The Facebook Activist

I am a Facebook Activist. I change the world with my posts.

I sit at my keyboard and share my important opinions on the issues of the day. In addition to dropping my own wisdom-filled thoughts, an essential part of my job is re-sharing the slogans/pictures/infographics of others, especially on hot political topics. I must remain vigilant; if I neglect my duty for even one moment, people are liable to think the wrong things.

Many people who disagree with me have changed their minds because of my activism. I have belittled them, called them names, caricatured their opinions, or refused to engage them directly, and they have immediately seen the error of their ways.

Even though my family and friends are the only ones who read my posts, I don’t write for them. I write for The Public.

That means if my family and friends are upset or alienated by what I say, I don’t care. My message must get out.

Because I am a Facebook Activist. I change the world with my posts.

(For further reading, see this Malcolm Gladwell piece from 2010).

We Say “Happy Washington’s Birthday”

This year there is once again a hoo-ha over whether people and retailers say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays.” (for a sane perspective on this, see here and here) Some people even go so far as to encourage you to steer your consumer dollars away from retailers who do not greet you with “Merry Christmas.” I don’t particularly care about whether people greet me with “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays,” for the following reasons:

1. “Holiday” comes from the Old English for “holy day.” Even though most people now take it to mean “vacation,” if taken in its original sense it’s just as good as “Merry Christmas.”

2. There actually is more than one holiday this time of year, and three that most U.S. Christians celebrate: Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. The latter two are only a week apart, so “Happy Holidays” could just be shorthand for “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.”

3. When people and organizations make a big fuss about whether retailers say “Merry Christmas,” retailers are going to start saying “Merry Christmas” – not because they care about the True Meaning of the Season, but because they care about the bottom line. Therefore, putting pressure on retailers to say “Merry Christmas” is indirectly, but effectively, encouraging people to worship Mammon instead of Jesus.

4. Not everyone I encounter celebrates Christmas, so it would be manipulative of me to insist on everyone greeting me with a “Merry Christmas.” If I owned a business in a Hindu-majority country, how would I feel about it if everyone around me insisted that I wish them a “Happy Diwali,” and threatened to take their business elsewhere if I didn’t? I might do it, but I wouldn’t have a particularly high opinion of people who forced me to. Christians who insist on everyone greeting them with “Merry Christmas” may win a cultural battle, but I don’t think they win anyone’s heart for Christ.

No, it doesn’t matter to me whether someone wishes me “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays.” The real travesty, in my opinion, comes in February. George Washington’s birthday, February 22, was made a federal holiday in the 1880’s. Since the 1980’s, though, many states have begun to call the third Monday in February “Presidents’ Day,” and many car dealerships have taken advantage of this holiday by using it as an excuse for sales. Never mind that Washington’s birthday never actually falls on the third Monday in February. I think that this is a conspiracy by Washington-haters, for one of three reasons:

  • they don’t like it that he mentioned God in his speeches,
  • they don’t like it that he owned slaves, or
  • they don’t like it that he had wooden teeth.
  • So I invite you to take back Washington’s Birthday. He is the Father of our Country, and lumping him together with all the other presidents is an affront to the history of the United States and all our nation stands for. Fight back in the War on Washington’s Birthday by purchasing my “We Say Happy Washington’s Birthday” bumper stickers for only $5.95. Then go in to an auto dealership and buy a car to put it on. But please, only buy from a dealer who greets you with “Happy Washington’s Birthday!”

    If Calvin Had a Worship Band

    2009 is the 500th anniversary of John Calvin’s birth, and his theology has had a huge impact on the life of the church. Particularly influential are his doctrines regarding predestination, and the later systematization of them into the Five Points of Calvinism.

    However, there are areas of church life that have not been greatly influenced by Calvin. One very important area of the church that has unfortunately been minimally affected by Calvinism is that of hymns and praise songs.

    If you look at the songs that we sing from our earliest years in the church, you can see that little of Calvin’s influence can be found. Take the classic children’s song, “Jesus Loves Me,” as an example. Would Calvin have written such a saccharine-sweet ode to the love of Christ? Perhaps, but he would have changed just a few words. I would like to propose a new title for this song, which would reflect the Calvinist influence on the church: “Jesus Might Love Me, if I’m One of the Elect.”

