We are pleased to welcome Baptist minister Dr. Rod Kennedy back to the blog, this time with another story about his cousin Boudreaux.
My cousin Boudreaux called very early Christmas morning. His voice was a mere whisper. I asked him why he sounded so frightened. He told me that he was hiding in the closet because he was afraid the police were coming to arrest him.
Now, Boudreaux is a solid citizen, a law-abiding, God-fearing American and there’s not a reason in the world for him to be afraid of the police. And he was calling having just returned from midnight mass, where the vast congregation sang “Silent Night,” “Joy to the World,” and “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” Where the priest assured them that their sins were forgiven, and where he celebrated the Blessed Sacrament of Holy Communion: “The mystery of faith,” “The body of Christ,” “The blood of Christ.”
But it turns out that Boudreaux has been listening to his Baptist friends go on and on about the “war on Christmas.” It seems these days that all you need is two or three Baptists to gather and before you know it there are wars and rumors of wars in abundance. Boudreaux is always open to conspiracy theories and the idea that Christianity is to be declared illegal strikes a chord in his brain.
So on Christmas morning he sat in a closet in his own house, afraid he would be arrested for singing Christmas carols.
I did my best to talk Boudreaux out of the darkness and back into the light. I reminded him that God’s purposes are peace and praise. I told him that, instead of protesting the alleged “war on Christmas,” he needed to bear faithful witness to the gospel of Jesus. If people reject the message he is to “shake the dust” from his feet and move to the next opportunity. This is basic Christian practice.
I also told Boudreaux that Christ can’t be taken out of Christmas. His name is there: “Christ-mas.” People can reject Christ or not accept Christ, but no one can take Christ out of anything, anywhere, anytime. This silliness about taking Christ out of Christmas is just another version of claiming that the Supreme Court took God out of public schools. A noted Baptist freedom fighter often reminded us, “God has never missed a day of school.” God is always present. Jesus is in all things. He is always present. I reminded Boudreaux that his Catholic faith has given him a much larger vision of “Almighty God” than the God of his Baptist friends who can be so easily knocked out of school and chased out of Christmas.
Boudreaux’s Baptist friends are dominated by a dark archetypal metaphor: “LIFE IS A WAR.” As soon as the dominant reality of life becomes war, everything is poisoned. In a war zone, you do not just have people who disagree with you. You have enemies. Enemies in every tree, creek, and shop. Enemies who are out to destroy your way of life.
I was not surprised when Boudreaux told me that his Baptist friends got a lot of their very dark ideas from Answers in Genesis (AiG) and the Creation Museum. Not surprised because the museum, which had a chance to bear eloquent testimony to the creating power of God, instead chose to make its message a declaration of war against everyone refusing to believe in a literal creation.
I told Boudreaux that the museum not only does not have much Jesus, but it also does not have much solid Jewish theology. There’s a much greater celebration of creation in the Psalms, the prophets, and Job than you will ever find at the Creation Museum. The ancient Jews knew that one of their great poets, sitting on the side of a mountain, moved by the Spirit of God, had imagined what it must have been like for God to create the world. They knew the poet wasn’t present at the dawn of creation all those billions of years ago. But it didn’t matter because the glory of the story and its truthfulness were all that mattered. We would be more Christian if we were more Jewish in our understanding of God and creation.
I also reminded Boudreaux that the story of Noah’s Ark is absent of Jesus. It’s all about dire warnings about the coming destruction, last time by water, this time – so say the folks at the museum — by fire. How odd to call this a message of hope. And how odd that the Creation Museum scholars are so blinded by the rainbow being used as a symbol of “gay rights” that they miss the basic theological point. The bow, in the Genesis account, stands for God’s “war bow,” and God has put his war bow away to bring about a world of peace and praise.
The militancy and warmongering of the Creation Museum spill over into its twin brother, Rapture Theology. The Rapture imagines Jesus as a conquering warrior returning to destroy humanity. This theology is war at its worst, “the mother of all wars.” Interestingly, Boudreaux has never been attracted to the Rapture. I think it is because he has all that experience in the Catholic Mass repeating the words, “The Lamb of God takes away the sins of the world.” His imagination just can’t grasp a warrior lamb, even if his Baptist friends find it thrilling.
Finally, Boudreaux tells me that he is leaving his dark room to go into the kitchen. He pours a cup of strong Community coffee, and says he feels much better. He might even go to the Mall and return some of the Christmas presents he doesn’t really like. “Boudreaux,” I say, “If you want to keep Christmas, you will stay out of Malls, the cathedrals of the pagan god of Mammon.”
Boudreaux laughs and we say our goodbyes. I know he is still going to the mall. But I also know that he is not afraid of being arrested by the mythical secularist police. At least, until he has another conversation with his Baptist friends.