The Christmas wars throughout history

Christmas in the CrosshairsA new book by Gerry Bowler entitled Christmas in the Crosshairs:  Two Thousand Years of Denouncing and Defending the World’s Most Celebrated Holiday points out that the “Christmas wars”–the conflict between secular and religious observances of Christmas–have been going on throughout the history of Christianity.  The Bishop of Amasea complained in 400 A.D. about how Christmas presents make children greedy.  St. Augustine complained about the commercialization of Christmas.  And Christians have long complained about the conflict between the drunken revelry once Theassociated with the day and its true meaning.

Meanwhile opponents of Christianity have tried to either suppress or co-opt the birthday of Christ.  At one point in the Soviet Union, children had to be told that their presents came not from St. Nicholas but from Stalin.  And Nazi Germany sang a revised version of “Silent Night” that replaced Jesus with Hitler.

After the jump, an excerpt from a review of the book.

[Read more…]

Person of the Year

Time Magazine’s Person of the Year is Donald Trump.  Of course it was.  Who else could it be?

One of our end-of-the-year customs here at the Cranach blog–along with making predictions and checking last year’s predictions–is to make our own proposals for  Person of the Year.

Trump is clearly, in the words of Time’s criteria, “the person who had the greatest influence, for better or worse, on the events of the year.”  Feel free to comment on whether you think his influence will be “for better or worse.”

But, after him, whom would you nominate? [Read more…]

Ancient scientists helping modern scientists

Ashur5Contrary to the stereotypes about ancient and medieval knowledge and totally contradicting Mark Twain’s depiction in Connecticut Yankee of King Arthur’s court panicking over an eclipse, the scientists of yore were keen observers of the heavens.  They kept meticulous records of things like eclipses and analyzed them mathematically.  
Now astronomers from 2016 A.D. are using data recorded by the Babylonians in 136 B.C. to determine that the earth’s rate of rotation has slowed down.  They are also making use of astronomical observations from ancient and medieval Greece, China, and the Middle East.  (Maybe some of them were the Wise Men!)This is a good example of how knowledge builds and information is connected, not only in the present but across time. [Read more…]

From “the most humiliating year in our history” to victory

256px-USS_California_sinking-Pearl_HarborToday is the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.   The Daily Oklahoman has a fascinating and moving feature looking not only at the coverage of that event but of its anniversary through the war years and beyond.

We often forget that the first year of the war we were losing.  The editorial  for December 7, 1942, called it “the bitterest and most humiliating year in our history.”  The next year’s paper was sober but more upbeat.  Then we see optimism.  In 1945 we see the exuberance–and relief–of victory, along with a memorial to those who died achieving it.

The feature gives us a picture of what a unified nation looks like and something of what it felt like to be caught up in a collective cause that was a matter of life and death, not only for individuals, friends, and loved ones–nearly every family had someone fighting–but for the country itself.  It must have been terrible to go through, but also good.

And we can’t help but wonder if America would be capable of that today.

Read a sampling from the newspaper accounts after the jump. [Read more…]

Vocation in Hacksaw Ridge

Desmond_Doss_CMH_awardNotice how many movies are about vocation.  For example, consider Hacksaw Ridge, Mel Gibson’s movie about Desmond Doss, the first conscientious objector who won the Medal of Honor.  A medic, he rescued 75 wounded servicemen in the Battle of Okinawa.

I haven’t seen the film yet, but a review in World Magazine by Sophia Lee quotes a passage that goes to the heart of the doctrine of vocation.  Read it and my discussion after the jump. [Read more…]

Red Letter Christians

bible-1136784_1920Tony Campolo and some other liberal evangelicals have started a movement they call “Red Letter Christians.”  The term comes from the convention in many editions of the Bible to print the words of Jesus in red.

Red Letter Christians believe that Christianity should be about following the words of Jesus, rather than getting involved in theological disputes, culture war issues, and right wing politics.  Rather, followers of the words of Jesus will be advocates for the poor, promote tolerance, and be “counter-cultural.”

Read the descriptions and the Value Statement from the Red Letter Christian website.  Then consider questions like these:  Do the words of Jesus support liberal politics any more than they support conservative politics?  Do the red letters in the Bible really promote all of these values?  Today, aren’t the conservatives the ones who are “counter-cultural,” with liberals following the cultural trends?  Doesn’t Jesus say some things that go against this social gospel?  What are the theological problems with lifting out the words of Jesus at the expense of the rest of the Bible? [Read more…]