A holy, beautiful, and moving Christmas work of art

I recently had the pleasure of hearing Morten Lauridsen’s “Lux Aeterna: O Nata Lux” by the Los Angeles Master Chorale on my holiday station of choice, WQXR (their specially set up, focused, and temporary holiday channel, to be precise. However, I do regularly tune in to their traditional channel). Having performed a Lauridsen piece as a member of a high school chorale, I immediately recognized the composer’s touch for the Latin liturgy delivered in an ethereal acapella without having to look up the composer name. This piece’s sereneness and holiness is worshipful, and the lyrics are in praise of Jesus’ birth on earth and its significance.

The song speaks directly to and honors the transcendent act of peace, mercy, and salvation of the deity who became flesh for our sake. The translation from Latin to English reveals the simple yet powerful narrative.

O nata lux de lumine,
Jesu redemptor saeculi,
dignare clemens supplicum
laudes precesque sumere.
Qui carne quondam contegi
dignatus es pro perditis,
nos membra confer effici
tui beati corporis.
O Light born of Light,
Jesus, redeemer of the world,
with kindness deign to receive
the praise and prayer of suppliants.
You who once deigned to be clothed in flesh
for the sake of the lost,
grant us to be made members
of your blessed body.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This rendition is as close to the WQXR rendition that I can find. It may be of the same recording.

Advertisement

Unholy Alliances – Christian Pastors Who Endorse Trump

Jeffress

The bizarre spectacle of First Baptist Church of Dallas Pastor Robert Jeffress endorsing and speaking on behalf of Donald Trump and the enduring support of Evangelical Christians in general of Trump will prove to be one of the starkest examples in American history of a group of people trading their professed values and voting against their own interests for some ill-defined and hopeless expedient gains. It defies all logic, reason, and anything that could be described as remotely pertaining to the things of God, and the only conclusion I can draw from it is that such leaders are complete charlatans who do not actually possess the faith that they profess or that they are falling prey to a Faustian bargain in the hope of some temporal and secular gains and in the process are in great danger of drawing their followers in a wayward direction. Or even worse, they no doubt heap scorn upon Christianity amongst those that are not converts. Thinking about the situation in which evangelicals turn off their minds and close their eyes and ears to what is so blatantly obvious to those that have eyes to see and ears to hear, I am reminded of a quip from C.S. Lewis that, “Now the trouble about trying to make yourself stupider than you really are is that you very often succeed.”

Since Donald Trump takes to bashing opponents in churlish fashion on Twitter and other media outlets, I must have missed where the Apostle James said, “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Except of course in cases when an opponent in a political race needs to be bashed and destroyed with juvenile taunts. Then it is justified.” (The first section is real and from James 1:26. The second italicized portion is obviously contrived). Donald Trump once wrote in his book, “The Art of the Comeback” that, “If I told the real stories of my experiences with women, often seemingly very happily married and important women, this book would be a guaranteed best-seller.” I must have missed all of the verses in the Bible about it being completely acceptable to have a complete lack of regard for fidelity to marriage and to openly brag about it and display a total lack of repentance. Jesus summed up his entire ministry when he stated that, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22: 34-40). On the whole loving your neighbor part, I wonder why Jesus missed the memo on providing a caveat that, “except in cases in which they are foreign immigrants from Mexico, then by all means, heap scorn on them, oppress them, and deport them so that they can’t take your jobs and welfare.” I am certain he must have meant to include that. If I was a playwright, I think a perfect plot for a parody of the situation would be a script in which the disciples tire of the love, kindness, and suffering of Jesus and decide to throw in their lot with wicked King Herod, who only has one definable political platform: a promise that he will throw all the Samaritan bums out of Jerusalem and build a wall blocking them off with a promise that this will increase their fisherman’s wages.   

“Now the trouble about trying to make yourself stupider than you really are is that you very often succeed.” – C.S. Lewis

Churches and church leaders often decry moral relativeness and a culture that continues to descend into coarseness, lack of decency, and lack of human kindness. The endorsing of a candidate who is the embodiment of all of those things reeks of abject hypocrisy, which begs the question of if a church pastor is not going to stand against such a candidate’s rise and be a voice crying out in the wilderness for Christian faith and true Christian values, then what really is the point of that church? Leaders so aligned with dark forces critically undermine and wound their church’s entire reason for existence and ring the death knell of their organizations. After all, there are only relatively few avenues for seeking out true Christian faith and doctrinal and worship experiences within a common body of believers. The competition for a collection of the angry and hateful spewing vitriol and concerned with temporal interests and “winning” against one’s rivals is rather abundant, so what is the point of mixing those short-sighted and secular goals with seeking the will of an everlasting deity?

I can only imagine that in some small measure, this mob mentality and co-opting of the Christian church by a demagogue must have been how Diettrich Bonhoeffer felt when so many Lutheran pastors and laymen were co-opted by Hitler with his promises to rid Germany of the shame of the Treaty of Versailles and the ineptitude of the Weimar Republic. Bonhoeffer no doubt had this in mind when he wrote in his great book, The Cost of Discipleship, that, “Now what is it that so easily triggers the opposition of Christians against the authorities? It is the fact that is the they take offense at the mistakes and the injustice perpetrated by the authorities. But with considerations like these, Christians are already in grave danger of paying attention to something other than the will of God, which alone they are called to fulfill. They themselves ought to strive for the good in all things, and to practice it in the way God commands them….not because the way this world is ordered is so good, but because its good or bad qualities are irrelevant compared to the one thing that is truly important, namely, that the the church-community submit and live according to God’s will.” In other words, getting wrapped up and invested too heavily in political affairs was not at all Jesus’s concern for the church or the believer. Bonhoeffer wrote this as an exegesis of Paul’s writings that Christians should not be concerned with political authority as much as their mission on earth. This line of attack from the author of the vast majority of the New Testament makes it all the more inexplicable when a church pastor wraps himself in the cloak of such a vile person seeking political rule as Donald Trump.

