Monthly Archives: November 2013

Celebrating Christmas: A Review of THE WAR ON CHRISTMAS

 I wish to state at the beginning of this review that THE WAR ON CHRISTMAS: BATTLES IN FAITH, TRADITION, AND RELIGIOUS EXPRESSION (Master Books, 2013) is a very attractive, beautifully illustrated, and interesting book.  It is a book that will no doubt find a warm reception among evangelical Christians.  All of that said I wish to voice a few words of caution.

First off, one should note that the book is a product of the Answers in Genesis ministry.  The logic behind this examination of Christmas traditions and the Bible, simply put, is that a Christian’s celebration of Christmas should be a celebration of the birth of Jesus.  That assumption goes without saying.  As those popular yard signs evident everywhere at Christmas say, “Jesus is the reason for the season.”

We celebrate the birth of Jesus because God entered into history as the God-man, a space-time historical event, in order to reverse the effects of the Adam and Eve’s fall, also a space-time historical event.  It is important that there was a historical Adam and Eve, and a historical Fall, if Jesus Christ is to make any sense at all.

Where I find myself at odds with the book is when it implies that in order to believe in the historical truth of Genesis, one must accept the idea that the earth is young, that the days of creation were twenty-four hour days, and that it is possible to somehow date those events.  The logic of those involved with Answers in Genesis notwithstanding, the simple fact is that what we have in Genesis is a series of historical events, not a chronology.  Not until the call of Abram (Abraham) does Genesis intersect with verifiable history.

Another area where I find myself at odds with the book is the implication that celebrating Christmas with Santa Claus, Frosty the Snowman, Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and other traditional secular Christmas icons is somehow incompatible with celebrating the birth of Jesus.  Why cannot a Christian teach children about the birth of Jesus, while at the same time pointing out that Santa Clause is a fun game that people play at Christmas?  By denying children the fun of celebrating Christmas as do most Christians is much more likely to prevent them from accepting who Jesus Christ is than putting hot chocolate and cookies out for Santa and sugar cubes for his reindeer.

Still, despite my reservations, I find THE WAR ON CHRISTMAS a worthwhile read.  I simply urge the reader to keep in mind that it is authors’ opinions, not biblical truth, regarding that wondrous holiday we call Christmas.

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The Day Camelot Died

John F. Kennedy motorcade, Dallas, Texas, Nov....

John F. Kennedy motorcade, Dallas, Texas, Nov. 22, 1963 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“What happened fifty years ago on November 22?”

I put the question to one of my history survey classes.  Forty-two students, mostly sophomores, sat in front of me, staring into empty space.  Perhaps I asked the wrong question?  Maybe I should ask who won the Super Bowl fifty years ago.  No doubt then their zombie-like faces would suddenly come to life.  A lively discussion would ensue, as different answers came from all across the lecture hall.

After a moment of silence, not at all surprising, someone said, “World War I ended.”  Another brave soul on the other side of the hall countered with, “Pearl Harbor!”  Before another example of historical revisionism could be heard, a student who was pecking away at the screen on his cellphone looked up and shouted, “President Kennedy died!”

I was not surprised by the response to my question.  The appalling lack of knowledge about our nation’s history, any sense of historical time, not to mention a profound ignorance of geography, is not surprising to those of us who choose to teach college and university students.  I am no longer surprised to discover that many of my students can only read at an elementary level.  Nor am I surprised to learn that some are unable to read or write, at all.

I do not remember where I was, or what I was doing, when I first heard that President Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas, Texas.  I was a freshman in college.  Classes were canceled.  Many of us gathered in the library to hear a young history professor give an impromptu eulogy.  By the time he finished, he was almost in tears.  We were all silent, aware that we would never forget what happened on that day in Dallas.

John F. Kennedy’s assassination marked the end of idealism and hope of a better future for many of us who wanted to believe that human beings were by nature good and reasonable.  That day darkness descended on Camelot.  Before the decade ended, both Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. would also be assassinated.

