the new Missionaries & Santa

The other evening as I was preparing dinner, three young women knocked on our door. They introduced themselves as the “new missionaries” in town and wanted to “share a message” with us. I politely declined, wished them a good evening and closed the door. They looked mildly surprised, but took my rejection well.

Kid2, who was with me when I opened the door, had questions: what message, why did they want to share it, why did I say no thanks.

How does one explain missionaries to a child?

As it is nearing Christmas, I used an analogy that they might relate to. Kid2 does not believe in Santa, and we’ve had numerous conversations about that, so I decided to start from there.

So the first question was why were they going door to door to share a message?

“It would be like if you believed in Santa so much you wanted to tell everyone so you went door to door to share that. You feel everyone should believe in Santa so they can get lots of presents, because if they don’t believe in Santa they won’t get anything.”

Kid2’s brow wrinkled in confusion. Clearly this was not about Santa.

So what message are they sharing?

They’re most likely talking about the story of Jesus. You know, the baby from the Nativity play, and the man who was on the cross in the Mission we visited last summer.

Yes. Looks confused. Why do they want to share that?

Some people believe very strongly, that stories that in the Bible actually happened, and they have based their entire world view off of them. They feel they have to go tell everyone about this, so other people can make people change to their way of thinking.

Why didn’t you want to talk to them?

I have a different world view than they do. I know about Jesus, and I’ve read the Bible, and I don’t agree with their world view, and that’s okay. We can politely disagree with people, and we don’t have to talk to people who randomly knock on our door about religion, it is also time to get started on dinner.

*****

Kid2 took it at that and I’m sure we’ll have more opportunities for these conversations as time goes on, particularly around the holidays, as Kid2 has proudly informed their class that “Santa does not visit our house because we do not have a chimney!” and Kid1 has proclaimed “I don’t believe in Santa, I believe in Mommy!”

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a rainbow does not make up for the annihilation of mankind

Ark on Mount Ararat By Simon de Male

The other night Kid2 wanted to read the story of Noah’s Ark. We have an older children’s copy probably first published sometime in the 70s. It was my husbands when he was a child, and as great flood stories are common in many cultures, I figured why not.

I did my best to read in a non-judgmental tone. Paraphrasing here, as book is back on the bookshelf and really, we all know the story, if you need a refresher, you can find it in the Bible, Genesis 5:32-10:1.

Noah and his wife live together with their children, and one day God tells Noah to build an ark. So Noah goes about building an ark, and collects two of each kind of animal for the ark.

So far, so good. Although Kid2 notes “thats a lot of animals.” Yes, yes it is.

Then God gets angry and sends a lot of rain and floods the world and kills everyone — except Noah and his family.

Kid2’s eyes got big. “That God is mean.”

I can’t say I disagree, after all “That God” just finished drowning (almost) all the the inhabitants of the earth simply because “they angered him.”

So Kid2 and I brainstormed better ways of dealing with people who anger you, then we worked our way to the end of the book.

God shows Noah a rainbow and promises not to kill all the humans again.

Kid2 does not think a rainbow makes up for mass drowning, and wanted to be assured it was “just a story.”

Yes, Kid2, it is just a story.


The Slut Shaming, Sex-Negative Message in the Virgin Birth—It’s Worth a Family Conversation

I had Sunday School teachers who insisted that Christian Science takes the “inspired” word of the Bible, and that the stories were “allegorical.” The virgin birth story (inspired allegory or not) always made me a bit uncomfortable. See also, http://valerietarico.com/2014/12/09/the-not-so-virgin-birth-of-the-christmas-story/ on how Jesus’ birth became more virginal and miraculous.

AwayPoint

Christmas - AnnunciationThe birth story of baby Jesus celebrates the promise of new life, but for girls it also sends a harmful message. How can we acknowledge this without spoiling the rest?

Most Americans, even many who are not very religious, look forward to Christmas as a time to celebrate warmth, friendship, generosity and good cheer. Familiar festivities weave together stories and traditions from many cultures, which makes it easy to find something for everyone. But maybe it’s time to look a little closer at the Christmas story itself.

