Monday, January 23, 2017

O Little Town of Bethlehem

One pop atheist slam against Christianity is our fixation on a "Bronze Age" religion. Now, this is thoughtless trope that's copied from one atheist to the next. It is true, however, that this objection singles out something distinctive about the Judeo-Christian faith. It is rooted in the past. Rooted in historical events. Events that have an address as well as a date.

For Christians who observe the church calendar, it's striking to consider how modern-day Christians worldwide sing Christmas carols about Bethlehem. Western Christians, in what has been for centuries the power center of the world, turn their attention to a hamlet on the periphery of the Roman Empire. Even by 1C standards, Bethlehem was the antipode of Rome, capital of the then-greatest empire of the known world. 

If it weren't for Christianity, everyone would fixate the political, military, and economic power centers of the world. Big Western cities. Entertainment capitals. Pro sports. It's all about the winners.  

Unbelievers are obsessed with the present. Who has power. Who has status. Who's on top. Who's is currently the richest man in the world? Who is currently the most successful movie star or rock star? Who is currently the most successful quarterback, or basketball star, or soccer team? 

It's all about now. Unbelievers disdain the past. Disdain the backwaters of the world. 

The Christian frame of reference is entirely different from the humanist frame of reference. Even for Christians residing in the power centers of the world, that's not our polestar. That's not the standard of comparison by which we measure what's important.  

Of course, Christians think about the future, too. But it's a future that's rooted in the past. And it's a future set in the hereafter or the world to come. 

1 comment:

  1. A good post! I would rather be a janitor among fellow Christians in the middle of nowhere than dwell in the finest hotels and penthouses in New York City lined with worldly and boastful men and women. I guess this means no Trump Tower for me! :-)