On Christmas, Mythology, and Loving My Cranky Mormon Friend

At Christmas, I posted this on Facebook,

Well . . . a Merry Christmas to my Facebook “neighborhood.” I’m enough of a still-learning student of my faith to view this day as part of a holy and humbling story. Our Christmas mythology* proclaims a birth that represented a counter-cultural and subversive tale written to challenge the hypocrisy and excess of an empire . . .

A long-time friend, once a college roommate, someone I now disagree with about politics and religion and completely agree with regarding the good San Francisco Giants vs. the evil Los Angeles Dodgers, asked about my use of mythology*. How does it apply to the Christmas story? Within the limits of Facebook personal messaging, I tried to give him a brief explanation.

I wasn’t very persuasive.

I suspect my buddy wasn’t much open to being persuaded.

To use inadequate labels, my friend is conservative compared to me. His politics veer toward the “right” while mine embrace the “left.” We are Christians, but as a United Methodist claiming progressive theological views, my faith influences don’t share much commonality with his Mormon beliefs.

For him, I think, the Christmas story is fact. Real. If Jesus’ birth didn’t happen exactly the way it was described in the Gospels, it was close enough. After all, even sacred scripture, inspired by God, may not include every single thing that happened. And so, for me to call the birth of Jesus a myth is to miss the mark. Wasn’t Christmas, as told by Matthew and Luke, an historical event in a particular place at a particular time for a particular purpose? I suspect my former roommate would confidently add that Jesus’ birth was predicted in Hebrew scriptures, a long-anticipated piece of God’s plan.

My friend is not alone in his beliefs. Continue reading →

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Awake, Dreamers, Awake

I have no idea why Matthew chose the dreamer’s path while Mark, Luke, and John did not . . .

Please write a thousand word essay on one of the following:

  1. McDreamy
  2. I have a dream.
  3. Dream job.
  4. Dreamers

If you’re a fan of television’s Grey’s Anatomy, maybe you’d pick the first and delve into pop culture and the longevity of a medical melodrama. Or perhaps your essay would highlight Martin Luther King Jr.’s transformational 1963 speech in the shadow of the Washington Monument. Then again, you might respond personally, sharing about the ideal career you have now or aspire to claim in the future. Depending on your view of President Obama or Trump, you might instead write about the politically-charged Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act.

Dreams die young. What a dreamboat. Dream a little dream of me. Dream Team.

Philosopher Joseph Campbell declared, “Myths are public dreams, dreams are private myths.” Back in the 1960s, Bobby Kennedy made this George Bernard Shaw comment famous: “You see things; and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say, ‘Why not?’”

We are dreamers, yes? Continue reading →

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

A Christmas Visitor

How can we imagine a new star lighting the sky until . . .

Christmas was near when a visitor arrived at the church I then served. He told the receptionist he needed to see a priest. She notified me and I came out to greet him.

I led him back to my office.

Like many, I sometimes make snap judgments. Like many, I’ll sometimes be wrong.

I assumed a visitor that “needed” a priest would be Roman Catholic. Moments into our conversation, as I wondered aloud about his faith, he said he wasn’t Catholic. He then mentioned his prior employment was in Los Angeles, where he’d worked on several “major motion picture film crews.” (Ah, Hollywood! Did he think me like a generic, wise movie priest comforting anxious souls, ready for a confession from the wounded—but well-lighted—hero?)

Wrong about his faith background, I was soon wrong about another of my snap judgments . . . that he was here to scam the church for money. Would he plead for a few bucks for a motel room? Maybe he’d claim a sick kid waited in the car, desperate for medicine? Or help to pay for a rebuilt carburetor? In the churches I’ve served, there have been countless cash requests, accompanied by tales about real (and fake) sick children and, yes, once even a carburetor was the reason. Some begged. Some demanded. Some wept.

But my visitor never mentioned money. Continue reading →

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather