Do we need to reform the calendar to eliminate anomalies like Leap Year?

Two Johns Hopkins professors, Steve Hanke (an economist and fellow of the libertarian Cato Institute) and Dick Henry (a physicist and astronomer), have been proposing the Hanke-Henry Permanent Calendar.  It has the virtue of making every date fall on the same day each year.  Christmas, December 25, will always be on a Monday.  If your birthday is on a Saturday, it will always be on a Saturday.

There would be no leap year, no extra day every four years. What there will be to align the year with the earth’s orbit is a leap week every five or six years. This week will be added to the end of December.  It will function like a month and will be known as Xtr, pronounced “extra” and would doubtless become a great festival.

See an explanation of the new calendar, which the inventors hope to begin in 2018, after the jump.  The link will also take you to FAQs and the calendar itself.  After the jump you will also find my critique of the whole project. (more…)

The school board in Montgomery County, Maryland, just outside of Washington, D. C., has voted not to name the holidays associated with religions on the school calendar.

School will still be dismissed for Christmas, Easter, and the major Jewish holidays.  But when Muslims wanted time off for their holidays, the school board decided to think about holidays like this:  We aren’t observing the religious holidays; rather, we are dismissing classes when large numbers of students are likely to be absent.  So on the school calendar, instead of so much as mentioning “Christmas,” there is just a notice of “no class today.”

Is this silly, does it make sense, or should the schools dismiss classes for Islamic holidays too? (more…)

My friend and former colleague Joel Heck has been doing some exhaustive research on the life of C. S. Lewis.  He has put together a detailed chronology that you can see on his website.  On the basis of that work, Joel has prepared a C. S. Lewis calendar.  It isn’t tied to a particular year, so it can be used year after year, showing what the great Christian apologist, literary scholar, and fantasy writer was doing on any particular day.  After the jump, details about how to get one of these calendars. (more…)

Eastern Orthodox folks celebrate Christmas on a different day than we Western Christians do.  They don’t go along with the change in the calendar that was orchestrated by Pope Gregory XIII back in 1582 in order to re-align our calendar with the motions of the solar system.  The so-called Gregorian calendar was accepted throughout the European-heritage nations by 1752.  But the Eastern nations remained under the old Julian calendar.

What I didn’t know is that some Protestants also kept using the Julian calendar.  They could be found in Appalachia as late as the 20th century.  From the Kairos Quarterly, a publication of an Orthodox monastery in West Virginia, via Trystan Bloom at First Thoughts:

As a Russian Orthodox monastery which observes the Julian, or “old”, calendar, we were surprised to learn about Appalachian “Old Christmas”, which is a most solemn and reverent time for families living in the mountains. The initial change-over from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar by the British Empire and the American colonies in 1752 caused a difference of eleven days. Thus, the date of “new” Christmas on December 25th was eleven days ahead of “old” Christmas, which fell (at that time) on January 5th. Some Protestants refused to honor the new calendar because it was decreed by the Pope, so their celebration of Christmas remained on the Julian calendar – which now falls on January 7. In the Appalachian Mountains, the celebration of Old Christmas remained until about World War I. Though they might also observe ‘new’ Christmas on December 25th, the festivities were very different. December 25th was marked with revelry and parties and visiting, but January 6th was primarily a reverent family observance.

via Old Calendarists in Appalachia » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog.

I’m fascinated by such living relics of past history.  One of these days I intend to get on a boat and travel to Tangier Island here in Virginia in the Chesapeake Bay.  This island was settled by British colonists in 1686, and the people have been so isolated that to this day they still speak the English dialect of that day.  Which means they talk pretty much the way Shakespeare did.

Radio evangelist Harold Camping has calculated that the Rapture (the ascension of all living Christians before Christ returns) will occur on May 21, 2011. What interests me is how that date was figured:

By Camping's understanding, the Bible was dictated by God and every word and number carries a spiritual significance. He noticed that particular numbers appeared in the Bible at the same time particular themes are discussed.

The number 5, Camping concluded, equals "atonement." Ten is "completeness." Seventeen means "heaven." Camping patiently explained how he reached his conclusion for May 21, 2011.

"Christ hung on the cross April 1, 33 A.D.," he began. "Now go to April 1 of 2011 A.D., and that's 1,978 years."

Camping then multiplied 1,978 by 365.2422 days – the number of days in each solar year, not to be confused with a calendar year.

Next, Camping noted that April 1 to May 21 encompasses 51 days. Add 51 to the sum of previous multiplication total, and it equals 722,500.

Camping realized that (5 x 10 x 17) x (5 x 10 x 17) = 722,500.

Or put into words: (Atonement x Completeness x Heaven), squared.

