Friday, December 18, 2020

Hanukkah and the Great Battle for Worship

Just this week, VP-Elect Kamala Harris, someone who has been vocal about 'appropriating' other cultures, came out with a shallow, ignorant and remarkably insensitive statement about what Hanukkah 'means' to her. Her statement really shows the move towards a society devoid of true, meaningful religious expression outside of the approved, gooey, empty, sentimentality that has no underlying foundation other than 'it makes me feels good.

Her idea of Hanukkah sounds like a hallmark movie instead of the true story of Hanukkah; which you may read of in the book of Maccabees should you be interested. There you will find something far different than the flippant "I love Hannukah because it really is about the light and bringing light where there is darkness, and there is so much work to be done in the world to bring light and it is a celebration of Tikun Olam..." The actual Feast is about a bloody and brutal war between Jews who wanted to hold fast to their faith, and a grasping, secularizing, Hellenizing culture that had capitulated to the governmental decrees of the crazy Antiochus IV; he who had demanded that the Jews STOP practicing their religion.

The state, as it is wont to do, demanded loyalty to only one -- the STATE. The secularization of Israel was going well, with the assistance of a large number of Jews who were willing to sacrifice their faith on the altar of pragmatism and political expediency, until those pesky Maccabbeans refused to abandon their religion to sate the government's desire for worship. Instead, they revolted against the secularization of their world, and were given a miraculous victory over a crushing and oppressive government, successfully cleansing the Temple and re-establishing worship back to the people.

Now, i do not find KH's statements shocking, for if the true story of Hanuakkah were told, it would actually be a refutation of what many in our culture hold to; that religious practice needs to be subsumed under governmental control. Sadly, what bothers me is that she cares so little for something so deeply important to so many people, she certainly didn't have a problem appropriating a Jewish feast for her own political rhetoric. This is a disturbing trend I find on both sides of the aisle, one side seeks to secularize all things religious, the other, conflates their religion with their politics, sanctifying their political views. Both sides seek to put forward the sacredness of their political position in one way or another, while attempting to empty religious thought of anything truly transcendent -- what is old is new again, hello Antiochus IV!

I doubt that we will see this trajectory,(that of increasing ignorance of all things sacred, and creeping secularization), change anytime soon, and as I stated earlier, this is not just one side of the political aisle, both sides are remarkably ahistorical, corrosive in their language and bent on controlling society with their idealogies. Sadly, true, caring, and open conversations seem further away now than they have ever been, and I doubt that this will reverse until we, as a people, step away from our narcissistic, self-absorbed, victimzed mindset, a mindset fostered by 'social' media, news outlets in pursuit of eyes far more than truth and an educational system that seems less and less interested in 'education' and more and more in 'doctrination' (on both sides of the aisle), and step more into a self-giving, sacrificial, and caring attitude towards those who difffer with us. Only then will we be able to see beyond our own navel to have a true and honest discussion around the sacred and the secular.

Hanukkah, at the end of the day, is a choice between who/what one will serve. To round out this story, if we move forward in time, the Jewish nation, 400+ years after the Maccabean revolt, was once again under the rule of an oppressive government, this time Rome. And during the celebration of Hanukkah, Jesus was found to be walking through the Temple grounds, (John 10:22ff), and as He did, He was questioned about His identity: 'IF You are the Messiah, tell us plainly...' Well, He had already told and shown them, but they were far more interested in a secular deliverance, a casting out of the Romans and re-establishing of Israel as a powerhouse in the region (sort of an ANE 'Make Israel Great Again' campaign) than they were of re-establishing worship of the One True God, so, they ultimately rejected Jesus' Messianic claims, seeking to put their eyes on a temporal goal. The God-man had entered into the Temple grounds, once again the Temple burned brightly with the presence of the LORD, but they refused to see: they chose who they would serve.

Ultimately, we all have to serve something/someone; an idea eloquently put forward by that great Theologian, Bob Dylan:

"You may be an ambassador, To England or France, You might like to gamble, You might like to dance, You may be the heavyweight Champion of the world, You might be a socialite, With a long string of pearls. But you're gonna have to serve somebody; Yes indeed, you're gonna have to serve somebody. Well it may be the Devil Or it may be the Lord, But you're gonna have to serve somebody..."

