via Wikimedia Commons
Happy Santa Claus Day! We Americans derive our Santa Claus from immigrants’ celebrations of St. Nicholas Day (Dec. 6). (I have heard that we call him Santa Claus because we misheard how Italians pronounced “Santo Nicholas;” I don’t know if that is true, but it’s as good a story as any.) St. Nicholas was a fourth century bishop in Turkey. A couple of legends make him the patron saint of children and sailors, but in our house he is the patron saint of gift giving.
Jesus said that we should give so that our left hand does not know what our right hand is doing,
That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly (Matthew 6:4).
St. Nicholas exemplified this kind of giving. Continue reading
via Wikimedia Commons
Let’s get this straight: If you insist on wishing a Jew, Muslim, or atheist a merry birth of a Savior they do not believe in, that does not make you a good Christian. It makes you a condescending jerk. I know that some people think saying “Happy Holidays” is tantamount to kicking over a plastic baby Jesus in the front lawn of your local Catholic Church, but the so called “war on Christmas” has a lot more to do with what comes out of our wallets than our mouths.
I wrote a recent piece in the Huffington Post that pointed out the irony of the Black Friday ritual. To celebrate the incomprehensible mystery of the birth of the infant God, we rush to fill our homes with new assortments of plastic crap. Continue reading
From Wikimedia Commons
Shortly before I was to appear on Ancient Faith Today with Fr. John Whiteford, I accepted his invitation to have a brief phone conversation. Telling me about his background, he made an offhanded remark that some decades ago kids began going to “Children’s Church,” and they never left. The more I think about that remark, the more disturbed I become (and not just because I actually agree with Fr. John about something). I think the well-intentioned efforts to meet the worship needs of children has contributed to an increasing trend toward a narcissistic faith. Continue reading
Today, I thought I would sum up some basic points from a paper I presented at the Wesleyan Theological Society Meeting a few years ago. What follows are a few thoughts on consumer culture and how liturgy might help you to live with it.
One of the things I love about the Eastern Orthodox Church is that we get consumption right. I am under no delusions that we are “perfect.” We have our problems, but I think our spiritual practice can help a person live more authentically in modern consumer culture. Continue reading
James Livingston, Against Thrift: Why Consumer Culture is Good for the Economy, the Environment, and Your Soul
James Livingston has published a timely and provocative book in Against Thrift. He is not an economist but teaches history at Rutgers, and his argument is basically that everything you think you know about economic growth is wrong. Continue reading