revanon OP t1_j1kydg5 wrote

My favorite Christmas treat is pretty much any kind of dessert…cookies, gingerbread, peppermint, you name it.

Favorite Christmas memory…probably when my parents gave me a Nintendo 64 for Christmas and my dad was up all Christmas night playing Mario Kart on it like a little kid. Also the first Christmas when I finally got to retire from playing Joseph in the church Christmas pageant after doing it more times than Chris Hemsworth has played Thor.

I do have a kid, and like me, she cares more about the cookies than about Santa right now, which suits me just fine.


revanon OP t1_j1kxz2t wrote

I don’t know what would be closest for me. I definitely needed a few months away from the church after I burned out on congregational ministry, but I never felt like giving up my faith. Maybe when my wife had a very much wanted pregnancy end in a miscarriage that required surgery? I remember sitting in the hospital chapel and having some extremely unkind things to say to God. But even then, I never deeply felt like walking away. So I don’t know.

I think God created the universe for the same reason artists create art, writers create stories, etc.: when it is who you are, you are at your sacred best when you create. Maybe God could’ve still been God without creating the heavens and the earth, but then God would not have been God the Creator.


revanon OP t1_j1kw071 wrote

  1. I do not believe the Tanakh (Old Testament) correlates with Christmas. The Tanakh stands and exists on its own merits, even if Christianity had never existed.
  2. As I noted elsewhere here, there is no solid Biblical evidence to support any individual date of the birth of Jesus.
  3. I believe the Resurrection is why we have all heard of Jesus, otherwise He would have been in history simply another inconvenient Israelite executed by the empire. But to make it to the Resurrection, we need the Incarnation. Without it, there is no Resurrection--just as there is no Resurrection without Crucifixion. They are all important.

revanon OP t1_j1ks3rw wrote

I explain several factors that led to my burnout in this Twitter thread:

I would add, on top of everything in that thread, that more and more I experienced my ethnic identity be perceived as bad and unwanted, to the extent I was told not to talk about how my ethnicity influences my faith because the church comes first. The frequency with which who I am became a weapon was more than I could bear.

I would have to think about what would lead me to return to the pulpit. I could see myself in interim ministry for pastors on sabbatical, or churches in need of a few months between pastors, but I do not know when or even if I will ever serve as a settled pastor of a church. But in the meanwhile, I continue to seek other opportunities to do ministry and live out my call.

Always lovely to see you here!


revanon OP t1_j1kquks wrote

The practice of Christianity has had many different priorities over the centuries, and most of those splits have had to do with some combination of theological, political, nationalistic, etc. priorities.

We treat other books thusly too--we highlight what we think is important and minimize what we think isn't. Like, it is Christmas Eve--think of just how many adaptations of A Christmas Carol there are.

With the church, those differences have felt much more dramatic because we so often say that salvation is at stake, persecute the losers, and so on, to our detriment and disrepute.


revanon OP t1_j1kpfra wrote

Obviously as a pastor I believe that I am the best version of myself within Christianity, but I also understand how so many people have experienced Christianity in such a way that it made them worse people, or made them feel worse about themselves, that they felt they could not flourish within it. I mourn that as a terrible failure of the church for which we need to make amends.

Truth, Jesus teaches, sets us free, and if the truth of your lived experience is that Christianity has done much more harm than benefit to you, then an embrace of that truth can indeed set you free. Such truth, I think, is a more reliable cosmic insurance policy than a Sinners Prayer or a Bible tract. Truth is, was, and will forever be much more than that.


revanon OP t1_j1konig wrote

IIRC, the Unitarian Universalists do ordain atheist pastors, so an atheist would not (and should not) have to fake it there.

But more to the core of your point--yes, someone could fake their way thru the process, just as they could in other professions. There are doctors and nurses who discredit medical science, biologists who discredit life science, journalists who discredit journalism, etc. If they made it to where they are, of course there can be pastors who faked it as well. As to why that is, I think we as a society will make choices to reward fakery rather than truth for reasons of convenience. I wish that were not so, for my profession and for others.


revanon OP t1_j1klvxn wrote

Santa is a wintery Willy Wonka who runs an entire operation on non-union elf labor, trafficks in fossil fuels for ill-behaved kids, and mushes reindeer whose veterinary care is murky at best.

Jesus of Nazareth challenges us to sacrifice for others, even if it means all we own, so as to love others as we normally love ourselves so that we may be the very best versions of ourselves individually and collectively, in this world and the next.

