Halloween is no more secular in origin than Christmas. Just over a month to get your costume.
As Duck Dynasty forges into it’s fourth season opening with nearly 12 million viewers, many are weighing in on the show and what is called its “cultural Christianity.” I think I started tuning in during season two and really enjoyed it. I like rednecks and redneck humor, and with family from the south, I find it easy to laugh with and at these people. But there is more going on here, and we ought to be encouraged.
The show is entertaining, and that is its primary function: to humorously entertain. How does it do so? By following the hilarious life of the Robertson family, their business and family antics. This is how it should be evaluated. It is good entertainment? When we evaluate our entertainment, and we must, we don’t use the same criteria we use for evaluating, say, a sermon. At least we shouldn’t, for that would make sermons into primarily forms of entertainment, which contra your wanna be stand-up comedian pastor, they aren’t.
God is the ultimate Comedian, telling jokes all the time. When we imitate Him well, the humor can be clever, delightful, slapstick, layered, ironic, satiric, involve plays on words, etc. It’s not cheap like a standup comic using vulgarities and obscenities for the shock value. The comedy of Duck Dynasty is consistently funny and happens in an environment where life is enjoyed as a gift and brothers can make fun of each other because they love one another. I would not put Duck Dynasty on the level of Wodehouse, but the two inhabit the same moral universe. Continue reading
Here is a great post on the history of Halloween over at Mablog. Many Christian holidays have pagan names like Easter. You know, that Anglo-Saxon goddess of the dawn, Eostre, who was worshipped in the month of April by my ancestors. We kept the name but changed the feast to worship the creator instead of the creation. Worked out really well. No one today, except a tiny band neopagans playing dress-up, thinks they are worshipping Eostre on Easter. No one thinks the bunnies and eggs have any spiritual significance other than giving kids a good time doing stuff as they celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. So Easter is a Christian holiday with a pagan name, although the name has been effectively co-opted and presents no problem. Speaking of her is like mentioning Epaphroditus in the Bible–the guy whose name indicates he used to worship the goddess Aphrodite via prostitute at the temple in Corinth. His name is a sign of gospel conquest, and surely Eostre is free to worship Jesus as well.
Other holidays like Halloween actually have Christian names but have come to be thought of as pagan festivals. As the article cited mentions, All Saints’ Day is November 1st, the day when the church remembers all those who gave their lives in service of the gospel. In Britain this day is called All Hallows’. All Hallows’ Eve, from which we get Halloween, has become for some the equivalent of Mardis Gras before Lent, a day of dissipation in preparation for self control, however much sense that makes. For Halloween, the idea is to let the devils run wild before the saints arrive. The corruptions of Mardis Gras and Halloween are similar in this respect. Maybe I wasn’t paying attention, but when I was a kid I don’t remember Halloween costume shops displaying kinky underwear in the front window.
But however that is the case now, we shouldn’t let the abuse of the thing take away its good use anymore than frat boys drowned in Pabst Blue Ribbon should discourage tossing a good pint. Clearly it’s a good idea to avoid the macabre and perverse on Halloween. My wife pointed out to me a fake corpse hanging by a rope from the side of a house in our neighborhood. Why do people otherwise not nastily morbid do this stuff for “fun” once a year? Yay death! Obviously we want no part of that, but we do want to celebrate what we believe, namely, that God has poured out his Spirit on billions of Christians, past and present, who are given the righteousness of Christ and therefore made saints. The defiled woman has become the purified bride of Christ, and leave it to the kids to really get into it.
October 31st is also Reformation Day, the day Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the church door at Wittenburg. The Reformation was as much a reformation of church culture as it was of church doctrine, so it’s fitting that we make this day a celebration that spills out to our neighbors and friends. Marriage (and its bed), food, drink and fellowship fell out of the Reformation. I would argue for fun costumes, loud and interesting, and better candy at your house than your neighbor’s. I love greeting people at the door, taking the kids around, and celebrating. It’s like saying Merry Christmas to people. some who don’t know what they’re celebrating or intentionally aren’t. I still want them to have a merry one whether they do or not. Same here. Happy All Hallow’s Eve, Merry Reformation Day, and Happy Halloween!
