Sunday, December 27, 2015

Scrooge: A Man and His World Transformed

All through A Christmas Carol (1843), the ghosts of Jacob Marley and Christmases Past, Present, and Future have all been working to weaken Ebenezer Scrooge’s Olympian self and strengthen his Christian one. By the fifth and final chapter, they have succeeded. If the first chapter described Ebenezer at his dreary Olympian worst, this last correspondingly describes him at his radiant Christian best.
Ebenezer experienced as significant a transformation of personality as is humanly possible. If Olympian Ebenezer replied to every contrary opinion with a contemptuous “humbug,” Christian Ebenezer rediscovered the gentle art of laughing. “There’s the door, by which the Ghost of Jacob Marley entered! There’s the corner where the Ghost of Christmas Present sat! There’s the window where I saw the wandering Spirits! It’s all right, it’s all true, it all happened. Ha ha ha!”

Christmas Future: You Reap What You Sow

In A Christmas Carol (1843), Dickens tells us the story of how Jesus intervened in the life of Ebenezer Scrooge. The story opens with Ebenezer demonstrating energetic indifference toward all others on Christmas Eve. His Olympian personality definitely dominates.
Strangely, Jesus does not remain indifferent to Ebenezer even though Ebenezer is hostile to him. Instead, Jesus decides to energetically care for Ebenezer. His goal is to significantly weaken Ebenezer’s Olympian self and equally strengthen Ebenezer’s Christian self.
He starts by confronting Ebenezer on Christmas Eve with the ghost of Jacob Marley. Jacob had been Ebenezer’s partner in life and had died on Christmas Eve seven years before.  Jacob managed to speak such words of truth, and support them with a sufficient rattling of chains, to loosen the suffocating grip that Olympian Ebenezer had on Christian Ebenezer. After Jacob’s visit, Olympian Ebenezer no longer enjoyed unquestionable control of truth. His power was broken but not yet ended.
To eclipse that power, Jesus sent other spirits to Ebenezer: the Ghosts of Christmas Past and Present. They further strengthened Ebenezer's Christian self.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Ghost of Christmas Present

In A Christmas Carol (1843), when the Ghost of Christmas Present visits Ebenezer Scrooge, Dickens lards the narrative with a tremendous variety of words all meant to emphasize vitality.
Take, for example, his description of this ghost. He is a jolly Giant, glorious to see; who bore a glowing torch, in shape not unlike Plenty’s horn (Stave 3, “The Second of the Three Spirits,” here and following). Already we begin to see that everything about Christmas Present is going to be big, bright, and overflowing—all in stark contrast to the small dark stinginess of the now shrinking Olympian self of Ebenezer.

Friday, December 25, 2015

The Ghost of Christmas Past

Like all of us, Ebenezer Scrooge had two personalities: a wholly Olympian one and a wholly Christian one. The first was structured in terms of the six false gods of Olympianity; especially Pluto, god of money. The second was structured in terms of Jesus: the only true god/man of truth, freedom, love, and vitality.
In the first chapter of A Christmas Carol (1843), Charles Dickens takes great pains to show us the destructive indifference of Ebenezer’s dominant Olympian personality and ours.
But he doesn’t leave the story there. Jesus was determined to break the control of Olympian Ebenezer over Christian Ebenezer. To do this, he first sent the ghost of Jacob Marley as a most unusual messenger of liberation. Jacob had been Ebenezer’s business partner in life. By successfully challenging Olympian Ebenezer’s control of the truth, Jacob had been able to weaken Olympian Ebenezer enough to open the possibility for Tufluvian Ebenezer to develop. His task completed, Jacob left stimulation of that development to three subsequent spirits: the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

First Step Forward: A Christian Ghost Frightens Olympian Scrooge

At the beginning of A Christmas Carol (1843), Charles Dickens thoroughly acquaints us with the obnoxiously Olympian personality of Ebenezer Scrooge. We witness Olympian Ebenezer expressing his callous indifference, in diverse ways and to varying degrees, toward random passers-by, his nephew, his clerk, two gentlemen collecting money to benefit poor people on Christmas Day, and even a young boy wishing to exchange a carol for a penny.
If that were all there was to the story, it would have been forgotten long ago. But Dickens created a story of far greater substance. He showed us how Ebenezer Scrooge went from having a dominant Olympian personality to having a dominant Christian one. How that happened might be instructive.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Scrooge: Fifty Shades of Indifference

With his timeless book, A Christmas Carol (1843), Charles Dickens created for us the cautionary tale of Ebenezer Scrooge. Like the rest of us, Ebenezer had a wholly Olympian as well as a wholly Christian personality. His wholly Olympian personality especially devoted itself to Pluto, the god of money. For this reason, Olympian Ebenezer practiced intentional indifference toward anyone useless to him for the purpose of making money. Our Olympian personalities do the same.
We first learn that Olympian Ebenezer walked from home to work and back in a way which deliberately discouraged strangers from speaking with him. No one, Dickens tells us, exchanged greetings with him, asked money of him, or sought directions from him. Even service dogs wisely guided their blind masters away from him. How did Ebenezer feel about all this avoidance by others in their response to his clear contempt for them? It was the very thing he liked (Stave 1, “Marley’s Ghost, here and following). Yes, rather than pricking Ebenezer’s Christian conscience, their behavior only fed his Olympian indifference.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Olympian Scrooge Talks with His Christian Nephew

