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The Christmas Revolution: NY Times op-ed on Christmas & the revolutionary nature of the incarnation

The Christmas Revolution: NY Times op-ed on Christmas & the revolutionary nature of the incarnation

Image of Jesus and disciples from the Coptic Museum in Cairo, Egypt

Writing in the Sunday Review section of the New York Times, Peter Wehner explores the once revolutionary but now widely accepted concepts which spring from Jesus as the physical incarnation of God.

Wehner cites the incarnation as being the break from the Platonic view of physical existence as illusory or false, and thereby affirming the goodness of creation and existence, while showing that humanity is created in the image of God; if humanity is created in the image of God, and creation is good, Wehner reasons that charity and taking care of other humans is also good. Wehner identifies this as one of the fundamental shifts in ethical thinking introduced by Christianity: charity as a spiritual center was a shift from Greek and Roman focus on status.

From the article:

Indeed, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (blessed are the poor in spirit and the pure in heart, the meek and the merciful), his touching of lepers, and his association with outcasts and sinners were fundamentally at odds with the way the Greek and Roman worlds viewed life, where social status was everything.

“Christianity placed charity at the center of its spiritual life as no pagan cult ever had,” according to the theologian David Bentley Hart, “and raised the care of widows, orphans, the sick, the imprisoned, and the poor to the level of the highest of religious obligations.”

Wehner finishes his essay with a call to remember the worth of human life, regardless of perceived accomplishments; how can we best do this?

The full article is available online or in the Sunday NY Times.


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John Madison

The incarnation was Jesus’ embrace of another that said, “You are God’s child”, as is every embrace and affirmation today.

Leslie Marshall

I thought it was a bit ironic that under Wehner’s NYT piece ‘The Christmas Revolution’, was ‘Give, if You Know What’s Good for You’, by E.W. Dunn. [An essay about how evidence shows that generosity is good for your health. ]

I think Jesus would have taught us to be generous even if it was bad for our health, in fact the Christian Life is sometimes bad for our health. It’s got to cost us somewhere.

Leslie Marshall

I liked Wehner’s essay and agree with his point of view that ‘there are other, less familiar aspects of Jesus’ earthly ministry that are profoundly important.’

Such as , the importance of the physical body. Jesus was born via a physical body (Mary), he came into this world in a physical body (infant), was killed in his physical body (cross), appeared many times in his physical body after resurrection, and will come again in his physical body (to judge). To me, this is proof that the doctrine of reincarnation is false, and Yoga’s doctrine of negation of the body is wrong.

Jean Lall

Leslie, like you I greatly value the theology of Incarnation, and I don’t feel a need to believe in reincarnation. However, I don’t think it is necessary or appropriate to impugn other people’s religious views in order to affirm my own. Biblical texts affirm and proclaim the experience of our spiritual ancestors, and ourselves; they do not “prove” other culturally remote ideas to be “false”.

“Yoga” is not a religion but a very old and diverse tradition that incorporates both philosophical ideas and physical disciplines. Many people, including some from Christian backgrounds, find these disciplines helpful in bringing their mind and spirit into a more affirming relation to their bodies. Keep in mind that despite the doctrine of the incarnation, which is so central to our religion, there is plenty of fear and loathing of the body in Christian tradition, which never developed systematic methods for cultivating the body-spirit unity which yoga aims to develop.

Ann Fontaine

Of course this revolution comes directly from Hebrew scriptures and Jesus’ religious tradition as a Jew.

Pepper Marts
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