Christmas in July

I decided to go ahead with my plan to call this post “Christmas in July” even though Matt Kelley also posted something on his blog with the same title today.

I spent today – actually, yesterday, since it is past midnight – at Holiday World in Santa Claus, Indiana, with my son and some other people from our church.

Most of the conversation during the slightly more than 3 hour car ride each way focused on important existential and philosophical questions – such as who the greatest rock drummer or rock guitarist were.

Since my question about the greatest rock keyboardist did not get satisfactory responses, expect me to share some clips of some great keyboard playing in the near future…

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  • Howard Mazzaferro

    You go to church? Wow!! :-)

  • James F. McGrath

    I’m currently the moderator at my church, I teach Sunday school, and I play the keyboard in our worship team. You haven’t been reading my blog for long, have you? :-)

  • Howard Mazzaferro

    Very interesting, I had to look up what a church moderator was, and I am still not exactly sure. I don’t do the church thing, never have. I can’t even imagine what that Sunday school must be like. I only play the keyboard for myself, need lots more practice. I’ve been reading your blog since January, is that not long?

  • James F. McGrath

    I supposed that’s pretty long, as I’ve only been blogging since November…2003.  :-)

  • Gary

    OK, Howard. I have to ask. Your comment, “I don’t do the church thing, never have” amazes me. Not even as a kid, being dragged to a church on Easter or Christmas? As a teenager, questioning life? Or do you mean as an adult, participating as a member of a church, is what you do not do? If it is absolute, you’ve lived a very insulated life.

  • Howard Mazzaferro

    @648e12af5a5b0bf9cc8f0b9b4630360d:disqus Well, I went to a Catholic school in first grade, it was attached to a church and I remember going into the church part for some reason, can’t really remember what that was about, maybe prayer class, who knows. After that, as far as I’ve been told, our family was kicked out because of my older brothers, so public school after that. I do not recall any trips to the church on holidays, if it happened, I don’t remember it. The only time I spent in church was for weddings and funerals. I have never been to a traditional church of my own desire. I have been to meetings where Bible study was done, and where there were no priestly hierarchies or church buildings. Is that really so strange?

  • James F. McGrath

    I will be honest and say that the idea of someone setting themselves up as arbiter of Christian identity when not even part of a Christian community other than perhaps a virtual one does indeed strike me as odd. It seems to me to reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of Christianity as something purely about holding certain beliefs and defending them – which of course can be done wholly online.

    I think I may write a blog post about this… :-)

    • Howard Mazzaferro

      I think the problem here is that we have completely different definitions of Christianity. I won’t even try to define your view, but I am confident it is not in line with my view. I put a lot of stock in the wheat and weeds parable. Where imitation Christianity has overgrown true Christianity, and it is to remain that way until judgment. So the churches that I have avoided are imitation churches. Actually, I don’t even like the word church as it has accumulated so many bad connotations throughout the centuries. When I hear the word I think of showy extravagance and self-righteousness.

      You neglected to say which Christian community it would be okay to associate with.

      Would it have been okay to associate with the Christian community as a Catholic during the crusades?

      Would it have been okay to associate with the Christian community during the Thirty Years’ War, where series of European conflicts lasting from 1618 to 1648, involving most of the countries of Western Europe, and fought mainly in Germany. At first the struggle was primarily based on the profound religious antagonism engendered among Germans by the events of the Protestant Reformation.

      How about the Catholic and Protestant Churches in Germany that set the foundation for WWII and the atrocities to occur. Popes, priests and nuns supported Hitler’s regime. Indeed, Hitler could not have come to power without Christianity’s help. Hitler wrote: “I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.”

      And finally, I am so sorry that I missed church on this day in 897 when Pope Stephen had the corpse of Formosus exhumed, seated on a throne, and subjected to a mock trial, condemned for ecclesiastical errors, mutilated, stripped of its pontifical vestments, and thrown into the Tiber River.

      Churches are all past that stuff now right? 😉

  • Gary

    Howard….my wife went to a Catholic elementary school. Same thing, attached to a church, and nuns running everything. As I remember her saying, they started the day praying in the church, so they are inter-twinded pretty much. Only thing is, now the place is shut down – not enough people going.

    James…”arbiter of Christian identity when not even part of a Christian community”
    …I don’t find that suprising. I like the community of the church. But I have to admit I find the community (as in individuals) telling me indirectly (as in pontificating)what theology should be, especially when they tie politics into it, rather irritating. Conservative people spouting Tea Party mantras (mostly Republican), down on universal health care, down on social justice, don’t want to pay taxes, but OK with big companies not paying anything (G.E.), wanting to go to war to protect Israel’s right to all the land to the Euphrates river, believing in premillennial dispensationalists claim to a 3rd temple, with Jesus presiding over animal sacrifice for 1000 years, believing that they are so holy, they will be raptured, while the rest of us sinners are in an ultimate war to justify their holiness…..get the point? Considering that religious belief is developed in each of our own minds, based upon our own interpretations, and hopefully we are not lemmings following whoever is giving the latest, greatest, awe inspiring sermon, I think true belief is formulated by each individual, not a community. But maybe I have a bad attitude. I guess my summary would be, separation of church and state is good, but seperation of religion and politics is better – for religious peace.

  • Gary

    Maybe I should add…there are a lot of fundamentists who take the bible literally in the church I go to. So I am always hearing people spout the ID Genesis theme of creation, like science is bad (although they all seem to like the benefits science provides), how bad the government is (although they were perfectly OK with fighting wars under Republicans), how our society is the worst in human history because of abortion and homosexuality (although they seem to forget small things like the famines, black plague, crusades, Christian inquisition, WW1+2, holocaust, etc). It’s all about getting to the end times – must be, since we live in the worst possible of times in their interpretations. How quickly people forget history. Maybe I just need to change churches.

  • James F. McGrath

    Howard, I think you have misunderstood the parable of the wheat and the weeds. Presumably if the wheat was safely online in basements while the weeds are in churches, then there would have been no risk involved in bringing judgment upon the latter. :-)

    My point was not to laud Christian communities in the abstract, but to highlight the strangeness of the situation that someone who set himself up as arbiter of Christian identity has apparently defined Christianity in such a way that there are not enough likeminded people to create a small independent fellowship. It may not seem at all odd to you, but it does to me and to others, who are aware that there is in Christianity’s very essence something that is at odds with that sort of individualism – to say nothing of self-righteousness.

  • Howard Mazzaferro

    No James, you did not read my other comment apparently. I am not a Christian in the sense that I purposely do not practice what I know to be right. That does not mean I do not know what a true Christian is, and there are millions of them and they meet together all the time. At present, I am not a part of the wheat or the weeds. :)