking the truth in love”.

Misappropriating this little gem from Ephesians 4 is popular because it allows us to be rude, condescending, and hurtful to non-Christians while simultaneously allowing us to hold on to our own privilege and self-righteousness.

There’s been a lot of talk in the last week about “speaking the truth in love.”

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Creating Space For Women to Speak

Last December, I published my first e-book, Scandalous: Lessons in Redemption From Unlikely Women. What began as a sermon series years

Ready to "Get Scandalous"

Ready to “Get Scandalous”

ago, became an obsession, which then became Scandalous. I had no agenda when I wrote Scandalous; that is no agenda other than allowing the strong and beautifully brave women mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus from Matthew’s gospel to have their day in the sun.

Like countless women before and after them, the voices and stories of these women had been marginalized – or flat out muted. Some small percentage of these unvoiced stories were made so by accident and/or ignorance. Many pastors lack the curiosity to dig more than one-level deep. But more frequently the stories of these women – and, again, myriad women before and after – have remained undeclared due to systemic chauvinism.

I merely wanted to tell stories which weren’t being told.

I’ve been overwhelmed by the warm, sweet response readers had for Scandalous. Some have told me it allowed people in their congregations to start new conversations about gender-equality. Others have used it to aid on-going discussions in their community of faith. And still others are reading through Scandalous within their small groups.

These are important discussions. In fact, they are vitally important discussions which will have deep impact on the church. So today, I wanted to share the shortest and most talked about chapter from Scandalous; the conclusion. If you have yet to get your copy, you can access it free here.

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Was It Something I Said?

Was it something I said?

I guess it was, because last week – just between Thursday and Monday – nearly 16,000 people visited this site. What’s more, last Thursday’s post generated blog posts responses, Facebook discussions, Facebook notes, and hosts of other conversations. I was not privy to most of these conversations and did not want to be. From what others tell me, some conversations were healthy and good, while others, were, um, less so. Either way, I’m glad so many people are talking about the challenges facing my tribe (Churches of Christ), and many of these conversations will result in positive movement. At least, I hope that’s the case.

There is a strange, strange feeling that accompanies the knowledge that 16,000 people are talking about you. As a friend of mine said, “That’s about as Church of Christ viral as it gets.” The feeling is not what you think. I never felt offended or criticized or even popular.

I felt shocked.

I felt shocked because all the fuss and fervor were revelatory to me about the state of Churches of Christ. I figured these conversations were happening every week across the country. I clearly have no gauge about what’s controversial or not. Through all the fuss, I learned a great deal and perhaps, what I think I’ve learned is of deeper concern than those I spoke of last Thursday.

Here’s what I learned:

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