The First Noel

December 27, 2007

The first Noel the angel did say
Was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay;
In fields as they lay, keeping their sheep,
On a cold winter’s night that was so deep.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel,
Born is the King of Israel.

I haven’t written very much about religion lately, though it may surprise some to know that religious blogging used to be my little niche in the blogging world. Still, as I read that the Salvation Army is falling short of its red kettle goals across the country – here at home as well as elsewhere – I can’t help but think that we’ve all missed the point. We spend more and more every holiday season, this year’s disappointment over a 2.8% increase in consumer spending not withstanding. Why can we increase consumer spending by 2.8% but fall short in caring for the poor?

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Mike Huckabee, Putting the Christ in Politics

December 18, 2007

So Mike Huckabee has this ad out wishing all of us a “Merry Christmas” (not “Happy Holidays”), and politely telling all of his political opponents that ’tis the season to shut up about his flaws. Why? Because Jesus likes it that way.

You can’t make this stuff up.

H/T: Captain’s Quarters.

Those Crazy Muggles

December 17, 2007

Warning: This post contains spoilers for the first and second books in the Harry Potter series, including a major spoiler regarding the end of the second book.

So I’ve just finished Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (the second in the series), and I’m left wondering what all the fuss was about. I’ve taken away from these books several messages, including: good will always triumph over evil; love will always defeat hatred; and, especially in the second book, that racism and other forms of exclusion based on who people are is wrong. The horrors.

I also took note of something toward the end of the Chamber of Secrets. Harry Potter is concerned that he was almost placed in Slytherin, the house that produced the evil Lord Voldemort and a number of other dark wizards, and wonders if he has evil within him. The headmaster, Albus Dumbledore, responds by saying that it’s not about some latent quality within a person, but about the choices a person makes – this, according to Dumbledore, is what defines a person.

“So I should be in Slytherin,” Harry said, looking desperately into Dumbledore’s face. “The Sorting Hat could see Slytherin’s power in me, and it –”

“Put you in Gryffindor,” said Dumbledore calmly. “Listen to me, Harry. You happen to have many qualities Salazar Slytherin prized in his hand-picked students. His own very rare gift, Parseltongue — resourcefulness — determination — a certain disregard for rules,” he added, his mustache quivering again. “Yet the Sorting Hat placed you in Gryffindor. You know why that was. Think.”

“It only put me in Gryffindor,” said Harry in a defeated voice, “because I asked not to go in Slytherin. . . .”

Exactly,” said Dumbledore, beaming once more. “Which makes you very different from Tom Riddle [Voldemort]. It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” (p. 333)

Sounds nefarious, doesn’t it? Definitely not the kind of thing we want our kids reading about!

The Golden Compass

December 8, 2007

I don’t usually delve into pop culture controversies, and especially not the kind that involve hypersensitive boycotts of movies, music, video games, etc., because there is something either morally, philosophically, or religiously objectionable about them. Like many Americans, I’ve grown tired of the evangelical who cried wolf – The Last Temptation of Christ, The DaVinci Code, Harry Potter, etc., have all been said to be anti-Christian and/or threatening to the Christian faith, and they are by no means the only examples.

So what about this Golden Compass business? At first, I was inclined to dismiss it as just another example of the evangelical who cried wolf. What could possibly make this different than all the rest? But the more I’ve heard about it, the more I’ve become convinced that there may actually be a wolf here. You see, unlike the other examples that range from artistic to opportunistic, the series of books upon which this movie is based seems actually to be antagonistic toward Christianity and, in fact, religion in general.

I haven’t read the books and I haven’t seen the movie. I won’t pass definitive judgement on them until I do, and that may be never – I have little interest in the movie, less interest in the books, and no time to pursue that which doesn’t interest me. Still, I think caution may be called for. You might want to think twice. You might want to read the resources compiled by Against the Grain from sources better informed than me. And, if you’re one of the evangelicals used to crying wolf, you might want to consider that when an actual wolf shows up no one is going to be paying attention. And you’ll have no one to blame but yourself.

A Breath of Fresh Air

December 8, 2007

I’ve pretty much dismissed former Sen. Fred Thompson (R-TN) as a serious presidential candidate due to his apparent laziness, but I really liked this paragraph from a Washington Post campaign blog (H/T: Instapundit):

Asked about his religious beliefs during an appearance before about 500 Republicans in South Carolina yesterday, Fred Thompson said he attends church when he visits his mother in Tennessee but does not belong to a church or attend regularly at his home in McLean, Va., just outside Washington. The actor and former senator, who was baptized in the Church of Christ, said he gained his values from “sitting around the kitchen table” and said he did not plan to speak about his religious beliefs on the stump. “I know that I’m right with God and the people I love,” he said, according to Bloomberg News Service. It’s “just the way I am not to talk about some of these things.”

It’s nice to see a truly conservative Republican presidential candidate who doesn’t wear his faith on his sleeve to pander to evangelicals. It’s also nice to see a candidate who admits that his values came from the kitchen table rather than the pew, which is I think true of most Americans. Forced to choose between Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, and Fred Thompson, I would now choose Thompson any day.

One Nation?

December 6, 2007

Ann Althouse informs us that Michael Newdow is back in court to challenge the “under God” clause in the pledge of allegiance, and this time he’s also taking on the “in God we trust” motto on our money. This comes just in time to ensure that substantive questions about issues like health care, entitlement reform, national security, etc., will be replaced by questions about this issue intended to create buzz and, of course, ratings.

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Symphony of Faith or Noisy Gong?

December 6, 2007

Former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) delivered his much anticipated “Faith in America” speech today, ensuring Americans that he will not allow his Mormon faith to dictate public policy. You can get the full text and video of the speech at Power Line. Frankly, I was never worried that Mormonism would dictate Romney’s policy. I’m much more worried that a narrow strain of evangelical Christianity will influence Romney’s policy decisions, just as it has the decisions of all Republican presidents since Ronald Reagan.

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