Thursday, July 22, 2010

Questions Pondered

Some questions have recently been asked of me in the comment strings of certain posts, questions which I have, we all have, both fielded and asked at various points in our lives, and many of us are still asking. While these aren't necessarily foundational issues to our faith, I think the search for answers is always compelling, even when we come up empty. Growth is a beautiful thing, and hopefully we're all still growing. I'm going to condense some of these questions down, examine scripture where it speaks to the issues, offer personal opinions, and when I don't know the answers, boldly go where human ego doesn't like to go and say "I don't know." I encourage others from all walks to chime in with their own perspectives in the comment string, and I'll stay out of it as much as possible. This will likely be a series of posts in the coming weeks. In this post I'll be dealing with two...

Is it wrong to celebrate "secular" holidays?

This is an issue that I fear has been swallowed up in the fundamentalist cultural war. The same happened to the Sabbath - an issue which Christ addressed in Matthew 12Mark 2, and Luke 6. The Pharisees had done to the Sabbath what they'd done to so much of the rest of the Law, twisting it with their own heartless interpretation, desirous of a Sabbath observed how THEY saw fit. They wanted to appear religious about it, all while using it as a weapon of war.

My ex-fiancee's family didn't celebrate Christmas in the traditional sense. They felt it was pagan. SHE didn't, mind you, but she didn't really have options. They didn't exchange gifts at Christmas. Instead, Valentine's Day was the day they observed for gift-giving. I thought it was the dumbest thing I'd ever heard of. Doing the same thing as the rest of us, just 7 weeks later, almost as a means of thumbing their noses at "the Man" that is western society and culture for it's terrible treatment of the Lord's birth. It's like an attempt to make a sacred cow out of a billy goat. Somehow, I don't think Christ is offended by the exchanges of gifts on December 25th, the commercialism that takes place between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the TV specials, the "Happy Holidays" greetings. Christians, attempting to speak where He's silent, are the ones who seem the most riled by it all. For most of the people celebrating Christmas, Christ isn't even a part of their lives, nor are they bilking His name for anything. It's just an occasion to give gifts, get together with friends and family, eat turkey and Mom's sweet potato casserole, and enjoy themselves. Personally, I've no need to deprive them of that just so I can be right in the cultural debate about how Godless, greedy, and selfish western society is.

As far as I'm concerned and as long as I have a say in the matter, there's gonna be a tree up (with a train circling the bottom of it) and my house is gonna smell like brownies on Christmas day. Christ will be right there with me the whole time.

Heck, no big fuss was made about Birthdays in the scripture, and Jewish society only made a fuss when a boy turned 13 and a girl 12. Yet...Even the most fundamental among us celebrate Birthdays. Now, if it were "National Get Drunk and Go Nuts Day", sure, I can see a follower of Christ taking a pass on that celebration, even though I can easily see Christ heading down to the parade to check it all out. Sounds exactly like the kind of people He visited with.

Are Christians bound by scriptural dietary laws?

The scripture that probably speaks the most directly to this issue is Acts 10. While many think that the vision which Peter had was a metaphor pertaining only to extending the gospel to the Gentiles, I tend to believe that it spoke to the larger issue of all that had previously been considered "unclean". Paul's message in Colossians 2 would seem to very strongly support the broader view. Christ tells us in Matthew 15:11 that what goes in our mouth doesn't defile us, but rather what comes out.

I've never been a big seafood eater, so needless to say, crab or lobster have never been foods that I'm into...but, let me emphasize, not for any spiritual reasons. I love country cookin'. If I ever write my memoirs, the title will be "Gimme Something Fried". Had some good pork chops tonight (with some greens and some yellow rice...dang, I might need to go fire up the microwave right now), had a BLT a couple of nights ago, and sometimes do the breakfast-for-supper thing with bacon and grits. If eating pork sends people to Hell, I'll end up the Mayor of the place at the rate I'm going. Not a big health food guy, unless you consider hamburger steaks (which are, IMO, nature's perfect food) a health food. I'm not keen on eating twigs, acorns, and tree bark just so I can squeeze out a few more years of eating twigs, acorns, and tree bark. If the Lord tarries, none of us can cheat our reckoning with the clock, so find joy where God provides it.

I'm all for people eating what they enjoy eating. If your health dictates a certain diet, by all means adhere to it. While we can't cheat death, there's no need to speed it up. If you have no health concerns but simply prefer healthy food, more power to ya. If you like shellfish, dig in and enjoy.

I think the most important thing to remember about issues like this is: The bible, as it applies to those of us in Christ, isn't a book of rules and regulations. It's a book of discipline and moderation - in all areas of our lives.


  1. I once interacted with a family who had been recently (almost) convinced to give up Christmas and Easter. They had been reading a book, and a couple short pages covered this topic. I responded in pretty much shock and horror to the idea, because I could see a very joy-filled holiday going down the drain. The children were/could easily begin to assume that God didn't want us to have fun.

    So they handed me the book. I didn't even want to go there, but didn't want to see them just accept this stuff either. So I read it.

    The woman I live with got the first volley of my reaction (and she totally agreed with me, btw). The mom who gave me the book got the second volley (and I effectively convinced her to abandon the idea). An online forum got the third volley. And I was finally able to calm down.

    Suffice it to say that the argument against Christmas and Easter was based in a specific denomination's ancient rulebook, some VERY out of context Scriptures (i.e. very twisted), and a LOT of very carefully worded, inflammatory code language. All of which I thoroughly debunked very quickly.

