Archive for the ‘culture versus faith’ Tag

Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly   Leave a comment

This evening I had a conversation with an acquaintance about Christmas and decorations. This person is a fundamentalist Christian, very devout and she doesn’t believe in Christmas — or at least not the way we celebrate Christmas.

Christmas, she says, is a pagan holiday (Saturnalia) co-opted into the Roman Catholic Church for the purposes of sanctifying a holiday pagan converts didn’t want to give up.

Evergreens are giving worship to Woden (Odin), who is what Santa Claus is based on and ….

STOP!

Christianity is a faith, not a culture. Christians can come from many parts of the world and from many cultures and while we all believe the same core beliefs – Jesus Christ crucified for our sins, risen on the third day, salvation by faith – we do not enter into the same culture. My friends Sonny and Patience, South African Baptists, express their faith within their culture in a very different way than I do.

And, that’s fine!

In Acts 15, it describes the first big controversy of the Christian churches. The church at Antioch had sent Paul and Barnabas out to preach to the Gentiles, but the Gentiles were not becoming Jewish, but were rather remaining Gentiles. Some “judaizers” objected and Paul went to Jerusalem where the leaders held a council to decide the matter. What they comes up with was the Gentiles did not have to keep the Jewish law to become Christians. They didn’t have submit to circumcision, the dietary habits, the feasts and festivals … none of that. They could remain Gentiles by culture and still be Christians by faith.

There’s no doubt that some syncretism crept into the Roman Catholic Church following its establishment at the Council of Nicea, but we need to be careful about disallowing cultural expressions by Christians. If we insist that we root out all syncretism, we will soon find ourselves worshipping just like the Jewish Christians of Jerusalem, circa 49 AD.

That’s fine if you’re a Jewish Christian, but if you’re a Gentile, it’s casting aside your culture in an effort to adopt a system that you hope will please God more than what you’re doing.

Evergreens look and smell lovely wonderful in the closed up December homes in Alaska. Does it really matter when I celebrate Jesus’ birthday. I could celebrate it in September, but I’d do it alone. And are we sure that fixing the date in September isn’t just an attempt by judaizers to get us to celebrate Rosh Hoshana (Day of Atonement)? Santa was never a big part of our family life, but yes, I’m going to celebrate Christmas by putting up a tree and hanging greens. I don’t worship these things anymore than I worship the autumn leaf arrangement I set out at Thanksgiving or the pussy willows I bring in in the spring. I do these things with regularity to make my home inviting and seasonal. I am not worshiping Odin or anyone else when I do them.

I’ve come to the conclusion that people who freak out over things like this are not very secure in their faith. Else, they’re in some way ashamed of their culture. They are modern day judaizers, confusing culture with Christ and expecting their fellow Christians to validate their confusion by following along.

Enough!

If you don’t want to celebrate Christmas, don’t! And certainly, if you see me bowing down before the Christmas tree or Santa, call me on it. But if I bring greens into my house in the winter, consider that I may just like the scent and the color and you are the weak brother freaking out over the temple meat.

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