Challenges from Bojidar Marinov on being Piecemeal Reformed:
We can’t even find one single Reformer whose work was limited to the Church only. In many respects, the Reformers were not only theological but social reformers as well, spending much of their time and effort building communities, cities, and nations in obedience to the Gospel. Geneva, Zurich, Strasbourg, the Netherlands, Scotland, Puritan England, the American colonies, were not known for their “religiously neutral” culture. To the contrary, much of the work of the church leaders at the time was building the legal, economic, and political structure of their communities and societies in accordance with the Biblical principles. In the words ascribed to Bucer, “Reformation is nothing less than the Christianization of all of life.” Far from limiting their Reformation to personal salvation and the church, these men wanted to see the whole world submit to God, in its politics, economics, science, business, cultural relations, international relations, etc. “City on a Hill” was what they were out to build, not a Reformed church preaching “grace” to a limited choice of religious topics.
“On the other hand, those who have a less masculine outlook (low M), be they men or women, tend to flock to the church. This may explain why so many gay men are drawn to church, while lesbians avoid it. A study published in the Jorunal for the Scientific Study of Religion found that “gay men were significantly more active in religious organizations [as a percentage] when compared to heterosexual men.” The author notes that gay men are similar to female heterosexuals in their religiosity and attend church”‘without having to be dragged to services by female partners–as is the case for heterosexual men.” Yet “lesbians and female bisexuals have very low rates of religious activity.”
Why do so many effeminate and gay men attend church? Maybe becuase the church is one of the few institutions in society where there’s no pressure to act like a man. In fact, men are encoruaged not to. Where else in our society can a man express his feminine side and be applauded for it?”
–David Morrow, Why Men Hate Going to Church, p. 73
From an excellent article by Betsy Hart at the Gospel Coalition:
“That’s where the pornography comes in. Just as sexual pornography twists an understanding for men about real women’s bodies and sexual appetites, so romantic pornography twists the perception for women about real men and how they “ought” to behave toward women, which tends to amount to, well, behaving like a woman. I have a dear friend who once didn’t like a fellow I was dating. Among other shortcomings, he didn’t arrange spa treatments for me, she explained. Seriously. No more chick flicks for that girl.
The notion that the ideal fellow is sensitive and devoted to his woman didn’t start with Nora Ephron or even Jane Austin, of course. Our true husband, Christ himself, “wept.” And Scripture is clear that the ultimate bridegroom jealously pursues his bride, the church. In fact romantic pornography has a ring of truth to it, which is one reason it is powerful. A man in love with a woman is stubborn in his pursuit. Hence I’ve passed down to my children the maxim my mother shared with me: “Girls don’t want a boy they have to call themselves.”
But both kinds of pornography go wrong by portraying genders as unidimensional. And the unidimension of men in romantic porn gets magnified because our mainstream culture has a “man bad, woman good” view that opposes traditionally male qualities (unless they turn up in women, but that’s another column). In a symptom of what’s going on in the culture at large, “rom coms” and many television sitcoms denigrate such traits such as aggression, competitiveness, a certain amount of stoicism, and even the desire to protect and care for a woman.”
From a great post at Blog & Mablog:
A staple argument of homosex apologetics is that when the Bible condemns the vile behavior of the residents of Sodom, it was addressing the violent side of it — the attempted rape of Lot’s visitors. It does not address at all, so the argument goes, the kind of loving, caring, mutually affirming same sex relationships that we are are talking about today. You have to take context into account, you see, and there have been those who bought this argument. Simple Simon, after all, did go to the fair.
“But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter: And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them” (Gen. 19:4-5).
But let us pretend to accept this for a moment, for the sake of argument. Let us pretend that mutually affirming is the way to go, so long as you avoid that kind of violent hate sex that so unfortunately characterized the men who surrounded Lot’s house.
Comes now Bill Maher, who struts like a crow in a gutter, and is considered to be a leading humorist by the other crows. On a recent show, he had on comedian Marc Maron, who said that he thinks about “angrily f**king” Michele Bachman. He said this, not wanting “to be crass.” Oh, good. For a minute there, we were worried. And then, just to cover their stunted little tails, another guest said, to deflect accusations of sexism, that he would like to do the same to Rick Santorum. So fine then. You guys are willing to engage in hate sex, violent rape, against members of both sexes? And this makes it good, how exactly?
