Give Me the Season of Ordinary Time or Happy Good Friday

It’s that time of year again, when everyone is all a-twitter with either tearing down the basic tenets of Christianity mightily or propping them up heroically. It is a bit reminiscent of Christmas time, when everyone is busy with their pseudo-religious and politically-correct squabbling over “Merry Christmas!” or “Happy Holidays!,” a la Miller-lite. Excuse the seeming impiety, but I have gotten to that point where I look more forward to getting around these high holy days and back to a more ordinary pilgrimage.

I recall two years ago about this time when The Da Vinci Code had just been released. It was spring break. The family had descended on my parents in south Florida. One of my three Evangelical sisters-in-law was raving about her church’s efforts at “exposing the lies of Dan Brown,” or something like that. The world was out to topple the Church and Tom Hanks was to blame. It was all hands-on-deck and rush to the nearest mega-church before your first born would be eaten alive by Hollywood. I finished my Corona and quietly slipped through the slider for another with the Lapsed Episcopalian.

I have found it interesting that the same Evangelicals and Romanists who lapped up Passion of the Christ were also the same ones who would come to rail against The Da Vinci Code (or more recently The Golden Compass). There seems to me a common thread that runs through both phenomena: cultural expression really matters when it comes to true faith. The Liberals had a phrase for it once: “The world sets the Church’s agenda.” It makes perfect sense that those who take the cues of the world get as giddy about one cultural expression as they get agitated by another. It seems there are various ways to be led around by the nose. Where the Liberals were led by a more, as Machen put it, “sophisticated, book-club” culture, their Evangelical heirs seem always led around by the goings-on of popular culture.

But if the stuff of wider culture is not appropriate or even able to nurture true faith, I seriously wonder about how the same can really militate against it. I avoided DVC, but once again, for different reasons—bad reviews. Like the cultural religion that fuels the Christmastime feuds which really are about who gets to dominate culture under the guise of religion, most Christian responses to ostensibly anti-Christian claims are more forms of a Constantinian fear than genuine Christian apologetics. I realize we are all supposed to think it is the other way around, even as none other than the White Horse Inn allowed Paul Maier to snark and snap his way through an entire May 14, 2006 broadcast dedicated to addressing the DVC. If nothing else helps show how deeply seated the fear is, that uncomfortable broadcast might be a good start.

I have absolutely nothing against celebrating the church calendar. And I know that these things come in short, sharp and shocked cycles, fizzling out as quickly as they burst on the scene. It does take a measure of patience to see them out the back door once again. Even so, as the holy days between Christmas and Easter come to a close in post-Christian and early twenty-first century America, I must admit that I will be relieved to see the top of the church bulletin once again read “The Season of Ordinary Time.”

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15 Responses to Give Me the Season of Ordinary Time or Happy Good Friday

  1. Whiskeyjack says:

    I, don’t know, but it seems to me that the evangelicals radical response in either direction towards things cultural is really an indication of their insecurity. A lack of opposition makes it easy to believe and the tremendous anxiety which is produced by anything that might be in opposition is debilitating. The protests, the reactive books, radio programs, these are simply the Xanax to ameliorate the anxiety of faith.

  2. Zrim says:

    Jack,

    Good point. I think these things are certainly fraught. But, you’re right, the case could just as easily be made that one effect of Constantinianism is the quest for creaturely comfort, and in the numbness all the radicalism can be a way of reminding yourself you really do believe in something. It’s not much unlike young girls cutting themselves. Interesting parallel.

    Also, I toyed with making a reference to elephants and mice. It didn’t feel like it went well though.

  3. Pingback: Holy Days and Ordinary Time « Heidelblog

  4. PRCalDude says:

    Since there’s no email address to send tips to, I’ll leave this here. Look who’s speaking at this church growth conference:
    http://www.exponentialconference.org/

    The mention of DNA is very weird. Mars Hill uses the same term:
    http://marshill.org/teaching/believe.php

  5. John Bugay says:

    Zrim, I feel your pain on this one. Last year, on Good Friday, to make a statement, I cooked steaks on the grill out back. We live in a valley, and the smoke from the grill rises up and floats far and wide.

  6. Zrim says:

    Dude,

    I always forget that Bell is in my backyard here in Grandville, until I either read a TIME magazine article calling him “the next Billy Graham,” or I am at the Grandville Mall getting a coke and a cookie. Man, these guys are so utterly cool and relevant.

    John,

    I gave up on making statements. I just go to church now.

  7. PRCalDude says:

    I just thought you might be interested in the speaker list at the conference.

  8. John Bugay says:

    Zrim, this whole blog is a statement.

  9. Zrim says:

    John,

    !!

    You got me. I was hoping you wouldn’t notice. How’s that for “revelation by hiding”?

  10. Zrim, you need to upgradee your beverage of choice. I mean, really, a Corona?

  11. Zrim says:

    David,

    Does it help that I come by it honestly? After all, I am the son of the Lapsed Episcopalian who is known to drink his Chardonnay from a juice glass, which is to say, I am not by nature a snotty Presbyterian. I descend from a mix of observant Episcopalianism and unobservant and working class Roman Catholicism, Slavanian immigrants, southeast Michigan quarters. We drink like ordinary and common men; the Lutherans aren’t the only ones who have a theology of the Cross.

  12. Joe Brancaleone says:

    We would probably do good to step back and consider the whole scope of Jesus’ life (his season of Ordinary Time) rather than focus on the Good Friday crucifixion. This is something I’ve been thinking about this week… how the active and passive obediences of Christ may be theologically distinct but they were organically connected in time and space. His death was but the final sour note of an entire season of humiliation which began with the incarnation. His obedience was to the point of death. But his suffering and humility began once the eternal Son of God stepped down from glory shared with the Father to being wrapped in flesh and blood, swaddling clothes, potty training and learning to chew with his mouth closed. What a descent, what a humiliation.

    He learned to live with, and he learned to live without. He suffered injustice and misunderstanding constantly, humiliating himself by having to cut through the thick headedness of his disciples one minute, having to hold his tongue before his accusers the next. All the authority of heaven itself was there, but he did not use it nor did he campaign on it.

    Without the context of that entire life of humility, that active obedience, the passive obedience of Christ would make no sense nor would it have been possible.

    Don’t forget the Ordinary seasons of Jesus’ life up to the cross.

  13. John Bugay says:

    Zrim, I get lucky every once in a while. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

  14. Raymond Coffey says:

    Now I know this post was not written because you believe that we return to Ordinary Time right after Easter. We now observe Eastertide and then Ascension Day, followed by Pentecost Sunday, and then Ordinary Time. Why now? Why not at Pentecost?

  15. Zrim says:

    Raymond,

    The point of the post was less about the calendar and more about…something else. Your point is well taken though.

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