Thinking Out Loud

December 15, 2009

Christmas Story Used to Sell Government Program

A push to spread the gospel about the 2010 Census this Christmas is stoking controversy with a campaign that links the government count to events surrounding the birth of Jesus.

The National Association of Latino Elected Officials is leading the distribution to churches and clergy of thousands of posters that depict the arrival of Joseph and a pregnant Mary in Bethlehem more than 2,000 years ago. As chronicled in the Gospel of Luke, Joseph returned to be counted in a Roman census, but he and Mary found no room at an inn, and Jesus was born in a manger.

“This is how Jesus was born,” the poster states. “Joseph and Mary participated in the Census.”   […continue reading the whole story at USAToday…]

It’s certainly not separation of church and state.   But it’s certainly not blasphemy, either, as some have suggested.   If anything, it ought to be flattering to Christians that the journey Joseph and Mary took to Bethlehem — Caesar’s census and head tax combo — is being used to promote the U.S. 2010 census.   Things could be worse.

It acknowledges a certain amount of respect for the historical accuracy of the Biblical narrative.   The idea is, if Joseph and Mary were willing to participate in the census, so should you.

The ‘you’ in this case, is Hispanic Americans.   And not everyone of Latin descent gets this message in their mailbox, either.   It’s just being distributed through Hispanic Evangelical churches.

The comments at USAToday’s religion page — currently closing in on 1,000 in only 24 hours — have been extensive.   Much of the objection has been from people outside the fold.   Anything to pick a fight, one suspects.   The ACLU is yet to weigh in.   They’d be hard-pressed to know where to begin on this one, since it’s inevitable that two people named Mary and Joseph were among the thousands who returned to their birthplaces for a census that other historians affirm.  (Though Mary was about to become a much more common name.)

This story has everything you need to extract comments from the widest number of people, since it touches on religious and Christian themes, but is also concerned with the census itself and the need for minority groups to get their people participating in order to secure funding for federal programs.

As the President of the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute, Dr. Juan Andrade, Jr. recognizes the many challenges that the Latino community faces.

Out of the three major demographic groups in the United States, Whites, Blacks, and Latinos, Latinos are the least educated, least likely to own their own homes, have the lowest annual income, and have less access to healthcare, Andrade’s told the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving’s Latino Endowment Fund last week.

All of these factors make Latinos less likely to vote or register to vote, Andrade said.

Also, among these problems, says Andrade, is the fact that Latinos represent 15 percent of the population of the United States but only one percent of elected officials. As the president of an organization that trains present and future leaders, as well as registers new voters, this is a very troubling statistic for him to hear…

…An accurate census, he says, will enable the Latino community to redefine the political landscape into one that will better represent their community and promote their needs.

“The census is the sole basis for the allocation of political power in this country and if we blow the census we blow the power. There is no need to have another discussion about the power of civic engagement if we blow the census” Andrade said.   […continue reading this story at CT News Junkie…]

So what do you think?   Is the government “using” the Biblical narrative here?  (One comment reads: “…but don’t use our Jesus for your benefit…”) As a Christian does this make you feel “used?”   Or like me, are you okay with this?


December 9, 2009

Links Links Links

Once again, we bring you the finest in links that you won’t see on any other blogs, except for the ones we got from other blogs.

