January 11, 2012
By William McKenzie
Let's take a break from thinking so hard about topical events and use this week to explain what religious insights you may have had this year that reshaped the way you view the world. Was it something you read? Experienced? Saw? Heard? If so, what touched you?
If nothing like that happened, don't worry. Just explain how you think your faith shaped the way you saw the world in 2011....
WILLIAM LAWRENCE, Dean and Professor of American Church History, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University
As a committed Christian who happens also to enjoy every aspect of Christmas, I would prefer to have something optimistic, heartwarming, romantic, or sweet to offer about an experience that reshaped my view of the world. But I am not naïve.
The Christmas story is not only about an innocent child in a manger, or some lowly shepherds who heard heavenly music, or a star so bright that it transcended the boundaries of religion and culture to lure wise men from the east on a long journey. The biblical witness to the Christmas story is also about political manipulation that forced a pregnant woman to travel a long way with her husband simply to register in compliance with an arbitrary law. And it includes the artless attempt at deception by Herod to convince the wise men from the east that he wanted to worship this infant king. And it includes the outrageous violence by Herod who was so determined to cling to his political power that he ordered the slaughter of infants and toddlers on the chance that some brutality might eliminate a rival.
What I have read, seen, and experienced this year are the signs that people of faith can be seduced today into letting themselves and their evangelical beliefs be manipulated by people whose interests are not in serious spiritual commitments but in short-term and short-sighted political self-interest. We have been in the hothouse of political maneuvering for a very long time in this current campaign cycle. And many efforts are being made to manipulate the basic convictions of evangelical Christianity for merely political purposes.
The power of the Christmas story is that neither Herod's atrocities nor manipulations of citizen's registrations could overcome the glory of the newborn king. So I will sing "Joy to the World" because Jesus has come, but I will remain wary of those who, for political purposes, invoke his name....