Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Lagniappe: Keeping the Christ in Christmas - What does it mean to keep the "Christ" in Christmas? One hears it a lot these days. At the very basic level, I think when folks say this they intend two things: (1) to protest in some way the hyper-commercialization and materialism of the season at the expense of the religious meaning of the holiday; and (2) to attack a perceived "politically correct" attitude that questions whether government promotion of the religious symbolism of the event violates the principle of the separation of church and state.

I've been thinking about this a lot, and I think these two intentions undergirding the phrase are somewhat misplaced -- at least for me. On the one hand, they both seem to come out of a confrontational or reactionary motivation. They're both rather scrooge-like and embittered motivations, if you ask me. They certainly are not celebratory motivations.

For me, the phrase bears a positive, celebratory meaning, as well as a moral challenge. First off, whether the ACLU protests the exhibit of a nativity scene on public property shouldn't have any bearing on whether I am keeping Christ in my Christmas. Keeping the Christ in Christmas means that I need to make sure that what is front-and-center for me during Advent is Christ, and not some distracting preoccupation with what City Hall or the ACLU is doing. And second, if I keep Christ front-and-center in a special way during this Advent season, I should be obligated to keep the "least of my brothers" front-and-center in a special way during this Advent season also.

So, for me, at the end of it all, the phrase "keeping the Christ in Christmas" means that I should strive to exhibit my solidarity with the poor and dispossessed of this world all the more forcefully and to work towards a justice for them worthy of God's becoming flesh in the birth of Jesus and worthy of Jesus' life-long embrace of the marginalized. That's what the phrase "keeping the Christ in Christmas" means for me. What does it mean for you?

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Lagniappe: Maryknoll - New Orleans: Social Justice Network Blog - If you are interested in Social Justice and Progressive Catholicism, check out this new blog that I set up as part of a Public Discipleship group to which I belong. It's called "Maryknoll Affiliates - New Orleans: Social Justice Network." It's a multi-member blog, and so you should see over time postings from other members of the group. I look forward to hearing from you over at the Social Justice site as well as here at my own personal website. Oh, and by the way, any time you come across some interesting link or story that pertains to issues of Social Justice, please let me know and I'll link to it from the Social Justice Network blog.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Lagniappe: Bushisms - If you ever want to laugh so hard you'll wet your pants, just visit Jacob Weisberg's Complete Bushisms column at Slate. One of my recent favorites:

"Too many good docs are getting out of the business. Too many OB/GYN's aren't able to practice their love with women all across the country."— [George W. Bush,] Sept. 6, 2004, Poplar Bluff, Mo.
Go get 'em, cowboy!

Liberal Lighthouse: Kaplan on Rumsfeld ... "What a leader of men." - Well, I'm back in the saddle. Election mourning period is officially over. Lot's to write about. I'll start with a reference to this piece from Fred Kaplan at Slate. Kaplan writes:

Donald Rumsfeld gave every grunt in the Army a good reason to hate him today.

At a cavernous hangar in Camp Buehring, Kuwait, the secretary of defense appeared before 2,300 soldiers to boost their morale before they headed off to Iraq. During a question-and-answer period, Army Spc. Thomas Wilson of the 278th Regimental Combat Team, a unit that consists mainly of reservists from the Tennessee Army National Guard, spoke up to complain about their inadequate supply of armor.

"Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to up-armor our vehicles?" Wilson asked, setting off what the Associated Press described as "a big cheer" from his comrades in arms.

Rumsfeld paused, asked Wilson to repeat the question, then finally replied, "You go to war with the army you have." Besides, he added, "You can have all the armor in the world on a tank and it can be blown up."

Such a leader of men.

Rumsfeld's answer was, first, unforgivably glib, reminiscent of his shrugged line about the looting in the days after Saddam's fall ("Stuff happens"), but more shocking because here he was addressing American soldiers who are still fighting and dying, 20 months after Baghdad's fall, as a result of Rumsfeld's decisions.

More than that, his answer was wrong. If you're attacked by surprise, you go to war with the army you have. But if you've planned the war a year in advance and you initiate the attack, you have the opportunity—and obligation—to equip your soldiers with what they'll need. Yes, some soldiers will get killed no matter the precautions, but the idea is to heighten their odds—or at least not diminish them—as they're thrust into battle.
And the party continues. I wonder ... Is GW Bush still looking for WMDs under the furniture of the White House?