Jim Taylor's Columns - 'Soft Edges' and 'Sharp Edges'

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Published on Saturday, December 24, 2022

The way God does things

Christmas Eve, 2022

 

Christmas and Easter sometimes remind me of the Bobbsey twins. They’re inextricably bound together, Can’t get along without each other. And yet they’re constantly competing with each other. For attention. For achievement. For popularity. 

            In commercial terms, Christmas is the hands-down winner. Without Christmas, many retail chains wouldn’t survive. According to the internet, Americans expect to spend just under $1000 per family on Christmas gifts this year. Canadians, I gather, will spend a little more -- $1276 per family – but that doesn’t prove we’re more generous; it might just reflect the lower value of the Canadian dollar. 

            It’s hard to spend that much money on chocolate Easter bunnies.

            Many cities have Christmas parades, More accurately, Santa Claus Parades. Easter parades are less common. New York still holds an Easter Parade, down Fifth Avenue. I don’t hear much about others?

            The competition gets more serious in religious terms. Christmas and Easter both draw larger than usual crowds to worship services – although far fewer than they did 50 years ago. 

            Theologians tend to build their structure of faith on either Christmas or Easter, on the Incarnation or the Resurrection. 

            “My faith is firmly founded on the Resurrection,” a ministry friend told me a few months ago, while we were directing traffic for an immunization clinic. 

 

Exclusive doctrines

            Briefly put, the Incarnation argues that God – whoever or whatever God is – became a human being in Jesus, the baby born in Bethlehem. The Resurrection claims that that same baby, some 30 years later, triumphed over death and will never die again. 

            We tend to treat both the Incarnation and the Resurrection as exclusive. Both focus on the uniqueness of the event. This only happened once, we declare. And to only one person. Ever. Even if it’s implied that everyone will be resurrected at the end of time. 

            Other humans have been brought back from death – an unnamed daughter, a woman named Tabitha, a widow’s son, Jesus’ own friend Lazarus… But they haven’t escaped death; someday, they will die again. 

            And no other humans are considered to be God in person. God personified. God embodied. Just the “only begotten son,” the heir, the second person of the Holy (or Wholly) Trinity. 

            The rule –we commonly assume – is that God is “out there” somewhere. Or perhaps “up there”. But certainly different from us. Not mortal flesh-and-blood. 

            Christmas and Easter therefore have to be exceptions to the rule. 

 

The core of my belief

            I can’t help wondering why we – that is, Christians in general – choose to worship the exception as if it were the norm, the rule., the only way things can be.

            For me, increasingly, the Incarnation is the foundation of my faith. Because I don’t think it is an exception at all. It is, rather, a revelation of how God works. All the time.

            God works by being embodied. In us, as humans. But not just in us – in all living beings. All of them. Plants and fungi, birds and fish, mammals and microbes. I don’t know where rocks fit, but I am quite sure that God is embodied in the planet. 

            God is not “out there” somewhere beyond time and space. God is “in here,” inside time and space. 

            One memorable line from Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Eat, Pray, Love sticks in my mind: “God lives in me. As me.” Not as someone else, an alien force occupying a human body. But “as me,” as this human body. 

            I don’t empathize with an other-worldly God who can only influence events here on this planet by occasionally meddling. By stirring up earthquakes and volcanoes, floods and droughts, to amend the course of evolution. By visiting occasional plagues and pestilences upon us as punishment. 

            As a contemporary hymn says, “God has no body now but ours.” No hands, no feet., but ours. And no shovels or vaccines, no bulldozers or scalpels, but ours. 

            It’s a huge responsibility. We betray the God in us and among us if we expect a God out there somewhere to step in and fix things.

            God – and I won’t try to define that “God” -- invests God’s whole self, totally, IN us, AS us. 

            That’s how Christmas has become the core of my faith. In the birth of a baby, long ago, in a cattleshed in Bethlehem, God said, “Look! This is how I do things. Can’t you see it?”

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Copyright © 2022 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups encouraged; links from other blogs welcomed; all other rights reserved.

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Your turn

 

Lest there be any mistake, I don’t like Elon Musk. But the analysis of his management practices was not mine, so there’s no point in telling me I was wrong about him.

 

With reference to Frederick Taylor’s male-centred language that I quoted, Mirza Yawar Baig wrote, “I recall a time in the 70’s, even early 80’s when it was routine to say, ‘I have twenty hands (men) working for me.’ I always wondered how, if he had 20 men, he actually had 40 hands working for him. But even that literal human fact as not worthy of acknowledgement. So, yes, we don’t want initiative. That is how it was. When I first started my leadership training practice, these ‘old-style’ bosses and business owners said to me, ‘No way! I don’t want leaders. Leaders are trouble. I just want workers to follow orders. Nothing more. But if they are leaders, they will think and innovate and solve problems!! I don’t want them to think and innovate. For problems; they can come to me. What is the good of me being there if they solve their own problems?”

