Category Archives: history

A real old-fashioned Christmas

Here’s a repost of an article I wrote last year on the history of Christmas. Enjoy!

It’s all too common this time of year to hear people bemoaning the commercialization of Christmas and how “the reason for the season” is being forgotten. Wrapped up in our rampant consumerism. People getting upset at department stores selling “Holiday Trees” as opposed to “Christmas Trees” or the State Department’s insistence that the tree on the White House lawn be known as a Holiday Tree.

Such skirmishes like these have led to major initiates within the Christian community to curb what they see as a rising tide of secularization that threatens to destroy “the true meaning of Christmas”.

However in all the commotion an underlying question is rarely asked and almost never answered..

What are the real historical roots of Christmas?

Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas By: Ace Collins

Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas By: Ace Collins

In his wonderful book “Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas“, Ace Collins lays out the grim reality that Christmas for centuries was no where near the festive, family-friendly, children-focused event we’ve come to know it as.

For centuries Christmas was known as the most rowdy and lawless time of the year. From many accounts our modern celebration of Mardi Gras in all of its decadent, bead-wearing, chest-flashing splendor doesn’t compare with the debauchery displayed in the average Christmas celebration of ages past.

The banning of Christmas

The celebrations held during Christmas were so bad that Christmas was officially banned both in England and in the United States. Women would lock their children inside just to escape the rowdy mobs.

Remember the classic Christmas song “We Wish you a Merry Christmas“? Ever wonder about the ominous line “we won’t go until we get some”?

This song is just one of the reminders of the past of the lawlessness inherent in the “old fashioned” celebrations of Christmas. As the song implies, bands of young men would roam from house to house, singing to the occupants. The demand in the song to bring “figgy pudding” and a “cup of good cheer” aren’t mere suggestions as these mobs would often break in and loot the homes of anyone foolish enough to refuse.

For this and many other examples of lawlessness, many regarded this time of year to be completely hopeless and irredeemable until a series of events in the early to mid 18th century helped pull Christmas celebrations from a focus on drunken excess to a focus on family and charity.

ion 1843" src="http://reasontostand.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/200px-Charles_Dickens-A_Christmas_Carol-Cloth-First_Edition_1843.jpg" alt="Cover of the first edition (1843)" width="160" height="244" />

Cover of the first edition (1843)

A Christmas Carol

Charles Dickens’s classic tale, first published in 1843, is known by many for it’s sobering critique on materialism but many don’t understand the Cultural climate where Charles Dickens famous work was borne.

With the rise of industrialization it suddenly became possible to make money nearly around the clock. Consequently many became work-a-holics like Mr Scrooge. Not so much because they were obsessed with money (though that certainly played a part) but because they had become obsessed with working in itself.

It was out of this cultural climate that A Christmas Carol was written to expose and critique the fact that while industrialization had certainly brought unprecedented wealth and riches. It also managed to rob the average worker of anything worth working for.

Namely their families.

Dickens’ tale was a clear call for workers to at least take one holiday a year, particularly Christmas, off and celebrate and enjoy those around them.

We would like to think that we are unique in our modern age of computers and “work at all hours” pace of the information age. A Christmas Carol serves to remind us that work-a-holism is not a recent invention and Christmas serves as a reminder that the cure still remains the same.

Merry Old SantaSanta Clause: Twas a night before Christmas

A Visit From St. Nicholas

Even though most of protestantism had given up on Christmas as a hopelessly pagan holiday, the Roman Catholic Church doggedly maintained their observance of the beleaguered holiday by holding a special mass (Christ-mas) on December 25th, caroling1, and by passing down Christmas stories of good cheer to eager pupils.

In 1823 a poem entitled “A visit from St. Nicholas” was published anonymously and helped to spread the classic tale of a jolly old elf whose mission in life was to spread cheer and good tidings (not to mention a few presents) once a year.

Eventually an Anglican bishop by the name of Clement Clark Moore was credited for the poem. A man whom we can thank for bringing us Santa Clause and the myriad of stories about him that have arisen ever since.

Though we may loathe the jolly old man these days for his work in malls across the country encouraging buyers to come, shop, and have their picture taken after an excruciatingly long delay in a line that seemingly goes on forever. We ought to keep in mind that it is the character of Santa Clause who gave children everywhere a reason to get excited about what otherwise was merely yet another excuse for adults to get drunk (now that occasion has been delayed by 7 days).

