Wednesday, December 8, 2010

You KNOW It's a Myth...

This post might get me in trouble. Oh well.

You've probably heard about this New Jersey billboard on the news:


I'm here to tell you why this really doesn't bother me. (Sidebar: I do think atheists, and anyone who believes anything, for that matter, should stand on their own two feet without having to tear down other people's beliefs, but that's a universal problem, especially for Christians.)


1. The funniest thing about this billboard is that "myth" doesn't technically mean a story is false. We use it that way colloquially, sure, but that's not the actual meaning of the word. Here's an excerpt from Sacred Narrative: Readings in the Theory of Myth by Alan Dundes:

"The term mythos means word or story. It is only the modern usage of the word myth as "error" that has led to the notion of myth as something negative... In common parlance the term myth is often used as a mere synonym for error or fallacy... But untrue statements are not myths in the formal sense...nor are myths necessarily untrue statements. For myth may constitute the highest form of truth, albeit in a metaphorical guise."

Go ahead and refer to "the Christ myth." I don't have a problem with that.

2. Reason is no enemy to my faith. I'm happy to celebrate reason. Paul engaged Epicurian and Stoic philosophers in debate in Acts 17. So I could use the tagline, "Christians: Reasonable Since 51 CE." (I'm sure Douglas Campbell would have some disagreement about that date, but whatever.) Here's a great quote from Biblical scholars Charles Briggs, who was condemned as a heretic at the end of the 19th century for suggesting the Bible should be interpreted using the tools of reason and history:

"So far as I can see, there are errors in the Scriptures that no one has been able to explain away. Men cannot shut their eyes to truth and fact. Let the light shine higher and higher, the bright, clear light of day. Truth fears no light. Light chases error away. True orthodoxy seeks the full blaze of the noontide sun. In the light of such a day, the unity of Christendom will be gained."

Thomas Aquinas thought reason was a gift from God. When did we decide otherwise?

3. The enemy in the war on Christmas is not unbelief but commercialism. I keep hearing about this "war on Christmas" stuff, but if having a "holiday parade" instead of a "Christmas parade" makes you mad, you're concerned about the wrong things. If you want to fight for people who are sleeping in tents over the holidays, or fight against the way Christ's coming has been co-opted by Hallmark, great. But when we feel threatened by the wrong things and don't notice the true threat, we're in trouble.


The Catholic League's response to this billboard (another billboard--this one) makes me sad, perhaps because it reminds me of Dr. Seuss' Butter Battle Book. Plus, the graphic design is lame and it's just pathetic in its defensiveness. Stephen Colbert summed up the decision to put up the opposing billboard: "If someone slaps you on the cheek, counter-punch!" So that's the reason for the season...

2 comments:

Kim said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kim said...

I hope I don't offend with the below, but I feel like it's a reasonable question to ask.

One of the interesting things about myths, especially the Christ birth story is the choice to believe that it's true and right over so many other similar myths that have been around long before the Bible.

The virgin savior birth born in a cave/manager existed long before Juedo-Christianity. Saoshyant (literally meaning savior) of the Zoroastrianism will be born of a virgin. Osiris-Dionysus were also born of virgins (specifically the myth says because the girl was unmarried, so in order to keep her virginity intact) and then there's Krishna of Hinduism which came many, many years before Jesus. The similarities between the Christ story and those are far reaching, but as we're talking about Christmas I won't go that far.

The virgin birth story is perpetuated throughout so many cultures it is as a common of an archetype as an evil snake. I often wonder what is in it our humanity that makes us feel like sex is so sinful a god or savior or even heroes (Hercules) cannot be born of it. Many Greek gods just arise, and Pharaohs claimed to be of virgins as well.

I suppose the question I'm posing is what makes Christianity true, and more factual than any of the other older myths, even more than Greek mythology? It seems more reasonable to say, this is folklore passed down through oral tradition and adapted to the time, than to say, with all the screaming similarities that exist in the myths, "Oh no, that's just a story, this is truth."

