Head First: Slainte!

Friday, March 17, 2006


Happy St. Patrick's Day, everyone. Drink responsibly.

There's a teacher at a local Christian school (I won't say which) who doesn't encourage her students to celebrate today because she feels that it amounts to nothing more than an homage to the demonic Leprechaun. Apparently, she doesn't want to give the devil a foothold into her soul (I have to wrap my head in duct tape, so that when it explodes, I don't lose my mind altogether).

Anyway, there's some really good information about Saint Patrick here, here and here. My man, Paddy is the guy who brought the Gospel to the Emerald Isle so that they'd stop worshipping trees and snakes, and get on to a meaningful existence of real importance, making Guinness Extra Stout. As best as I can tell, this was the first and best instance of a Purpose-Driven Life in what would later become the United Kingdom.

Seriously, though, this paragraph caught my eye:

Bonfires and Crosses
Familiar with the Irish language and culture, Patrick chose to incorporate traditional ritual into his lessons of Christianity instead of attempting to eradicate native Irish beliefs. For instance, he used bonfires to celebrate Easter since the Irish were used to honoring their gods with fire. He also superimposed a sun, a powerful Irish symbol, onto the Christian cross to create what is now called a Celtic cross, so that veneration of the symbol would seem more natural to the Irish.

Today, fundamentalists would accuse St. Patrick of watering down the message and tickling the ears of his audience with a compromised Gospel (Zeke's contamination and endorsement fallacies have become a permanent part of my ecclesial vocabulary. Thanks, bro.). Yet, in an age when missionaries often arrived in a new land with armies behind them, St. Patrick led what has been called "perhaps the only bloodless spiritual revolution in history, as well as the most successful."

Perhaps the church could take a cue from our forefather. Instead of worrying about appearances (or loot), show folks that the Good News works for everyone, right where they are. Just because God condescended to us, doesn't mean we need to condescend to each other.



Hugo said...

Amen :-) Since I work with kids and preteens/young teens I tend to use movies, music, pop cultures, etc. in talking to them about their faith - I try to meet them where they're at - I agree with your assessment of St. Patrick's methods and I use them too! :-)

Blessings & Peace,

nathaniel adam king said...

Nice. There is a book, 'The Celtic Way of Evangelism'. It is really good about the topic of what Patrick did for those isles. I like his way of evangelism.

Herobill said...

Hey, Dorsey.

I don't usually take time for audio online (I skim).
Is there any chance you could give us the gist of the c&e fallacies?
So's I can understand you better?

Of course, that might mean you'd have to comment on your own blog! ;)

dorsey said...

Everybody's a comedian... lol. I was tempted to hop in on that conversation, but I just wanted to see how it would play out. I don't know too many guys more real than jimmybob, and it was interesting to observe how the dynamics of the communication were affected by everyone's perspective. In the end, there was some effort to find common ground, I think. That was cool.

Anyway, the short version of my understanding of the endorsement fallacy (feel free to correct me, Zeke) regards the idea among many fundi-gelicals (or is it evangi-mentalists?) that for a Christian to "fellowship" with, say, an adulterer or a homosexual somehow implies an endorsement of that person's behavior. This came up in a discussion of the church group who refused to hand out water to hurricane victims because the cans bore the logo of the beer manufacturer who donated them. They didn't want to be seen as supportive of the beer company.

Further, the contamination principle implies that if a believer participates with a "sinner," that somehow the believer will be infected with the wrongdoing of the infidel. For instance, as a teen, I was forbidden from hanging around kids who smoked or listened to rock music, for fear that I would be dragged down into the pit of those particular sins. (Ironically, I took up smoking and listening to rock music independently, and started my own "wrong crowd." ).

Obviously, the C & E fallacies are, themselves, based upon other fallacies, such as the idea that once you become born-again, it's suddenly possible to obey all the rules. They don't really consider the idea that whatever is not of faith, is sin.

RF2R2 said...

I just want to know how they get the shamrock shape in the head...

Herobill said...

Thanks for the explaning. I'm not sure about what Patrick did in Ireland, but I get what you're saying.

Can I suggest that maybe "endorsement" is not always a black or white issue?

True Confession Time: I tend to get creeped out by certain types of people. That is, I don't usually have the ability to feel (or act) comfortable around people who are VERY open about sexual things, if those things bother me. SO MY POINT is... that I don't have much experience to draw on about the "C & E" motivators in those settings. But if I'm ever guilty of avoiding such people, it's not primarily because of "C" nor "E". I think.

It's not that I think those sins are "worse" - but they bother me more. Can I help it? (By the way, I'm working on that a bit, though it's not at the top of my list! :)

Now... I can talk about beer! :)

You know, if I hang out with someone who drinks too much beer, and I don't mention it, there are probably some who would assume that I therefore endorse heavy beer drinking. And they might get upset with me. But that hasn't ever been the biggest factor in how much time I decided to spend with the drinkers - personally.

But then, if I'm personally close to someone who decides to get falling down destructively drunk several nights in a row, and I'm along for the ride, but I never say anything, then he (the drunk) might think I was endorsing his behavior - which in AA is called "enabling". So that's different, right? That might be one situation for speaking up and UN-endorsing the behavior, right? (And maybe more gently depending on how close this brother was to me, perhaps?)

Anyway, in the adulterer and homosexuals categories, I've not had many trials to speak of. But with too-heavy drinkers, if I ever step away it's because I'm uncomfortable - not because I'm removing myself out of judgment. On the contrary, if I can't keep my discomfort hidden they might interpret it as judgment! And that's definitely not the impression I want an unbeliever to get of me as a christian.