Victorian Christmas TreeThe royal treatment

In 1846, the popular royals, Queen Victoria and her German Prince, Albert, were sketched in the Illustrated London News standing with their children around a Christmas tree.((The History of Christmas))

In addition to the Roman Catholic Church’s steadfast support of the holiday, the German people had managed to turn the holiday into a family affair for many years. This when Prince Albert married Queen Victoria he brought with him the family customs he grew up with.

It was this royal couple, particularly the German prince Albert, who helped make Christmas more of a family holiday as their subjects naturally copied them and stopped their rabble rousing.

The past isn’t what it used to be

For years we’ve been told about “the good old days” of Christmases long long ago. Unfortunately we weren’t told that “long ago” stopped somewhere around the mid-18th century and that past that we wouldn’t recognize anything we now cherish as hallmarks of the Christmas celebration.

So this year, when you hear someone bemoaning Santa Clause or the other “unimportant” vestiges of the Christmas season such as the Christmas tree. Gently remind them that the past isn’t as rosy as it may seem through the tinsel of our nostalgia.

We may wish to pretend that Christ was always at the center of Christmas, but the truth is that for centuries he was only barely a part of what was otherwise a pagan orgy. That we enjoy Christmas they way we do is a testimony to the power of the influences mentioned above.

Does Christmas have room for improvement? Sure. Is it overly materialistic in our current culture? Absolutely! But it’s certainly come a long way and is still a time of good tidings and great cheer. We need to remember not to throw the baby out with the bathwater, though we might need another Charles Dickens to come along with another sobering reminder that possessions are far less important than goodwill and holiday cheer.

And with that I bid you,

Merry Christmas!

  1. Consequently, caroling was originally frowned upon by the Church as it was seen as frivolous. But when it became apparent the power of songs, the Church quickly rushed to guide and direct the music and lyrics. Ace Collins also has an excellent book on the Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas []
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Kwanzaa, the racialist winter holiday alternative

There is no other winter holiday I hate more than Kwanzaa. And since my children keep being exposed to it in School, I figured I would help other parents out there understand what Kwanzaa is all about and why I hate it with every fiber of my being.

Ancient roots

Kwanzaa was not established in Africa. It is not an ancient tradition.

Kwanzaa was established by Maulana Karenga, a convicted felon known for his involvement in several “black nationalist” groups that were quite prevalent in the 60s. Kwanzaa was invented upon Karenga’s release in 1966. Got that? Kwanzaa is a whopping 44 years old. Moreover, it was started in the ancient African metropolis known as Los Angeles.

Anti-materialism

Kwanzaa is celebrated after Christmas, before New Years. Why? What magical significance does this have?

Karenga even considered the benefits of post-Christmas sales for those who purchase Kwanzaa gifts.

Yeah, so much for that whole “we’re all about getting back to ‘mother earth'” nonsense. The reality is that Kwanzaa was established in direct opposition to what early adopters saw as “white holidays”. No matter how you slice it, race is a huge part of Kwanzaa.

It’s not about race at all

Kwanzaa is a celebration that has its roots in the black nationalist movement of the 1960s, and was established as a means to help African Americans reconnect with their African cultural and historical heritage by uniting in meditation and study of African traditions and Nguzu Saba, the “seven principles of blackness” which Karenga said “is a communitarian African philosophy”.

The real purpose of Kwanzaa is pretty clear. It’s to keep race hustlers in business by a lame attempt to keep people focused on race.

Even a drunken orgy would be better

Even compared to the drunken orgies that are known to have occurred around Winter Solstice celebrations in the past, Kwanzaa is worse. At least the pagans weren’t celebrating a holiday made up to combat other holidays.

Conclusion

Kwanzaa is a cheap knock off of Hanukkah with bits of Christmas cheer butchered and thrown in just to keep the poor kids who are made to celebrate it from feeling too bad. But they should feel bad, because Kwanzaa is a not only a manufactured holiday, it is a racialist manufactured holiday.

The only good reason for anyone to celebrate Kwanzaa is if you are racialist. That is, you are interested in setting race relations back a few decades by keeping everyone fixated on race, a particular one I might add.

Likewise, the only happy Kwanzaa will be the last one where everyone realizes it as the bad joke it was to begin with.

Art project assigned to my daughter at school

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Christian Establishments and the Neglect of Faith

A friend on Facebook pointed me to this lecture by Rodney Stark, author of the excellent book Victory of Reason. This lecture is titled “Religious Competition


Audio here

I think most of what Stark says is spot-on. I disagree with him, of course, when He dogs the protestant movement and gives an unexcused free pass to the Roman Catholic Church.

