Finding Christmas Culture in Asia and Asian America

In Texas, Christmas time is tamales time. The grocery stores have this festive and somewhat addictive (ok it’s just me) Latino dish which I learned is a celebratory dish from multiple Latin cultures.

While it has nothing to do with Christmas, it is often seen as a traditional Christmas dish for many Mexican American households. It got me thinking about whether there are any Asian American Christian contributions to Christmas. When I think about it, I only remember eating traditional Korean foods on Christmas, maybe with some baked ham or another “American” dish to mix things up. And in my popular media recollection, there’s the hilarious depiction in the classic bit from A Christmas Story of the white Indiana family that winds up at a Chinese restaurant due to a number of stressful preceding events – watch it, it’s a good one (as long as such movies don’t actually stress you out). [Read more...]

The Worldwide Reach of Christianity: Pew Center Report

Over the past several years, the Pew Center on Religion and Public Life has become the go-to place for solid descriptive statistics about all religions, including Christianity.  They just realized a report on Global Christianity.

The report highlights how Christianity has become a worldwide religion.  Here’s the executive summary:

A comprehensive demographic study of more than 200 countries finds that there are 2.18 billion Christians of all ages around the world, representing nearly a third of the estimated 2010 global population of 6.9 billion. Christians are also geographically widespread – so far-flung, in fact, that no single continent or region can indisputably claim to be the center of global Christianity.

A century ago, this was not the case. In 1910, about two-thirds of the world’s Christians lived in Europe, where the bulk of Christians had been for a millennium, according to historical estimates by the Center for the Study of Global Christianity. Today, only about a quarter of all Christians live in Europe (26%). A plurality – more than a third – now are in the Americas (37%). About one in every four Christians lives in sub-Saharan Africa (24%), and about one-in-eight is found in Asia and the Pacific (13%)

That’s a remarkable amount of change, and something that is great news. Here’s one of their many maps that illustrates just how spread out Christianity is.

Leisure and Worship: A Christmas Message

For much of my adult life, leisure has been something of a bad word. Isn’t what I learned in my years studying at Ivy League schools followed by joining the ranks of university professors that I’m made to do intellectual work, and pretty much 24/7?

Until recently, I thought leisure was what I do when I’m too tired to work. After much prodding, I finally read Josef Pieper’s Leisure the Basis of Culture. While clearly upholding the material and spiritual value of all work, Pieper critiques the modern view of life as “total work.” Although no one really works 24/7, the ideological commitment to “total work”, subscribing to the idea that hard work defines the good life, can be just as harmful as (almost) never taking a break from work.

Why? Because, Pieper masterfully explains, [Read more...]

Sociological rules of Christmas gift giving

Sociologists will an analyze anything people do, no matter how taken-for-granted the activity. ( I suppose that’s why I like it so much–always trying to look at things a new way). For the season, here is an except about from the famous “Middletown” study. Theodore Caplow, and a team of researchers, studied people in Muncie, Indiana (1979) about their gift giving, and they came up with nine unwritten rules for gift giving.

1) The Tree Rule. Married couples with children of any age should put up Christmas trees in their home. Unmarried persons with no living children should not put up Christmas trees. Unmarried parents (widowed, divorced or adoptive) may put up trees but are not required to do so.

2) The Wrapping Rule. Christmas gifts must be wrapped before they are presented.

3) The Decoration Rule. Any room where Christmas gifts are distributed should be decorated by affixing Christmas emblems to the walls, the ceiling, or the furniture.

4) The Gathering Rule. Christmas gifts should be distributed at [Read more...]

On Hitchens, Apologetics, and the Strangeness of Christianity

So Christopher Hitchens is dead. Waste no time speculating about his end, or what happened next. It is empirically unknowable. While Hitch’s pen was a sharp one, and I occasionally read his work, I confess I didn’t pay a great deal of attention to his antagonism toward religion, apart from reading the first 60 pages of God is not Great. No new arguments there, so far as I could tell.

For a time after the book was released Hitchens took to debating well-known Christian apologists in public forums. Of course Hitch thought Christianity—and religion in general—was more a force of darkness than light. The first few pages of the book let readers know that in no uncertain terms. His critics often retorted with comparative claims, saying things like, “Yes, Christians have done some bad stuff, but Pol Pot and Joseph Stalin were atheists, and behaved far worse than any of ours ever have.” Perhaps, but when we start comparing body counts, nobody looks appealing anymore.

Apologetics, be it of the positive or negative sort, has never much appealed to me. Not sure why. I slogged my way through [Read more...]


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