As our culture grows increasingly immodest, women–and girls–are going to increasingly be the victims of sexual vandalism and exploitation. We need to remember that it was the gospel of Jesus Christ that transformed the treatment of women in the time of Roman empire, and it will be the gospel that does it again. When the four gospels were written, women were not even considered credible as witnesses in a court of law. And yet women are the first witnesses in Scripture to see Jesus alive after his resurrection–an event that no one fabricating the story would include. This would only be one more element of foolishness for Christians explaining what actually happened at the resurection. “So who first saw this Jesus come back from the dead?” “Well, Mary Magdalene, a friend of Jesus.” “That woman? The one who was easy with her body and out of her mind?” “She used to be like that until she met Jesus–before his resurrection.” “Yeah, right.”
Easter is a poignant time to remember the influence of the church honoring the image of God resident in all women, and the true feminine mystique of those following the footsteps of wisdom personified as a woman in Proverbs, blessed-among-women Mary the mother of Jesus, the various women who believed on and supported Jesus during his ministry, the women first to the tomb, and the women prominent in the life of the early church. All these are types of the Church, our mother (Gal. 4:26).
Various cultural commentators are noticing the sexualization of younger and younger girls. LZ Granderson just ran a story about an 8-year-old he saw in the airport–tanned, mid-riffed, and tagged “juicy” on her pre-pubescent backside. Abercrombie & Fitch isn’t the only one pushing push-up bras and thong underwear for pre-teens. The City of Philadelphia is mailing condoms to 11-year-olds. LZ’s says some good things in his article, but his approach, taken by so many Christian parents, reveals he has already capitulated to the trend. The punch-line conclusion is that parents should be parents, and not BFFs to their children. As far as this means parents have authority, and should exercise it, that friends do not, this is good. But what kind of a BFF lets a friend dress up like a piece of sexual meat? What kind of a parent is content with their kid having this sort of friend? And the worst assumption, why aren’t parents interested in being the best of friends with their kids? “Faithful are the wounds of a friend. Profuse are the kisses of an enemy” (Prov. 27:6). Continue reading
“Consumerism is a spiritual discipline that, like other spiritual practices, lends itself to a certain practice of community. In identifying with the images and values associated with certain brands, we also identify ourselves with all the other people who make such an identification. Consumerism also allows us to identify with other places and other cultures through our purchases. White kids in Illinois can listen to reggae music and feel themslves in solidarity with the struggles of poor blacks in Jamaica. As Vincet Miller points out, however, such types of “virtual” community tend to reduce community to disembodied acts of consumption. Miller cites the example of Moby’s album Play, which sold ten million copies in 1999. On that album Moby combines samples of African-American spirituals, gospel, and blues with techno-beat dance music. The song “Natural Blues” begins with a sampling from a 1959 recording of Vera Hall singing “Oh, Lordy, trouble so hard.” The sample is chopped and mixed with dance music, and though such samples allow the listener to enter into imaginative sympathy with the struggles of the African-American community in its long hard history, Moby takes the Hall samples out of context and offers them for listener consumption.
Although Vera Hall and the other artiss were not even acknowledged, let alone thanked in Moby’s liner notes on the Play album, every song on that alubm was eventually licensed for use in a commerical–for such companies as Calvin Klein and American Express. Concrete suffering is abstracted from its context and offered as a commodity. No matter how much the listener feels in solidarity with others, virtual solidarity offers no concrete results. As Miller notes, “This abstraction impedes the translation of ethical concerns into action, reducing ethics to sentiment. The virtual becomes a substitute for concrete political solidarity, or to put it another way, a fundamentally different act — consumption — is substituted for political action.”" William Cavanaugh, Being Consumed, pp. 50-51.
Here is a link to Shai Linne’s recent lecture at Capitol Hill Baptist Church on Christianity and the Arts along with his Power Point.
After establishing the biblical basis of beauty, he talks about the way Christians have created with excellence in the past–e.g. Bach, Tolkien–and the need for Christians to be creative artists in society at large and not holed up in a cul-de-sac of “Christian” expression. Excellent talk from a talented poet-rapper believing in an objective standard of beauty.