The questions is: Who will you serve?

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Cleaning up and Checking In

Wow, has it REALLY been NINE YEARS since I stopped by? So much has changed that it seems superfluous to try and 'catch up'. And honestly that is not my goal -- I doubt that people read my blog, or have in many many years, this gives me some freedom to start slow and deliberately. I plan on using this as a place to put some of my thoughts, and also to do some house cleaning on sites I read/listen to, and remove dead links etc. In other words, rather than anyone reading this with regularity, I believe that this will be a notepad for my thoughts. I have read some of my old posts and like anything, some are terrible, some are OK, but all were 'where I was' at the time; in other words, it is sort of my modern version of journaling. I am contemplatring doing a podcast -- a dear friend has provided some guidance on tools etc. BTW, I am still a bi-vocational pastor at a small church, so the tooling and efforts needs to be considered in that vein (read that, non-time consuming, and inexpensive). With all that being said -- I am just leaving this as a placeholder as I work through updating and cleaning my old house out.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Public Discourse

So, Susan Sarandon recently said this, and just a few weeks ago we had the infamous statement from Hank Williams Jr.

What this shows is how ill-read, and ill-informed both of these folks are. It does seem to be in vogue to pull out the 'Hitler' card nowadays, comparing Bush, Obama, and now the Pope to the infamous murderer. Rather than couch arguments in well thought out sentences and insightful perspectives both the right and left side of our political spectrum resort to the most basic and crude ad hominem attacks.

While these two individuals are but the latest in our society to show a complete lack of ability to think deeply, this is an endemic problem, and is a frightening reflection of the society in which we live.

Everyone is out for themselves, and until that changes (if it ever will), the disintegration of our public discourse will continue -- for it is far easier to simply assassinate the character of the opposition rather than address their concerns.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Starting Up Again?

After talking with my good friend Matt the other evening about blogging, I have decided to pray about and put forth the idea of a new direction for the blog.

I will be the first to admit that I am not the brightest (or even in the top 1000 brightest), Christian blogger(s) out there; nor do I have anything so important to say that someone else has not already addressed it. So, I have allowed my blog to languish - well, those reasons and I have been totally booked out time-wise.

But, after speaking with Matt - I thought that maybe I could work through Puritan books, just doing a type of 'book report' for those who might be interested in reading the Puritans. A reference point, if you will.

Again, there are sites out there that do this well already, but many of them are put up by scholars, and I am a simple country pastor in a small church. My perspective may not be as erudite, but it will be practical.

So, I plan on starting with Thomas Watson's The Godly Man's Picture.

We will see how this goes... Hopefully, I will talk to you soon....

Friday, October 08, 2010

Religious Respect?

This article really got me thinking.

A couple of things come to mind.

First, I remember when Terry Jones threatened to burn the Koran -- as we all know. The outcry was deafening. Every media personality weighted in, and politicians, local and national, both sides of the aisle, (even international), raised a cry demonizing Pastor Jones.

This was a small church, in a middling town, that threatened to burn a religious book - something that is done every day in other countries (although primarily Bibles), and you would have thought that he had planted a dirty bomb!

Now, I disagree with Pastor Jones -- I am not saying what he did, or threatened to do, was correct, but I am attempting to draw a parallel.

Here, in Loveland, Coloerado we have an ART museum putting blasphemous art out for open public view. I don't remember hearing about this on the news, nor did any politician (say, the White House, or any other national politician) come out decrying this so-called 'art'. Why is that?

I would venture to say that it is because of two things:

1) - The religion being blasphemed is Christianity, which we all know is fair game. Christianity is not a protected religion, but any other religion certainly is!

2) - The world, while they loudly proclaim Islam as a 'religion of peace', KNOWS that it is not. They know that violence is an inherent piece of Islam; and they are afraid of it.

While I have friends who are Muslims, and they are not violent - the folks that have the loudest voice and the power within that religion are violent. A sad, but true statement.

Also, notice what the news was: A 66-year-old woman attacked a piece of trash with a crowbar. Not the fact that the so-called art was actually a piece of blasphemous filth, but that this woman attacked the art.