I would also add that I believe we (believers) are all called to be priests, or religious suppliers, in the NT. So it is incumbent on us to be well equipped to service the markets of unbelief all around us.

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God and the Genocide of the Canaanites

[HT Matt Flannagan]

Matt has an interesting approach to answering the objection often raised by critics regarding the apparent command of genocide in the OT.

In a series of posts, the original “Did God Command Genocide in the Old Testament?”, and follow-ups part 1, part 2, Matt builds a case for a hyperbolic interpretation of these problematic passages.

From his initial post:

Perhaps the most perplexing issue facing Christan believers is a series of jarring texts in the Old Testament. After liberating Israel from slavery in Egypt, the Israelites arrived on the edge of the promised land. The book of Deuteronomy records that God then commanded Israel to “destroy totally” the people occupying these regions (the Canaanites); the Israelites were to “leave alive nothing that breathes.” The book of Joshua records the carrying out of this command. In the sixth chapter it states “they devoted the city to the LORD and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys.” In the tenth and eleventh chapters the text states that Joshua “left no survivors. He totally destroyed all who breathed, just as the LORD, the God of Israel, had commanded.” The text mentions city after city where Joshua, at God’s command, puts every inhabitant “to the sword” and “left no survivors.” If these passages are taken in a strict, literal fashion then it is correct to conclude that they do record the divinely authorised commission of genocide. In light of this critics of Christianity often ask how a good and loving God could command the extermination of the Canaanites?

In response, I want to suggest that this strict, literal reading is mistaken. Reading these texts in isolation from the narrative in which they occur risks a distortion of the authors intended meaning. Consider the book of Joshua, critics are quick to point out that in chapters ten and eleven the text states that Joshua “totally destroyed all who breathed”, left “no survivors” in “the entire land”, went through the land “exterminating them without mercy”.

The problem is that chapters fifteen to seventeen record that the Canaanites were, in fact, not literally wiped out. Over and over the text affirms that the land was still occupied by the Canaanites, who remain heavily armed and deeply entrenched in the cities. Astute readers will note that these are the same regions and the same cities that Joshua was said to have “destroyed all who breathed”, left “no survivors” in just a few chapters earlier.

This continues through into the next book in the Old Testament. The first two chapters of the book of Judges record that the Canaanites lived in the very same regions and cities that Joshua was said to have put every inhabitant “to the sword” in and “left no survivors” in. Moreover, again we see that they occupied these cities and regions in such numbers and strength that they had to again be driven out by force, which chapter one of Judges declared was very difficult.

I think Matt is on to something. What he has written meshes well with another excellent book by Greg Boyd titled God at War which explores many of the same themes.

I am also looking forward to reading one of the books Matt recommended for further reading on the subject, Ancient Conquest Accounts: A Study in Ancient Near Eastern and Biblical History Writing (The Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies)

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Why faith matters

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Case for Christ

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Archeological evidence for the resurrection of Jesus

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Lying in Islam

[HT Muslim Fact]

Muslims lie not because they are liars by nature but by choice. Systematic lying as a religious policy is deadly, and if our politicians do not understand this, thousands could die.

Muslims lie when it is in their interest to do so and “Allah” will not hold them accountable for lying when it is beneficial to the cause of Islam. They can lie without any guilt or fear of accountability or retribution. A lie in the defense of Islam is approved even applauded in their “holy” books.

Muslims are permitted to lie: (1) to save their lives, (2) to reconcile a husband and wife, (3) to persuade a woman into a bedroom and (4) to facilitate one on his journey. Muslims are even permitted to disavow Islam and Mohammed if it is not a genuine heart-felt rejection. Muslims will tell you that concealment of a truth is not an abandonment of that truth if it benefits Islam.

This practice of lying to protect the Islamic faith is called Al Taqyya and its mentioned in the Koran as well as early Islamic texts.

“[H]e who keeps secrets shall soon attain his objectives … All War is a ruse” and “Let not the believers take for friends or helpers unbelievers rather than believers; if any do that, they shall have no relation left with Allah except by way of precaution … [taqiyya] that ye may guard yourselves. -Koran 3:28 and 40.28, emphasis added

It’s hard to have a productive conversation with someone who holds a worldview that permits them to be less than honest. It is also hard to discuss Islam with others, like moral relativists and naturalists, who insist on parroting lies given by Muslims. Like the popular one of Islam being a religion of peace1.

