December 2005 Archives

Stop apologising

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Even though Christmas has passed, this opinian piece entitled "Stop Apologising for Being Christian" by Simon Heffer in the Daily Telegraph (British newspaper) dealing with the politically-correct de-Christianization of Christmas is well written, especially since he is an athiest.

Here is the link to the piece. You can also read his opinion here.

Diversity

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Cultural diversity does not mean that the vast majority of people should not or cannot celebrate their holiday. It means, in my humble opinion, that the smaller minority of people can celebrate fully their holidays.

There you go - solution!

Brokeback Mountain - 4

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Yes, yes, I know, enough already. Ashton got me the book as a stocking stuffer for Christmas. Since I'm heading home to Ohio today, we opened our gifts on Monday.

I finished the book - really a short story - by Annie Proulx.

I must give credit to the screenplay writers for their expansion of the story. They did a wonderful job. The book is a little more graphic and the realities of limited education, a hard life, and aging are more realistic in the book. The book is just as heart wrenching, and the use of the written page rather than visual images become more poetic in many places. The screenplay is faithful, sometimes to the very words, to the book.

Strike! Strike! Strike!

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Well, today is the first day of the New York Transit workers' strike. Leaving West Orange, NJ on the NJ Transit train this morning wasn't so bad. I suspect a lot of people just stayed home today. The train actually had two less cars than they normally run, which did make the train a bit crowded. No delays getting into Penn Station in Manhattan.

The station at 8:00 am didn't seem much more crowded than a normal Tuesday, although there were more people. As I came up the stairs into the lower level from the platform, the crowds did pick up. Approaching the 7th Ave. & 34th St. exit, which also happens to be the entrance for the 1,2,3 subway lines, I was a bit dumbfounded to see the crowds. It took me 10 minutes to walk the single city block to reach the exit stairs - wall-to-wall people. I've never seen anything like it! I must say, it was kind of fun. That is one thing about New Yorkers - in a situation like this people are generally very polite and simply do what has to be done, which is to wait and shuffle.

I figured the streets would be very crowded and there were more people than normal, but not nearly as packed as I expected. This may be because many people decided not to come into the city, maybe it was just a Mid-town thing, who knows. We shall see how things go as the strike continues.

If people attempt to drive into Manhattan below 96th street, they must have at least 4 people in the car. From my perspective, Mid-town at around 8:00 am, the traffic wasn't all that bad. I don't know what it was like in other parts of the city.

Au Bon Pain was very crowded, but their workers seemed to have gotten to work. The fruit venders were not out this morning, but the coffee and donute carts were on the street corners.

I tell ya, I think the transit workers have made a big mistake striking this close to Christmas. They will win no sympathy from the average New Yorker, particularly because they are demanding pay increases of 8% every year for the next three years. The City's proposed contract would require all new hires to contribute 1% to their own health-care with all current employees continuing to receive absolutely free health-care, but the union will not abide by such a thing. I just don't think people are going to be clamoring to the City to give the transit workers what they want.

Luckily, I'm leaving for D.C. and then Ohio tomorrow for Christmas week. It's kind of fun to be in the midst of the first strike in 25 years. Honestly, I'm not that inconvenienced at this point (except for the fact that I cannot meet with a friend for lunch today, and his Christmas present will have to wait until after Christmas - Brooklyn is too far to walk!

Brokeback Mountain - 3

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brokebackposter.jpg

I saw the movie for a second time. It is better the second time around - you pick up on small things that were easily missed the first time around.

I knew this movie would affect me, and it has. It is hard thinking of lost opportunities and struggles. There has not been a day in my adult life that I have not struggled with this whole issue. What could life have been like? If I had made a single different decision, how could my life have been different? Better? Perhaps not. Who knows? If that first person, of whom I am reminded poignantly by this movie and Ennis in particular, and I could have continued... Most of my angst is written in my paper-n-pen journal - thank God for that!

I've been reading newspaper articles about the movie, particularly from mid-western, western, and southern papers. It seems that only the Religious Right organizations are down on the movie, which is expected. The review from JoBlow.com seems to sum up the attitude of many people not residing in the largest metropolitan areas.

Easy?

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It is not always easy holding onto what I profess to believe. We all change over time. If we don't, we stop living, we stop being human, we stop experiencing the world around us, we descend into... who knows what.

The process of giving up to the ether our beliefs, ideas, understandings can be a wearying endeavor. If we seek Truth - honest, real, legitimate Truth - we have to be willing to give up on preconceived ideas even if those ideas bring us great comfort. To grow is to move on, to move forward, to push through the shim that clouds our vision of things before us.

The process is disquieting. If I profess to believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob... if I profess to believe in Jesus as the Christ... if I profess to believe that the Good News is truly good and available for all of us, then I can do nothing less than allow all that I perceive of myself to be stripped away in order to understand... in order to be discover the "me" that I am meant to be.