    Or take the first two lines of another popular song that we teach children in our churches, “Jesus Loves the Little Children/ All the children of the world.” Does he REALLY? Come on! You and I both know that he doesn’t, or at least if he does, he doesn’t extend saving grace to all of them. If we were to edit these lines to add a more Calvinist flavor, we might end up with this version: “Jesus loves some of the children/ We don’t know how many for sure, but I’m guessing around 18 percent.”

    The Calvinist reformation of our worship would extend far beyond what we teach our children in Sunday school. Let’s now take a look at one of our most popular hymns, John Newton’s “Amazing Grace.” The first verse goes: “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me” – nothing to tamper with here. The word “wretch,” in particular, is excellent. When we move on to the next line, we find: “I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see.” Whoa! Wait a minute! Once was LOST!? This simply will not do. The elect were chosen before the beginning of the world! How about this: “I once was unaware of my found-ness, and now I can see that I was never lost in the first place.” There. MUCH better.

    Now that we’ve looked at a classic hymn, why don’t we turn our eyes to something more contemporary? How about the praise chorus, “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus”? For those of you who may be unfamiliar with it, here’s how it goes:

    I have decided to follow Jesus
    I have decided to follow Jesus
    I have decided to follow Jesus
    No turning back, No turning back

    Pretty simple. But the first lines need a little work. First of all, WHO decides to follow Jesus? Not us! We’re dragged into following Jesus, whether we like it or not (but of course we are MADE to like it)! The second line of the chorus is a bit better, although it does imply that there is a possibility of turning back, which of course there is not. I would propose re-writing this chorus in the following way:

    Jesus has decided that I will follow
    Jesus has decided that I will follow
    Jesus has decided that I will follow
    No turning back — As if that were an option

    Even some of our most beloved Christmas songs could stand a little Calvinist fine-tuning. On the extreme side we have “The Little Drummer Boy,” which should more appropriately be titled, “The Little Pelagian Drummer Boy Who Thought That He Could Bribe God With His Filthy And Useless Good Works.” But most other Christmas songs seem to be just fine, since they mostly stick to talking about the scene in Bethlehem, or divine attributes. However, there is one lyric that raises the eyebrow somewhat: the second verse of “Away In A Manger,” which says, “The little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes.” Well, now, we must admit that this indicates a laudable desire in the author to preserve God’s wholly otherness, even in the person of Jesus. But it would be rather strange for a baby to not cry at all, and in fact this seems dangerously close to the heresy of Apollinarianism. A satisfying compromise might be to amend the offending lyric to read as follows: “The little Lord Jesus cried, but in his humanity, not in his divinity.”

    In short, we have a long way to go before Calvinism influences our worship as it has influenced our theology. There are many fine hymns and praise songs out there that speak of the glory and mysterious will of God, but they’re vastly outnumbered. If only that Arminian Charles Wesley had been on our side. . .

    Constitution Found in Ancient Monastery

    As some of you know, I like to write pieces of satire from time to time, especially when I get frustrated. It’s a laughing-to-keep-from-crying thing. For the past four years, one of these has appeared in the April Fool’s edition of the Et Cetera, Regent’s weekly paper. For your reading enjoyment, here is the brief (just under 300 words) one that appeared this year:

