What Christianity means to me

morning stars sang together

Feed The HungryI’ve been thinking a lot about what Christianity means in an increasingly non-Christian believing country. This 2019 Pew survey notes that “both Protestantism and Catholicism are experiencing losses of population share. Currently, 43% of U.S. adults identify with Protestantism, down from 51% in 2009. And one-in-five adults (20%) are Catholic, down from 23% in 2009.

“Meanwhile, all subsets of the religiously unaffiliated population – a group also known as religious ‘nones’ – have seen their numbers swell. Self-described atheists now account for 4% of U.S. adults, up modestly but significantly from 2% in 2009; agnostics make up 5% of U.S. adults, up from 3% a decade ago; and 17% of Americans now describe their religion as ‘nothing in particular,’ up from 12% in 2009. Members of non-Christian religions also have grown modestly as a share of the adult population.”

You might find it odd for me to suggest that I think it’s a rather good thing. Purported faith when everyone else is just like you is comparatively easy, perhaps even theologically lazy.

I believe should always be considering how this passage in Matthew 25:37-40 applies to our lives.

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’

Sing, sing a song

My friend and Bible Guys buddy Eric sent this out. It occurred to me that it’d be an appropriate post for Christmas.

God has prepared for Himself one great song of praise throughout eternity, and those who enter the community of God join in this song. It is the song that the ‘morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy’ at the creation of the world (Job 38:7).

It is the victory song of the children of Israel after passing through the Red Sea, the Magnificat of Mary after the annunciation, the song of Paul and Silas in the night of prison, the song of the singers on the sea of glass after their rescue, the “song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb” (Rev. 15:3). It is the song of the heavenly fellowship.

―Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

Wikipedia says: “Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran pastor, theologian, anti-Nazi dissident, and key founding member of the Confessing Church. His writings on Christianity’s role in the secular world have become widely influential, and his book The Cost of Discipleship has been described as a modern classic.”

Merry Christmas.

All I want for Christmas is…

maybe eggnog, too

Hess Truck 2020When I first got married to my bride of one score and one, she was often buying me “practical” gifts such as shirts, and pants, and socks. I mean, they were nice shirts and comfortable pants and snazzy socks.

But I wanted the “fun” stuff. A Hess truck! Music! Books! Movies, in whatever format we were using at the time! And I tried to buy her fun stuff, such as some time at her spa, or a massage, or candy, or jewelry.

In the nature of things, I discovered that she really likes receiving the “practical” stuff. Baking items? OK! So that’s what she’s getting. And the odd thing is that I’ve developed an appreciation for the pair of warm gloves, or scarf, or the like.

What I REALLY desire…

I’m putting my list out here, OK? All I want for Christmas, what I’d REALLY want:

Real action to slow climate change such as sustainable energy
Ending food insecurity, because there is enough food
Ending housing insecurity and discrimination

Voting rights for all eligible people, ending voter intimidation, suppression, and disenfranchisement
An end of gerrymandering

A fairer immigration policy that will actually make America great, such as a pathway to citizenship for the DACA folks
The beginning of the end of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and other forms of xenophobia
Criminal justice reform
Fair labor policies, including the institution of a living wage

A belief in science, with the understanding that the scientific method means learning new things

Is this too much to ask for? I think not. But I suspect that no guy wearing a red suit, utilizing eight or nine flying reindeer is going to put these items under my tree. We have to continue to bring these things ourselves by demanding fairness and – dare I say – love to the process as we engage with our various levels of government.

But I still want the Hess truck! Do I have to offer it up to the  Christmas creature?

Holiday links

Christmas ads in New Zealand

Maybe Next Year On The Mistletoe – Freezepop.

Coverville 1338: The Christmas Cover Show 2020.

