Thursday, December 18, 2008

simulacra-kklesia (part 7): Jesus steals for Christmas

"Well, this year we might be forced under duress to celebrate the feast of Jesus’ humble birth with honesty! Our economic meltdown is showing for all to see what our real gods have been. It is not the Lord of Israel or his Son that we love, nearly as much as we do our limitless growth, our right to empire, our actual obligation to consume, and our sense of entitlement to this clearly limited planet.'

This may be the first year we have the opportunity to save Christmas from the Simulcra it has become; it's time to invoke the fidelity of betrayal and quit copying our copies of copies.

It could be we never get church beyond belief until we get beyond belief.

Crank the simlacra amp up to 11,
so we can dial it back down, and steal it back.
It might just spontaneously combust.

The Advent Conspiracy has been a helpful tool to encourage our churchtribe to detox from commercialism of Christmas .

As subversive as the Conspiracy may seem, everyone knows intuitively that it is simply Christians calling us back to Christian sanity.

That's all needed and good.

But maybe it's too Christian to work(:

Sometimes the most compelling appeals back, are actually are those that partner with, or even originate from, for lack of better terms, non-Christian tribes.


>The amazing Richard Rohr (linked often on blogs like this), a Catholic,
asks "Is Christmas Christian" in a Jewish magazine, Tikkun ("A Jewish Magazine, an Interfaith Movement"), He confesses up front, "As a Franciscan priest, I think I have the right to ask that question. Frankly, it is much easier to ask in a non-Christian owned magazine!"

>The intriguing Rev. Billy and his church:

The Church of Stop Shopping is an activist performance group based in New York City, led by Reverend Billy, the stage name of Bill Talen. Using the form of a revival meeting, on sidewalks and in chain stores, Reverend Billy and his gospel choir exhort consumers to abandon the products of large corporations and mass media; the group also preaches a broader message of economic justice, environmental protection, and anti-militarism, protesting sweatshops and the Iraq War. Though it continues its street theatre activities, the Church has also appeared on stage and has toured internationally...
Though Talen does not call himself a Christian, he says that Reverend Billy is not a parody of a preacher, but a real preacher; he describes his church's spiritual message as "put the Odd back in God."
Each year, Reverend Billy and his choir attends and performs at the Burning Man festival in Nevada.

Sounds part Zoo TV of course; and sounds prophetic. Here of course the subversion is channeled through a Holy Fool vehicle. Who took the Odd out anyway?

>Of course U2's recent subtle, sly converting of Greg Lake's Christmas song
is a classic example of using "non-Christian" material to preach to the choir...and anyone else listening who's fed up with Christmas and/or Christians/

And besides, who commercialized Christmas anyway? Rohr tells:

Frankly, we must confess that it was likely our founder, St. Francis (1182-1226), who began to make Christmas the sentimental celebration that it has become, although his intention was never at all in the direction it has taken. He was the great lover of poverty and simplicity, and would be aghast at the consumer- and group-defining feast that Christmas has become. He merely replicated the drama of the stable with live animals and music.
For Francis and the early Franciscans, “incarnation was already redemption,” and the feast of Christmas said that God was saying yes to humanity in the enfleshment of his Son in our midst. If that were true, then all questions of inherent dignity, worthiness, and belovedness were resolved once and forever—and for everything that was human, material, physical, and in the whole of creation. That’s why Francis liked animals and nature, praising the sun, moon, and stars, like some New Ager from
California. It was all good and chosen and beautiful if God came among us “as Emmanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).
But groups need and create their identity symbols, and the celebration of Christmas became the big one for Christian Europe, just as Jewish people need Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and Muslims need Ramadan and pilgrimage. The trouble is that the meaning became group-defining instead of life-transforming. As we say today, it got “off message”! It was no longer God’s choice of the whole, but God’s choice of us! (In fairness, most religions make the same mistake at lower levels of transformation).
At those lower levels of civil religion or any religion as a “belonging system,” the original meaning is always lost and often even morphs into its exact opposite. Strange and sad, isn’t it? In this case, the self-emptying of God into humble and poor humanity (Philippians 2:7) became an excuse for us to fill, consume, dominate, use, and spend at staggering levels for ourselves. In fact, the days leading up to December 25 are the economic engine around which the entire business economy measures itself in Christian-influenced countries. One might think that the fasting of Ramadan and Yom Kippur might have been a much clearer act of solidarity with the actual mystery celebrated.

Ouch and amen. And thank you.

And probably no surprise that Rohr notes:

"In Christian circles, when I call these false gods into question, I am invariably criticized on other grounds of heresy and church protocols, almost so we do not have to look at what our real loyalties have been and are."

Hmm..maybe Christ is calling Christians to spend more time out of "Christian circles," where its easier for God to communicate his subversion of simulacra. At Christmastime, it is good to get out of bounded setism, so that maybe together, along with some wonderful Jews, non-Christian pastors, and even some prophetic atheists...we can "put Christ back in Christmas." (:

Why let Adbusters have all the fun....and do all the Kingdom work without us?

Michael Pritzl: "When I read the Bible, I find I relate more to the sinners than I do to the saints."

Paul Raushenbush: "Sometimes intra-faith dialogue is much harder than interfaith."

So what can be we saints and aints collaborate?
Can we conspire to steal Advent back?
That last line of couse is a reference to Bono's famous introduction of U2's cover of "Helter Skelter":

"This is a song Charles Manson stole from the Beatles, we're
stealing it back."

As in:

"This (Advent) is season Christians stole from Christ, we (Christians and non-Christians) are stealing it back (by simply doing what Jesus would do at Christmastime!)"

Or better yet, as Rohr changes the agent of the stealing, and ends his article with real reality:

Maybe our humble Jesus is stealing our idols from us, and inviting us back into his Bethlehem stable.

1 comment:

  1. I love that line about "stealing it back." It brings back wonderful memories of seeing Rattle and Hum on opening at the Empire in Leicester Square in London. I happened to be there on vacation when I learned that the movie was opening at the Empire. The best part was that U2 was at the premiere. The place was completely crazy. Thanks for all the great videos you post of the greatest rock band of all time!!!


Hey, thanks for engaging the conversation!