The birth story of the baby Jesus is heartwarming and iconic—the promise of new life and new hope in a time of darkness. It has inspired centuries of maternal art and is the best loved of all Bible stories. It also has a darker subtext, especially for someone like me—the mother of two daughters.

In the story, an angel appears to a virgin…

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what their itching ears want to hear – new wine-old bottles, Mary Baker Eddy & Luke 5:36-39

Back in May, when I wrote about Ms. Eddy and alcohol, I came across a parable that was largely overlooked by my Sunday School teachers, it comes from Luke 5:36-39 and it talks about wine.

“And he spake also a parable unto them; No man putteth a piece of a new garment upon an old; if otherwise, then both the new maketh a rent, and the piece that was taken out of the new agreeth not with the old. And no man putteth new wine into old bottles; else the new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled, and the bottles shall perish. But new wine must be put into new bottles; and both are preserved. No man also having drunk old wine straightway desireth new: for he saith, The old is better.”

—Luke 5:36-39, King James Version

Ms. Eddy refers to this parable in Chapter VI, Science, Theology, Medicine (114:12) when she states

As Mind is immortal, the phrase mortal mind implies something untrue and therefore unreal; and as the phrase is used in teaching Christian Science, it is meant to designate that which has no real existence. Indeed, if a better word or phrase could be suggested, it would be used; but in expressing the new tongue we must sometimes recur to the old and imperfect, and the new wine of the Spirit has to be poured into the old bottles of the letter.           (emphasis mine)

Ms. Eddy seems upset by the limitations of language, which is understandable:  there are many ways to interpret what she has written, some read her works and come way with the sense that God is LOVE! in big, bold confetti caps, while others come away cowering in terror at the Unreality of Mortal Mind.

The wine/bottles parable is referred to again in Chapter X, Science Of Being (281:27282:1)

Divine Science does not put new wine into old bottles, Soul into matter, nor the infinite into the finite. Our false views of matter perish as we grasp the facts of Spirit. The old belief must be cast out or the new idea will be spilled, and the inspiration, which is to change our standpoint, will be lost. Now, as of old, Truth casts out evils and heals the sick.

It is obvious to the early Journal contributors that Christian Science is the New Wine that Jesus was talking about. The Christian Science Journal, Volume 16  By Mary Baker Eddy April, 1898 (1) has “A Timely Topic” by F.S. Wilbur (p. 29-31) that talks about this parable in relation to Christian Science:

According to F.S. Wilbur, Ms. Eddy was “impelled by a power not her own to “provide new bottles for the new wine” — obviously Christian Science on both counts. A bit of boasting that echos Ms. Eddy’s sentiments, and promise of a lasting permanence and preservation of these ideas.

The take on new wine/old bottles takes an interesting turn in The Christian Science Journal, Volume 37, April 1919 (2) has “Qualification for Healing” by S. Ella Schelhamer (p. 179-181), which echos sentiments that send chills down my spine:

… she saw there had been murmurings and rebellion and a fixed belief in the reality of matter, with its resultant sin and sickness, that must be relinquished before the healing could be realized.  It is obvious that the elimination of belief in the pleasures and pains of sense must precede human receptivity to Truth. On page 15 of “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” Mrs. Eddy writes, “Without a fitness for holiness, we can not receive holiness.”

Ms. Schelhamer goes on to repeat the wine/bottles parable, then continues.

Though smarting under the tyrannical control of materialism, wether in the guise of sin, sickness, or mental disturbance, the length of the journey from inharmony to harmony is determined by the willingness to divest thought of materialism. Even the righteous desire for healing must be superseded by the stronger desire to know more of God, to learn His will and obey it, and when such becomes the state of consciousness there unfolds to the individual the knowledge of the ever presence of all-power of God.

