The Uses of History, 13 – Christmas, 2

When you study at a university or any institution of higher learning, you study at an institution which was born in and emerged out of the Christian culture of medieval and early modern Europe. When you enjoy the benefits of universal public education, you are reaping the benefits of the foundational work of many generations of churchmen and churchwomen who believed in the right of ordinary people to know how to read, write, and do basic mathematics – then extended that to the right of all who could and would seek it to pursue the knowledge and skills God had created them to understand and be able to develop.

When you go to a hospital and receive medical care dedicated to “doing no harm” and treating you with the respect you deserve whether young or old, rich or poor, male or female, of any religion or ethnicity, you are benefitting from the Christian view of human beings as being made in God’s image and worthy of all care and consideration because all lives are of equal and infinite value in God’s eyes. That is the whole basis of universal public health care, of universal public education, of universal human rights.

The Uses of History, 12 – Christmas, 1

the Bethlehem Baby … grew up to be the greatest inspirational figure in all human history. Remove all the subsequent distortions of what He and His first followers said and began, and no message ever brought or still brings greater light and hope. Try as hard as we might, He and His Good News cannot ever be replaced with anything remotely comparable from any source.

Cold Love, 4 – The Quality of Mercy

The Christian Story says that the Creator-God did not sit back and shrug. Instead, speaking anthropomorphically, (S)He is deeply grieved, even distressed, and even angry. However, God’s ultimate response is mercy rather than wrath, although wrath has been allowed to fall. If we are willing to face our rebellion and defiance of God, we must see that, just as with human offenders in human society, there is an inevitable day when judgment finds the unrepentant transgressor. This is called “natural consequences”, and it applies in both the physical and metaphysical realm. It also comes as a legal requirement.

Cold Love, 2

Hot zeal for God’s judgment to fall on sinners can be a shield protecting the zealot from actually having to practice the harder things such as agape-love (agape being the Greek word used for love in all of these citations) Jesus is talking about. As pointed out in Cold Love, 1, Jesus is talking about the highest form of love (agape) which governs all others. It is this kind of love which we need to live by, and this can only happen in constant relationship with its giver – Yahweh-Adonai, the Creator and Author of all that is.

Outliers, 3 – Metanoia

The most radical, greatest Outlier who ever lived is Jesus. He is the only human being who died but rose from death and is still alive today. Even if He had not done this, He would still rank at the top of the list in terms of his impact on history, culture, and society over the last two thousand years. To conform all He claimed we have His real resurrection. It is both a faith and historical fact.

Freedom, 4

The biggest injury to that “Great Leap Forward” towards an open, egalitarian, universalist society (to borrow Mao’s phrase and put it to much better use) was actually the shattering of Christendom. This came via the triple hammer blows of (1) the Black Death and the tremendous socio-economic upheaval it produced [now there was the pandemic of pandemics!], (2) the Reformation followed by the Wars of Religion, and (3) the Enlightenment, which, despite all its protestations to be the Age of the coming of the great light of emancipation from superstition, opened the doors wide to the tsunami called the French Revolution.

Difference Makers, 2: The Greatest Englishman of the 19th Century

The observations we are looking for do not concern Britain’s status as a world super-power or economic prowess.  From end to end of those hundred years, Britain was the acknowledged world super-power and a financial and economic powerhouse.  What we are really looking for is a sea-change, a paradigm shift, in society itself – its general tenor and temperament. 

Difference Makers, 1: a Beautiful, Humble Life

Few things were harder than watching the wasting away of a human life as the bodies of the disease’s victims literally disintegrated.  Medications and supplies were in short supply for a long time.  Gradually, as the sufferers died and the disease was contained, the leper communities were scaled back and eventually closed.

The Ghosts of Christmas, 2

For the early disciples, things were much more difficult than anything we face here in the post-Christian West where the name of Jesus still has significant recognition.  The feelings of hopelessness and helplessness many western believers have are the result of centuries of holding a privileged position in society and a preponderance of cultural influence for over a millennium.  Now that is largely gone and we don’t know how to cope.  We’ve forgotten how to begin again.