The Dream Isaiah Saw by composer Glenn Rudolph, sung by the Alma (MI) College Choirs (2011). The First Presbyterian choir sang this piece in 2016, which was played for our December 20, 2020 service. We were good! I miss choral singing. Maybe next year…

Nat Cole, Charles Brown rule Xmas

Nathaniel Daniel Coles

Nat King Cole was born Nathaniel Daniel Coles on St. Patrick’s Day 1919 in Montgomery, AL. Died from cancer on 15 Feb 1965. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000 as an early influence

The Christmas Song. This tune has one of the most interesting recordings and chart histories in music. It was first recorded in 1946 by the King Cole Trio with four string players, a harpist, and a drummer.
#3 RB for three weeks, #3 pop in 1946. #23 pop in 1947. #8 RB, 24 pop in Jan 1949. #30 pop in Jan 1953.

A new mono version was recorded in 1953 with Nelson Riddle conducting. This is the version that charted most often.
#29 pop in 1954. #80 pop in 1960. #80 pop, #29 Adult Contemporary in 1962. #13 Xmas in 1963 and 1973. #6 Xmas in 1964. #4 Xmas in 1965 and 1967. #5 Xmas in 1966. #2 Xmas in 1968. #1 Xmas in 1969 and 1972. #9 Xmas in 1970. #5 Xmas in 1983. #7 Xmas in 1984. #6 Xmas in 1985.

In 1961, Nat recorded a stereo version with Ralph Carmichael conducting.
#16 Adult Contemporary in 1997.
Nat is #4 of the Christmas in the Charts 1920-2004 artists. Gene Autry is #2, and Bing Crosby, unsurprisingly, is #1.

Not the Peanuts character

#3 is Charles Brown. Born in Texas 13 Sept 1922. Died 21 Jan 1999. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999 as an early influence.

Merry Christmas Baby, with Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers. Brown on piano, Moore on guitar, Eddie Williams on bass.
#3 RB in 1947. #8 RB in 1948. #9 RB in 1949. #5 Xmas in 1965. #4 Xmas in 1966 and 1969. #6 Xmas in 1967. #2 Xmas in 1968 and 1973. #8 X,mas in 1970.
Different versions went to #4 Xmas in 1964 and #10 Xmas in 1965; and #2 Xmas in 1973.
Please Come Home for Christmas  – #76 pop in 1961. #108 pop in 1962. #4 Xmas in 1963 and 1969. #3 Xmas in 1964, 1966-1968, and 1970. #2 Xmas in 1965. #1 Xmas in 1972. #9 Xmas in 1973.

And more

This Christmas – Donny Hathaway. #11 Xmas in 1972

White Christmas – The Drifters. #2 RB in 1954. #5 RB, #80 pop in 1955. #12 RB in 1956. #96 pop in 1960. #88 pop in 1962. #17 in 1963 and 1967. #4 in 1964. #13 Xmas in 1965. #14 Xmas in 1967.

The Mistletoe And Me – Isaac Hayes. #8 Xmas in 1969. #5 Xmas in 1973

Who Took The Merry Out Of Christmas – The Staple Singers. #2 Xmas in 1973

All I Want For Christmas Is You – Carla Thomas (written by Andrew Charles Williams, Jr., best known for “Oh, Pretty Woman”), #11 Xmas in 1966

That’s What Christmas Means to Me – Stevie Wonder

Soul Christmas from Stax/Atlantic

Clarence Carter, Solomon Burke, King Curtis

Soul ChristmasSoul Christmas! “Christmas doesn’t get more soulful than this collection of tunes.” That’s the truth.

‘Tis not the season to get into the murky distribution arrangement Atlantic Records had with Stax. But the deal did create a dynamite roster. Carla Thomas, William Bell, and of course, Booker T, who we heard last week, were from the Stax side.

Billboard magazine had Christmas singles charts from 1963 to 1972, and from 1983 to 1985. There was a Christmas albums chart periodically as well. These will be listed as Xmas.

Soul Christmas reached #13 Xmas in 1968, and #8 Xmas in both 1969 and 1970. The CD version, with three additional tracks, reached #89 RB in 1994. There are several variations on this collection. But I’m limiting it this week to the original release as represented on the album cover.

