Are We Being Manipulated by Music?

I saw this chart a few days ago and something really struck me. The songs we hear each Christmas — aside from the religious hymns — are almost all from the 1940’s and 50’s. The interesting point made at the bottom of the chart got me thinking. A lot of times we listen to the same music around Christmas because it produces a feeling of nostalgia and memories of a time when we were younger and the Christmas spirit meant more than a little break from the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season. A lot of the “new” Christmas music that isn’t the old religious standards, is merely nothing more than updated versions of these songs, rather than creating entirely new Christmas songs.

Now, if I’m being a bit more cynical — here’s how I read this.

Every year, the entertainment industry reinvigorates Christmas nostalgia so that people from the Baby Boomer generation will feel nostalgic for their childhood — and perhaps that Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle. Then, out of this reinvigorated nostalgia, they go out and spend all kinds of money on their kids/grandkids/neighborhood kids/intern pastors as the church they visit in the winter. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate it like none other.

But I can’t help but wonder if it isn’t all a big ploy to get more people in the “Christmas spirit” which might as well be synonymous with “the mood to spend money”. I can’t figure out exactly why I am so disturbed by this graph.

Perhaps, it’s just a tactic to honestly get everyone in the Christmas spirit of gathering together with family and friends and honoring the faith traditions that celebrate around Christmas. But I highly doubt it. Whenever there is the kind of money at stake that there is each Christmas, big companies will beg, cheat, lie, steal — even, potentially, manipulate through music.

After writing this, I realize this could make me the biggest Scrooge that you know, which is certainly not my intent. I just think it’s interesting the way in which Christmas music operates in our culture, pumped through the stores earlier and earlier each year.

And I think it’s really beneficial to be aware of the way in which music impacts the way we think.


Sermon I Want to Preach On Christmas Eve, But Won’t

I always struggle with some parts of the Christmas story, particularly Luke’s Christmas story. The more I read it and think about it, the part of the story that grabs me isn’t anything about no room in the inn. It’s not about the angel visiting and the voices of the heavenly hosts singing. It’s not the shepherds visiting or any of that, although those are important and oft highlighted parts of the story. What confounds me so much is the first few verses in Luke 2.

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own town to be registered.

This situates the birth of Jesus smack dab in the middle of an oppressive empire. The historicity of whether a census was actually taken in this way during this time isn’t important to me at this point. But what is, is that Jesus was born under the cover of darkness under a very strict rule of empire.

So how do you preach about the Son of God being born in spite of the constrictions of Empire (Roman) to people of Empire (American)? I’m running up against resistance in saying that we need to make room for the people who don’t have places in the inn with a lot of the immigration stuff going on down here in Arizona.

Surely, I can’t give an anti-empire sermon on Christmas Eve. Christmas sermons ought to inspire comfort and joy (because we don’t have enough of that).

Perhaps it’s not the right time, not the right place.

Perhaps I need to pick my battles.

Perhaps I need to just turn a blind eye to it.

But someone has to say it. Someone has to call out the dissonance between the way the Bible calls us to live and the way we actually do live. We have to give up this (GOP-fueled) “War on Christianity”. Christianity has been normative for so long, especially in positions of power that for white, American, male, Christians (lookin’ at you, Governor Perry) to even hint at being persecuted is a slap in the face to everyone else in the world (sounds like hyperbole, but it isn’t).

We need to change the way we view our selves and our world. And that starts by emptying ourselves as God did when she became a baby and grew up renouncing empire and the power structures that crush people who are not in the majority.

That’s the sermon I want to preach Christmas Eve. But I probably won’t. After all, I’m just the intern. So I’ll say it on here until I get through all the bureaucratic hoops I need to get through.

Then I’ll say it.

Until then… Here we are. With the sermon I want to preach, but probably won’t.


P.S. Yeah, I did the whole passive-aggressive, refer-to-God-with-feminine-pronoun thing. Another thing I’ve wanted to do, but haven’t. Just like to do it for fun every once in awhile.

