Walter Russell Mead’s Concluding Thoughts on Advent

Walter Russell Mead concludes his thoughts regarding Advent and its religious implications on his blog Via Media, on the American Interest website.  Once again, both are well worth reading.

The Coming, Part Three- Advent: The Grand Entrance

shutterstock_63809449“My family has always had a low taste for over the top hymn lyrics. My mother’s favorite line in the 1940 Episcopal hymnal came from James Russell Lowell’s protest against the Mexican War: “By the light of burning martyrs, Jesus’ bleeding feet I track.” As I kid, I was struck by a couple of verses in Charles Wesley’s “Lo He Comes with Clouds Descending” in which the poet seems a little too happy about the wretchedness of sinners who realize, too late, what is coming to pass…”


The Coming: Advent Part Four

“It’s the fourth Sunday in Advent today and even the crustiest and most Christmas-resistant among us are beginning to thaw. The Mead family is preparing its Christmas Day get-together and though sadly some beloved faces are no longer with us at the holiday table, new arrivals by birth and by marriage keep increasing our tribe. I was in Allen, Texas a week ago for a family wedding and a visit to my eldest niece and her young and growing family; my iPad still has the grease marks from four year old fingers playing Angry Birds…”

The Spiritual Emptiness of Atheism

This is the time of year when belligerent atheists corral their fellow freethinkers together to partake in emboldened attempts to legally prevent and disrupt the displays of the Nativity wherever possible. Wherever these innocent- and usually welcomed- nativity scenes present themselves, there’s a bitter and selfish atheist threatening or attempting to sue local authorities or governing bodies because somehow, the public display of the baby Jesus in a manger is “offensive” to their irreligious sensibilities.  In their nonsensical pursuits, these litigation-minded atheists continually cite the so-called separation clause of the First Amendment as a justification for their actions at the expense of the free-exercise clause contained within the same law.  To the shock and dismay of a decreasing number of people, the God-less intentions of atheism appears to be gaining credibility due to the number of legal decisions in their favor.

Notice that this is the only time of year (for now) these atheists present themselves or their cause.  I’ve seen a few atheists plead their empty cases during the Easter season, but Christmastime is when they’re the most aggressive.  And the question is why? After all, if atheism had any inherent and practical worth as a belief system, these atheists would attempt to engage the wider culture based on the philosophical merits of their belief system on a year-round basis rather than offending and insulting the devout by poking their collective finger in the eye of believers. It appears as if atheists endeavor to make those who revere the religious aspect of Christmas as miserable as they are.

Also notice that it’s only against the God recognized and worshipped in Christianity that these militant atheists take offense. They don’t seem to display the same religious fervor during the month of the Hajj or Ramadan probably because it’s easier to bully and intimidate those who employ “turn(ing) the other cheek” as a central tenet of their belief system than it is to bully those who employ “kill the infidel.”

But notice something else.  Last week after 20 children and six adults were massacred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut, many people in the media, on social networking sites and in the city of Newtown itself were sending their prayers to residents of the town- victims, families of victims and residents alike.  On Facebook and Twitter, many people offered Bible verses in sincere and sympathetic attempts to provide comfort and understanding to those directly and indirectly affected by what happened. Stories were written how clergy members were discarding their prepared sermons to discuss the tragedy and how suffering and evil is an unfair part of life.

Likewise, since that horrifying tragedy occurred, numerous religious leaders have been interviewed by the media regarding the nature of God, suffering, evil and justice and how we make sense of it all.  Among the clergy have been several Catholic priests, several rabbis and Jim Solomon, pastor of New Hope Community Church in Newtown Connecticut. The local community, still in shock and struggling to understand what had happened, gathered Friday night for a prayer vigil at St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church. Several more vigils at local churches were planned for the following Monday evening.

Yet of all the ecclesiastics interviewed and of all the vigils planned, there was no mention of any clerical skeptics or freethinking clergymen represented or invited. Of all the vigils, none were held in non-descript buildings devoid of religious or spiritual accoutrements- and for good reason.  Atheism is an empty belief system that doesn’t offer its adherents comfort, hope, emotional solace or spiritual sustenance when the world goes bad; in other words, it has no understanding of- or response to- sin and the product of sin, which is evil.  Atheism doesn’t provide a notion of divine justice- reward or punishment, heaven or hell- for acts of goodness or overwhelming evil, respectively whereas Christianity does. Atheism simply…is.

It would be insincere and offensive to claim that there aren’t atheists who sympathize with the grief felt by the citizens of Newtown.  It would also be disingenuous to suggest that many atheists don’t celebrate the joy of Christmas because to do so would be absurd.  And it would be equally disingenuous to say that atheists aren’t or can’t be decent people.  There are numerous atheists who celebrate Christmas and atheists who in their heart-felt sympathy have compassion regarding what happened in Newtown- and I know some of them and they’re good people. But atheism as a belief system represented by those whose purpose is to agitate, bully and offend, it’s spiritually and morally bankrupt and found wanting.

Psalm 46:1 says, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”  Indeed he is.

May God bless the Christmas season and may he bless and comfort the city of Newtown, Connecticut.

Walter Russell Mead’s Reflections On Advent

Walter Russell Mead pens two fantastic essays (on his blog Via Media, on the American Interest website) regarding Advent that are well worth reading.


The Coming, Part One.

” Today is the first of the four Sundays in Advent, the beginning of the Christian year and the start also of a season in which many Christians will try to prepare themselves for the great feast to come….”

The Coming, Part Two.

“This is the one time of year when I’m ready to declare war on Christmas myself. It’s impossible to venture into a store without Christmas music and Christmas displays. Christmas catalogs are over stuffing mailboxes all over the land…”