John F. Kennedy was not the only public figure to die on November 22, 1963.  Both C. S. Lewis, the lord of Narnia, and Aldous Huxley, author of Brave New World, died that day, their deaths overshadowed by President Kennedy’s.

The number one hit song on November 22, 1963, was “I’m Leaving It All Up to You,” written by Robert Dale Houston and recorded by Dale and Grace.  Houston was standing along the parade route and waved to the President just moments before the fatal shots were fired.

At least ten songs were subsequently written and recorded memorializing JFK’s death, among them Bob Dylan’s “Desolation Row” and Phil Ochs’ “Crucifixion.”

J.F.K.: The Man and the Myth by Victor Lasky was at the top The New York Times Best Seller List for non-fiction.  It was a scathing critic of J.F.K. and the whole Camelot myth.  The book was quickly pulled, only to reappear three years later more damning than at first.

I don’t remember where I was, or what I was doing, when I first heard that President Kennedy was dead.  I do remember, however, that I was on Interstate 79 passing through Wheeling, West Virginia, when I heard over the car radio that Elvis Presley had just been rushed to a hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.  Funny what one remembers, isn’t it?

Until next time, be good to all God’s creation and always live under the mercy.

For Bob Dylan’s “Desolation Row”:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-EC_egRR1M

For Phil Ochs’s “Crucifixion”:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8UtNDTEqp_k

Historian’s Almanac for November 2, 1213

Harry S. Truman (1884 – 1972), 1945 – 1953 the...

l would be negligent if I did not take time to comment on several notable historical events that occurred on November 2.  So, not wishing to be guilty of such a grievous offense, may I call your attention to the following?

On this date in 1884 that Harry S. Truman was born in the little town of Lamar, Missouri.  It was more than a month later that his parents, John Anderson and Martha Ellen Truman were able to agree on a name.  The county clerk, having grown tired of waiting, chose to register the new infant without any name.  A first name was not difficult to decide on.  “Harry” was to honor his maternal uncle, Harrison Young.  But what was to be little Harry’s middle name?

The dilemma facing John and Ellen was which grandfather to honor, his paternal grandfather, Anderson Shipp[e] Truman, or his maternal grandfather, Solomon Young?  Choosing one over the other would only complicate things Harry as well as his parents.

The solution was simple.  Harry’s middle name would be simply “S” for both grandfathers.  Thus it is technically incorrect to refer to the 33rd President of the United States as Harry S. Truman, since the “S” is not an abbreviation, but in fact his middle name.  However, since Harry S Truman always signed his name Harry S. Truman, so does everyone else.

Daniel Boone

It is the birthday of Daniel Boone, one of America’s great folk heroes, and a legend in his own time.  Boone fought for the British in the French and Indian War, as did George Washington, and against them in the American Revolution, as did Washington.  Daniel Boone was a consistent failure in every business venture he undertook, but a brilliant success and legend as a frontiersman.

Boone married Rebecca Bryan in 1856.  They had ten children.  One grandson became the first white man born in Kentucky.  Daniel Boone died on September 26, 1820, just a few weeks shy of his 86th birthday.  He was laid to rest next to Rebecca who died March 18, 1813.  Their graves remained unmarked until the mid-1830s.  “All you need to be happy,” said Boone, “is a good gun, a good horse, and a good wife.”

And finally, it is the anniversary of the first and only flight of the “Spruce  Goose,” the largest plane ever built.  Made of birch, not spruce, the monster plane has a baggage compartment large enough to hold two railroad boxcars.  It was the brainchild of Henry Kaiser and Howard Hughes.  Hughes piloted the plane on November 2, 1947, as it soared seventy feet above the earth for a distance of one mile in less than one minute.  Those who wish to see this aviation wonder will find it on display in McMinnville, Oregon.

To view a newsreel of the Spruce Goose’s only flight, click on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGNyAd2uffg

Until next time be good, do good, and always live under the mercy.