What Jesus “said” made sense, even outside of the context of a parable, putting new wine into old wine skins will cause them to break. Ms. Eddy’s follower’s 1898 claim that she discovered a new wine, and created a new bottle for it is a rather bold one.

The tile of the 1919 piece, “Qualifications for Healing” is enough to turn my stomach. Only the qualified are worthy of being healed. I’m unsure where Ms. Schelhamer is going when she uses the new wine analogy. The Eddy quote about holiness makes sense in this context, but I am unsure what new bottles the new wine of Christian Science is supposed to be going into. The material body is an unreal vessel, so are we filling a spiritual body? How do you get a “new” spiritual body? Is this “new” spiritual body a reference to Revelation 21:5? (3)

Ms. Schelhamer raises more questions than answers, also how are we to know God’s will? The idea of “Angel messages” is problematic, as 2 Timothy 4:3 reminds us to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear (New International Version). (4) How do we know that Christian Science, and Ms. Schelhamer’s opinions on it, are true? Jeremiah devotes all of chapter 7 to false religions (5), and the notion that Christian Science is a “false” religion is often used by more “mainstream” groups.

There are a few more Journal and Sentinel articles that discuss the new wine/old bottles predicament, but as they are tucked safely behind the Mother Church’s pay-wall, so I will instead turn to the sadly now defunct New Wine New Bottles blog, based on the premise that perhaps it is time for a New Christian Science movement. New Wine links to the Next Generation Fellowship movement in St. Louis, and regularly called out the Christian Science movement for lacking in adult Sunday School classes, dull music, and archaic ritual.

New Wine New Bottles makes for an interesting read, and at one point I heartily agreed with the idea of reform movement. Now, while I’m sure it appeals to some, my path has led me in a different direction. I don’t see why Christian Science has to make things so complicated. It is really quite simple: when I want wine, I buy new wine in new bottles, when the bottles are empty, I put them in the recycling bin.


Further Reading & Bible Commentaries

End Notes

  1. http://books.google.com/books?id=ta1LAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA31&lpg=PA31&dq=old+wine+new+bottles+christian+science&source=bl&ots=z4wyqNc2lF&sig=IrLFqcC38dGOW_6MWOaqmZJGnaI&hl=en&sa=X&ei=jJzOU5nrLsr8oASbtoL4Bw&ved=0CFgQ6AEwBw#v=onepage&q=old%20wine%20new%20bottles%20christian%20science&f=false
  2. http://books.google.com/books?id=StMWAQAAIAAJ&pg=PA180&lpg=PA180&dq=old+wine+new+bottles+christian+science&source=bl&ots=pAS2eElh-N&sig=I9q7zzgc3ZqletsIyicm83bEo7w&hl=en&sa=X&ei=jJzOU5nrLsr8oASbtoL4Bw&ved=0CFsQ6AEwCA#v=onepage&q=old%20wine%20new%20bottles%20christian%20science&f=false
  3. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Revelation%2021:4-6&version=KJ21  And He that sat upon the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said unto me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”
  4. http://biblehub.com/2_timothy/4-3.htm
  5. http://biblehub.com/niv/jeremiah/7.htm

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Hey, Christians. Feeling Persecuted? Don’t Be Evil!

Some light reading for your weekend.

AwayPoint

Christians and LionIn the debris of the Hobby Lobby ruling, the Atlanta Banana published a satirical news report: Little Caesar’s Pizza had been granted the religious freedom to feed Christian employees to lions.

Never mind that the trope of Christians getting fed to lions may have been made up by early Christians themselves; the Little Caesar story was almost inevitable. Faced with a barrage of conscience claims, frustrated secularists are wondering whether there’s any limit to the privileges some people will claim in the name of “religious freedom” or any limit to the exemptions and entitlements they will be granted by co-religionists in positions of power.

Turning frustration into humor is a time honored tradition, but serious Bible believers are unlikely to find the Little Caesar’s story funny. The notion of martyrdom as the apogee of faith is as old as the Catholic Church. To quote Christian History for Everyman

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