Happy Holy Days

2015-12-30 Holidays img01During roughly the past decade, the so-called “War on Christmas” seems to have made great strides in forcing average people to wish everyone “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas” for fear of being considered an inconsiderate religious bigot.

After all, Christianity isn’t the only religion celebrating this time of year. Continue reading

Linus, Love, and the Perils of Peace on Earth

2015-12-24 Christmas img01There are moments, usually somewhere between the fourth and fifth glass of eggnog, when I rank the first few scenes of A Charlie Brown Christmas among the finer artistic accomplishments of our age. The animation is rough-hewn, the voice acting hesitant, the writing somewhere between banality and camp. As art, it is the Gothic rejection of the perfect in favor of the sincere: a lesser stonemason may be allowed his gargoyle, and the cathedral is undiminished when the temple of Apollo would be utterly destroyed.

So if anything saves A Charlie Brown Christmas from itself, it is the sincerity of Charlie Brown, whose soft-spoken anxiety matures into desperation to know what, in a world of pink aluminum trees and impromptu freestyle dance, Christmas is all about.

And Linus’ sincere answer, a simple reading from the Gospel of Luke, is deeply troubling. Continue reading

God is Not Your Passive Aggressive Girlfriend

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My senior year of high school, I wrote a letter to the administrator, who was also a pastor. Our teachers tell us to ‘think, don’t feel’ in direct contradiction to Obi-wan Kenobi’s advice in Star Wars, I said. But then we’re told ‘where do you feel God leading you?’ How can we say both? What are we supposed to do? Think, or feel? Continue reading

The Good Fight

It is a simple fact of life that Evil “plays dirty.”  It’s something we knew and witnessed from early childhood when the school bullies ganged up on the one weak kid, or when sniggering tale-tellers spread rumors about someone without giving them a chance to speak for themselves.  We see it most recently and profoundly in the organization called ISIS, which routinely murders Christians and other non-Muslims in abominable ways to make an example of them to the rest of the world.  Evil simply doesn’t play by the rules. Continue reading

In Defense of Online Dating

2015-8-6 Online img01Way back in February, a friend sent me this article from a Christian website, warning about the problems ‘inherent’ in online dating. As I had been encouraging a different friend to move in that direction, I was of course interested in hearing objections. What I found was a narrative of ‘Biblical’ dating/courtship/whatever that is distressingly common among conservative Christians, and, what seems to me, a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of the community v. individual before, during, and after looking for a spouse. Continue reading

Evangelicalism: It Ain’t What It Used to Be

2015-6-25 Evangelical img01“Why does ‘Evangelical’ seem to be synonymous with ‘bad theology’?” a friend asked recently. She, like many conservative Christians, had always identified as Evangelical. Yet more and more often the word was used as a pejorative or at the very least in a dismissive manner by other Christians who also identified as conservative. Continue reading

Savory Suggestions

2015-5 Salt img01“You are the salt of the earth.” Matthew 5:13

Why did Christ use this metaphor to instruct his followers?  Let us consider salt. Scrutinizing those white crystals, we see alternating rows of sodium and chlorine ions, each charged with impressive energy, and yet held in well-disciplined rows. Such precise inner order reflects the proper ordering of the soul, which consists not in the cessation of all human desires, as Buddhism would teach us, but in the proper ordering and control of these desires. If the ions within a salt crystal somehow lost their charge and fell still, into a chemical nirvana, then the crystal would indeed lose its saltiness, for it would no longer exist save as a cloud of poisonous atoms. By contrast, it is the energies of each individual ion, properly organized within the greater whole, which allow the formation of a crystal, just as the gifts and talents of each individual Christian serve to strengthen the solid framework of the Church.

Salt’s small, white crystals seem unassuming, yet conceal a dramatic power. Continue reading

The Christian Religion is Bad Drugs

2015-5-7 Drug img01“Religion is the opiate of the masses.”

I don’t recall in exact detail where or when I first heard this quote used. I know that I was in high school, that I was working on a community theatre production, and that I was arguing with another high-school-aged cast member about life, the universe, and everything—the way intellectually-inclined adolescents sometimes do. My intellectual sparring partner, who held by far the most “radical” ideologies of our rag-tag group of Midwestern theatre kids, insisted to myself and the rest of our small group that humans create their religious beliefs to keep them from having to confront the more difficult elements of their reality. For example, belief in a personal creator keeps people from worrying that no one cares for them, or that their life has no greater purpose. Belief in the afterlife prevents people from having to fully deal with loss.

My 16-year-old self, a lifelong Christian, found this notion utterly bewildering. Continue reading

Home is Where

2015-4-30 Home img01Have you ever longed for adventure? How about for home? Do you ever feel unsatisfied with the ordinary, as though your lifestyle can’t contain you? Or do you wonder if you’ve ever really known what it’s like to have roots – to have a place that’s yours, utterly and indisputably yours, to identify with it, and to prize it more highly than any possession? I have had and do have these feelings, often. Usually it’s a paradoxical mix of all them at once, combined with an irrational urge to adopt the Pacific-Northwestern aesthetic. For lo, I am hipster. But I’m sure I’m not unique in these feelings: the themes of wandering and home have run through songs in all ages, from Homer’s Odyssey to John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High.”

The American folk singer-songwriter genre especially lends itself to these themes. Continue reading

Living Beyond the Garden

2015-3-26 Introversion img01A quick Google image search on “introvert” yields a plethora of infographics, cartoons, and memes glorifying introversion and instructing all of those pushy extraverts how to properly interact with the introverts in their lives. (Some of the most popular were helpfully compiled by Buzzfeed here.) Speaking as an extravert, I don’t doubt that we have it coming. It’s easy to see other people as means to an end (such as easing loneliness or getting validation). It’s easy to think that anyone who doesn’t choose the same lifestyle must have something wrong with them. Extraverts, when we do these things, we are selfish and wrong. Introverts, that doesn’t mean that you’re right. Continue reading