The Anatomy of a Tantrum Cartoon

I was checking Facebook this morning and found a wonderful cartoon that perfectly describes what I was talking about in yesterday’s post. Check it out! [Thanks to my friend Greg Bolt for posting it]


The Anatomy of a Tantrum

This past weekend, we had a Christmas party for the youth at the church I work at. Lots of food, games, ugly Christmas sweater contests, Christmas songs, a White Elephant gift exchange… All the makings of a wonderful party. And it really was a great time. But there was something I noticed in the wake of the White Elephant gift exchange. People were pissed. Like go-in-the-corner-and-pout, throw-things-at-other-people-because-they-got-the-present-that-I-wanted pissed. This said something loud and clear to me.

We’ve completely lost what Christmas means. And this is NOT going to be a “he’s the reason for the season” post because God knows we have enough of that [stuff] around. If we didn’t happen to live in a country where Christianity was normative for so long, we’d be celebrating Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, the Winter solstice or any other of the many holidays that are celebrated worldwide.

So when we hear all of this Fox News “War on Christmas”, how-dare-anyone-wish-me-happy-holidays [stuff] going on in the adult realm of things, it’s not hard to see where these kids get it. Not indicting any particular kid or parent, just painting in broad strokes here. But it’s basic psychology that kids pattern behavior off the adults they witness. So when kids are literally beating each other because they didn’t get what they wanted out of a gift exchange at church, it has to make you wonder if we’ve lost our way completely.

SO… in place of entitlement and belligerence this holiday season, I’m proposing something a little different. Humility and gratitude. Christmas is a time when God goes so entirely outside of the box and, in such a game-changing act of humility, would dare to become human in order to suffer with us. This took place long ago and still has power to impact anyone, regardless of nationality or birthplace.

The most important thing to remember, nobody is “taking the Christ out of Christmas” for antagonistic or malicious reasons. They’re merely mentioning other December celebrations as a way of including everyone in the festivities.

And that’s okay.


[The ideas for this post were prompted by my own reflection on my experience this past Friday, while also coming across a great post from Rachel Held Evans. Check it out for a slightly different approach to what I’m talking about here]

4 (of many) Things Wrong with Rick Perry’s Abysmal Ad

Within the last week, Rick Perry has managed to stir up a lot of controversy with a new ad he has released declaring war on Obama’s war on religion. There are a number of things wrong with Perry’s ad, and I am here to point out a few of them. Just so we’re on the same page Here’s a full text of the ad, just to catch people up. (I’m posting the text of the ad because I refuse to post a video link of that garbage on this site.)

I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a Christian, but you don’t need to be in the pew every Sunday to know there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school.

As president, I’ll end Obama’s war on religion. And I’ll fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage.

Faith made America strong. It can make her strong again.

I’m Rick Perry and I approve this message.

Here we go.

1) We need to stop declaring wars on emotions and concepts. Obama doesn’t have a war on religion. He’s the Muslim with the controversial United Church of Christ pastor, remember? That’s like doubly religious. Wars have real enemies. The wars on religion, drugs, terror etc are insane because their target is amorphous. In my opinion, wars are the last thing Perry will ever look to end. Which brings us to…

2) There’s something wrong in this country when gays CAN’T serve openly in the military. The object of someone’s sexual desire does not hinder their ability to serve and protect this country. It’s like saying all left-handed can’t serve in the military (not a perfect metaphor, but close). In the end, when you’re in battle, it just does not matter who the other person goes home to at night.

3) Your kids can pray in schools all they want. This whole thing about how kids can’t pray in school is absurd. Of course they can. The law you are thinking of simply states that teachers are not allowed to lead the class in prayers. Which is fine, and do you know why? Because…

4) This whole thing is about respect. You know what doesn’t contribute to the overall respect for people? When a candidate who is supposed to be a leader, spouts a philosophy of “us vs. them” politics which fundamentally divides. As someone who is going to be a pastor, I whole-heartedly agree that faith can make us strong. But faith that is belligerent in the face of such blatant disrespect makes us all weaker.

So Mr. Perry, Governor Perry… do us all a favor and leave. Ride off into the night. Tuck your tail between your legs and get out of public discourse. Because what you’re saying is not good for anyone. Much less Christians.


Also… how funny is it that he’s wearing the same jacket as Heath Ledger in “Brokeback Mountain”? You can’t make it up.

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