Does Jesus care if anyone says “Merry Christmas?”

December 23, 2011

I get e-mail from Sara Maxwell, alerting me to the blog post by Dave Hershey.


Let Dave tell it; first he used a Fox video, to show what he’s talking about:

(via Stuff Christian Culture Likes)

What would Jesus say if he came to your house and had coffee with you?

That is the question asked at around 1:10 into this video.  It is a decent question.  What would Jesus say?

*“I miss hearing you say Merry Christmas”

*”And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”

*”I  tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”

*“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

*“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

*“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 

*“You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 

*Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:“‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’ 

What would Jesus say to us?

Hint: all but the first choice are things Jesus actually did say to people (Matthew 5:41-42, 44; 6:19-21; 16:24; Luke 4:18-19; 18:21; Matthew 15:17-19).

When I read the gospels, I find Jesus’ words incredibly challenging.  What he calls people to do is uncomfortable, to say the least.  I am sure in the face of our insistence that people say “Merry Christmas” and our offense when people do not that he would challenge us Christians to sell our stuff or love our enemies or something we frankly would rather not do.

The ladies in the video say they are offended that people do not say Merry Christmas.  Offended?  By that?

Maybe we Christians should get offended by things that actually matter, things that are horrendous evils happening right now in the world, things like global poverty, human trafficking and modern-day slavery and so many others.

Maybe if instead of wasting money on billboards urging people to say “Merry Christmas” we used that money to help those who are really suffering, people would actually care to hear more about Jesus.

The prophet Amos also probably doesn’t care if you say “Merry Christmas”.  I’ll end with his powerful words (Amos 5):

21 “I hate, I despise your religious festivals; 
   your assemblies are a stench to me. 
22 Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, 
   I will not accept them. 
Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, 
   I will have no regard for them. 
23 Away with the noise of your songs! 
   I will not listen to the music of your harps. 
24 But let justice roll on like a river, 
   righteousness like a never-failing stream!

Have a good Christmas/Hanukkah/Solstice/KWANZAA/Festivus, anyway.

Art from science: Protein folds

December 23, 2011

What is this?

Protein folding gif from Protein Art

From Protein Art

Nature and science produce some of the most beatiful stuff, especially in high-speed phtotography, or photo-micrographs, or shots from scanners of various kinds including especially Scanning Electron Microscopes (SEM).

I spent three years locked in a lab looking at photographs of Nuclepore filters that had captured dust, pollen, and air pollution in the desert southwest.  Magnified about 50,000 times, fly ash from coal-fired power plants become brilliant balls of glassy light; pollen from god-knows-what become intricate, Alhambra-worthy patterned stones, and dust becomes jagged expressionistic sculptures of someone greatly disturbed (but still artistically gifted).

Now we know that proteins fold up in specific ways.  Micrographic photos show wiggles of ribbon to you and me.

It’s inspiration to May K.

You and I see tangled ribbons:

May K's take on 2-nd PDZ Domain of Mint1  (Homo sapiens)

To May K the human protein 2-nd PDZ Domain of Mint1 becomes . . .

May K. sees:

May K's take on a human protein - a tango of cats (from 2-nd PDZ Domain of Mint1)

. . . a tango of cats.

Go see more for yourself.  Or here.

Sort of a Rorschach for well-balanced life scientists.  There are possibilities there.

Best editorial quote ever: “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus”

December 23, 2011

“Papa says, ‘If you see it in the Sun, it’s so.'”

Do we, you and I in 2011, stand as witnesses to the end of newspapers in America?

It’s been a grand history. Newspapering gave us great leaders like Benjamin Franklin. Newspapering gave us wars, like the Spanish-American War. Newspapering gave us Charlie Brown, Ann Landers, the Yellow Kid, Jim Murray, Red Smith, Thomas Nast (and Santa Claus), the Federalist Papers, and coupons to save money on laundry soap.

It’s been a curious history, too. An 1897 editorial vouching for Santa Claus rates as the most popular editorial of all time, according to the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

Francis Pharcellus Church, New York Sun writer who wrote

The man who saved Christmas, at least for Virginia O’Hanlon: Francis Pharcellus Church – Newseum image

In autumn, 1897, 8-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon of 115 West 59th Street in New York, wrote to the New York Sun with this simple question:

“Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?”

In the age of Yellow Journalism, the fiercely competitive Sun‘s editors turned the letter to Francis Pharcellus. He responded to little Virginia on September 21, 1897:

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”

Church’s brother, William Conant Church, owned and published the newspaper. Both had followed their father into the news business. They co-founded The Army-Navy Journal in 1863, and went on to a series of journalistic collaborations. Francis was 58 years old when he answered Virginia’s letter. (He died at age 67, in 1906.)

The New York Sun held down the conservative corner in New York journalism at the time, versus the New York Times and the New York Herald-Tribune. But it also had an interesting history, to a blogger intrigued by hoaxes. In 1835 the paper published a series of six newspaper stories falsely attributed to Sir John Herschel, a well-known astronomer, claiming to describe a civilization on the Moon — the Great Moon Hoax. The discovery was credited to a new, very powerful telescope.

In 1844 the paper published a hoax written by Edgar Allen Poe, the Balloon Hoax. Under a pseudonym, Poe wrote that a gas balloon had crossed the Atlantic in three days.

The Sun also featured outstanding reporting. A 1947 and 1948 series about crime on the docks of New York City won a Pulitzer Prize for writer Malcolm Johnson. That series inspired Elia Kazan’s 1954 movie On the Waterfront starring Marlon Brando, Rod Steiger, Eva Marie Saint, Karl Malden and Lee J. Cobb.

The New York Sun ceased publication in 1950.

For all of its history, the Sun and the Churches are most remembered for that defense of belief in Santa Claus.
Virginia O’Hanlon grew up, graduated from Hunter College, got a masters at Columbia, and earned a Ph.D. from Fordham. She taught in the New York City Public School system, from which she retired in 1959. She died in 1971.

Birth of tradition

Columbia University was Church’s alma mater, as well as O’Hanlon’s. Her letter and his response get a reading each year at the Yule Log Ceremony at Columbia College, along with the poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” Animated, live-acting, and other television productions have been mounted in 1974, 1991, and 2009.

Is there a Santa Claus? Did Church write a credible defense? The text of the letter and answer, below the fold.


Read the rest of this entry »

Fossil walrus porn

December 23, 2011

Walrus baculum fossil, from Retrieverman

What is it? If you were a lady walrus a few million years ago, you wouldn't have to ask!

I can’t do it justice.  Go read about the photo at Retrieverman’s site.

My students hear it often:  Truth is stranger and often much more interesting than fiction.  It certainly applies in history, and it applies in science, too.

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