Random Observations

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This week before Christmas I bring you a list of random observations.

I heard from Douglas Gresham and he is thrilled with the opening of Narnia, it you haven’t seen it, go this weekend!

Monday I was with church historian Martin Marty who told me of his spin on tolerance in a pluralistic age. He defines it as “I want you to believe as little as I believe so we can get along,” and constructively observes that we ought to aim for hospitality rather than tolerance. Hospitality implies a welcoming spirit, kindness and courtesy without abandoning one’s own identity.

The most amazing “keep Christ in Christmas story” is the one in Tennessee where a library is allowing a nativity if only the animals are on display. This reminds me of an experience when we lived in Illinois and put up a nativity scene. As I was putting it up a heard our elderly Hindu neighbor saying admiringly, “beautiful, beautiful,” as she stood in front of the plastic cow in the scene! One church member in TN said of the local library decision, “Now we’ve got a bunch of barnyard animals. We just think it’s the most ridiculous thing.”

Flying back from Chicago on Wednesday night my flight was delayed so I grabbed a couple of magazines; religion is hot!

Atlantic carries a provocative piece by Hanna Rosen titled “From Passion to Narnia,” in which she says among other things, “Insiders jokingly refer to The Chronicles of Narnia as the “$150 million tithe” Hollywood’s biggest gift to Christians since The Ten Commandments … Expectations among evangelicals run so high that the studio has had to explain, with great delicacy, why the movie is not, in fact, presented as explicit Christian allegory.”

In the same issue Paul Bloom argues that belief in God is universal, not because God exists, but because an evolutionary fluke left all humans believing God exists!

Over in Harpers magazine you can read an extended piece on Thomas Jefferson’s “Jesus without the miracles.” Educated people are aware that Jefferson made his own version of the NT by cutting out miracles and other elements that flew in the face of his enlightenment presuppositions. This ought to give conservative Christian pause for thought when trotting out the “our Founding Father’s were Christians argument”, especially with Jefferson.

If you haven’t heard the news, Anne Rice has returned to the faith after her long running bout of atheism, the ideology that drove her Vampires Chronicles. She turned to atheism after being raised in a fundamentalist Catholic home where she was not allowed to read Sartre, Kierkegaard and others on her parent’s unapproved list. She them married poet and atheist Stan Rice and together they had a child who died of leukemia at the age of four. Her first best seller, “Interview with the VAMPIRE” was written to find a way to cope with loss without the comforting presence of God. Rice says the vampire is a metaphor for the person who recalls the light and presence of God but will never experience it again.

Well a funny thing happened. In 1993 while researching the history of the Jews, she decided there was no explanation other than God for the Jews survival after repeated historical onslaughts against them. Like CS Lewis she moved from atheism to theism and then eventually back to Jesus Christ. Her new book “Christ the Lord” is a fictional retelling of Jesus childhood.

Religion is everywhere–film, books, magazines and news–and to know, love and serve God in today’s world requires understanding the times. We should read, think and pray, but above all else, every heart should prepare him room, for it is the presence of God we need, and it is God’s presence, emmanuel, that is announced during this season.

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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