Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The First Christmas Card

In yesterday's paper, on the Kid's Page no less, was a discussion of Christmas cards and the first card coming out of mid-19th century England. The card by John Calcott Horsley portrays three images, two of which portray works of mercy, feeding the hungry and clothing the naked.

Imagine no syrupy sweet images of a baby, but acts of charity connected with the birth of Christ.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Advent promise...

The other week we sang the great hymn, O Lord, How Shall I Meet You. The final verse brought about one of those moments when everything becomes crystal clear and sharp, piercing me to the quick. Of course the moment was over way too soon, but the verse still lingers as Advent draws to a close.

He comes to judge the nations,
A terror to his foes,
A light of consolations
And blessed hope to those
Who love the Lord's appearing.
O glorious Sun, now come,
Send forth your beams so cheering
And guide us safely home.
Our only hope is in Jesus, and in his promise to return again. May we continue to pray "Amen. Come Lord Jesus."

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The reason for the season... at least for Yahoo!

Does Yahoo! think this banner ad is clever? The gifts that will make your kids worship you? Why not have the ad stream the tune Adeste Fidelis while they are at it?

O Come all ye Children, whiny and obnoxious,
O Come all ye consumers of third world made goods.
Come and search for them. Give thanks to your parents!
O Come and now adore them! O Come and now adore them! O Come now and adore them,
Parents divine!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Not so happy with Happy Feet

On Sunday afternoon, I took my three-year old to see the new film Happy Feet. While it was highly entertaining, I was distraught by the presence of several things, most of which are standard fare for modernity, but seemed terribly out of place for a film marketed for young children.

  1. Charged Sexuality: The movie starts with penguins, well, one penguin actually, singing a Prince song. So we hear "You don't have to be beautiful... to turn me on." Now... maybe I am just becoming the old Curmudgeon here, but I cannot imagine any children's movie anywhere where it is necessary for anything other than light switches to be turned on. The blatant sexuality is actually a problem in many children's movies. Watch The Little Mermaid for example. That film oozes sexuality in just about every scene.
  2. Organized Religion is evil: In essence Mumble, the penguin who doesn't fit in, is ostracized by the chant-loving, Scottish brogue bearing elites. Mumble's father begs him to change and in an echo of the modern day debates of homosexuality being a choice or genetic, replies that he won't. Of course the religious authorities don't just stop there, they blame his licentious dancing as the reason their god, the great Guin, has brought upon a fish shortage. Mumble sets off with a rag tag group of friends to find the aliens that Mumble is sure is the cause of the fish shortage. Their journey takes them to the Forbidden Shore, where as the emerge from a dark tunnel and into the bright sunlight, they see in their path a church high upon the hill, and the angle shifts so we can see the environmental desolation over which it stands. Everything in this wasteland is polluted and rusty, falling apart. This disaster is clearly the place where the narrator Lovelace is found to have earned the plastic six-pack collar that he has been calling his talisman. But the image that I saw was one where the Church is blamed for bad environmental stewardship and I was reminded of the anti-environmentalist rationale of Christians who use the verse from Genesis "have dominion over the earth and subdue it." Certainly there is a need for the Church to be honest about its poor stewardship of creation, but in many parts of the Church environmental stewardship is an important part of their mission.
  3. Salvation comes from human government: When the fishing depletion is made known through Mumble, humanity's (the aliens) response is to set up a no fishing zone around Antarctica. While Mumble's grabs their attention, it is clear that government saves. Here is one more instance where the idea of progress toward utopia through human effort and authority is problematic, especially in conjunction with the above point.
There is to be sure some discussion about Mumble as a Christ figure, despised and rejected, standing against the religious authorities of the day to bring in a new community... but that community, the Church, is to be seen in continuity with the People of Zion. Clearly in Happy Feet that is not the case. There is an old, dated authority structure which needs to be removed. That is what Mumble does, and its replacement? Something that depends upon humanity for survival.

God help those dancing penguins.


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The New Creation

The risen Christ is no resuscitated corpse. His new body has properties that enable it at will, to appear and disappear within present history. Nor will the redeemed universe be a mere repetition of its present state. This current universe is a creation endowed with just those physical properties that have enabled it to 'make itself' in the course of its evolving history. A world of this kind, by its necessary nature, must be a world of transience in which death is the cost of new life. In theological terms, this world is a creation that is sustained by its Creator, and which has been endowed with a divinely purposed fruitfulness, but which is also allowed to be at some distance from the veiled presence of the One who holds it in being and interacts in hidden ways with its history. Its unfolding process develops within the 'space' that God has given it, within which it is allowed to be itself. This is a theme that has been developed by particularly by JΓΌrgen Moltmann. He draws on the kabbalistic notion of zimzum, the divine making way for the existence of created reality. One may sum up this insight by saying that this creation is the result of a kenotic act by the Creator, who has made way for the existence of the created other. The physical fabric of such a universe must take a particular form, but there is no reason to suppose that the Creator cannot bring into being a new creation of different character when it is appropriate to the divine purpose to do so.

The world to come will indeed have a different character. Just as Jesus was exalted to the right hand of the Father after his resurrection, so the world to come will be integrated in a new and intimate way with the divine life. I do not accept panentheism (the idea that the creation is in God though God exceeds creation) as a theological reality for the present world, but I do believe in it as the form of eschatological destiny for the world to come. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, God will then be 'all in all' (I Corinthians 15:28). The Eastern Orthodox speak of eschatological fulfillment as being the attainment of theosis, not meaning by that that creatures will become gods but that they will share fully in the divine life and energies. This world is one that contains the focussed and covenanted occasions of divine presence that we call sacraments. The new creation will be wholly sacramental, suffused with with the presence of the life of God. In his great vision of the End, the seer of Patmos saw the holy city as one in which there was no longer a cultic temple 'for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb' (Revelation 21:22). God's presence, veiled from us today, will be open and manifest in the world to come. Moltmann has his own way of expressing this hope, in terms of the descent of the divine Shekinah.

John Polkinghorne
The God of Hope and the End of the World