Each one of us has a wholly Olympian personality. It is structured in terms of those six tedious gods of Olympianity. Sadly, our society and culture are structured in terms of them too.
At the same time, each one of us has a wholly Christian personality. It is a gift to every one of us from Jesus: the only true god/man of freedom, truth, love, and vitality. Hopefully our churches are structured in terms of him too. In that way they would provisionally represent the Kingdom of Heaven already present here on Earth.
At any given moment, it’s always a matter of which personality is stronger: our Olympian or our Christian one.
At the beginning of A Christmas Carol (1843), that timeless tale by Charles Dickens, Ebenezer Scrooge’s Olympian personality definitely dominates. Indeed, during the conversation with his nephew Fred on Christmas Eve, it is solely his Olympian personality expressing itself. In refreshing contrast, it is Fred’s Christian personality responding creatively to Olympian Ebenezer rather than Fred’s Olympian personality fighting Scrooge’s hostility with some of its own.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Olympian Scrooge: Delight in Being Bossy

Although regarded as a Christian nation, England in the 1840s was a predominantly Olympian one. Without even realizing it, its inhabitants adored the six false yet conventional gods of Olympianity even while thinking of themselves as Christians.
Charles Dickens, miraculously, understood this. Disliking it, he challenged the self-evident worship of Pluto, god of money, by revealing Pluto’s cruelty, and that of his minions, by writing A Christmas Carol in 1843. By creating the obnoxious character of Ebenezer Scrooge, he exposed the Olympian indifference that passed for wisdom in his Olympian society and culture and ours.
Dickens opens his book on Christmas Eve, of all times, at Scrooge’s place of business. After describing Scrooge’s Olympian character, he illustrates it by describing how Scrooge as boss chooses to relate to his clerk.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Ebenezer Scrooge: Exemplary Minion of Pluto

Contemporary America society is enslaved by and devoted to six false yet destructive gods. These are the gods of Olympianity: the world’s oldest, most popular, yet least recognized religion. Pluto, god of money, is one of these dreary gods.
Pluto, like the other Olympian gods, is parasitic by nature. He has no vitality of his own, gets none whatsoever from Yahweh, so must take all he can from us. He does this by paying us to be indifferent to our fellow human beings. He gains whatever vitality we suck from our neighbors through that indifference. He’s feeling particularly robust these days.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Freedom for Abba: Asking for What We Need to Live as Faithful Witnesses (Matthew 6:11-14)

When teaching us how to pray, Jesus tells us to always put Abba’s cause first (Matthew 6:9-10). We do this first by developing personal and communal ways of living that honor Abba. Next we need Abba to send Jesus to us with fresh words of liberating truth. Finally we need Abba to grant that the Holy Spirit might burn brightly in our hearts so that we might discern the always surprising words of Jesus and have the pluck to do them. In these ways we honor Abba, his kingdom comes through fresh words from Jesus, and we do his will as expressed through those words. In these ways we live as the faithful witnesses that Abba created, Jesus reconciled, and the Spirit redeems us to be.
Today Jesus teaches us to ask Abba for what we need to live as Christians who honor him by hearing and doing his will:

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Freedom for Abba: Putting His Cause First (Matthew 6:9-10)

On a hillside overlooking the Sea of Galilee, Jesus once taught some disciples how they might pray to God. Through those same words, Jesus invites us to enjoy, with him, this same unimaginable privilege today. Jesus teaches us afresh to:

     9 “Pray then in this way:
     Our Father in heaven,
          hallowed be your name.
     10 Your kingdom come.
          Your will be done,
              on earth as it is in heaven.

(Matthew 6:9-10, New Revised Standard Version).

Abba! Our Father. Right off Jesus frees us to join him in this unimaginable privilege. From all eternity, God the Father freely loved God the Son and Jesus freely loved God the Father, both in the unity of God the Holy Spirit. In teaching us how to pray to God, Jesus frees us by grace to join him in this same relationship of freedom and love which he has always enjoyed with God the Father by nature.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Freedom for Yahweh: Meaning What We Pray

“You can be sure that on the Judgment Day you will have to give account of every useless word you have ever spoken” (Matthew 12:36, Good News Translation).

American society and culture are Olympian. They are organized in terms of the six false, destructive, yet conventional gods of Olympianity: (1) Jupiter, god of politics; (2) Mars, god of war; (3) Vulcan, god of technology; (4) Venus, goddess of sex; (5) Pluto, god of money; and (6) Bacchus, god of consumption. So too is the Olympian personality that we each have.
The Olympian gods, along with the Olympian societies, cultures, and personalities which they dominate, regard words strictly as means to an end and that end is always power: keeping it and increasing it. To Olympians, then, words are not true or false. They are useful, effective, successful, or not. In conformity to these gods, our Olympian personalities find words useful if they increase our political power, for example, or justify war, express our delirium over the latest technological gadget, improve our sexual attractiveness, get us a promotion at work, or increase the monetary value of the gifts we receive at Christmas. The gods are happy, we’re happy, it’s all good.
Oddly enough, Jesus takes a different view. To him, words are true or false. True words are words which express our core identity as faithful witnesses to Jesus as well as the core identity of Jesus as the one true god and human of freedom, truth, love, and vitality. Words which do not do this are false.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Freedom for Abba: Prayer to the Point (Matthew 6:7-8)

Freedom is never a state of being. It is always an act. At any given moment, we are either actively free for God and actively affirm our liberation by him from the six false gods of Olympianity. Or we are actually enslaved by those gods and acting as both their victims and minions rather than as faithful witnesses to God.

One important way we affirm our freedom for God and from the gods is by praying to him. Happily, Jesus frees us to do this by speaking to us, today, through the same words of truth he spoke yesterday to liberate his disciples for this same purpose.