Monday, December 14, 2009

Merry Christendom?

About one-third of the way through our study in Ecclesiastes, I truly began to see how much "the preacher" and our community has in common. Here in the "heart of it all" our greatest threat is not mainline groups like Islam or Catholicism. It doesn't appear that well recognized cults, like Mormonism or Jehovah's Witness are gaining any steam either. And yes, you'll occasionally meet the young person who has stumbled upon Bahai or Shinto and thinks they've found something new. However, these people are few and far between, and typically don't even understand what they are endorsing. To be honest, all of the above make such ludicrous claims, and are so naturally inconsistent with Scripture that they really don't pose a threat to take over our community.

No, most people in our neck of the woods are still under the wrath of God due to another religion:

American Christendom.

Now, before you run me up the flagpole as one of those "church bashing" men, (I'd remind you that I too love the church.) notice that I used a word I don't believe has appeared on my blog before. Christendom, not Christianity.

Nothing points this out quite like Christmas. The fury that began a couple years ago to "keep Christ in Christmas" and has grown to cartoonish proportions. (Exhibit A: A site devoted to rating how "Christmas friendly" a retail establishment is.) Christendom encourages us that it is our Christian duty to wish "Merry Christmas" rather than a generic "Season's Greetings" or "Happy Holidays." Every nativity scene is a triumph for Christendom, even if Santa Clause is also looking in on the scene.

Two weeks ago, we loaded up the kids and headed to our local zoo. They have a beautiful light display, and since we have a season pass, opening night seemed a great time to go. From the moment we approached the gate, we were bombarded with rapping elves, giant gingerbread men, a giant walrus (still trying to figure out the Christmas connection there), nutcrackers, Mrs. Clause, a giant Christmas tree, rapping tigers (apparently hip-hop has made a real surge at the North Pole), "real" reindeer and Satan Clause himself. Yet, in the midst of the hustle and bustle, there was also a nativity scene in the old "petting zoo" section. As our family drove home from a very enjoyable night, one of my children said, "I didn't know the zoo was Christian." (We won't even deal with the onslaught of evolutionary theory oozing from the zoo...different post.) Her reflection, since they had a nativity, it has to be a Christian place, right?

Well, no. It meant it was part of Christendom, not Christianity. And at that point, we realized Christendom had snuck in our van and bit our family too.

Now, I'm not opposed to Christmas at all. I love this time of year. As another pastor stated: "I know the whole Christmas thing is not in the Bible, but joy is." This should be a ripe season for Christians to present the gospel and the fascination and awe of the season shouldn't come from flying reindeer, but from the fact that "the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us!"

But there is a lesson to be learned, and the lesson isn't just for how we act during this season. This season shines the light brightly on the issue of Christendom, and it is a lesson we must learn for the sake of lost souls surrounding us. This season allows us the chance to see how most people think of Jesus, and should cause us to examine how we speak of Him.

There are lessons to learn, and there are souls at stake...


Brad said...

I'd be interested to hear your definitions of Christendom and Christianity; I'd be especially interested to hear into which of these categories you think the Church might fit.

Darby Livingston said...

Seasons Greetings and Happy Holidays, Danny! Bring on the eggnog.

marilyn66 said...

Really, Danny, ....Satan Clause?

Anonymous said...

Just curious...would you rather the zoo have not had the nativity scene? What about the nativity scene since it's not Biblically correct.. do you use one? Also, do you tell your kids about the real St. Nicholas? Just some questions I thought about and would like your input! Thanks!

danny2 said...

Rather than not have the nativity?--Well, that really is an issue of preference, some days I go either way. At times, the proliferation of quasi-Christian tributes makes it hard to distinguish the real thing. I think Darke County is plagued with enough references to Jesus, the Bible and Christianity (w/o an allegiance to the Bible) that many people think they know about Jesus when they've never really encountered Him.

But I'll also say it could sometimes serve as a great springboard to start a conversation. Perhaps someone would have a question or would start talking about something they see, then we could offer a real gospel presentation.

It really could go either way, I guess.

Do you use a nativity scene even though it is not correct?--I used to place the wisemen across the room (to the east, of course), more just to bug QT than anything. We have a nativity right on top of our tv. we try to use it, along with some other teaching tools during the season to point our kids to the real meaning of Christmas.

Real St. Nick--Guess I've not really looked into it hard enough to know how much is fable and how much is fact. I saw Mark Driscoll has posted some things about that recently. To be honest, I haven't looked at that stuff yet. We don't teach our kids that there is a Santa Clause, though. Right now, one of our kids likes to say, "I believe in the man who dresses up as Santa!"

It's not that certain things that could be associated with Christendom are bad, per se. Some of them are legitimate and fine, but they are incomplete. We can never think that a mere display of Joseph, Mary and Jesus is a triumph for the gospel. We have to preach the gospel, taking them all the way to the cross and resurrection.

hope that helps.

danny2 said...


i'll leave you to decide if that typo was accidental or not!

Anonymous said...

Yes, that helped! Thanks for the info!

Miss jane said...