And, finally, my favorite piece of the article: 'Chagoya told the Associated Press he was saddened to see his work desecrated. "My intention has never been to offend anybody," he said.'

Amazing...

So the next time a politician, or a media personality gets on the TV and shouts about how we have to respect religion, keep in mind that they are not referring to religion in general, but to all religions outside of Christianity.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Where I am... (or where AM I?)

It has been 4 months since I last posted here - but simply too busy most times to put something up.

I also find that I am nowhere near as prolific as many others in the blogsphere. Pastoring my church and working a full-time job pretty much consumed my time.

I am working in a new position, and still adjusting to it a bit. But, I wanted to at least post (probably to myself), and simply state that I am still alive...

The church has been doing pretty well - we have grown some, and now have a small choir - which for us is a major step, as we traditionally have had no tradition.. :-)

There has been the usual shake-ups, disagreements, and discussions that accompany any change, especially in the realm of church music. It has been, at various times, frustrating, maddening, rewarding and hurtful.

The choir performed an Easter cantata yesterday and it was amazing! We still have challenges ahead, but we have begun to move in a direction that I think will benefit all involved, even if, at this time, they fail to see the benefit.

We have had our share of loss as well, one of my dear friends passed to the other side last month - he had suffered for quite some time with the ravages of dementia and Parkinson's. I was honored to do his service and the church has gathered around his widow to ensure that she is OK. And I lost another good friend at work from cancer - and have tried to be there for his family...

As you can see - right now, I have nothing of import to say, nor any keen observations to share - this is just sort of an update to level-set. I could speak on the politics of our country, or the politics of church life - or even throw out something pithy about Tiger Woods, but I really don't have any keen observations on these things. My head and heart are in a different place and I will ponder and pray about what I may post on next.

I am currently doing a series on evangelism, specifically towards the Muslim community, and also a series on Creationism and its various positions (i.e. Young Earth, Old Earth, Evolution). maybe I will post some of my thoughts on these - we'll see...

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Worship Music

Yes, it has been about six weeks since I posted. A lot has happened -- got caught in a RIF at work, and been very busy at the church. However, I read a short book on worship music while I was away...

The book turned out to be a bust in my opinion. Even though it had the endorsement of a man I truly respect, J. Ligon Duncan III, IMHO, this book was not very compelling.

Before I go much further, I want to say that I agree, by and large, with many of the arguments in the book; i.e. that CCM is inappropriate for worship, and that many (if not most), CCM/modern worship songs are insipid and totally narcissistic. Where I feel that the author went afoul of a solid argument is when he began with the mantra that 'drums' are somehow part of the devil's music.

Now, he did not say that in those words, but he intimates it heavily throughout. And the old boogie man of the 'backbeat' somehow conjuring up Satan in the church is simply not true.

His argument for using classical music is that it is so far removed from anything evil that it is safe to be used in the church - although, in it's day, this music too was frowned upon by many within the church.

This is written from a Western man's view of music - drums and music of the type that he disparages, are used in other parts of the world where people have always used drums as part of their heritage. they also do not have organs, pianos and the other western instruments.

As I said earlier, I agree that CCM has no place in the worship life of the church, and I am a staunch believer in hymns, and even Psalter singing, however the arguments put forth by Mr. Lucarini just don't hold water from a musical standpoint. I would have enjoyed a much more theological argumentation, as opposed to the almost 'mystical' perspective that a certain beat and instrumentation is inherently evil.

Sadly, as I work through the changes in our worship style; attempting to jettison some of the inherited CCM and replace it with more solid modern hymns and Psalter singing, these types of books are really useless. I am going to pick up Michael Horton's A Better Way. This was recommended by a pastor that I truly respect.

I have also found Hughes Oliphant Old's books to be quite useful -- his Worship book is fantastic, as is his Leading in Prayer workbook.

Books such as Dan Lucarini's simply provide no useful theological argumentation - but instead, rely on the same arguments that the CCM folks use to introduce the drivel that they call worship music. I think there is a better way, and I believe that we can use arguments that transcend the 'drums are bad' mentality.