"Five times 10 times 17 is telling you a story," Camping said. "It's the story from the time Christ made payment for your sins until you're completely saved.

"I tell ya, I just about fell off my chair when I realized that," Camping said.

This is not the first time Camping has predicted the end times. His earlier calculation came to Sept. 6, 1994. His followers were unfazed and are making their plans not to be here after May 21, 2011. But doesn’t this new calculation start with the 2011 date and work backwards? (Not that this is the only thing wrong with this sort of thing.)

By the way, this is also the guy who proclaimed that Christians should leave their churches and just listen to preachers like him on the radio.

The Pew Research Center has carried out a study of religion in Europe, finding that the picture is far more complicated than had been assumed.

The different conclusions drawn from the study are evident in the different news stories that have been written about it.  The liberal leaning Religious News Service headline was Europe:  Not as Secular as You Think. But the evangelical Christianity Today complained that Western Europe’s Christians Are As Religious As America’s ‘Nones’.

This is to say, by the standards of liberal theology, Europeans remain much more Christian than was expected.  But by the standards of conservative theology, Europeans do not measure up.

So what did the Pew study find?  Nearly two-thirds of Europeans (65%) consider themselves to be Christians.  That’s only 6% fewer than the percentage of Americans who claim Christianity (71%).  The percentage of “nones”–that is, people who are unaffiliated with any religion–is about the same (24%).

But only 18% of Europe’s professing Christians attend church services at least once a month.

Now here is where the Pew researchers, in my opinion, make a very big mistake.  They lump together the 46% of self-identified Christians who don’t go to church much as “non-practicing Christians.”

But their research shows that the infrequent-church goers have much in common with church goers.  And there are big differences between the beliefs of infrequent-church goers and the secularist “nones” who have no religion.

“Christian identity remains a meaningful marker in Western Europe, even among those who seldom go to church,” the study concludes. “It is not just a ‘nominal’ identity devoid of practical importance.”

The major difference between religion in America and religion in Europe is that 53% of Americans and 68% of the Christians say that religion is a very important part of their lives.  Even among American “nones,” who have no religion, 13% say that religion is important in their lives.  Whereas in Europe, only 11% of Europeans consider religion to be very important in their lives, as do only 14% of the European Christians. So, yes, American “nones” are more religious than European Christians.

Looking further at the Pew Report, I would say that European Christians have more widely embraced liberal theology than have Americans.  Europe may be the only place on earth where liberal theology has been embraced not just by church seminaries and clerical bureaucracies but by the people themselves.  And what they have learned from liberal theology is to compartmentalize their faith and their life.  That Christians should follow the values of the dominant culture rather than traditional teachings.  And that they do not really need to go to church.  Just as church attendance has dramatically fallen off in America’s liberal mainline denominations, this is happening in Europe, though on a much bigger scale, since virtually all of the state churches have embraced liberal theology.

And yet, something remains, even in these infrequent-church attenders.  But it isn’t clear from the Pew study exactly what that is.  The study asks about their attitudes towards immigration and nationalism, which accord pretty well with the views of the 18% of church goers.  Also about their view of the “Biblical God,” as if people who seldom go to church would even know what that is.

I wish Pew researchers would ask some questions that actually are determinative of the Christian faith:  Who do you think Jesus is?  Do you believe that Jesus died for your sins?  Do you believe Jesus is your Lord and Savior?  Do you believe in Heaven, and, if so, how does one get there?

As I’ve discussed in this blog, in supposedly secularist Denmark, when questions drilled down to the issue of Christ, 25% of the Danes believe that Jesus is the Son of God, with 18% affirming that He is the savior of the world.  Compare that to the percentage of evangelical believers in the United States, which is reportedly between 13% and 25%.

But another lesson of this study is that the conventional categories are losing their usefulness.  An article in The Atlantic quotes UK scholar Linda Woodhead: “So it’s not that we’re seeing straightforward secularization, where religion gives way to atheism and a rejection of all aspects of religion,” she said. “We’re seeing something more complex that we haven’t fully got our heads around.”  Secularism scholar Joseph Blankholm concludes, “These categories are at their limit—they’re in some ways outmoded.”

Are Muslims who do not attend Mosque every Thursday considered “non-practicing Muslims”?  Their religion does not require them to do so.  Christians who do not attend worship services very often are not necessarily “non-practicing.”  If they tend to form their own personal theologies apart from church authorities, they might just be a certain kind of Protestant.

As far as how many Europeans have faith, though the size of a mustard seed, that will bring them salvation, no survey can show that.  Undoubtedly, there is a great need for the Gospel.  But the European nations, while not devout, are not fully secularist either.  Europe is still “Christian” at some level.  It just needs to relearn what that means.

 

Photo of a church service in Europe via Pxhere, CC0, Public Domain

 

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