Thinking Anglicans

Seasonal Greetings

Over the past week, I spent a few days in the United States of America. In America, they know how to do Christmas in style. Yes, I know, it’s not Christmastide and all that, but of course all the Christmas decorations are up, and every PA loudspeaker you encounter is belting out either Christmas carols (more likely than not as interpreted by Bing Crosby), or else 1950s Christmas-and-snowflakes-themed songs. And I don’t care whether that’s cool or not, but I like it, even a lot.

While in California I went to a local crafts market, and enjoyed the products on offer, and bought a few of them. But there was something that caught my eye in particular: a small business selling what I might call unusual greeting cards. The first one I saw had the following happy exclamation on the cover: “Here’s your f***ing Christmas card!” And the second continued with the theme: “Happy F***ing Holidays.”

Maybe I should have been scandalised, but in fact I burst out laughing and bought a few of both, already forming a plan as to who would be worthy recipients. At least one of them was a member of the clergy, by the way.

Of course I am not suggesting that we should move over to a rather coarser, or for that matter more cynical, view of the season of the Incarnation. But equally, the Incarnation is not some kind of celestial bubble wrap that protects us from the shocks and prods of “real life”. When God became man, God did not come into a world of sweet fairy tales, but into humanity as we know it with all its edginess.

Of course, we are now in Advent, a season in which to prepare and reflect. So whether your kind of Advent is the experience of quiet and penitential reflection, or the in-your-face call to repentance of John the Baptist, or joyful anticipation, it may be good to remember that the season that follows may have its harder edge for some people, and that our preparations should also anticipate that. I haven’t sent the cards after all, but as I write I am looking at one of them, and I find that it’s a useful aid to my spiritual life at this time of year. Just for once, at least.

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toby forwardChristopher ShellFord Elmsmynsterpreost (=David Rowett)toby forward Recent comment authors
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Paul
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Paul

Love the cards! I have to admit, I’ve been thinking of doing a fun little anti-Christmas themed meal for my family this year. I spotted a place that sells Reindeer: so, a main-course of braised “Rudolph” anyone? Complete with roasted tomato “red and shinny nose.” A coconut sorbet of “Frosty the snowman” moulded in the shape of a snow-man, with a chocolate “steak” through his heart, rasperry sauce “blood” and a big yellow saffroned honey “dog-marking” stain on one of his legs. How about a suttee Mrs Claus made from A molded Christmas Plum Pudding – what a sight she’d… Read more »

Ren Aguila
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Ren Aguila

It’s f****g beautiful. We really need to be reminded that Christianity and the feast of Christmas is not some sweet, sentimental, sappy, pie-in-the-sky thing. That’s the sort of thing that Karl Marx rightfully dubbed an “opiate.”

orfanum
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orfanum

Perhaps this has caught me in a bad moment but I find this worthless in style, substance and implication. I use expletives, my own humour can be pretty biting, and the world is well known as the Vale of Tears (“Why this is Hell, nor are we out of it”), but discerning the context of the Godhead’s purpose for humanity and its liberation in a few lame pseudo-agit-prop-sub-Radio 4-comedic lines capturing some sort of quintessential human ‘edginess’ is mind-numbing in the extreme. I think this academic (if it is who I think it is) has an overly long autumn term… Read more »

Christopher Shell
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Christopher Shell

‘God [came] into humanity as we know it with all its edginess’. Aha, that would be why Jesus’s own language was so peppered with such salt. (Not that we are supposed to aim to emulate him in any way as Christians.) I adore this use of the term ‘edgy’. One finds it a lot when the media try to cover their backs. One thing puzzles me, though. How come this supposedly edgy and innovative stuff is indistinguishable from the tired, oft-repeated staple of the more mindless of the male adolescents one will find in any self-respecting playground? Mind you, they… Read more »

Ford Elms
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Ford Elms

“How come this supposedly edgy and innovative stuff is indistinguishable from the tired, oft-repeated staple of the more mindless of the male adolescents one will find in any self-respecting playground?” Probably because the message of Christianity is so rebellious that it strikes a chord with mindless adolescent rebelliousness. Of course, the counter culture nature of Christianity is not about one worldly culture being better than another, or one interpretation being better than another, it’s about the fact that the Kingdom and its values do not mesh all that well with worldly sociopolitical constructs, and that’s where the rebelliousness of Christianity… Read more »

Pluralist
Guest

My best Christmas nativity scene cards sent in the past were “It’s a girl” and one with a minaret in the background, giving it that Middle East flavour.

