Timothy McMahan King is the author of the forthcoming book Addiction Nation: What the Opioid Crisis Reveals About Us, available June 11 from Herald Press.
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The Gospel According to Charles Dickens: Moral Imagination
The Ghost of Christmas Past showed Scrooge a total of five visions. It is only the last two which are dark. The first three show the seeds of Scrooges own repentance.
The first vision shown to Scrooge by the Ghost of Christmas past is that of a young Scrooge reading alone, neglected by his peers, just before Christmas. Scrooge, watching his old self, begins to cry.
“What’s the matter?” asked the Spirit.
“Nothing,” said Scrooge. “Nothing. There was a boy singing a Christmas Carol at my door last night. I should have given him something: that’s all.”
The Gospel According to Charles Dickens: A Chain of Our Own Making
The specter of Jacob Marley entered Scrooge’s room. It had been seven years to the day since Marley died.
Before he sees them, Scrooge hears the clanking of the heavy chains his old business partner now carries with him.
Scrooge asks how it is that Marley became thus fettered.
“I wear the chain I forge in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free-will, and of my own free-will I wore it.”
Marley did not realize in life that he was a slave. He assumed that his wealth and the absence of external restraints meant he was free, when in fact his miserly and selfish ways were forging the means of his own bondage.
The Gospel According to Charles Dickens: Lifting Up the Lowly
Scrooge calls Christmas a “humbug.”
When his nephew tries to convince him otherwise, Scrooge responds:
“Merry Christmas! What right have you to be merry? What reason have you to be merry? You’re poor enough.”
The nephew retorts:
“What right have you to be dismal? What reason have you to be morose? You’re rich enough.”
The nephew concludes with this famous line about the holiday:
“Therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say God bless it!”
The Gospel According to Charles Dickens: Christmas as Ebenezer
An ebenezer is a reminder. It tells the story of God’s faithfulness and our repentance. It is a marker for transformation and conversion.
Dickens, I would assume, did not give Scrooge the first name “Ebenezer” without reason. While the word has fallen out of common use (the hymn “Come Thou Fount” is often sung now with the word “altar” in replace of “ebenezer”) it is still powerful with meaning.
“Ebenezer” is the marker that commemorates the moment that everything changed. In difficult times it is the reminder that what was true at the time of the original change, namely God’s faithfulness, is still true today.
Advent or Government Shutdown, Which Matters More?
I’d like to share some Advent reflections from my former professor at North Park University, Scot McKnight. He is in the midst of a series that points to what Advent is supposed to remind Christians of. It’s a simple message with deep meaning: Jesus is King.
Catholic Bishops: Unemployment Benefits are Pro-Life
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) released a letter to Congress on Monday concerning unemployment benefits. Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Toledo, Ohio, the letter's signatory, makes the argument that unemployment benefits are a “right to life” or pro-life issue.
This is a time of “prolonged and pervasive economic pain.” The letter cites the median length of joblessness as 10 months and that there are 4 job seekers for every 1 job opening. Blaire then quotes from Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Laborem Exercens:
The obligation to provide unemployment benefits, that is to say, the duty to make suitable grants indispensable for the subsistence of unemployed workers and their families, is a duty springing from the fundamental principle of . . . the right to life and subsistence.
If Glenn Beck still had that black board, Pope John Paul II might end up receiving the posthumous honor of having a smiling photo added to it.
All-American Muslim: These People are Dangerous
They are dangerous. And no, I’m not talking about the five Muslim families in Dearborn Michigan depicted in TLC’s new series All American Muslim.
I’m talking about the Florida Family Association(FFA). They are a group with a campaign targeting the show's advertisers and who have successfully gotten Lowe's to remove their commercials.
From the FFA website:
The Learning Channel's new show All-American Muslim is propaganda clearly designed to counter legitimate and present-day concerns about many Muslims who are advancing Islamic fundamentalism and Sharia law. The show profiles only Muslims that appear to be ordinary folks while excluding many Islamic believers whose agenda poses a clear and present danger to liberties and traditional values that the majority of Americans cherish. ...Clearly this program is attempting to manipulate Americans into ignoring the threat of jihad and to influence them to believe that being concerned about the jihad threat would somehow victimize these nice people in this show.
Yup. That’s their complaint. Having a show that would dare to depict “ordinary” Muslims.
GOP Candidates Answer: Does Marital Fidelity Matter?
The question of moral character and how it plays into public life has tended to be fairly low level conversation in our country. It’s subjects of discussion are usually those who we aren’t planning on voting for.
This is why it’s hard to trust what most commentators, religious leaders or politicians are saying right now. Things said in this moment might have more to do with which party or candidate they are planning on voting for than serious thinking about moral character and public life.
Poverty and the LGBT Community
Failure to provide equal rights for LGBT people doesn’t just hurt those who are gay or lesbian, it also hurts the nearly 2 million children who now live in LGBT households.
Contrary to many stereotypes, children living in LGBT households are 50 percent more likely to live in poverty than those living in heterosexual households. Societal prejudice and discriminatory policies both have something to do with it. A recent report sponsored by the Movement Advancement Project, Family Equality Council and the Center for American Progress, explains why.
Perry Defends his "War on Religion" Attack Ad
Yes, the Obama administration is going to have differences with some of the Catholic bishops. But that doesn’t mean it’s a war.