  • To begin with, a five-minute advent meditation at YouTube with music by Jeff Johnson, titled The Coming of the Lord.
  • David Fitch at the blog, Reclaiming the Mission suggests that a staple of evangelism, getting people to admit that they are sinners, doesn’t work with postmoderns.
  • Speaking of evangelism, this is my favorite of the links this week:  Kevin Rogers at the blog, The Orphan Age, introduces his son Levi (15) who shares a dialog that took place in a Grade Nine class discussion.   Ever get asked why God would make us imperfect and given to doing evil things?   Check out his response.
  • With nine locations, The Meeting House is Canada’s largest multi-site church.   Pastor Bruxy Cavey, author of The End of Religion is currently doing a series about Facebook culture where he suggests to his parishioners: “Get over yourselves.”  Read about the church in this December 8th article at Christian Week.   [Two hours later: Having already heard the first message in this series, I just listened to the second — The Culture of “i” — and totally enjoyed the blend of technological and Biblical insights.  To listen, click here.]
  • Andrew Faris at the blog, Christians in Context, rethinks the Christmas song, “Mary Did You Know,” and suggests some additional verses.
  • Speaking of Christmas, for you ‘crafty’ people out there, Ann Welch at the blog, Resolved to Worship suggests some Christmas tree ornaments you can make with no budget on a rainy day.
  • Kathy aka Kaybee at the blog, The Well, suggests that when it comes to our intimacy with God,  “We can’t dash into His presence and choke down spiritual inwardness before we hurry to our one o’clock appointment.”Read the post, No Hurry here.
  • When the minister says, “I now pronounce you husband and wife;” the couples kiss next, right?   Not necessarily.  Check out this short YouTube, At My Wedding.
  • At the blog, The Online Discernmentalist Mafia, a new gadget offers protection from Liberal, Emergent, Catholic-related, Shack-inspired influences that might creep into your mind undetected.
  • Last, an internal link.  I’d really like to have gotten more discussion going on so called “contemporary” churches whose basic order of worship is part of the church bylaws and constitution.   How “fresh” and “alive” is the worship sequence where you worship on Sunday mornings?
Got Prayer Requests?

Use the Comments Section in this post

As a family, we get together at 9:00 PM EST and often include items gathered throughout the day from my work (confidentiality permitting.) Today, I thought, “Why not open this up to our blog community as well?” Feel free to list anything on your heart, but if it’s not for yourself, don’t use names.  … I think it’s good for us to pray for things outside our family circle. Sometimes our prayer life can be very insular, which isn’t good in a world of global need. If you miss today’s connection time-wise, there’s always tomorrow.

July 31, 2009

Look Out, Coldplay: Pope Benedict is Chartbound

Filed under: Religion — Tags: , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:59 pm

USA TodayThe music industry, hungry for a hit, may have one here as Geffin Records has signed the Pope to record an album of prayers.

USAToday reports:

Pope Album Story USAToday

An album of prayers to Mary? That’s what it says. Mary. Not God. Not Jesus. Not the Holy Spirit. And we know that Mary hears our prayers because of what’s found in … what’s that Biblical book and chapter again? Oh right. There isn’t one. Not even in the Catholic Bible. Not even a hint.

Don’t call this religion Christianity. It’s Marianity.

Click anywhere within the story to open the full page at USAToday Religion.

December 7, 2008

Mary’s Song – The Magnificat

So Mary’s burst of praise contains over a dozen references to Old Testament (I prefer “first testament”) scriptures, which she no doubt learned as part of the religious education all Jewish children received, right?

But the next question would be, Where did Luke get the text of her song?   In my sermon this morning, I considered four possibilities:

  1. Luke didn’t get it from her.  It’s revisionism.   The words are being ascribed to her because the poetry works into a nice narrative; four poems or psalms actually; being attributed to four different people.   Makes a nice Christmas play, but it never happened; at least not like that.
  2. She didn’t use those words at the time.  Luke interviewed her.   She recalled being filled with awe and wonder at the moment, and gives him a text years down the road that only comes with maturity and further understanding of the prophetic texts.  A revisionist version of actual events that happened differently.
  3. Luke did get it from her and that really was the text of her song at the time.   She essentially “taught herself” the text and melody — yes, there was a tune to this song — and having memorized it, repeated it over and over throughout her life.
  4. The song is real, the lyrics are accurate, and it’s all Mary’s work, but Luke didn’t need to interview her to get it, because many of the women of the time had been taught “Mary’s Song;” originally from Mary herself, but some from others who knew the lyrics and melody.   (However, its original CCLI number was discontinued; I think it was song number 4.)

I like options three and four.   Modern scholarship would try to deconstruct the text, but instead, we should look at ways we can make the text work.   Luke, the doctor and historian,  having access to the text of a young peasant girl’s immediate reaction to an angelic visitation is far from impossible to imagine. And his gospel begins with a pledge of accuracy.

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