            “I am glad that I am 67 and am not likely to see the return of those Bad Old Days. As for Elon Musk, there is a strong feeling here that we are perhaps looking at a future President. In that case, please allow me to pitch a tent in your backyard and spend the rest of my life mowing your lawn.”

 

Norma Wible really liked the lines about Jesus allowing himself to be distracted: “This part really spoke to me.  I tend to get phone calls from lonely or needy people, as an elder at my church. I try not to cut them off to go and do other, ‘more important’ things on the to-do list; this bothers my husband. Now, in these couple of sentences, you’ve given me good words to relay. (My words seem to always come hours later!)”

 

In a letter to the editor of the paper that publishes Sharp Edges, Mark Roberts wrote, “Once again Mr. Taylor is showing his biased leftist wokeism. He's claiming Elon Musk is the Christmas Grinch, and he has brought sorrow and disappointment instead of love, peace and joy to his employees.

            “No, Mr. Taylor. Musk has brought me and other like-minded free-thinking common-sense people a great gift. That of exposing Twitter and U.S security agencies (the FBI and DOJ) of their rampant collusion to suppress free speech. He has now published undeniable proof that these agencies willfully pressured Twitter from outside and within to censor conservative views and reinforce left-wing Democrat opinion.

            “There's a thing in the US called the first amendment. It guarantees free speech. Twitter violated the U.S constitution by willfully following orders from corrupt left-leaning security officials.

            “Oh, and by Musk firing some employees regardless of ‘diversity and inclusion’; does this mean he chose education, competence, and ability over colour and sex?”

 

Steve Roney had similar objections: “In your latest column, you blame Elon Musk for the management theories of Frederick Taylor. You need to demonstrate that Musk agrees with Taylor. Otherwise, it makes no more sense than to blame you for Taylor’s views, because you have the same name.

            “You quote Taylor: ‘We do not ask for the initiative of our men. We do not want any initiative.’ This is laughably opposite to Musk’s management style. Musk has had unprecedented success with highly innovative companies in a variety of high-tech fields. His companies have accomplished things others thought technically impossible.

            “Musk cannot possibly have the expertise in these diverse fields to do it himself. You cannot do it by making employees cogs in a machine. That only works with an established business and an established business model. The only way Musk could do this is by encouraging and incentivizing his engineers to create and innovate. Musk demonstrably does this better than anyone.”

 

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TECHNICAL STUFF

 

If you want to comment on something, write me at jimt@quixotic.ca. Or just hit the ‘Reply’ button.

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            You can now access current columns and seven years of archives at http://quixotic.ca

 I write a second column each Wednesday, called Soft Edges, which deals somewhat more gently with issues of life and faith. To sign up for Soft Edges, write to me directly at the address above, or send a blank e-mail to softedges-subscribe@lists.quixotic.ca

            And for those of you who like poetry, please check my webpage .https://quixotic.ca/My-Poetry If you’d like to receive notifications about new poems, write me at jimt@quixotic.ca, or subscribe yourself to the list by sending a blank email (no message) to poetry-subscribe@lists.quixotic.ca (If the link won’t work, please let me know.)

 

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PROMOTION STUFF…

 

To use the links in this section, you’ll have to insert the necessary symbols. (This is to circumvent filters that think some of these links are spam.)

            Wayne Irwin's “Churchweb Canada,” is an inexpensive service for any congregation wanting to develop a web presence, with free consultation. http://wwwDOTchurchwebcanadaDOTca. He set up my webpage, and he doesn’t charge enough.

            I recommend Isabel Gibson’s thoughtful and well-written blog, wwwDOTtraditionaliconoclastDOTcom. She also runs beautiful pictures. Her Thanksgiving presentation on the old hymn, For the Beauty of the Earth, Is, well, beautiful -- https://www.traditionaliconoclast.com/2019/10/13/for/

            Tom Watson writes a weekly blog called “The View from Grandpa Tom’s Balcony” -- ruminations on various subjects, and feedback from Tom’s readers. Write him at tomwatsoATgmailDOTcom (NB that’s “watso” not “watson”)

 

ALVA WOOD ARCHIVE

            The late Alva Wood’s collection of satiric and sometimes wildly funny columns about a mythical village’s misadventures now have an archive (don’t ask how this happened) on my website: http://quixotic.ca/Alva-Wood-Archive. Feel free to browse all 550 columns

 


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