"Consider it pure joys, my brothers, when ever you face trails of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking in anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind."

I've come back to this verse so many times. I believe it to be true.

Then, of course, there is this quote from Ann Rice:

"Very few beings really seek knowledge in this world. Few really ask. On the contrary, they try to wring from the unknown the answers they have already shaped in their own minds -- justification, confirmation, forms of consolation without which they can't go on. To really ask is to open the door to a whirlwind. The answer may annihilate the question and the questioner."

See, it isn't easy! We fail all the time. Mercy. Grace.

Brokeback Mountain - 2

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A good, sad, tragic, poinent movie. I have my own story, as do we all. It was interesting hearing the perceptions of the others in the group of four with whom I saw the movie. The straight guy didn't like it. The gay guy who never had a problem admitting to or being in a relationship with another guy said he just could not connect with the characters - "we all can make choices." The other gay guy was on an emotional rollercoaster. And me. Unless you are caught in the situation where all your choices seem to be wrong - all seem to hurt other people - you cannot understand the tragic situations presented in the characters of this movie.

I can understand.

Brokeback Mountain

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I'm just about to leave to see Brokeback Mountain. I've been reading the personal stories people have written on the website - so many of them are heartbraking.

So many of us have our own stories that are so similiar to Ennis and Jack's (I think that is their names). I have my own story. They never leave you.

I'm actually a bit nervous. I know that it will be a difficult movie to watch - a flood of memories, feelings, thoughts, lost possibilities, questions, and who knows what else. Yet, these are the experiences that life is made of. They cannot be denied, they cannot be ignored. To try to avoid such things is to avoid living.

Gentry Underwood has created a website for comments from those for whom the Bruderhof Communty website played an important role in our crazy lives.

Here is his comment:

I've just created a site -- http://www.bringbackbruderhof.com --
where folks who want to express thanks or regret about bruderhof.com
going offline can do so. i'm going to compile it all together and
send it to them...

please pass the word around....

Indeed - pass the word!

I am so...

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Here is the latest, and last, Daily Dig from the Bruderhof Communities:


Your Last Dig

"The work is more important than the talking and the writing about the work." - Dorothy Day

"There have been enough words, enough sermons and books. What matters now is deeds." - Emmy Arnold

Dear Reader:

We will no longer be publishing online, so this will be your last Daily Dig. This is only the beginning, not the end. We want to thank you for your friendship over the years, and look forward to meeting you face to face. Now the real contact can begin. We welcome you to drop by any of our communities any time to join us in our daily life and work.

I checked their website - a wonderful and full collection of "Anabaptist" and intentional community information. A rich and deep web-presence. They even took down their website! I am so bummed.

What causes me concern is that this web-presence offered such an incredible alternative to the Religious Right and Fundamentalist stuff out there. Now, for a society that is becoming a majority unchurched, the only face of Christianity they increasingly see is the mean-spirited, egotistical, and rigid fundamentalism. This has nothing to do with "liberal" vs. "conservative." It has everything to do with an image of the Christian community and life that upholds the essence of the Way of Christ - Love God with everything and love you neighbor as yourself. People being intentional to live at peace with all men, as much as it is possible for you. It is such a far cry from the "Americanized"-Religious Right members who are bent on imposing their theocratic view of everything upon the rest of society - for society's own good, of course.

If we are not careful, and I mean we are at the tipping point, the only image of Christianity the public will see is rigid fundamentalism. Sojourners is a strong force, but just a drop in the bucket of other Christian websites that present such a culturally-compromised message. The Religious Right may claim Mainline Protestant and Anglican denominations have "compromised with the culture," but they are blind to the fact that they have compromised at perhaps an even more profound level - the materialism of the "Prosperity" message, the equating of American nationalism with the faith, militarism, support of public policies and laws that enrichment the wealthy at the expense of the poor (and I am no socialist!), the support for theocracy over democracy through ideas such as Dominion Theology, etc. What are we going to do? What must be done?

Advent

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From the Bruderhof Community's Daily Dig:

So That We May Awaken
Alfred Delp

There is perhaps nothing we modern people need more than to be genuinely shaken up. Where life is firm we need to sense its firmness; and where it is unstable and uncertain and has no basis, no foundation, we need to know this too and endure it. We need to recognize that we have stood on this earth in false pathos, in false security, in spiritual insanity.

For this is the message of Advent: faced with him who is the Last, the world will begin to shake. Only when we do not cling to false securities will our eyes be able to see this Last One and get to the bottom of things. Only then will we be able to guard our life from the frights and terrors into which God the Lord has let the world sink to teach us, so that we may awaken from sleep, as Paul says, and see that it is time to repent, time to change things.