I worked with a couple of guys at a flower shop once who threw out several extremely homosexual references for deliberate shock value. Well, I cringed, because I couldn't help it. But over time they figured out I didn't treat them any differently than I did everyone else. (And they knew I wasn't comfortable with their lifestyle - but not because I ever said anything.) They got to know where I stood about the Lord. And I have no idea if I affected them in any way or not. (I worked there about one month. Holiday help. In Georgia.)

Anyway, I hope you see my point is that it's not "endorsement" or "contamination" that drives me in those situations. But my personal comfort level is a big factor. Which I see as neither a sin nor a failing - it's just the way I am.

If I were sent to old Ireland instead of Patrick, it might have bothered me to put a pagan sun over the cross. I might not have been able to do that one. But my personal feeling about that one isn't what makes it right or wrong.

I do think that some things are clearly wrong, but in Patrick's case, I don't have any idea! Too few details, for one thing... and then, just, I have no idea. It might indeed have been perfectly innocent and harmless. If so, that may be why God sent Patrick and not me. :)

But thanks again for explaining what you meant.

[very big grin] And if you don't condemn my comments here, I won't assume you "endorse" them either! [/very big grin]

Your thoughts? :)

dorsey said...

You make a couple of jammin' points, herobill, one being that God sent St. Patrick instead of you or me (I doubt it would have even occurred to me to do the sun/cross thing--but it makes a cool necklace!).

I only mentioned the sexual "sinners" because they seem to be the most obvious targets of the self-righteous. The C & E fallacies are applied to all manner of vice (except, oddly, gluttony and pridefulness). I don't think getting creeped out by certain behaviors is judgemental, either. Sometimes it's just the way you're wired.

Regarding drinking. There are Christians with whom I am friends who would feel like they should stop associating with me if they ever saw me drink a beer. I'm not saying that they have to condone my love for beer, but to sever our relationship over it?That's the type of judgementalism I'm talking about.

Contrast that to what you said about the heavy drinker. Yes, you have a responsibility in the context of your relationship to speak up. That's something done out of love. Ditching that person just so people don't get the wrong idea about YOU would be messed up, in my opinion.

At the root of this is how we see the world. The prevailing mindset seems to be that of a world that can be divided up into things that are "sacred" and things that are "secular." I believe this distinction to be an illusion. Take the pagan sun, for instance. A great many people would consider that "secular" (i.e. not "of God"). Brother Patrick, on the other hand, believed that, just like the meat offered to idols, that symbol possessed no inherent power. It symbolized gods that don't even exist. So Patrick adopted the symbol as a means of helping the cross make better sense to the Irish. In other words, he redeemed the image to God's glory.

It's the sacred/secular dichotomy that has prevented the church from effectively engaging the culture for the last several hundred years. As a result, there has been increasingly less in the culture that bears any redemptive qualities. This, in turn, reinforces the notion that sacred=good, secular=bad. It creates a downward cycle, when Christians should have been participating in and influencing the culture all along.

Bruce Garrison said...

One of my favourite prayers, attributed to St. Patrick:

"I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward;
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.

Christ, be with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath, me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie, Christ when I sit,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me.
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me.
Christ in every ear that hears me.
Salvation is of the Lord,
Salvation is of the Christ,
May your salvation, O Lord, be ever with us.
--St. Patrick

dorsey said...

I love it. Is it just me or does that prayer have certain Luther-esque quality about it? Makes me wonder to what degree St. Patrick influenced the great reformer's theology of the cross.

Good stuff.

Zeke said...

The C&E fallacies are, in my opinion, what have made evangelicals into the culturally ghettoized, generally fearful and unneighborly people that we are. We too often treat our neighbors as if they are "unclean" Gentiles in our obsession not to seem to be "endorsing" their behaviors and/or out of fear that we will be contaminated by their sin, and thus we miss opportunities to be with them and to love them.

dorsey said...

Yeah, what he said.

Bruce Garrison said...

I don't know how much Patrick influenced ole Martin Luther, but it does show that some of the early century guys didn't need a whole lot of help in figuring out the work of the cross and what it meant to be in pretty darn intimate relationship with Christ. There really were Christians before the Reformation!

Jekk said...

I love the idea of meeting people where there are at, and not removing them from their culture. So often it seems we've tried to bring others into our specific cultures of what church is that it just doesn't relate to people. Look at foreign countries like Africa, China... I love seeing people worship their own ways, and not just looking like a more ethnic version of a church of America. Cheers.

JimmyBob said...

My gut says that the teacher at the Christian school you have referred to needs to know more about St. Patrick and what he did. Then, maybe she would be more open and include some of those teachings. Unless that person really is a moron. Which is always possible.

Hey, maybe you could educate them with some inspirational articles about St. Patrick. Think that would make a difference?

Bruce Garrison said...

I remember the story of Bruce Olson, the guy who went to unreached tribes in the Amazon rain forest and told them about Jesus, the man who died and rose from the dead, and who now would run the forest trails with them. Now it may be hard to find chapter and verse on that one, but it brought Christ into their world. Thankfully Olson didn't encourage them to get a church lobby, so they could get a Starbucks franchise put in as soon as possible.

jeff said...

RF2R2 said
I just want to know how they get the shamrock shape in the head...

That i actually a pouring technique. because the head is so viscuous, the pourer can actually move the beer glass around and create a Shamrock shape in the head by using the flow from the tap.

DangerMouse said...

lovely thoughts my friend DM

RF2R2 said...

jeff said...
RF2R2 said
I just want to know how they get the shamrock shape in the head...

That i actually a pouring technique. because the head is so viscuous, the pourer can actually move the beer glass around and create a Shamrock shape in the head by using the flow from the tap.

Simply amazing - thx for the info.