BillyD
Guest

Sorry, but this is neither edgy, original, nor very funny (although, as a splendid case of arrested development, I do see the snicker value of dropping an F bomb on a Christmas card). Any real edginess in four letter words has already been exploited by the likes of Burroughs, Bruce, and Carlin.

Rev. Lois Keen
Guest

“Probably because the message of Christianity is so rebellious that it strikes a chord with mindless adolescent rebelliousness” (Ford Elms) This is why I play the third blog anthem on Mad Priest’s website so often. I’m so busy cleaning up the rough edges of the Christian message to be palatable, I have to remind myself from time to time what the real gospel message is, and that the kind of language in that song sung by The Gena Rowlands Band has far more integrity, far more genuine than my polite mush, as much as the people I serve love that… Read more »

toby forward
Guest

I’d like to write a more considered response to this later, but, for the time being, please can Christopher Shell tell me how you can pepper something with salt?

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“My best Christmas nativity scene cards sent in the past were “It’s a girl” and one with a minaret in the background, giving it that Middle East flavour.”

I saw one a few years ago that was actually far more ‘orthodox’ than it’s creators probably understood. It was a view from the foot of an elaborate Crucifixion scene, complete with weeping women at the foot of the Cross, and in Gothic Font at the top “Merry Christmas”.

Ferdinand von Prondzynski
Guest

Hm, I see that I have at any rate prompted a response – though for me an unexpected one. That may of course be my ‘arrested development’. But I do wonder why the strong response by some here; I don’t mean responses from people disagreeing with me, or even disagreeing with the appropriateness of the material – I am more curious about the desire of some to frame their responses in a particularly insulting way. That doesn’t hurt me or cause me distress, but I do find it curious. Can I also just say, gently, to Lois that this wasn’t… Read more »

Christopher Shell
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Christopher Shell

Hi Ford- Your profound analysis of what is after all nothing but a perfectly conventional and unimaginative use of a very common swear-word is montypythonesque. But the serious point is that yes Jesus was certainly a rebel; but there are many different kinds of rebels – he was not *that* particular kind of (actually rather conformist) rebel, but *another* kind. When he said that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (e.g. foul language) in Mk 7, then he was saying something that presumably he believed, and also something which fits in with the basic truth of… Read more »

Kate Conant
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Kate Conant

I’d like some of those cards to send to the bishop who locked us out of our church last week.

On the other hand, I’d really rather send one that says “go f*** yourself instead of us” because the bishop’s God is money and power NOT the baby born in Bethlehem.

Saint Andrew’s-on-the-Mount in exile
Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, USA

Rev. Lois Keen
Guest

Sorry, Ferdinand, if I’d read the byline once in awhile I would have noticed! I still appreciate what you wrote.

And it was Tori Amos (not Toni Amos) whose song I sang years ago. (Preview could be my friend if I would use it.)

Molly Wolf
Guest
Molly Wolf

But what else does one expect from a 13-year-old girl? (Sorry, readers: in-joke.)

A blessed Christmas to you, Ferdinand.

Molly

Ferdinand von Prondzynski
Guest

Ah, how nice to ‘see’ some old friends – good to hear from you, Kate and Molly. And yes of course, the comment about my ‘arrested development’ is totally true!

