December 2014


Here we go again! Outraged “Christians” here in Starkville recently threatened a local popular restaurant with a boycott because its marquee had used the shorthand “Xmas” instead of spelling out “Christmas.” The malicious, godless owners were taking Christ out of Christmas! They were replacing the title of the Savior with a generic, meaningless symbol! Another evidence of the attempt by liberals keep us from remembering “the reason for the season”! Never mind that what looks like an “X” in “Xmas” is not an English letter at all, but instead is the monogram of Christ, the Greek letter “chi” (c ) as in the famous “Chi Rho” symbol (cr). It’s seen all the time in ancient icons. But ignorant people simply assume that there’s a conspiracy or someone is out to denigrate their faith, not that they could be wrong. They don’t take the time to find out facts.

If these “Christians” want to be outraged over something, how about:

  • racial injustice, gender bias, and homophobia;
  • income inequality;
  • animal cruelty;
  • constant war;
  • the influence of corporate lobbyists on Congress;
  • real persecution of people of whatever faith?

And then there was the (probably fake) Peanuts cartoon I saw that somebody posted on Facebook, complaining how “it’s really strange America is the largest Christian nation in the world, and we can’t say ‘Merry Christmas.’” To quote Charlie Brown: “Good grief!” America is not a Christian nation. A nation in which the majority of people belong to a church or profess Christianity is not a Christian nation. If we were a Christian nation, we would care for the poor, welcome the stranger, tend to the sick, and serve the public good instead of the interests of a powerful few (see Matthew 25:35-46, which is a judgment of nations). As Stephen Colbert has famously said: “If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn’t help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we’ve got to acknowledge that he commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition…and then admit that we just don’t want to do it.”

As for the complaint about limiting greetings, of course we can say “Merry Christmas!” But these “Christians” complain they are being persecuted and their free speech curtailed when we are all encouraged to practice inclusiveness in word and action, such as recognizing that there are at least two other holidays around this time of year and that not everyone is a Christian. News flash: loss of power and privilege that you have had for years and years does not equal persecution. Someone saying “Happy holidays” to you in a store or on the street is not a slap at your faith. And I would think that people who claim to worship and follow Someone who called on us to love our neighbor and said he came not to be served but to serve would act kindly and with understanding toward others, especially those who do not profess Christ. Instead, these folk seem to think Christianity is a religion of domination and exclusion, and that our words ought to be used as clubs and swords against “unbelievers,” “secularists,” and “sinners.” The celebration of our Lord’s birth thus becomes a glorification of everything he and his mother (Luke 1:46-55) stood against. The arrogance of these people is appalling!

Ignorance. Arrogance. A lethal combination. God deliver us. Come, Lord Jesus!

© 2014 Tom Cheatham. All rights reserved.

I’ve seen it more than once now: Jesus was homeless. The latest instance of that claim is in a blog post this week by fellow PC(USA) minister Mark Sandlin. Making the point that we can’t forget those without shelter this Christmas, Sandlin writes:  “Throughout his life Jesus would spend his ministry with no place to lay his head. This time of year we celebrate a homeless man”  (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thegodarticle/2014/12/10-things-christians-shouldnt-do-at-christmas/). I commend the article in general to you, but Sandlin may need to look at other biblical evidence before contending that Jesus was homeless.

The text he’s referring to is Matthew 8:20 (// Luke 9:58), in which Jesus responds to a would-be disciple by telling him that “foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” From that we get the idea that Jesus wandered around the countryside, presumably with the Twelve and others, spending the night out in the open, eating what he could find, with no roots or responsibilities other than preaching the gospel and healing (which, granted, are pretty huge tasks).

The evidence from Matthew and Mark point to a different reality, though. Matthew says Jesus made his home in Capernaum (Matthew 4:13). Mark reports that when Jesus came home one day, after being gone for a time, crowds gathered at his door, and some men cut a hole in his roof and lowered a disabled man on his bed (Mark 2:1ff). So Jesus did have a home that he was either buying or renting. At the very least he had a room somewhere in the structure, presumably with kitchen privileges.

We also learn from Mark (6:3) that Jesus had a trade, and maybe therefore a job. As has often been said, he was a carpenter. Maybe somewhere in his home in Capernaum he had a workshop.

So it seems to me that Jesus’ statement that he had nowhere to lay his head has to be interpreted in light of clear texts that tell us Jesus put down roots in a particular place. I believe he was speaking in hyperbole to make a point, and that he meant he really didn’t belong anywhere. He was but a sojourner, a stranger on the earth even though he did in fact have a bed and a pillow in a warm dwelling. He was not attached to anything, but could lose it all willingly for the kingdom of God.

Caring for those without shelter is good and right and our calling from God. Jesus told us to care for “the least of these.” But we can’t base our ministry on the belief that Jesus himself was literally homeless.

Progressives complain all the time about how conservatives misuse scripture for their own ends. Those on the left lose a bit of credibility, though, when they do the same thing, no matter how good the cause.

© 2014 Tom Cheatham. All rights reserved.