From "Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas"

Read the whole thing

Simplicity

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"She spun away, lost in the place where kids don't even know their feet are moving."*

Thought by the narrator after 83 year old Eddie, the protagonist, made a pipe-cleaner animal for a little girl.

The innocence and carefree-ness of children. The image, the feeling, the idea of that place where we are so involved, so rapturously involved, that our minds know nothing else. Our bodies do what they are supposed to do - we spin away - but we are completely unaware of those bodily movements. Imagine, or remember if we can. The simple joy of a pipe-cleaner animal, of running to who-knows-where but running nevertheless, of not worrying - oh, that all encompassing freedom enveloping us as we swim in the sense of what is possible.

God says to not worry, to be childlike in our faith, to know the sense of security in that He will care for our needs, to move in the peace that surpasses all understanding and the joy that knows no bounds, in all of this is our privilege - like being lost in that place were our feet don't know they are moving.

Mitch Albom, the five people you meet in heaven, Hyperion: New York, 2003; 13.

What is the meaning?

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Ban Christmas

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We have come to this! The Religious Right / "Pro-Family" groups are on a new crusade to punish anyone who does not say "Merry Christmas" and boycott stores that use the word "Holidays" rather than "Christmas." There has developed a mean-spirited paranoia among so many within the Religious Right that all the world is against them and take every little jot and tittle as an affront to God and their oh so godly lives (frankly, I think this has more to do with the emotional, mental, and spiritual disposition of the leaders of these groups than with most who sit in the pews!) It is an image of fundamentalism, no matter where the fundamentalist tendencies reside - liberal or conservative, Islam or Christianity, social theory, or where ever.

Target is their latest point of demonstration. Because Target does not use the word "Christmas," just that one little word mind you, they are part of a 30 year old campaign to expunge Christianity and faith from the public square. Target uses the term "Happy Holidays" rather than "Merry Christmas," and for these guys that means that they are blatantly and intentional ANTI-Christian. Never mind that Hanukah begins around the same time as Christmas day this year. Never mind that their intent could well be in include all people, whether Christian or not, in their holiday cheer. There is no sense of fair play or consideration of others in the minds of these Religious Right leaders. Frankly, it infringes not one iota upon my faith and identification as a Christian or my free exercise of religion for these stores to use "Holidays" rather than "Christmas."

Now, I will say that I am absolutely opposed to the politically correct notion, which I have experienced often, that it is an affront to wish someone else "Merry Christmas." I was told by a fellow graduate student on a group trip to Cleveland to do some holiday shopping after final exams that it was horrible for me to wish someone a "Merry Christmas." After all, I had no idea their religion, etc. Frankly, if someone came up to me and wished me a happy Hanukah or happy Kwanza, I would take it in the spirit the greeting was offered and not be offended one bit as a Christian.

Does the Religious Right really think that anyone not a Christian in our society will be persuaded to become one by this arrogant, mean-spirited, and unfair treatment? I think not. As a matter of fact, I believe the cause of Christ within the greater culture is actually harmed by this kind of fundamentalist display. We are to love - and these kinds of responses to cultural change and business decisions do not rise to the level of our high calling. I don't mean that we should not or cannot advocate our positions strongly and forthrightly, but there is a time, place, and means by which to advocate (even demand) and this is not the way to go about being representatives of Jesus Christ in our society.

Here is the news blurb from Focus on the Families Citizen Link (which is similarly repeated through the American Family Association, et.al.):


Some Say Christmas Banning is Part of an Anti-Christian
Agenda

SUMMARY: Pro-family leaders urge Christians to speak up and fight back.

Some conservative groups are claiming the banning of the word "Christmas" by retailers amounts to blatant discrimination against Christians.

Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association, makes the case that taking Christ out of Christmas is part of larger agenda that has been taking place over the past 30 years.

"Once you start promoting Christian morality, Christian values, the claims that Christ, He is the Son of God and the only way to Heaven, then, the secular left and those who sympathize with them take you on," he said.

Robert Morrison, senior policy advisor at the Family Research Council, said some on the left simply want to rid society of any mention of Jesus.

"That agenda is never sleeping. They're pursuing their goals without any pause for holidays," he told Family News in Focus. "This is a part of that agenda to drive underground any expression of religious faith."

Morrison is urging Christians to smile and say "Merry Christmas" in response to those who say "happy holidays."

"When they try to take away Christmas trees, Christmas parades, and all that, stand up," he said. "Don't be quiet. Don't sheepishly go along with that. Stand up. Say 'NO.' "

TAKE ACTION: One retailer that has been singled out for banning Christmas from its in-store displays and advertising is Target. You can send a note to the company's CEO through the CitizenLink Action Center:

http://www.family.org/cforum/action_center.cfm

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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from December 2005 listed from newest to oldest.

November 2005 is the previous archive.

January 2006 is the next archive.

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