You don't see a difference?


revanon OP t1_j1kalje wrote

I am genuinely grateful and humbled that this AMA has had a happy impact for you, and believe me, I empathize with feeling as though you're missing the mark or a piece this year.

One Scriptural teaching that has made a huge difference to me this year is Jesus's teaching that sometimes the right hand must be cut off to save the entire body. Prior to my burnout, I saw that as, to use John's language, a hard teaching and one I continually struggled to accept. It took jettisoning congregational ministry in order to preserve the rest of my faith to understand the meaning and importance of that teaching. Which is not to say that the loss is any easier, but I can better understand why it had to happen that way. A loss so integral to who you are, such as of love or vocation, is like losing your right hand and it is deeply, profoundly painful. But Jesus is saying that amid the pain, life is saved--possibly for whatever God has in store next. I know that doesn't take away the pain, but I've learned that I am still capable of getting back on track despite the pain. Thank you for your honesty and vulnerability here--I see it and appreciate it.


revanon OP t1_j1k9qmp wrote

I would submit that there is not so profound a change in God the Creator between Testaments (obviously, there is a big change in God the Son). God is plenty loving and justice-oriented in the Tanakh (Old Testament), and God is capable of wrath in the New Testament--witness the capital punishment meted out to Ananias and Sapphira. And I am by no means accusing you of this, but the framing of God the Creator as so very different between Testaments has led to antisemitic theology in Christian circles, so it is very important for me to take care with that topic.

As regards perfection, I would say that perfection is not a static state of being, because stasis is inherently imperfect as it precludes any additional positive dimensions. God's dynamic nature is a surer path to perfection, I would imagine.


revanon OP t1_j1k5a8z wrote

While I believe in an eventual Second Coming and Final Judgment, I do not personally adhere to any version of the Rapture.

My favorite verse varies from moment to moment and mood to mood, but one of my longtime favorites comes from Exodus 4 and was read at my ordination: Who gave speech to mortals? Who makes them speaking or not, deaf or hearing, seeing or blind? Did not I, the Lord? Go, and I will be with your tongue and teach you what you are to say.


revanon OP t1_j1j5bml wrote

I remember making Christingles as a kid a couple of times and loving the way they smell with the orange and the cloves. My favorite Christmassy craft, however, is to make an Advent wreath, which is super easy to do if you've got access to pine or cedar twigs somehow.

A lot of my other favorite holiday traditions are culinary, from cocktails to sweets, but most of all for January 6--Armenian Christmas--my wife and I cook up a huge dinner of kufteh, lavash, bulgur salad, dolmas, etc.


revanon OP t1_j1j28p7 wrote

To bastardize C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity, it is very likely that the cold-hearted, self-righteous prick who goes to church every Sunday is far closer to hell than the atheist.

To take him one step further in The Great Divorce, the gates of hell are locked from the inside. He suggests--and I can back this up with Scripture--that entrance to heaven may yet be possible after we die. If an atheist who left the world a better place than they found it dies still an atheist, I do not fear for the fate of their soul the way I would for the hatemongering Christian.


revanon OP t1_j1i6ze5 wrote

I kinda almost love how politely you asked me to, that's definitely not how demands of repentance usually work on the internet.

My Protestantism is actually deeply intertwined with my ethnic identity--I'm a fourth-generation Armenian Congregationalist, and that faith identity was integral to my family's flight to the United States during the genocide during World War One. I have relatives who have chosen Catholicism, and in fact received much of my theological education from the Dominicans and Jesuits and have a deep love of Catholicism. But I was raised in a faith tradition that has given my family strength for generations and could no sooner separate that from myself than I could my ethnic identity.


revanon OP t1_j1i6czm wrote

There is no Biblical evidence of December 25 as Christ's date of birth--Luke is able to give us a range of a couple of years, but no specific date. I much prefer the honesty of noting that reality up front, and treating today as a day to honor the creation of Christ instead of insisting that today and only today must be His birthday. The analogy I use is that we have not a shred of evidence that the earth was created on April 22, but we still designate it as Earth Day. Nor is December 25 agreed upon by all Christians as the date of Christmas--I'm matrilineally Armenian, and Armenian Orthodox Christmas is January 6, the date of the Epiphany in Western Christianity.

I think that Constantine and his successors who infused Western European Christianity with non-Christian trappings did so to make the Empire's latest choice of religion taste better going down, and that it is possible to acknowledge that history while still cherishing family Christmas traditions and honoring the incarnation of Christ today.