    There is a lot of benefit in knowing the Scripture pretty thoroughly. (Thanks Dad and Mom!!!) One of the references used was an obscure passage that most people aren't familiar with. The other was a very common one that was totally yanked out of context and made to say the opposite of what it actually meant.

    Having said all that, I really don't personally care for all the commercial hype around Christmas. And I pretty much don't participate either. But that is my personal preference, not God's will for everyone on the planet!

  2. I think it honors the author of Life when we celebrate life in almost any form! God really does truly love all these people (except Calvinists- jk)so I can't imagine Him not being stoked that people are being kind to one another, giving gifts, and generally enjoying each other's company. When you've done it to the least of these...

    Plus you covered the food issue pretty thoroughly. As far as keeping dietary laws, Jesus and the Holy Spirit both confirm it's a non-issue. Heck, Romans 12 (14?) calls the one who eats only herbs the "weaker brother". Food for thought. =)

    And speaking of Deuteronomy 14, right after that list of pesky dietary laws, the Isrealites are commanded to take their tithe (vs 23-26)spend on whatever their heart desires (lusteth after KJV)including wine or strong drink, and "and thou shalt eat there before the LORD thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household"

    So I think it's safe to say that God Himself enjoys a good party, and if the tithe belongs to Him, then apparently he's even willing to foot the bill every so often. =D

  3. Thanks Lewis! You have covered 2 main topics I've been pondering for a LONG time. about some baked mac and cheese with those pork chops. Hehe. :) Great post!

  4. I was in a cult-like presbyterian church for a time and also married to a man who refused to celebrate Christmas, etc. After my husband and I parted ways, and my church excommunicated me along with my entire congregation for daring to question some tyrannical moves they had made, I was reading through Romans 14 and 15 one day when the lights went on for me. Paul is addressing two very diverse groups of believers -- Jewish believers who came to faith in the context of the OT, and Gentile believers who came to faith in the context of the New covenant. Paul basically tells them to have their own convictions about these things (meat offered to idols, which days to observe to the Lord, etc.) because what is not of faith is sin, but to LEAVE EACH OTHER ALONE! To their own master they stand or fall. And the issues that were causing them grief were examples of issues that people could make a good case for one way or the other from Scripture. One thing that I don't find Paul doing is telling them to separate the way most people do when they disagree with someone's stance on non-essentials. If only we could remember this, we could do away with a lot of denominationalism and lording over one another's consciences...

  5. Very thought-provoking responses. I love it!

  6. Nice post.

    My husband and I (and I mean "I" very loosely) are vegetarians, but not for religious reasons. We both know there is nothing un-Christian about eating meat.

    He started having high blood pressure when only 33 years old. Within two months of giving up meat his BP was back in the normal range - easy fix. BTW I've never served twigs, bark, or acorns. In fact, if you were to eat at our house you might not even notice you weren't getting any meat.

    I do take the Romans bit seriously, though, and will eat meat when it is placed before me at someone else's home - and I will LOVE it! My husband will quietly fill up on whatever else there is besides meat and make no complaint.

  7. That's a good, common sense approach to the blood pressure issue, Laurie. Sometimes a little tweak in diet pays substantial dividends.

    It may just be an old wives tale, but I've always believed our bodies sometimes tell us what they need through our cravings. Salt, sweets, potassium, what have you. Or maybe I'm just trying to justify getting out of bed in the middle of the night to make a tomato sandwich;)

  8. Not all people leave holidays for the wrong reason. :) I stopped celebrating Christmas and Easter years ago, and started celebrating the Biblical feasts and holidays. It has been wonderful! I think a lot of it has to do with heart issues. I'm not trying to be "better" than anyone else. But I am trying to follow my Savior, and this is where He has me. I don't look down on others for still celebrating Christmas and Easter, because we are all on separate walks with the Father, and if He wants others to stop He can reveal that to them.

    Another issue is the children. Quitting one set of holidays and traditions without instilling another is really wrong, in my opinion. Children LOVE celebrations and holidays. Mine love Passover, Purim, Succot, and others. We don't consider birthdays "bad" (yes, I've known those who did) and we celebrate those, too. We still do Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July. But we acknowledge Jesus' birth at the fall feasts and his resurrection at Passover.

    I also try to eat kosher, but it is not something that I impose on other people. If someone invites me into their home and unknowingly serves me pork or shellfish I'm not going to reject their gracious hospitality over it. People make big issues over "keeping kosher" but eating something that wasn't kosher only kept you unclean (unable to enter the temple) until sundown. There are health reasons behind the commandments which I fully agree with, but it isn't the end of the world to eat pork. :)

  9. Interesting post. What I am finding is that some of the most fundamentalist families tend to find their Biblical guidelines for life in the OT rather than in the NT. They classify themselves not as Christians or Jews but as "Torah Observant." So the NT verses you quote fall on deaf ears. (And, no, they don't believe Christ "fulfilled the Law" in the way you and I believe. They don't even believe in the Trinitarian godhead.)
    So the approach with these folks is much different than simply offering Scripture proofs.
    I haven't had the opportunity to ask one of them if they plan to follow Deut. 21:18-21. LOL.

  10. This is a great post! My family tried the "anti-Christmas" thing for a couple years. It didn't take. I could'nt take it. I LOVE Christmas too much! :D