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

I have to say that I do think, on this one occasion: of a rather offensive escursion into the realm of ‘satire’, our dear web-master may have got it wrong – vis-a-vis the subject matter being published on a site given the title *Thinking Anglicans*. What was Ferdinand thinking about when he submitted this eather strange reflection just before the Feast of the Nativity of O.L.J.C.? Real satire (which David Virtue often claims for his own mis-conceived writings on his own site – and that should worry us a little) I can usually smile at. This effort fails to amuse.… Read more »

orfanum
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orfanum

Ferdinand, Perhaps you were thinking of my post, perhaps not but I’d say in response – you appear to have deliberately pre-empted any sense that such language is inappropriate or plain adolescent on the part of those who may find it scandalous, yet now you feel some of the reaction is ‘insulting’. Go figure. Still, I am sorry that you feel that but I also do hope you will have emphatically understood that what has underligned the response is not a mindless, concerted defence of the twee and saccharine, nor the desire to push on folks a two-dimensional Jesus, hobbled… Read more »

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

I don’t understand all the negative comments. The f*** card says nothing about a Christian Christmas, but everything about the spirit with which many in our secular age approach the mass festival of X-mas.

And when I realise that despite all the planning I have left someone off my Christmas card list who would definitely be most perturbed that ceremonies hadn’t been adhered to, I would certainly giggle at a card like that on my rushed emergency shopping trip.

Ferdinand von Prondzynski
Guest

It is interesting that some readers thought I was going for satire here – I wasn’t. I was simply pointing out something I saw, and finding something less offensive in it than I myself might have anticipated in the abstract. We are in the culture we’re in. I spend a lot of my time arguing that Christianity cannot successfully occupy a position of cultural superiority in the face of popular trends: if we wanted to take that line, then we might as well agree with David Virtue and Abp Akinola regarding their particular obsessions. We need to engage with a… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“he was not *that* particular kind of (actually rather conformist) rebel, but *another* kind.” I agree, but do you expect an adolescent to make that distinction? And I wasn’t making an “analysis” of anyone’s use of a swear word. I was pointing out that rebellion against worldly authority is an aspect of Christianity, that this should be far more attractive to young people than Christianity is, largely because the loudest voices in Christianity preach a message of conformity to the status quo, and, what’s worse, some try to claim that such behaviour is “countercultural”. As to “foul language”, I’m not… Read more »

BillyD
Guest

Two points, which I suppose were not made very clear in my comment. (A) The “arrested development” crack was aimed at myself, not at you, Ferdinand. I am the most stunning case of arrested development that I know; luckily, I have been able to turn it into a paying job by working with middle school students*. And, being so immature, I snickered at the cards. (B) My comments were meant to be directed at the Christmas cards themselves. It’s *them* that I didn’t think were ” edgy, original, nor very funny.” I am sorry that I wrote with such imprecision… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“We need to engage with a society that on the whole believes we have very little of use to say and who believe that our main pre-occupation is to wrap ourselves in a world of Victorian values.” They have good reason to believe that, though. I mean, Conservatives seem, by and large, to exist in a world of fear and threat. The message of the Gospel gets lost on times in a sea of “The world is going to Hell on a handbar! Everybody panic, the evil Liberals are trying to destroy all that is good and holy.” You can’t… Read more »

toby forward
Guest

It’s been rather depressing to see the knee-jerk negative responses to this piece. Why is it that sites like this one and Fulcrum, which aim to attract a more open, intelligent community of people, also attract so many narrow and unthinking ones? The more fundamentalist sites tend to censor contributions from liberals, to keep themselves pure, but the more liberal sites allow contributions from hard-liners, who want to put down anything which they find less than orthodox in their own terms. I don’t want to censor out the unthinking posts which fail to understand and appreciate Ferdinand’s piece, but I… Read more »

Kennedy
Guest
Kennedy

The opposite is usually the case, actually, and the “proper” use of profanity, in those areas of the culture where it is acceptable, even advisable, is a matter of some skill, and those who do a good job are respected for the ability….

Abso-bloody-lutely!

