Why clergy become chocoholics at Christmas
December 24, 2003
Robert Langdon strides across the pages of the best-selling book, “The Da Vinci Code,” as smoothly as Godiva chocolates melting on our palettes.
This professor of religious symbology at Harvard exudes Ivy League magnetism. Because he is suave and articulate, coeds in his class swoon. He’s Harrison Ford at his debonair finest, handsomely fitted in Harris
A woman gushes as she introduces Langdon at the American University of Paris:
“Although Professor Langdon might not be considered hunk-handsome like some of our younger awardees, this forty-something academic has more than his share of scholarly allure,” she says. “His captivating presence is punctuated by an unusually low, baritone speaking voice, which his female students describe as ‘chocolate for the ears.'”
“Chocolate for the ears.” Some religious toastmasters fit this description. They act like chocoholics by sucking on sweet sermons that go down as smoothly as creamy milk chocolate.
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During the holidays wise preachers display the chocoholic addiction that got Langdon to Harvard and makes sermon crafters swell folks.
Sing carols, talk about what makes for happy families, roast sermonic chestnuts over holiday fires and, for God’s sake, keep baby Jesus cooing in a manger. Don’t let that kid escape the rude feedbox and march into the world to right wrongs, helping little people struggle against the big guys.
Worshippers like milk chocolate sermons rather than the more-biting dark chocolate Christ offers.
King Herod to Clinton
Ironically, the Christmas character who hated baby Jesus the most had him sized up best. King Herod recognized that the infant Messiah would turn his power base upside down.
Slaves might revolt when they believed that Jesus conferred upon them human dignity. Herod sensed that God desired to invade his domain. Christ’s birth signaled that God meant business in this world. He desired to re-arrange the political order.
When Herod learned from the Wise Men that the king of the Jews had been born under a divinely appointed star, he rightly “was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him” (Matthew 2:3). Herod recognized that Jesus was no chocoholic.
When President Clinton acted less like a cad and sounded more like a wise preacher in 1994, he urged our nation to read Yale Law School Professor Stephen Carter’s book, “Culture of Disbelief.”
Carter lambastes secular academics, journalists, irreligious social activists and Hollywood moguls who are angrily biased like Herod against any Christian practicing a public theology. Those holding a public theology wrestle with how to relate personal faith to public political issues.
Quaint and silent
Clergy chocoholics, of course, avoid any kind of Gospel that doesn’t
make listeners feel cozy inside. They stay away from politics.
Carter says society castigates those who put their faith on life’s crossroads and call those who punch holes in the wall of separation between church and state “dangerous fanatics.”
Clergy suffering from chocoholic sermons preach about a quaint and silent little town of Bethlehem where Jesus was born. Aw shucks! Isn’t that wonderful?
Bethlehem really had a tart rather than sweet flavor to it.
Jews didn’t like the iron-fisted census with which Caesar Augustus clobbered them. Jerusalem shook with too many people squeezed in too little space, as it does today with Palestinians and Jews killing each other for the same turf. Herod slaughtered male infants to rid himself of Jesus. Bethlehem long ago was neither sweet nor silent.
Those who like to suck on a sweet Christmas sidestep a Bethlehem the Bible depicts. This ploy works well today in the Middle East. Hearing the propaganda our Arab allies in Saudi Arabia promote, we would never conclude that our greater enemies lie among our supposed friends in the birthplace of Islam and in Egypt.
The majority of the hijackers who slammed passenger planes into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and rolling Pennsylvania fields were young Saudis and Egyptians. They were not Iraqis. They were bankrolled by Osama bin Ladin, not Saddam Hussein.
Their money for plotting terror was laundered through bank accounts of wealthy Saudis. Is it too sour to remind us at Christmas that Saudi Arabia served as prime funder for the Taliban? Our allies did that to us. Oil usually smoothes many a bump in the road.
States of oppression
New York Times Middle East expert Thomas L. Friedman writes in his book
“Longitudes and Latitudes” about the Saudi press’s sidestepping of the origin of the Sept. 11 highkjackers.
“You would think that all these young men had virgin births. They came from nowhere, no society is responsible for them, and no Arab State need reflect on how perpetrators of such a grotesque act could have come from the womb.”
Did those hijackers clone Christ’s virgin birth? Or did they come form Arab nations we consider our allies?
With friends like Saudi Arabia and Egypt, who needs more enemies? In these countries women are denigrated, many serve the few, democracy does not thrive and a traditional Islam reigns that is authoritarian, hates tolerance in religious expression, and forbids freedom of thought, if not speech.
Strong stuff, isn’t it? I don’t really like to write of it on Christmas Day, now that my chocolate candies are unpacked, enticing me to taste.
The Rev. Dr. Jack R. Van Ens is a Presbyterian minister serving with
MAJESTY, featuring creative music for worship. MAJESTY can be reached at
P.O. Box 8100, Avon, CO 81620. Web site: http://www.majestyministries.org. Van
Ens’s book, “How Jefferson Made the Best of Bad Messes” is available in
local bookstores for $7.95.