Monday, November 26, 2007

you choose

Friday, November 16, 2007

what is this holiday about?

It’s been exactly two years since I was emailed a petition asking me to commit to never shopping at Target (a huge U.S. retail chain) again unless they reintroduced the word “Christmas” to their holiday signs and decorations. It seems that, in an attempt to greet customers of all religious (and non religious) backgrounds, this non-Christian affiliated company chose to use a very generic greeting, one that would express holiday greetings to all of their customers, Jews and Gentiles alike.

As often happens with me, my hurt and disappointment with the church quickly turned to anger as I came to believe that another selfish protest would only lead to more people turning away from the message and the mission which were most important. And I vented that anger quite publicly.

This year it has been on my mind again as I will shortly travel home to the U.S. for a month of Christmas insanity. There are a lot of things I’d like to say in a post like this. I’d love to throw out facts about pagan holiday traditions that we’ve embraced in our own Christmas traditions. I’d love to outline the history of both Christmas and Hanukkah celebrations in an attempt to remind my brothers and sisters that our claim on the month of December really wouldn’t hold up in a court of law. But what I think I should do is simply implore you to consider the witness you bear when you spend your time only standing up for self serving interests (celebrate our religious holiday or else!) rather than standing up for justice. Not self serving kind of “justice”, but true justice.

For instance, can I assume that those who signed that Target Petition turned right around and shopped at Walmart? Walmart, of course, is another huge chain in the U.S. only this one takes human rights violations to a new and impressive level. Not only does it buy and sell products made in sweatshops and often by child labour throughout China and other parts of Asia, Walmart underpays employees (by an average of $1 an hour), has been accused of doctoring time sheets, costs U.S. tax payers and other employers over $1 Billion a year in health care costs for Walmart employees who are not covered (over 70% are not), and, for every two jobs Walmart creates in a community, they destroy three more by putting other local businesses out of business. Most branches have also worked out massive tax breaks with local governments that local citizens have to pay for. So that cheap toy, made by child slaves, that you’re giving your own children to celebrate the birth of the Messiah, isn’t nearly as cheap as you might think.

This Christmas consider the cost and your witness when you shop.

- Is it really honouring to Christ when you give companies like this your money in His name?

- Aren’t our protests surrounding the Christmas holiday a lot like Peter cutting off the ear of the guard? Didn’t he think he was standing up for exactly the same thing that we think we’re standing up for? And what was Jesus’ response? What do you think it might be today?

- When Jesus was given the opportunity to defend himself against charges of blasphemy (among other things), Jesus did not take it. Jesus wasn’t into self serving “justice”. But, when money changers decided that they would cheat other people by using small sacrificial animals as a huge cash cow, er, money maker (sorry), Jesus actually took the time to leave the temple, hand weave a whip, then return to the temple to dish out some serious premeditated justice. Jesus believed in and lived out a very holy kind of anger and justice. And so should we.

- And in that vein, when unbelievers see organizations like The Red Cross doing more for needy people than the church, they wonder if we have any purpose beyond a self serving one. And they have a point. In fact, one could make a strong argument that The Red Cross is actually more Christ like than many churches.

I can’t wait to give my daughter presents this year. Jamie and I have made a commitment that, in an attempt to teach Olyvia the real meaning of Christmas, we’re going to do our best to make birthdays the “big present day” and leave Christmas for family, and charity, and others. Still, presents will be given and I can’t wait to see her face. But can’t we also find a way to instil in our children, and maybe also ourselves, that when we celebrate the birth of Christ, we really should do it in a Christ honouring way? Where we shop and how we shop really does matter. And what we protest and who we protest does as well because, when we take on Christ’s name, we insinuate that he would be doing what we’re doing.

Your witness matters and people are watching to see what your religion is all about. I don’t know about you, but I hope mine is more about holiness and justice and the meaning and values behind the name Christ, than a word and a holiday that I invented. Want people to respect that holiday? Then give them something to respect. Love God and love others.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

robertson’s hypocrisy

In 1979 a guy by the name of Tim LaHaye (yes, that Tim LaHaye) and another by the name of Jerry Fallwell established what they called The Moral Majority, a network of fundamentalist churches and Christians who were the beginning of what we now know as the Political Right, or the Right Wing, a much farther reaching network of evangelical Christians across America. Shortly after this, they recruited guys like Pat Robertson to join their ranks and spread their message on topics such as homosexuality, abortion, drugs, pornography, gun control, judicial appointments, and the Middle East (specifically concerning the nation of Israel). Today the Right Wing continues to be led by guys like Pat Robertson and James Dobson while LaHaye remains in the background. Fallwell passed away earlier this year.