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

You KNOW It's a Myth...

This post might get me in trouble. Oh well.

You've probably heard about this New Jersey billboard on the news:


I'm here to tell you why this really doesn't bother me. (Sidebar: I do think atheists, and anyone who believes anything, for that matter, should stand on their own two feet without having to tear down other people's beliefs, but that's a universal problem, especially for Christians.)


1. The funniest thing about this billboard is that "myth" doesn't technically mean a story is false. We use it that way colloquially, sure, but that's not the actual meaning of the word. Here's an excerpt from Sacred Narrative: Readings in the Theory of Myth by Alan Dundes:

"The term mythos means word or story. It is only the modern usage of the word myth as "error" that has led to the notion of myth as something negative... In common parlance the term myth is often used as a mere synonym for error or fallacy... But untrue statements are not myths in the formal sense...nor are myths necessarily untrue statements. For myth may constitute the highest form of truth, albeit in a metaphorical guise."

Go ahead and refer to "the Christ myth." I don't have a problem with that.

2. Reason is no enemy to my faith. I'm happy to celebrate reason. Paul engaged Epicurian and Stoic philosophers in debate in Acts 17. So I could use the tagline, "Christians: Reasonable Since 51 CE." (I'm sure Douglas Campbell would have some disagreement about that date, but whatever.) Here's a great quote from Biblical scholars Charles Briggs, who was condemned as a heretic at the end of the 19th century for suggesting the Bible should be interpreted using the tools of reason and history:

"So far as I can see, there are errors in the Scriptures that no one has been able to explain away. Men cannot shut their eyes to truth and fact. Let the light shine higher and higher, the bright, clear light of day. Truth fears no light. Light chases error away. True orthodoxy seeks the full blaze of the noontide sun. In the light of such a day, the unity of Christendom will be gained."

Thomas Aquinas thought reason was a gift from God. When did we decide otherwise?

3. The enemy in the war on Christmas is not unbelief but commercialism. I keep hearing about this "war on Christmas" stuff, but if having a "holiday parade" instead of a "Christmas parade" makes you mad, you're concerned about the wrong things. If you want to fight for people who are sleeping in tents over the holidays, or fight against the way Christ's coming has been co-opted by Hallmark, great. But when we feel threatened by the wrong things and don't notice the true threat, we're in trouble.


The Catholic League's response to this billboard (another billboard--this one) makes me sad, perhaps because it reminds me of Dr. Seuss' Butter Battle Book. Plus, the graphic design is lame and it's just pathetic in its defensiveness. Stephen Colbert summed up the decision to put up the opposing billboard: "If someone slaps you on the cheek, counter-punch!" So that's the reason for the season...

2 comments:

Kim said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kim said...

I hope I don't offend with the below, but I feel like it's a reasonable question to ask.

One of the interesting things about myths, especially the Christ birth story is the choice to believe that it's true and right over so many other similar myths that have been around long before the Bible.

The virgin savior birth born in a cave/manager existed long before Juedo-Christianity. Saoshyant (literally meaning savior) of the Zoroastrianism will be born of a virgin. Osiris-Dionysus were also born of virgins (specifically the myth says because the girl was unmarried, so in order to keep her virginity intact) and then there's Krishna of Hinduism which came many, many years before Jesus. The similarities between the Christ story and those are far reaching, but as we're talking about Christmas I won't go that far.

The virgin birth story is perpetuated throughout so many cultures it is as a common of an archetype as an evil snake. I often wonder what is in it our humanity that makes us feel like sex is so sinful a god or savior or even heroes (Hercules) cannot be born of it. Many Greek gods just arise, and Pharaohs claimed to be of virgins as well.

I suppose the question I'm posing is what makes Christianity true, and more factual than any of the other older myths, even more than Greek mythology? It seems more reasonable to say, this is folklore passed down through oral tradition and adapted to the time, than to say, with all the screaming similarities that exist in the myths, "Oh no, that's just a story, this is truth."

 

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