The songs

Back Door Santa – Clarence Carter, #4 Xmas in 1968. He was born blind in Montgomery, Alabama in 1936, His big hit was Slip Away (#2 RB, #6 pop in 1968)
The Christmas Song – King Curtis, with Duane Allman on guitar. Saxophonist Curtis Ousley, born in 1934 in Fort Worth, TX. Murdered in 1971. Known for Soul Twist, #1 RB for two weeks, #17 pop in 1962.
White Christmas – Otis Redding, #12 Xmas in 1968. Born in Dawson, GA in 1941. Died in a plane crash on 10 Dec 1967. He has the first posthumous #1 pop song. Sitting On The Dock of the Bay, #1 pop for four weeks, #1 for three weeks RB in 1968.
Silver Bells – Booker T. and The MG’s. Booker T. Jones was born in 1944 in Memphis, TN. Green Onions went #1 for four weeks RB, #3 pop in 1962.
Gee Whiz It’s Christmas  – Carla Thomas (Thomas, Steve Cropper, Vinny Trauth/trumpeter) #23 on the Christmas charts in 1963. Her B-A-B-Y was #3 RB, #14 pop in 1966.

Merry Christmas Baby  – Otis Redding, #9 Xmas in 1968
Presents For Christmas  – Solomon Burke. Born in Philadelphia, probably in 1940, d. 2010). Got To Get You Off My Mind was #1 for three weeks RB, but only #22 pop.
Jingle Bells – Booker T. and The MG’s, #20 Xmas in 1966
Every Day Will Be Like A Holiday  – William Bell (Bell, Booker T. Jones), #33 RB in 1968. Born in 1939 in Memphis. Prolific songwriter.
What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve  – King Curtis 

I’m dreaming of a COVID Christmas

When will we reach widespread immunization?

coronavirusThough I knew it was possible, seeing the spike in coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths has been demoralizing. More to the point, watching the numbers in some categories more than double from October to November in Albany County is acutely troubling.

Since my father-in-law died of a non-COVID-related disease on April 22 of this year, my wife had driven out to Oneonta, NY to help her mom with the cleaning and shopping. Right before Thanksgiving, our family was discussing plans. My daughter and I thought that making the 70-mile trek wasn’t that good an idea.

My wife said that maybe she’d go alone for a day or two. We believed that she was missing the concern. My daughter is going to school at home. I don’t go to many places. My wife, conversely, is going to work every day, teaching students face-to-face and dealing with colleagues whose protocols while not at school are unknown. It was my MIL who finally put the kibosh on the trip.

A friend of mine is a nurse at Albany Medical Center. On December 1, they had a strike action over many issues, most of which predated COVID. In a non-epidemic period, I would have joined the picket line. Not now.

Nervous

My Grammarly account analyzed my writings from the second to the third week in November.

1. Neutral 15‌% +5%
2. Formal 14‌% +1%
3. Confident 13‌% -6% that’s about right
4. Friendly 8‌% -2%
5. Optimistic 8‌% -5% certainly accurate
6. Worried 8‌% +4% yup
7. Sad 6‌% +2% I’ll accept that

Even the places I’ve gone to in the past – CVS, grocery store, takeout restaurant food – I visit less often. In part, it’s because of the vaccines on the horizon. It seems that people are getting cocky about when we’ll get back to “normal.” There will be enough doses to treat about six percent of New Yorkers, primarily health care workers and the elderly in facilities, before the end of 2020.

As someone over 65, I expect/hope to get at least one of the two necessary doses by St. Patrick’s Day 2021. And, barring new information, I will take the injections when they are made available.

This article from FORBES is consistent with some other pieces I’ve read. When will we reach widespread immunization— roughly 70% of the population? In the spring? By July 4? In a year? Or will it take far longer? Will “the overwhelming majority of people” elect to be inoculated?

But the “surge upon a surge” that is happening now, I fear, will become worse during the December holidays and the weeks thereafter. I already know ours will be a low-key COVID Christmas and New Years. I’m hoping others can just hang on just a little while longer with social distancing, mask-wearing, and other precautions.