"Unapologetic Theology: A Christian Voice in a Pluralistic Conversation" is the title of a book by my beloved theology professor and friend, the late William C. Placher. It is also now the title of this blog, a place where I hope to add a Christian voice -- God knows, not "the" Christian voice, but "a" Christian voice and not just any old voice, but a distinctly Christian voice -- to the pluralistic conversation going on about just about everything.
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If you live in or near Leesburg, you've probably noticed posters of downtown merchants.
The posters are giant blown-up photos of the shop's business owner. In most
of the photos, the business owner is hamming it up for the camera, posing, in a
lighthearted way, with some prop appropriate to his or her business.
posters themselves, and the whole campaign for that matter, strike me as a fun,
truly creative way to promote downtown businesses.
enough, they got me thinking about Christmas. Not in the way the ad campaign
intended (shop downtown this holiday season), but in a deeper sense.
posters got me thinking about the true meaning of Christmas.
why: the effectiveness of this campaign is that they personalize the
downtown businesses participating in the campaign.
drive by Mom's Apple Pie five times a day and not really take notice, but all
of a sudden there's Avis Renshaw, smiling at you with her giant rolling pin.
Mike of Leesburg Vintner, foot up on a case of vino. And there's Stanley of
Caulkins Jewelers, holding an oversized gem.
somewhere in the back of your mind, these buildings...these shops...these
places become personal.
genius of this campaign is that it plays to the strength of downtown
businesses. Its message seems to be, "Look, these aren't the impersonal,
literally detached big-box-stores of the strip malls. Downtown shops are personal:
just as they literally share walls, they are connected, one to another, and to
aren't just stores, the posters want to remind us, but Avis.
I'm reading my Bible correctly, the story from Genesis right through Revelation
is the story of another campaign: God's campaign.
campaign to reveal his goodness and love for humanity.
And what was
that first Christmas all about, if not God's attempt to literally personalize
climactic words of "O Come, All Ye Faithful" put it, the true meaning
of Christmas was the "Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing."
effectiveness of God's campaign that first Christmas, you might say, was to
isn't all about God's omnipotence, omnipresence, power.
did God enter into that campaign? Because God can seem so remote...so
detached...so large and impersonal. But -- because God is a tender lover --
that remoteness, detachment, and distance breaks God's heart.
first Christmas -- God's incarnation -- was God saying, "Here. This is
what I look like. This is me. You want to know me, what my priorities are, what
I care about? Watch. Look. Listen."
words, that first Christmas - God's incarnation -- was God saying, "I
care; I am connected. I do not want a remote relationship. This is personal,
so I might have a personal relationship. With you."
campaign be an effective one, for you -- in you -- this Christmas.
For Lent, I was thinking of doing the typical fasts: fast from Facebook and take up reading, fast from petty vices like overindulging in sweets and alcohol and take on moderation, yada yada yada.
But I'm re-thinking that this year. What I'm fasting from this Lent is discouragement. That means cutting back on what is so often the source of discouragement, which is a tendency to gorge on, or dwell on, bad news.
(Let me be clear: that does not mean giving up news or otherwise burying my head in the sand: it means staying informed while finding ways not to get pulled into a downward spiral of feelings of numbness and helplessness; it means giving up unproductive feelings like hopelessness and resignation and taking on visible behaviors like giving encouragement and taking action.)
It means making visible -- here, on my blog, and even on Facebook -- the good.
Because the problem is -- to paraphrase the community organizer Rich Harwood -- a lot of times we see "good news stories…
So for Lent, I was thinking of doing the typical fasts: fast from Facebook and take up reading, fast from petty vices like overindulging in sweets and alcohol and take on moderation, yada yada yada.
But I'm re-thinking that.
Now one of the things I'm thinking about fasting from during Lent is discouragement. That means cutting back on what is so often the source of discouragement, which is a tendency to gorge on, or dwell on, bad news.
That would mean taking on encouragement: to make visible -- even on Facebook -- the good.
Because the problem is -- to paraphrase the community organizer Rich Harwood -- a lot of times we see "good news stories" as being quaint -- they are tossed in at the end of the news as an inspiring story, or put in the style section. But stories of good things happening -- people coming together to do things, is not a touchy-feely, feel-good story, but something affecting real change.
So for starters: I'm inspired by the leadership example of…