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

“Father Ron’s comment above is an illustration. He doesn’t like it, but appears to me to be struggling to find a reason that he can articulate.” – Ferdinand – Dear Ferdinand, Having just got back from my early morning Mass with the Sisters of the Sacred Name here in Christchurch, New Zealand, I have read your response to my response to your article. I suppose, in reaction to your thought that my reaction to the article was a bit over the top, and maybe unrealistic – given the culture of the world around us – I might just offer the… Read more »

Cheryl Va.
Guest

All sorts of souls respect and affirm Jesus. Some of them are souls who are quite adept a coarse language. Some might be offended that such souls can be called brothers and sisters in Christ, but that is irrelevant. Grace comes from God, not men, so men have no right to reject others’ grace. Isaiah 44:3-5 “For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. They will spring up like grass in a meadow, like poplar trees by flowing… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“….but I wish that fewer of them bothered to voice their narrow reflections here.”

But, but, but, that’s what makes this FUN!

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

Hi Ford- So far as I can make out, Jesus said just as much about ‘filthy talk’ as about calling one’s neighbour a fool – both of which are jolly unpleasant and ugly. One is in Mark 7 (and parallels), one in Matthew 5 (and parallel?). Total: one saying each. More sayings needed? Probably no need for Him to make the same point twice. When you say that words are not horrible whereas ideas are, I’m not sure I get the point. There is a huge overlap between a word and the idea it conveys. Surely it is inaccurate to… Read more »

Ferdinand von Prondzynski
Guest

“The word is actually intimate, naughty and delicious. Publicise it and you debase it. Which is precisely the story of the sexual revolution. Gold turned to brass.”

Maybe this is diverting the conversation a little, but I find that comment appalling. Do you really think that the old sexual oppression of women was ‘gold’?

toby forward
Guest

Christopher Shell makes the thing too simple by half. May I point readers to the following article?

http://www.booksforkeeps.co.uk/issues/58/28589

mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)
Guest

CS: “Which is precisely the story of the sexual revolution. Gold turned to brass. “

Hm. Read Chad Varah’s autobiography “Before I die again” (which also contains a good description of our garden!). There we see a less gilded memory of the Good Old Days. Remember the Samaritans arose out of the suicide of a teenage girl who, born in those Enid Blyton times, did not know that menstruation was not a symptom of some terrible disease. And every parish priest has a log-book of pastoral horror stories dating from those roseate pre-lapsarian times.

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

Hi Toby- I am a great fan of Iona Opie’s work on playground oral tradition, and around the time you wrote your article, or slightly earlier, I was entertaining her to dinner and talking of such matters. But your article does not touch on my main point: namely, why certain words in the sexual vocabulary convey a thoroughly negative sense of becoming mixed-up / violated / damaged. (e.g., the unpleasant phrases ‘totally f*****’, ‘totally scr****’, ‘totally b*******’). From my worldview I have a simple and economical explanation for this: namely, that this is exactly what the sexual revolution can do… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“Among Brits, this does not apply to the Archbishop, or to John Sentamu, or to Tom Wright, or to Steve Chalke, or to Stephen Green. They all seem opposed to the government on many issues.” You consider these to be the loudest voices in Christianity? I doubt the majority of Christians, or of the public in general, at least on this side of the pond, would have any idea of who any of these people are. The loudest voice of Christianity on this side of the pond is Republican, at times stating one can’t be a Christian if one isn’t… Read more »

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

Hi Ford- Hence my phrase ‘among Brits’. Of course, I could have given an international rollcall, had I been knowledgable enough or had enough time to spare. I think America can be very insular in these matters, and find Americans to be less than averagely internationally-minded. But the same applies to many or most countries, which is the root cause of unthinking/unimaginative cultural conformity which is at the root of many of our problems. Anyone able to provide a more convincing explanation of why these sexual swearwords are used in contexts that associate them with being mixed up and damaged?

toby forward
Guest

Hi Christopher, I tried to answer your point, but for some reason it was not put up on the board.