    Religious Right Finds Copy of Constitution in Monastery

    Conservative US Christians have long maintained that the United States Constitution is a document based on biblical principles. Now, it seems, they have proof.
    Last week, archaeologists excavating the ruins of an ancient monastery in Upper Egypt found a nearly complete copy of the founding document of the United States of America, until now universally thought to have been written in Philadelphia in 1787. It appears to have originally been written as a “rule,” or a governing document for a monastery or order of monks.
    “This is a tremendous find,” gushed Constantine Cash, president of the political lobbying group Council on Family Worship. “Now, maybe people will realize that America was founded as a Christian nation, and we’ll be able to tear down that pesky wall between church and state.”
    However, the claim that what we now know as the Constitution was written in the 3rd-5th centuries by a group of monks is not likely to go uncontested.
    Archaeologist Morton Prinsterer, for example, is skeptical of this new find. “In the first place,” he says, “this document is written in English. In the second, it looks like a copy of the Constitution that you can buy in museums and archives, with a few words crossed out.” The change of “We the People,” the first words of the document, to “We the Monks” was, in Prinsterer’s opinion, not the work of an ancient writer.
    “Nonsense,” responded Cash. “It’s obvious that the Founding Fathers took this document and used it to create a Protestant Christian country, then put it back exactly the way they found it. Why is that so hard for people to believe?”

    Unused Churches To Become Museums

    I haven’t been posting much lately, and I probably won’t post today or tomorrow. I would like to post on the first chapter of The Way Of the (modern) World, but I’m not likely to get around to that until tomorrow or Thursday. I’ve still got to finish that book review that I didn’t write yesterday. Also, tomorrow evening I have to be at a lecture that philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff is giving at Regent, on Love and Justice. I have to record it for Regent Audio (and I may blog about it if I can stop worrying about the sound system long enough to pay attention).

    In the meantime, here is something that I wrote for the April Fool’s 2007 edition of the Et Cetera, Regent’s weekly newspaper. It’s a satire on what is going on currently in the Episcopal Church, and I thought I’d let you read it before it becomes too dated. Enjoy!

    Unused Churches to Become Museums

    The Episcopal Church in the USA (ECUSA) has recently decided that it will begin turning some of its older churches into museums.

    This decision comes in light of conservative Episcopal churches splitting away from the ECUSA because of theological differences. Churches such as Truro Church and The Falls Church, both of Northern Virginia, have buildings and land whose worth is estimated at $25 million.

    “That land belongs to the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia,” spokesperson James Hibblethorp said, “and we’re not going to let it go without a fight.”

    But if they do manage to keep the land and the buildings, why does the ECUSA want to turn these churches into museums, rather than have them function as places of worship?

    As the Presiding Bishop of the ECUSA said in an interview last fall, membership is not what it used to be: “It used to be larger percentagewise, but Episcopalians tend to be better-educated and tend to reproduce at lower rates than some other denominations. Roman Catholics and Mormons both have theological reasons for producing lots of children.”

    Since being well-educated and not wanting to go forth or multiply is part of what it means to be an Episcopalian these days, turning historic churches into museums seems like the next logical step.

    “If we’re able to win the fight and get these buildings and lands away from those who have broken away, we’ve got a nice collection of paintings that would fit quite nicely on the sides of the sanctuaries,” Hibblethorp said.

    “If we kept them as places of worship, we would probably run into trouble on a couple of counts,” he continued. “First, not many people would be likely to attend. And those are some big sanctuaries that currently hold lots of people who would probably not be interested in attending anymore if the ECUSA won this battle.

    “Second, if we continued to use them as places of worship, we would have to add minarets to the buildings and Japanese gardens with shrines on the grounds to be inclusive of people from other faith traditions. We’d likely run into a lot of construction costs if that happened.”

    Much better, then, to take advantage of the strong architectural tradition of the Episcopal church by charging people money to enter churches and browse around.

    But that’s not all: Hibblethorp also has plans to use the spaces for more than just marvels for visitors to ogle at.

    “Churches are also great concert venues,” says Hibblethorp. “Even if there is no worship going on, people will still be able to enjoy some nice music that will hopefully get them in touch with the divine in a very general and non-exclusive way.

    “Of course, many of the standard hymns and other works that have been played and sung throughout the centuries would be inappropriate to have in such a setting. But have you ever heard ‘We Are Family’ or ‘Over the Rainbow’ on a pipe organ?” Hibblethorp chuckles. “I’m a bit of a musician myself, and I’ve been working on an arrangement of Norman Greenbaum’s ‘Spirit in the Sky’ that will give you goosebumps.”

    Plans for using the ECUSA’s museum churches as dance clubs on weekend nights are also in the works. “You’ve never boogied until you’ve boogied in a church,” Hibblethorp notes.