Tuesday, December 06, 2005

A Constantinian Christmas

I am reading A Peculiar People by Rodney Clapp, which probably isn't good because it encourages the radical within me . . . and I generally don't need any encouragement in that area.

Put that together with the current blurring of lines between Christianity and politics in our country and the way Christmas has become anything but spiritual, and I'm in a radical mood.

Here's some of my beef:

That Christianity sacrifices its essence in trying to create a kingdom of this world is apparent in many ways. It wasn't long after Jesus said that his kingdom was not of this world that his followers started to try and prove him wrong. "In, but not of" has been discarded for "over and of".

This continuing trend is seen in the conservative right's attempts to create a theocracy - or claim that America has always been one - and rewrite history in the process. This New York Times article gives one such example regarding the present season.

I noticed another indication in my recent visits to Kirklands. I have been looking for candlesticks and whatever we might use to create a more sacred place for where we gather to worship. Kirklands has a good selection of crosses, ones to hang on the wall, table crosses, nativity scenes, and all types of items symbolic of Christian faith.

But I don't like it.

The problem is, I think that Christian faith is now sinking into a sentimental and nostalgic part of our history, so it is "in" to decorate and accessorize with symbols of Christian faith. Turn faith into fashion and it ceases to be authentic.

But this is the end of trying to make Jesus' kingdom into a realm of this world. The path ends in quaint reminders of what has in reality lost all meaning. When it is not scandalous to wear a cross, it is not a sign that our culture is Christian, but that the meaning of the cross has been compromised.

Of course, I can take advantage of Kirklands' marketing and easily find symbols of the sacred . . . but for our community these aren't simply options for interior decoration. We have to be keepers of radical faith that is not of this world . . . which isn't easy in a world where faith is trivialized as a political agenda, a marketing strategy, a sentimental curio, or a national identity.

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