Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Let's Put the Chi Back in Xmas

I don't know about you but I've always been kind of ticked off when I see the word "Christmas" abbreviated as "Xmas". Now, I've always had the philosophy that I shouldn't expect non-Christians to act like Christians but to take a Christian holiday centred around the person and identity of Jesus Christ and then take His name out and replace it with a generic "X" is just going too far.

Well, I guess I should say I felt that way until the fall of '98. It was my first semester of college at Bethany and I noticed that one of my profs used X to replace "Jesus" or "Christ" whenever he was writing notes on the blackboard. Some other freshmen and I were wondering if we were being taught by a heretic when we also noticed that he replaced "God" with some sort of 'circle with slash through it' symbol. Obviously something that we didn't understand was happening.

Our prof then explained that he was using letters from the Greek alphabet as shorthand for commonly used nouns. He was using the Greek letter "theta" (Θ) as an abbreviation for "God" because in Greek "God" is Θεος (theos).

He was using the Greek letter "chi" (Χ) as an abbreviation for "Jesus" and "Christ" because in Greek "Christ" is Χριστός (Christos).

All throughout Christian history Christians have used such abbreviations. The perfect example is the ΙΧΘΥΣ or, as it is more commonly known, the "Jesus Fish". The word ἰχθύς (ichthus) means "fish" in Greek. It is also, however, an acronym for: Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour.
This is what I'm talking about:

ησοῦς - Χριστός, - Θεοῦ - Υἱός, - Σωτήρ
Jesus - Christ, - of God - Son, - Saviour

The use of the ΙΧΘΥΣ symbol can be traced back to the reign of the Roman Emperor Domitian (AD 81 - AD 96).

Another example of using Chi as a shorthand for Christ is the "Chi Rho". This can be directly traced to the Roman Emperor Constantine in the 300s. "Chi" and "Rho" are the first two letters in Χριστός (Christos) the Greek word for Christ:


And so, my prof continued to explain, even the abbreviation for Christmas as "Xmas" is actually hundreds of years old and has it's roots, not in defaming Christ, but in a long history of religious short-hand. It's not "X-mas"... it's really "Chi-mas".

Who would have known!

But there still remains at least one question in my mind: Since most people don't know this background what do we do when people think that they are taking "Christ" out of Christmas and are doing it intentionally?

Of course, now we know better. They are really just joining in on a centuries old Christian tradition but they think they are making Christmas more politically correct.

Which brings us to "Happy Holidays" and "Seasons Greetings" and all that rubbish. How far do we take this?

I mean, if non-Christians have decided to celebrate our holiday then shouldn't they let us keep the name? I can't imagine people changing the name of Ramadan on the Muslims... that's just too politically incorrect.

What do you think?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

What are we known for?

As Christians what are we known for?

What we are for?
What we are against?

The latest series to fall victim to the "Christian Boycott Bandwagon" (they needed something to fill the void left by the completion of the Harry Potter series!!) is Philip Pullman's trilogy of books "His Dark Materials" ("The Golden Compass", "The Subtle Knife", and "The Amber Spyglass").

The reason some people are getting all riled up about these books is because, by Pullman's own admission, he wrote them as a rebuttal to CS Lewis' "Chronicles of Narnia" which he views as 'Christian propaganda'.

Maybe he just said that to tick off a whole bunch of Christians, get lots of publicity, and sell lots of books. I don't know if that's why he did it, but if it is it's working.

Now, the reason that this is all coming to light now, (after all, the first book was published back in 1995) is that these books are finally hitting the silver screen. So, (beware the sarcasm) make sure none of you or your kids read the books or see the movie: they are likely to go straight to hell!

I suppose it needs to be said that I have not read these books (but the movie trailer looked pretty cool) so if you have please share your opinion. If there's really stuff in here that is totally harmful or heretical then set me straight.

It just ticks me off when Christians spend all of their time and energy condemning this, that, and the other thing but NEVER DO ANYTHING POSITIVE! It's no wonder people sometimes think of Christians as hate-mongers if all they see of us is endless condemnation.

After all, even if these books are evil, you don't overcome evil by abstinence. Abstinence is neutral. Instead we should, "...overcome evil with good" Romans 12:21 (ESV).

The funny thing is that people are condemning Pullman because he is an atheist. When was the last time an atheist was won back to Christ because he was boycotted and condemned by Christians? Last time I heard that wasn't one of the more effective methods. You may want to check out CS Lewis' own story for a more positive idea for converting atheists.

Anyway, Pullman's stories are full of spiritual themes and symbols. It's true (from what I've read), he doesn't view the church very positively, nor his 'god' representatives. But that shouldn't be a surprise should it?

A quick browse of wikipedia shows that Pullman grew up with a religious background. His grandfather was clergy. One of his biggest literary influences, and where he got the title for his trilogy, is John Milton's Paradise Lost, one of the greatest Christian classics. Another huge influence was William Blake, another amazing Christian artist and poet.

So, when you start reading articles and getting emails about how Philip Pullman is the devil incarnate, remember that these things are rarely black and white. For example, some Christian schools are suggesting that these books become compulsory reading to help students understand some of the secular world's justified critiques of the church. After all, Pullman clearly has some unresolved issues with Christianity in his past.

The main thing to keep in mind is that anyone reading these needs to read them carefully and cautiously. If kids are reading them, the parents need to be reading it with them and engaging them in discussion (or if the kids are too young then parents act accordingly... but that goes for "Christian" literature as well).
It just frustrates me when Christians go around boycotting everything. They boycotted Disney for years... and then Disney distributed the "Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe" movie so they had to lift their ban.
What happens if Pullman is eventually reconciled to Christ. Will the boycott on his pre-conversion books continue? Or will they become classics in their own right?

Have any of you read these books? What are they really like?
Are these books really that bad... ie, "worse" than Harry Potter or Disney?
Why drives some of us to ban and boycott?
Are Christians known more for what we are against than for what we are for?

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Sometimes I just get really angry...

OK, so I'm not going to turn this into a current events blog or anything like that but this one was too much for me:

There's this church down in the states, Westboro Baptist Church, that is being sued. And they deserve it. They have been picketing at funerals. They travel all over the country disrupting and defacing the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq. Read the whole story here. Notice some of their delightful signs:

The church's official website is "godhatesfags.com" (I would have a link for you but it appears as though the site may have been shut down). You see, this church/fundamentalist cult believes so strongly that god is punishing America for it's sinfulness that they are more than willing to joyfully desecrate a family funeral.

Oh, and check out these other catchy slogans: "You're Going to Hell", "God is Your Enemy", "Not Blessed Just Cursed", and my personal favourite (please note my extreme sarcasm) "God Hates You".

Way to spread the Good News guys!


On their website they attempt to quote every single verse that has to do with God's anger and wrath. They blame evangelical churches with 'watering down the gospel with love'.

Yeah, love is ruining the gospel... uh huh.

Oh, just wait "GOD IS LOVE". You may recognize that phrase. It's in the Bible. Maybe you've heard of it. Apparently they haven't:

1 John 4:7-8 (ESV) Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

This "church", if you can call it that, apparently hasn't read 2 Corinthians either:

2 Corinthians 5:18-20 (ESV) 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

They're doing a great (again with the sarcasm) job of reconciliation. No, instead they choose to be a thorn in the side of those who are already mourning.

Unbelievable. I can't believe that they even call themselves Christians.

I'm not even sure what discussion prompting questions to ask for this post. Feel free to also share your outrage... or correct me if I'm wrong.