  1. Islam is a religion of peace, but that peace is predicated on all countries submitting to Sharia law []
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The original burn a Koran day

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Eusebius’ History of the Christian Church

Few resources provide a more powerful insight as to the nature of the early Christian church than Eusebius of Caesarea and his work History of the Christian Church.

Here are a few stories from Eusebuis’s work that I particularly love.

The plague of Rome (aka plague of Cyprian)

But still worse was the pestilence which consumed entire houses and families, and especially those whom the famine was not able to destroy because of their abundance of food. Thus men of wealth, rulers and governors and multitudes in office, as if left by the famine on purpose for the pestilence, suffered swift and speedy death. Every place therefore was full of lamentation; in every lane and market-place and street there was nothing else to be seen or heard than tears, with the customary instruments and the voices of the mourners.

In this way death, waging war with these two weapons, pestilence and famine, destroyed whole families in a short time, so that one could see two or three dead bodies carried out at once.

Such were the rewards of the boasting of Maximinus and of the measures of the cities against us. Then did the evidences of the universal zeal and piety of the Christians become manifest to all the heathen. For they alone in the midst of such ills showed their sympathy and humanity by their deeds. Every day some continued caring for and burying the dead, for there were multitudes who had no one to care for them; others collected in one place those who were afflicted by the famine, throughout the entire city, and gave bread to them all; so that the thing became noised abroad among all men, and they glorified the God of the Christians; and, convinced by the facts themselves, confessed that they alone were truly pious and religious.

After these things were thus done, God, the great and celestial defender of the Christians, having revealed in the events which have been described his anger and indignation at all men for the great evils which they had brought upon us, restored to us the bright and gracious sunlight of his providence in our behalf; so that in the deepest darkness a light of peace shone most wonderfully upon us from him, and made it manifest to all that God himself has always been the ruler of our affairs. From time to time indeed he chastens his people and corrects them by his visitations, but again after sufficient chastisement he shows mercy and favor to those who hope in him. Ecclesiastical History 9.8.11-15

This is how Christianity conquered Rome. Through the same self-sacrificial love demonstrated by it’s founder, Jesus Christ.

The centurion’s choice

The Martyrdom of Marinus at Caesarea.

At this time, when the peace of the churches had been everywhere [2288] restored, Marinus in Caesarea in Palestine, who was honored for his military deeds, and illustrious by virtue of family and wealth, was beheaded for his testimony to Christ, on the following account.

The vine-branch [2289] is a certain mark of honor among the Romans, and those who obtain it become, they say, centurions. A place being vacated, the order of succession called Marinus to this position. But when he was about to receive the honor, another person came before the tribunal and claimed that it was not legal, according to the ancient laws, for him to receive the Roman dignity, as he was a Christian and did not sacrifice to the emperors; but that the office belonged rather to him.

Thereupon the judge, whose name was Achaeus, [2290] being disturbed, first asked what opinion Marinus held. And when he perceived that he continually confessed himself a Christian, he gave him three hours for reflection.

When he came out from the tribunal, Theotecnus, [2291] the bishop there, took him aside and conversed with him, and taking his hand led him into the church. And standing with him within, in the sanctuary, he raised his cloak a little, and pointed to the sword that hung by his side; and at the same time he placed before him the Scripture of the divine Gospels, and told him to choose which of the two he wished. And without hesitation he reached forth his right hand, and took the divine Scripture. “Hold fast then,” says Theotecnus to him, “hold fast to God, and strengthened by him mayest thou obtain what thou hast chosen, and go in peace.”

Immediately on his return the herald cried out calling him to the tribunal, for the appointed time was already completed. And standing before the tribunal, and manifesting greater zeal for the faith, immediately, as he was, he was led away and finished his course by death.

Run the race with endurance

“After these things, finally, their martyrdoms were divided into every form. [1378] For plaiting a crown of various colors and of all kinds of flowers, they presented it to the Father. It was proper therefore that the noble athletes, having endured a manifold strife, and conquered grandly, should receive the crown, great and incorruptible.

Here’s an account of a couple of those noble athletes:

Both Maturus and Sanctus passed again through every torment in the amphitheater, as if they had suffered nothing before, or rather, as if, having already conquered their antagonist in many contests, [1379] they were now striving for the crown itself. They endured again the customary running of the gauntlet [1380] and the violence of the wild beasts, and everything which the furious people called for or desired, and at last, the iron chair in which their bodies being roasted, tormented them with the fumes.

Gives whole new meaning to the passage

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. -Hebrews 12:1-2

..doesn’t it?

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