Archive for December 30th, 2010

More Civil Religion at Christmas

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

I had the misfortune of attending church on December 26 at a relative’s church where the pastor of visitation (I believe), a former military chaplain, led the service and preached. He managed to mention the military and war at least 10 times during the service, even apart from the sermon, which was on the birth narrative in Matthew, focusing on cruel Herod and the slaughter of the innocents.

Now he actually made a good point: that the story of the incarnation is not an unrealistic, feel-good fairy tale but one in which the horror of human evil is recognized and is a central part of the narrative. So far so good. I’ve preached and taught this myself.

But the rather startling conclusion to the sermon was that while evil is still real, it will not win in the end, not because the counterintuitive, vulnerable power of God seen in the incarnation and cross will triumph, but because God’s truth is marching on, especially (he clearly implied) in the form of U.S. military power and activity. So the post-sermon hymn–on the day after Christmas!!!–was “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”!!!

With Charlie Brown, I feel like saying, “Good grief!” and asking, “Doesn’t anyone know what Christmas is all about?”