The Governor should know that if he was elected President he would have some big problems with the bishops as well.
Remember when Perry boasted about how many people had been executed in Texas? And how the crowd responded by cheering?
On Redundancies: Social Justice and Personal Salvation
Social justice is redundant.
Justice, properly understood in a biblical sense, always has social implications.
Personal salvation is redundant in the same way. Salvation, properly understood in a biblical sense, while it may have broader implications, is always personal in nature.
Why the modifiers?
The War on Christmas: Hide the Baby Jesus!
It is unclear how the adjective employed to describe a coniferous tree intended as public celebratory display became a “slap in the face” to the Christian community. It’s especially curious considering that the use of the fir tree around the winter solstice is commonly traced back to Germanic pagan traditions, not Christian ones.
The display of a Christmas tree, a nativity (or manger, or crèche) or any other “stuff” on public property is made central to the celebration of Christ’s birth. Suddenly the profound and unique Christian mystery of the Incarnation — the profound truth of Emmanuel, God with us — is reduced to a set of cultural traditions and a demand for public officials to sponsor and endorse their particular brand of celebration.
When that happens, it’s no longer clear what the difference is between a Christmas tree, a golden calf or a two-story blow-up polyurethane Frosty the Snowman.
Facts, Opinions, and Newt Gingrich
But to say that kids in poor neighborhoods have “no habits of working” and have “nobody around them who works” is false and trivializes all of the hardships that poor people in this country face.
Three-quarters of those who live under the poverty line have jobs. Many more are looking for work.
I don’t doubt that you can find people out there who are poor because they don’t have a strong work ethic, but all you need to do is turn on E! or browse TMZ for a few minutes to find lazy rich people who take no responsibility for their actions.
World AIDS Day 2012: Mountains are Moving
By 2015, we could have an AIDS free generation.
AIDS was first identified nearly 30 years ago and has claimed countless lives. Currently, 1,000 babies around the globe are born with the virus each day. During much of the past few decades it’s been hard to see much hope when it comes to turning the tide against this disease.
But, thanks to smart public health decisions, public investment in strategies that work, and innovative implementation by NGO’s, we can now begin to envision a day when this mountain will be moved. During FY 2011 PEPFAR, (The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDs Relief) supported the prevention of 200,000 children contracting HIV/AIDS from their mother.
With continued investment we are just a few years away from preventing nearly ALL children from being born with the virus.
Preach It, Sarah Palin!
A new poll out from the Public Religion Research Institute and Religion News Service shows that just about the same number of American’s feel that Occupy Wall Street shares their values as does the Tea Party.
The split comes down partisan lines but is also generational. Eighteen-to-thirty-nine year olds are much more likely to feel that Occupy Wall Street shares their values then does the Tea Party.
What will be of great interest to watch over the coming months is the overlap between concerns of both movements. For example, neither group is a fan of the bank bailout and express an overwhelming feeling that elected officials aren’t responsive or accountable to those who elected them. I’m not arguing they will join forces any time soon, but they still could find a few areas of agreement.
What convinced me that common ground might be possible was another unlikely event, I read a column by Sarah Palin that I liked.
Fighting Back Against Harmful Cuts
Yesterday, Congress passed the 2012 Agricultural Appropriations Bill or “minibus” as it has come to be called. The good news is that cuts to both national and international nutrition programs were not as severe as originally expected. The bad news is, poverty is still at record levels and there is still more we can do to help those in need.
Over the past few weeks, Sojourners activists have sent thousands of emails to Congress urging them not to cut poverty focused foreign aid. While that fight continues, the passage of this bill -- without any major cuts to vital programs for poor and hungry people -- is an important step.
New Poll: Majority of White Evangelicals Oppose Cutting Federal Programs that help the Poor
A new poll released this morning by Public Religion Research Institute shows the American public has clear ideas about what steps political leaders should take to reduce the federal deficit.
The poll shows that a majority of white evangelicals are opposed to cutting federal anti-poverty programs for the poor and nearly three-quarters of white evangelicals oppose cutting funding for religious organizations that help the poor.
The poll, based on a survey of 1,002 American adults performed November 10 -14, also shows a nation divided both by political affiliation and generation when it comes to attitudes towards Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party.
The survey found that nearly 7-in-10 (68 percent) of Americans say that in order to reduce the deficit, it’s fair to ask wealthier Americans to pay a greater percentage in taxes than the middle class or those less well off.
The Worst Commercial in the World
The Norton commercial says explicitly what most advertisements only imply.
You are the things you own.
Your identity is the stuff you have.
Your worth is what you own.
Be A Good Neighbor to a Veteran
Christians are called to be peacemakers and healers. Disagreement on policy does not excuse us from a responsibility to help those who come home broken and in need of help.
You might call yourself a pacifist, a just-war theorist, a pragmatist, a dove or a hawk but today (and every day), you should be a good neighbor to a veteran.
What's Missing in the GOP Debate: Consumer Demand
Low-income people are likely to spend additional income on food and basic consumer products. This is good for sales. When sales go up, so does hiring.
We don’t have to make a choice between helping low income people and helping small businesses. We can do both.
We all benefit when parents are able to feed and clothe their children.