I hate Advent

|

I hate Advent.

There, I've said it.

I recently finished reading the excellent book The First Christmas by Marcus Borg and Dominic Crossan, and you'd think that maybe after reading that book, I'd approach the whole Advent season with a fresh attitude, and I'd view the mythological stories of Jesus's birth in Matthew and Luke with a view towards such things as resistance against the evils of Empire and celebrating Jesus's ideal of establishing a Kingdom of God on earth based on justice and peace.

You'd think that, but you'd be wrong. As much as I love Borg's and Crossan's interpretation of the birth legends, I just can't get enthused about silently holding onto my private Borgo-Crossanian interpretation in church while the more orthodox interpretations are publicly proclaimed. I don't want to have to keep whispering to myself, "Okay, everyone is reciting and celebrating these mythological birth stories as if they were true, but I know they aren't." Or, "All these Trinitarian formulations are incorporated as part of the celebration, but I would rather focus less on the Jesus-worship and more on Jesus's positive alternatives to the religio-Imperial culture of violence and domination." I don't need to go to church for the purpose of internally vocalizing my own little minority report. I can stay at home for that. The point of going to a church service is to engage in a public and communal expression of worship, n'est-ce pas?

9 comments:

Mike L. said...

I think that Borg and Crossan would say to you "BUT they ARE true!".

The Borg-Crossan line would be to embrace the symbols because they do contain truth even if those around you may be mistaking their literalness. I understand your point. I'm also trying to get past the hatred for a lifetime of being mislead.

Do you have trouble with secular Christmas symbols like Santa, lights, and Christmas trees? Do you agree with their meanings?

Why do people like us accept other skewed and misused symbolism but we struggle to embrace our own. I guess it is the close proximity and a lifetime of intimate use of the symbols. I don't know, but I do sympathize with your feelings.

Mystical Seeker said...

Mike, I think you make a valid point about how Borg and Crossan would see it. I can agree in theory with how they say we should embrace the symbols.

The problem is that unless it is explicitly stated that these are symbols, the natural tendency in churches--for historical and other reasons--is for the default interpretation to be a literal one. Unless an explicit acknowledgment of the symbolic interpretation is made, then I can only assume that this stuff is being presented and interpreted literally. You are right about the problem of having been misled; for that reason, I am very sensitive on this subject.

And I didn't bring up the whole cultural aspects to Christmas in my posting, but yes, I do have a problem with the rest of Christmas as well--the commercialism, the lights, the endless Christmas songs on the radio, the whole nine yards. Frankly, I would be perfectly happy if there were no Christmas holiday, although I do recognize that it is fun for children.

Rowan The Dog said...

Well, Mike l. is correct. I agree with that totally.

But, another reason to go to church and participate in all of it is because it is part of our Christian tradition. Doing silly things is sometimes what defines us. This is what we do. This is the incarnational way we, as a community, express whatever deeper truths we may hold as individuals.

Otherwise, sure, you're right. But, it just may be that there are more important things than being right.

Lindy

Jan said...

I just bought this book, but haven't started it yet.

At this time of year, I can struggle with you or at other times participate in the joy and anticipation, even though it is celebration of remembrance of a myth. Still, together there is a mysterious unity of fellowship in remembering.

But I vacilate about it, too.

Ray said...

Thanks for the heads-up about the new book. I loved their last collaboration and shall enjoy reading this in the run up to christmas.

In the UK it is hard to recognise the christmas period as being part of a religious festival anymore. sad.

I would echo mike l's comments. what i found so helpful about Borg's books (especially The Heart of Christianity) is that he talks about christianity as a practice, as a way, not just a set of "right beliefs". If one believes in an inclusive church then one will have a church full of sinners with a wide range of "beliefs"! No matter - if i was looking for a church i would be looking at how its congregation expressed their christian faith in their local community and the wider world, how they engaged with those of different faiths or of none; how they help and support those who are disadvantaged and excluded in our society.

you said -
The point of going to a church service is to engage in a public and communal expression of worship, n'est-ce pas?

Yes, but it is so much more. And a church or a sangha (I'm Buddhist) that has a monoculture of "belief", whether one is in agreement with it or not, will not be inclusive nor healthy.

John Shuck said...

Ah, Seeker, that is great.

"I hate Advent. There, I've said it."

I can just imagine you on this eve of the first sunday of advent at home eating your soup and being visited by three spirits, the Ghosts of Advents past, present and future...

I have resigned myself to the fact that religion is just weird business.

I am for celebrations and holidays and frankly, I like Christmas. We need some fun.

I am thinking a la Tom Robbins, that we have inherited the wrong religion. We need to go back to the Druids and celebrate Winter Solstice.

We have to have some kind of party in the midst of a dark winter.

That, I think, is how I am going to 'Advent' this year in church. I'll let you know if it is any good!

Mystical Seeker said...

Ray, Yes, but it is so much more. And a church or a sangha (I'm Buddhist) that has a monoculture of "belief", whether one is in agreement with it or not, will not be inclusive nor healthy.

Good point that a monoculture of belief is not desirable. My concern is that a de facto monoculture is imposed when a literalistic interpretation is the de facto standard, and the diversity of thinking is thus driven underground. I wrote an earlier posting in which I asked why it is that there isn't more explicit acknowledgement in church that there are multiple interpretations of the historical truth of biblical myths.


John,

We have to have some kind of party in the midst of a dark winter.


You are right about that. I don't know what people in the Southern Hemisphere do about that, but we up north need some way to celebrate the lengthening of days.

I agree with you completely that religion is just weird business!

jim said...

I just can't get enthused about silently holding onto my private Borgo-Crossanian interpretation in church while the more orthodox interpretations are publicly proclaimed.

I'm with you, this is precisely why I don't go to church any time of the year let alone Christmas. Mind you I live in a small town and the options are low. If I had the option of going to a church that made it clear that the narratives should be understood and appreciated as myths I would likely give it a try.

Wait a second... this is precisely why I am no longer a career (evangelical) missionary. I just couldn't do it anymore.

That said, its apparent that others can do this... I respect that and I will certainly not make judgments.

Eileen said...

Mike and Lindy have articulated what I was thinking far better than I would have.