The Meaning of the Manger

One of the most common tools of filmmakers used to convey the message of the movie is the symbol.

In Sam Mendes’s American Beauty, the first scene shows the two main characters behind a picket fence and mullion windows to convey that these two feel trapped in their marriage.

In Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors the protagonist who secretly commits adultery and murder and realizes there will be no earthly punishment for sin is an ophthalmologist. He helps us see, you see.

What filmmakers do with fantasy and script, God does with reality and history, and God did with the birth of Jesus.

“And she gave birth to her first-born son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was not room for them in the inn.” Luke 2:7. Jesus was not born in a hotel room; a hotel room is too small and bounded. Jesus was born outside, where walls do not hide or inhibit.

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On Vagrancy

I’ve written a number of times now on vagrancy.

I’ve done so because it’s a problem that before the pandemic confronted me each day downtown as I walked from my loft to work in one of the largest cities in the U.S.

Then, during the pandemic, my wife and I were in the midst of an unbridled binge watch of The Andy Griffith Show episodes on Apple TV, and we came upon one about vagrancy. 

This was the episode where Buddy Ebson (later of The Beverly Hillbillies fame) played a vagrant who wandered into Mayberry, and befriended Opie, extolling to him the benefits of the vagrant lifestyle. Opie was fascinated at first, but fortunately Andy intervened, and in the end, with Ebson’s help, Opie saw the light on volitional vagrancy.

I doubt our current culture is capable of making a proper moral judgment about volitional vagrancy. The homeless have become the urban noble savage, seen as a victim not of their own choices but of the alleged evils of a rigged economic system.

The first vagrant was Cain. See Gen. 4:12. And Cain’s story makes it clear that, at least in Cain’s case, vagrancy was a curse. See Gen. 4:11-12 (“Now you are cursed . . . . you will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth”). That a curse made Cain a vagrant does not mean every vagrant is cursed, but it should destroy any illusions about the virtues of the vagrant lifestyle.

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On Conspiracies and Jericho Marches

Yesterday in Washington D.C. there was apparently a prayer march.

I must have missed the memo, or the GSB research team was asleep at the wheel and failed to inform me.

Not that I would have gone mind you. I think you have to be out of your mind to march in a largely maskless crowd in the midst of a pandemic, and with the Proud Boys on top of that. To say the optics were bad is like saying Harvey Weinstein needs to be more respectful of women.

Everything about this march was wrong. Let’s start with the cause. 

It is not enough that evangelicals marched with the Proud Boys, but they continue to squander their credibility by embracing the “Stop the Steal” campaign, a quest with the remarkable record of 1 modest win and 55 losses in federal courts, which are staffed by a mix of Republicans and Democrats, two factions that in recent years have not been able to agree on anything, yet have set aside their partisanship to become united in one voice to say this: “The President has no case.” 

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Calling vs. Kingdom in Finding Meaning in Work

Not every one gets to do the job they feel they are ultimately called to do. 

Even those who do, do not always do so all the time. This is one of the shortcomings of looking solely to one’s calling to find meaning in one’s work. 

Moses was a shepherd before he was a deliverer, Joseph a prison trustee before he was a ruler, and Nehemiah a cupbearer before he was a contractor. Yet no one would argue Moses was ultimately called to be a shepherd, nor Joseph a jailer, nor Nehemiah a cupbearer.

One of my summer jobs between my first and second year of law school was working for a telemarketing firm selling the New York Times. There was no uncertainty in my mind; I was not called to ultimately be a telemarketer. I wanted to be a lawyer. 

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