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When Christmas Meets the ‘Umbrage Industry’

If history is any guide, there’s no escaping the hostilities that erupt every December.

(image)

There is no easier way for politicians or pundits to rally the base this time of year than hyping the “War on Christmas” by liberal elites. Donald Trump’s son Eric told evangelist James Robison in an August interview that one reason Trump decided to run for president was because the White House “Christmas tree” was now called the “holiday tree.” (Multiple outlets noted that no such change had occurred.)

Hostility toward Christmas, Santa Claus, and the Christmas tree has a long history, as does disgust with the holiday’s appropriation by politicians, marketers, and lobbyists. Gerry Bowler’s often hilarious, sometimes tedious Christmas in the Crosshairs: Two Thousand Years of Denouncing and Defending the World’s Most Celebrated Holiday (Oxford University Press) chronicles a mind-boggling array of conflicts stretching from the ancient world to today. Ever ready with wry zingers for Christmas’s legions of opponents or another quote illustrating the quixotic zeal of its appropriators, at times Bowler gives the impression of someone who loves his subject a little too much.

Bowler begins with the fascinating history of how the early church chose December 25 as the day to observe Christmas. The Bible gives little guidance, and Bowler is not convinced by the common argument that the church just decided to Christianize a pagan holiday. Instead, he attributes the date to obscure assumptions the early church made about the timing of Jesus’s conception, and the belief that great people sometimes died on the same date they were conceived (around mid-March, in Jesus’s case). Still, Christmas’s proximity to older pagan festivals would plague its reputation ...

Continue reading...

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How Fidel Castro's Death Will Affect Cuba's Christian Revival
It won't. And that's (mostly) a good thing. The remains of Fidel Castro are being displayed in Havana as part of Cuba’s nine days of official mourning for the deceased dictator. Many world leaders will not attend the funeral next week for the man who raised literacy rates but kept a rigid grasp on civil rights. For Cuban Christians, his death isn’t likely to be a sea change in how the island nation’s Communist government approaches religion. Like most Cubans, Castro himself was raised Catholic, educated by Jesuit priests as a child. He rejected his faith during the 1959 revolution, after the church rejected his movement toward atheism and socialism. Priests were killed and deported, while Christians (and other groups) were discriminated against and banned from joining the Communist Party. But Castro—and his brother, current ruler Raúl—softened with time. Some credit the Catholic Church and its popes with influencing Cuba’s slow turn from Marxism. They were also good for religious holidays. Pope John Paul II visited the country in 1998; the next day, Castro reinstated Christmas. In 2012, Pope Benedict visited; soon after, the government allowed Good Friday observances. This year, Cuba was the site of a historic step toward religious reconciliation: Pope Francis sat down with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill in Havana in the first meeting between Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox heavyweights since the Christian church split into West and East in 1054. Even though Castro’s last writings recalled the stories of Adam and Eve, Noah and the ark, and God’s provision of manna, the level of his faith remains a mystery, reported Crux. Despite the tension between church and state in Cuba, Christianity there has been undergoing ...Continue reading... [...]



White Evangelicals Grade Trump, Republicans, and the Media
Pew looks at satisfaction with the election, and what voters think the new president should do first. In one of the first surveys after the 2016 presidential election, the Pew Research Center asked voters to weigh in on what grade Donald Trump (and others) should receive, what he should do first, and whether they will give him a chance to succeed. Among white evangelicals voters—one of Trump’s strongest demographics—one in five (20%) graded the president-elect’s conduct during the campaign at an A, while a plurality (31%) gave him a B, according to new Pew Research Center data provided to CT. Meanwhile, more than a quarter of white evangelical voters gave him a failing grade of a D or F. Trump’s overall campaign grade is the lowest among any presidential candidate—winning or losing—since Pew began collecting data in 1988. “It’s important to note that white evangelicals, like so many voters this year, had significant reservations about both candidates,” said Amy Black, professor of political science at Wheaton College. “Although evangelicals were more satisfied with Donald Trump than other groups, half of them gave Trump a grade of C or lower, and 18 percent gave him an F. Those are not exactly good grades.” The divide among evangelicals who supported or opposed Trump has forced a conversation on how the church can build unity going into his presidency, whether evangelicals should part ways, and whether the label evangelicalshould be retained. (Hundreds of pastors told CT Pastors what they are doing about the term.) Pew found that 39 percent of Protestant voters “can’t see [themselves] giving Trump a chance because of the kind of person he has shown himself to be.” But 60 percent said they are willing to give him a chance and “see how ...Continue reading... [...]



White Evangelicals Grade Trump, Republicans, and the Media
Pew looks at satisfaction with the election, and what voters think the new president should do first. In one of the first surveys after the 2016 presidential election, the Pew Research Center asked voters to weigh in on what grade Donald Trump (and others) should receive, what he should do first, and whether they will give him a chance to succeed. Among white evangelicals voters—one of Trump’s strongest demographics—one in five (20%) graded the president-elect’s conduct during the campaign at an A, while a plurality (31%) gave him a B, according to new Pew Research Center data provided to CT. Meanwhile, more than a quarter of white evangelical voters gave him a failing grade of a D or F. Trump’s overall campaign grade is the lowest among any presidential candidate—winning or losing—since Pew began collecting data in 1988. “It’s important to note that white evangelicals, like so many voters this year, had significant reservations about both candidates,” said Amy Black, professor of political science at Wheaton College. “Although evangelicals were more satisfied with Donald Trump than other groups, half of them gave Trump a grade of C or lower, and 18 percent gave him an F. Those are not exactly good grades.” The divide among evangelicals who supported or opposed Trump has forced a conversation on how the church can build unity going into his presidency, whether evangelicals should part ways, and whether the label evangelicalshould be retained. (Hundreds of pastors told CT Pastors what they are doing about the term.) Pew found that 39 percent of Protestant voters “can’t see [themselves] giving Trump a chance because of the kind of person he has shown himself to be.” But 60 percent said they are willing to give him a chance and “see how ...Continue reading... [...]



When Christmas Meets the ‘Umbrage Industry’

If history is any guide, there’s no escaping the hostilities that erupt every December.

(image)

There is no easier way for politicians or pundits to rally the base this time of year than hyping the “War on Christmas” by liberal elites. Donald Trump’s son Eric told evangelist James Robison in an August interview that one reason Trump decided to run for president was because the White House “Christmas tree” was now called the “holiday tree.” (Multiple outlets noted that no such change had occurred.)

Hostility toward Christmas, Santa Claus, and the Christmas tree has a long history, as does disgust with the holiday’s appropriation by politicians, marketers, and lobbyists. Gerry Bowler’s often hilarious, sometimes tedious Christmas in the Crosshairs: Two Thousand Years of Denouncing and Defending the World’s Most Celebrated Holiday (Oxford University Press) chronicles a mind-boggling array of conflicts stretching from the ancient world to today. Ever ready with wry zingers for Christmas’s legions of opponents or another quote illustrating the quixotic zeal of its appropriators, at times Bowler gives the impression of someone who loves his subject a little too much.

Bowler begins with the fascinating history of how the early church chose December 25 as the day to observe Christmas. The Bible gives little guidance, and Bowler is not convinced by the common argument that the church just decided to Christianize a pagan holiday. Instead, he attributes the date to obscure assumptions the early church made about the timing of Jesus’s conception, and the belief that great people sometimes died on the same date they were conceived (around mid-March, in Jesus’s case). Still, Christmas’s proximity to older pagan festivals would plague its reputation ...

Continue reading...

(image)