As incongruous as it may sound, I "celebrated" the season by watching both Mel Gibson's The Passion of The Christ and Bill Maher's Religulous. Not to say that I'm neutral in that debate, having both worked on the former and being a Theist for most of my life, still I think a key component of maintaining a vibrant faith is to consider the views of those who don't believe, for as a wise person once said, a faith that can't be tested can't be trusted.
Devout secularists like Maher often portray religious people in their moments of frenzy, speaking in tongues or hands raised in the air, worshipping their God and Religulous has plenty of those, some that left me laughing out loud. What I think this is intended to do is make us think they've lost their minds and are doing things that they'd be embarrassed by if the tape were to be played back to them the next day at work around the water cooler.
But the more I think about those admittedly odd moments (at least when they're not considered in context) the more I think about similar moments I've seen at any number of events down through the years: young girls swooning at mere glimpses of the Beatles, Elvis, 'N Sync or Justin Bieber, or fans of JFK, Reagan or Obama, and especially those who regularly faint in the presence of our first African-American president.
Shortly before he passed away, the legendary Ray Charles gave a final interview in which he admitted that his faith had waned for most of his life and that in particular he never understood all of the "whooping and hollering" that he saw people engage in, in church. But then, in his twilight years, he said, he now understood, that it wasn't God who needed to hear the "whooping and hollering," but it was we who needed to do it -- to praise something or someone greater than ourselves -- and that doing so is a normal part of the human experience.
Although no fan of monarchy, I understand what British writer C.S. Lewis meant when he leveled this criticism at we Americans, for our having thrown off the "chains" of royalty:
Where men are forbidden to honour a king they honor millionaires, athletes or film-stars instead: even famous prostitutes or gangsters. For spiritual nature, like bodily nature, will be served; deny it food and it will gobble poison.
The next time I see people with their eyes closed and hands raised to God, and begin to think it strange, I will remind myself that the desire to worship and praise is a universal one, that there's nothing strange about it at all, and that one way or another, whether it's in church, at an Obama rally, a Nascar race or a Motley Crue reunion concert, most of us do it, and all things being equal, I'd say the God of the universe is more deserving of that praise than Nikki Sixx or Jeff Gordon.
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