Abuse of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment – Football coach suspended over private prayers

http://www.cnn.com/2015/10/29/us/washington-football-coach-joe-kennedy-prays/

I welcome the looming judicial review of the abuse of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment cited by Bremerton, WA school officials in the suspension of a high school football coach that has a routine of praying at the 50 yard line after games. Over time, students chose to join him on their own volition. In today’s hypersensitive, increasingly secular, and Orwellian society this singular coach’s action is somehow astonishingly interpreted as a state institution promoting or enforcing a state religion. The school officials involved here seem to flatter themselves that by virtue of one coach making a private choice to exercise religion in a public fashion is somehow conflated to them being significant enough to suddenly jump to the vertiginous conclusion that this is enough to serve as the establishment or promotion of a single faith.

Perhaps one of the most alarming elements within this episode is that we are entrusting our children’s education to school officials such as these that can’t seem to pass the most basic tests of reading comprehension and an understanding of the governing charter of our land, the U.S. Constitution. So let’s review the First Amendment cited as a reason for removing the coach in this case:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

The school officials are inherently twisting the “shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…” into a justification that somehow a private coach’s prayer is the state’s sanctioning of a religion. They in turn conveniently ignore the rest of the clause, which is, “…or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

Since secular militants like to abuse and misconstrue language of Thomas Jefferson on “separation of church and state,” let’s review some of the language that Founding Father had on this topic, taking from an earlier post I made on the topic of Thomas Jefferson on religious liberty: https://gymnasiumsite.wordpress.com/2015/10/27/thomas-jeffersons-concepts-of-religious-liberty-even-more-relevant-today/

“Almighty God hath created the mind free…no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of Religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge or affect their civil capacities.”

Note Jefferson’s emphasis on that no man should suffer on account of his religious opinions or beliefs and that they should be free to profess their religious opinions, and here is the most important point he makes: that this shall not diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.

The Liberty Institute will be bringing the suit, since the school officials can’t seem to have the wisdom or foresight to back down, and perhaps it is time for us to have this discussion and find the balance between overt coercion and enforcement and promotion of a religion at an institutional level and a private individual following their own private religious beliefs. Religious beliefs held in a public manner are protected too. In a way, I personally welcome the escalation to the higher court so that we can have this conversation and decision at a national level.

There is some Supreme Court precedence here that the Liberty Institute cites that:

  • Teachers and students do not shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression upon entering the schoolhouse (Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District, 1916)

  • The First Amendment protects religious activity that is initiated by individuals acting privately, like Coach Kennedy during his post-game prayers (Everson v. Board of Education, 1947)

  • The government may not restrict the speech of private individuals for the sole reason that their speech is religious (Good News Club v. Milford Cent. Sch., 2001)

  • That speech by a public employee—including a teacher—does not always represent or appear to represent the views of the state (Tucker v. California Department of Education, 1996)

http://blog.libertyinstitute.org/2015/10/devastated-school-stubbornly-suspends.html?m=1

In essence, not only would a reasonable reading of the First Amendment and an understanding of the Founders’ intent behind it but also judicial precedence serves to indicate which way this case would go.

Thomas Jefferson’s concepts of religious liberty – even more relevant today

Thomas Jefferson for Today: Why Religious Liberty is a 21st Century Cause

http://www.faithstreet.com/onfaith/2014/01/20/30451/30450

We are certainly passing through a transformational transition stage in which the cultural plurality will transition from what has predominantly been one of Protestant dominance and belief to one that will increasingly erode into an ever diffuse plurality of non-affiliated people who hold some nominal religious belief as well as an increasing percentage of agnostics and atheists.

Even in an age of religious dominance, Jefferson was right to stress religious freedom as a foundational plank of individual liberty – namely the freedom from coercion of government or coercion of fellow man.

As Meacham (who wrote the seminal biography of Thomas Jefferson) notes, Jefferson made his case for religious liberty not only in secular but also in theological terms when he states:

“Almighty God hath created the mind free…no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of Religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge or affect their civil capacities.”

Meacham elaborates:

Jefferson argued, essentially, that if God Himself did not compel obedience, then no man should try to enforce what the Lord chose to leave as matters of free will. The “Holy Author of our religion,” wrote Jefferson, as “Lord both of body and mind . . . chose not to propagate it by coercions on either.”

I really enjoy the closing points Meachem makes on moderation throughout this transition and to remember the value of liberty and freedom of conscience for both those of a religious bent, like myself, and those of a secular bent:

In what is likely to be a tumultuous period ahead, it seems important to remember that our Founders had it right: religion is a matter of choice, not coercion. Believers should be on guard against self-righteousness; secularists should take care not to fall prey to smugness. “America proudly stands with people of every nation who seek to think, believe, and practice their faiths as they choose,” Obama said last week. “We urge every country to recognize religious freedom as both a universal right and a key to a stable, prosperous, and peaceful future.” That’s a message worth heeding not only on January 16, but every day.