faith, Uncategorized

The War on Christmas, Embracing Failure, and Holy Discontent

Ben once heard a speaker named Saleem Ghubril give a talk at The Pittsburgh Project where he used the comedian Dana Carvey for an illustration about failure. Carvey needed a double bypass heart operation. The surgeons performed it, successfully, then patched Carvey up and sent him on his way. He was fine for a short time until he started having the same symptoms again. When he went back in for tests, the doctors made an unfortunate discovery: They had bypassed the wrong artery. Carvey underwent an angioplasty (his fourth), this time fixing the problem.

The lesson Ghubril drew from this? “It is better to fail trying to do the right things than succeed in doing the wrong ones,” he said. The first operation was, technically, a success. It just failed to solve the problem. Better to come up short trying to fix something that matters, Ghubril said, than succeed at doing something that doesn’t. 

We had a conversation with some friends today about the subject of holy discontent. The idea of holy discontent is that there are things in the world — injustice, generational poverty, religious violence — that break God’s heart, and that should break ours too. We may not be called to work at an orphanage in Sudan, the way that one of the people in that conversation was. But we should be listening for those things (close to home or far away) that unsettle us, and then figure out what to do about it. 

The things that matter are probably going to be big things, not just weekend projects. Where do you start correcting generational poverty? Well, you start somewhere close to home, where you are, given the tools and resources you have. And when you get discouraged and feel like a failure, you take comfort in the fact that there’s a good kind of failure that’s better than an irrelevant kind of success, and that if enough people constructively fail at the right things, that collective failure might add up to a difference. 

For ourselves, we experience a holy discontent when our friends look at Christians and have good reason to see irrelevant, self-righteous successes and not constructive failures. We’ll just come right out and say it: We are holy discontented with Christians. And we are ones! Soren Kierkegaard got at it this way: “Christendom has become the very opposite of what Christianity is. Christianity is restlessness, the restlessness of the eternal. … Christendom is tranquility. How charming, the tranquillity of literally not moving.” “The restlessness of the eternal” is actually a pretty good description of holy discontent. (Sadly, “the tranquillity of literally not moving” may be an equally good description of many churches today.)

This is essentially all a lead-in to this video. We didn’t know who CitizenLink is, but some cursory research revealed it is affiliated with Focus On The Family. We’ll only preface this by saying that the notion that we need (even presented in tongue-in-cheek fashion) a new holiday called Merry Tossmas is really, truly stupid.

Christmas is a big deal on the Christian calendar. Maybe not Easter big, but certainly not insignificant. The idea that Christians need to faithfully recognize and celebrate it is, of course, a fine one. But recognizing it only in its context as the most secularized, commercialized, super-sized holiday of all, which reduces a Christian’s act of worship to his or her ability to spend money, and then saying we need to stamp a God label on that and boycott anyone who doesn’t agree? That’s not even bypass surgery on the wrong artery. That’s surgery using plastic utensils. Which is to say, a joke.


20 thoughts on “The War on Christmas, Embracing Failure, and Holy Discontent

  1. Sorry that this has nothing to do with the fantastic post, just need to reply to Tad:

    I was telling Dave and Mark on Monday that everytime I hear Born to be Wild, I automatically think of Opportunity Knocks, starring a one Dana Carvey. Not Easy Rider, or something badass, but stinking Opportunity Knocks. What a waste. Speaking of wastes, Clean Slate is garbage.

  2. HOLY SMOKES! I will not STAND for this backlash against Clean Slate. Wayne’s World II? Sure. Master of Disguise? By all means. (That movie was 80 minutes of solid turd.) But Clean Slate was a perfectly servicable movie. Low budget, not very ambitious, yes. But it worked within its own modest confines.

    The scene where ML Pogue ad libs his way through a slide presentation at the museum made me laugh so hard when I first saw it that I frightened my friend (and everyone else at Wooster’s Cinemark Movies 10, theater 8).

    “This was the path we took. It was a good path, a red path. A path of many moves. Many people said we wouldn’t make it. (Next slide.) This is one of the people who laughed at us. We called him Steve. Later he died of dysentery.”

    Also, it gets bonus points for the saucy performance turned in by Olivia d’Abo, aka Karen Arnold.

    I have the movie on VHS if you guys want to give it the second chance it deserves. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about? (See what I did there?)

  3. Wow. We got Mr. Guldin riled up.

    When has Olivia d’Abo not turned in a saucy performance?

    Scott, while we have you — I think Tad has definitely proved me wrong, but you’d be the expert here. Did Corie Blount ever get a ring with the Bulls?

    You may be unaware what the former UC star did get last week: A possession charge for 29 pounds of marijuana.

    Not ounces, my friend. Pounds.

  4. Wow. That is a lot of doobage.

    Corie Blount did NOT win a ring. He was drafted in 1993 and his tenure with the team coincided almost exactly with Jordan’s foray into baseball. Don’t know if that was because of Jordan’s distaste for soft big men with lousy hands or what.

    But MAN…that’s a lot of doobage.

  5. Maybe the iconic Air Jordan commercial which NBC and TNT ran ad nauseam during the 1997 playoffs had you thinking Blount was involved with championship-winning Bulls teams.

    Nope, he was just getting spun around and dunked upon.

    (That’s still a lot of doobs.)

  6. Tad, you were right. Scott, thanks for clearing that up.

    If Jordan has such a distaste for soft big men with lousy hands, why do the Bobcats have both Sean May and Nazr Mohammed?

  7. Wait…what’s this? Jordan is still alive?

    I could’ve sworn he walked off the court in Salt Lake City in June of 1998, cuddled up with his six trophies in Ahmad Rashad’s lap, and promptly croaked.

    There are worse ways to go, Benjamin.

  8. Yes, clearly that commercial messed with the spatial timeline of Corie Blount memories in my head.

    I mean, 29 pounds! To put that in context, that’s roughly 1.61 Scooter Thomases worth of weed.

    Did Stacey King get a ring with the Bulls? Maybe that’s who I was thinking of.

  9. I wonder if Jo Jo English won a ring with the 92-93 Bulls. Can you win a ring if you were signed to 47 10-day contracts in a row? Does the 10-day contract even exist anymore?

  10. Here’s a quiz. When you look up “1o-day contract” in the dictionary, you find a picture of:

    1. DJ Mbenga
    2. Kevin Willis
    3. Haywoode Workman
    4. Lloyd Daniels

    (Hint: This is a trick question. The answer is Anthony Goldwire.)

    Bonus: What was Haywoode Workman’s middle name?

  11. Great hyperlink on the 10-day contract Ben. Simply because it references the greatest benchwarmer of all-time………..the one, the only…..Scott Hastings.

  12. Tad — I think Phil Jackson probably awarded JoJo English a commemorative ring for perfectly executing his strategy of ridding the Knicks of pesky Derek Harper by picking a fight with him. Harper was suspended for two games of the Eastern Conference Semis, and the Jordan-less Bulls would have beaten the Knicks if Hue Hollins hadn’t stepped in and decided otherwise.

    And Ben, Stacey King won THREE rings with the Bulls, baby.

    Did you see LeBron pay tribute to the Mailman the other night? And…is there a cornier way of dunking? (That doesn’t involve LA Gear?)

  13. Denys, weren’t you a spokesman for L.A. Gear once? When they had those LED lights in the heel? I still remember the glow of red on the defender’s face when you exectued those ill crossovers.

  14. Greatest. Threadjack. Ever.

    Vore – I just want you to know I DVRed the Jazz game on TNT tonight with the sole purpose of dissecting their dirty antics and coming up with 5 reasons they will lose in the second round of the playoffs (again).

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