A Kansas City trial for nuclear activists arrested for trespassing at one of the largest weapons centers in the country took a theological turn right before Christmas, according to the National Catholic Reporter.

The prosecutor, Kendrea White asked one of the defendants, 80 year old Oblate Father Carl Kabat, “Don’t you teach your parishioners to obey the rules?”

“God’s rules,” Kabat responded.

“Aren’t those rules the same as the law?”

“Well, I went to school in Mississippi [pre-civil rights] …”

The prosecutor, a black woman, interrupted: “OK, let me rephrase the question. Should you obey rules?”

Kabat went on to answer her question by saying that: “It was absolutely right for Rosa Parks not to get up and move to the back of the bus.”

Although he said he understood the Rosa Parks argument, Judge Ardie Bland, also African American, convicted the activists of trespassing. When it came to sentencing, however, he said he wanted to “do something a little different.” Bland sentenced the defendants to write a one-page single-spaced essay on each of six questions. Three of those questions focused on nuclear weapons. But for Threshold the three more interesting questions were questions of “God’s law” versus “human law”:

  • Fr. [Carl] Kabat says that you should disobey ungodly laws. How do you respond to someone who believes there is no God? Who is to say what God believes, for example, when Christians used God to justify slavery and the Crusades?
  • How do you respond to those who have a God different from you when they argue that their religion is to crush others into dust?
  • Who determines what “God’s law” is, given the history of the USA and the world?

How would you answer one or more of these great questions? We’d like to hear from you as we seek to restore justice to the center of the church’s mission. Share your answers in the comments section or on Facebook (or even Twitter if you can do it in 140 characters).

HeadshotWendyBy Wendy Bolm

The war is over. It must be. We no longer hear shrill voices calling out their battle cries of “Remember the reason for the season,” and “Keep Christ in Christmas.”

Through the end of November and all of December, we have been reminded incessantly through Facebook memes, media soundbites, and blog posts about how dire the situation is. Freedom of religion is in jeopardy, and Christians in America are being oppressed by Atheists and their attack-lawyers. Sarah Palin just had an entire book published about this very topic. But now, even though the twelve days of Christmas have not passed us by, the din has quieted.

The War on Christmas sidelined Thanksgiving this year, and Chanukah. No one bemoaned the War on Advent. Instead, all of the focus was on one day. Christmas Day, an institution so fragile that it has to be protected at all costs.

Heinrich Boll once wrote a short story about a Christmas that never ends. In “Christmas Not Just Once a Year,” a beloved aunt falls into hysterics when the Christmas tree is taken down because of trauma she suffered during WWII. Her family goes to great lengths to celebrate keep the Christmas festivities going, but the world was not designed for us to elaborately celebrate a holiday on every day of the year. The family cannot sustain setting up a series of Christmas trees with fragile ornaments. They cannot all show up for the large family feast or schedule a nightly visit from their local priest. By the end of the charade, only the aunt remains in her fantasy world, surrounded by an elaborate ruse of paid actors, wax dummies, and the trappings of a holiday long gone by. She is “playing Christmas,” out of touch with what is real and enamored by the shallow representation of what should be a mystical holiday season.

By declaring that they are fighting a war for Christmas and focusing on the one day that the majority of Americans come together to exchange gifts and feast, these Christmas soldiers are trapped in their own fantasy world, where holidays are easy and filled with joy and laughter and the celebration of a savior. It is easy to get others to rally around a party. It is hard to gather support for a fast day, let alone participation. Yet fasting, mindfully doing without, is important for spiritual growth.

The Christian calendar is mindful of this balance. Leading up to Christmas is a month’s worth of more mindful preparations like reflection, fasting, and repentance for Advent. This is followed by the joy and plenty found in the twelve days of Christmas and the Epiphany. This calendar has a natural flow to it. Discipline followed by the enjoyment of bounty. The ebb and flow relationship of Advent and Christmas is the same as that found in Lent and Easter, yet many Americans set up their tree and exchange gifts for Christmas then forget about the holidays until it’s time to pull out baskets filled with plastic grass and plastic, colorful eggs.

We are pressured to buy our artificial trees and artificial eggs to celebrate artificial holidays. The warriors for Christmas will allow us that. They are fighting their own war, and on the offensive. Above all, they want to make sure that the language used around Christmastime focuses on the day and not the season. Woe be unto you if you dare say “Happy Holidays” to a Christmas warrior when she is gearing up for a fight. This battle, perhaps, is the most telling.

For what is Christmas Day, if not a holy day?

Wendy Bolm is At the Threshold’s Community Manager. She has worked in the media and technology fields for a number of years and has worked for and been published in newspapers and magazines like the St. Petersburg TimesThe Tampa Tribune, and Creative Loafing

OliverJuan2By Juan Oliver

As we enter the season of Christmas, I want to reflect on the readings likely to be heard in our churches. The stories center on God’s work of bringing about the “Kingdom of God,” or, as the Syriac tradition calls it, a “New World” characterized by justice and peace. The interesting thing is how weird God is.

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