Though the nation of Israel, pornography, and the love of guns have certainly been popular topics among Right Wing speakers, it would be fair to say that no topics have dominated the movement like homosexuality and abortion. Over the past twenty-five years we have been led to believe, among other things, that it is these two topics which have affectively escorted God out of America and made it clear that He is not welcome. I grew up in the epicentre of the Right Wing Movement. Before moving to Oklahoma at the age of ten, I lived in West Virginia, attended a fundamentalist church, and made annual trips to Lynchburg, Virginia to hear the Reverend Jerry Fallwell speak. To us he was Moses. I even had him autograph my Bible.

Homosexuality and abortion have been the glue that has held the Right Wing movement together. When its leaders decided to get together and oust Jimmy Carter (possibly the last Christian President the U.S. will ever know) out of office, and push Ronald Reagan into office, they did it under the heading of “family values”. Family values, of course, did not include homosexuality. Like the Pharisees themselves, guys like Pat Robertson and Jerry Fallwell preached fear. I can remember praying that Ronald Reagan would win the election against Jimmy Carter, afraid that the apocalypse would take place if Carter were in office another four years. Imagine that, fearing that if a peace loving Christian, who had helped to start an integrated Baptist church in Georgia, were to remain in charge for another four years, that God would actually unleash Satan upon the United States. To be honest with you, when I think about that time, all I can do is scratch my head and then applaud the genius of the men who were somehow able to convince us of that. While preaching fear isn’t a completely original move (it’s a tactic still very much in use today), convincing Christians to vote another Christian out of office lest Satan gain control may be the greatest game of switcharoo ever played. The math simply does not add up. After all, Ronald Reagan was about as Christian as the prophet Muhammad.

So why the history lesson? Well because this week Pat Robertson gave his official endorsement of Rudy Giuliani for President and, in case you haven’t been paying attention, Giuliani is unapologetically in favour of gay rights and a woman’s right to choose abortion. In his endorsement speech Robertson said that, although he and Giuliani “disagree on social issues, those disagreements pale into insignificance when measured against the import of the fight against global terrorism and radical Islam”. Robertson went on to say that "We need a man who sees clearly how to deal with that issue". Giuliani pointed out the common ground he had with Christians by emphasizing his “work to rid Times Square of pornography”.

I don’t quite know how to respond to that.

For twenty five years Robertson has been assuring us that there were no greater issues nearer to God’s heart than homosexuality and abortion, and that if we got a man in the oval office who would rid our country of these two sins, our country would once again find favor in God’s eyes. Now he’s telling us that they’re really not that big a deal? Wow. Is it ok if I feel a bit jaded now? Can we agree that the word “cynical” is no longer an accurate description for my feelings concerning the right wing? This reeks of somebody who is trying desperately to align themselves with the winning candidate. I can’t see any other way of seeing it, after all, Robertson aligning himself with Giuliani is like PETA aligning themselves with Michael Vick. As far as issues go, John McCain and Mitt Romney are clearly more sensible candidates...unless you want to win.

And so, with the burden of right wing guilt now lifted from my shoulders, I’m finally free to vote the issues, rather than the candidates. With that in mind, I stumbled across a really great website called It has a twenty question quiz that allows you to electronically find out which candidate most represents the things you feel are important. According to this quiz, the following are my top five candidates.

John Edwards
Hillary Clinton
John McCain
Tommy Tompson
Barack Obama

Jesus never talked about homosexuality, but constantly talked about the poor. Could it be that this vote will draw me closer to the heart of Jesus than ever before?

Thursday, November 01, 2007

shots fired

Last night somebody took a shot at Jamie and I. We were walking down the street when suddenly we heard the sound of gunfire coming from an automatic weapon. We looked over to our right only to see a car whose passenger was hanging out of the window holding a high powered rifle of some sort. It took us a second to figure out what had happened and, after gaining our composure, we noticed the splatter of red paint all around us. Somehow the guy had missed us with his paint gun and we were able to walk without flinching, much, I’m sure, to the complete disappointment of the gunman and driver. In America we learn to aim a gun at the age of five. Happy Halloween and kiss my red, white and blue…

That is all.