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PostPosted: Wed Mar 06, 2013 4:50 pm 
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Signs you may be a cultural Protestant (everyone's got some of these, but if you have most or all of them, you probably come from a Protestant culture):
-Individualism
-Knee-jerk mistrust of authority and authority structures
-Approval of things that are plain and simple
-A feeling that things that are ornate or showy are not just unnecessary, but wrong
-Frugality
-The idea that if you're not working all the time, you're being lazy
-Fun and (more generally) pleasure are bad
-Emotional reserve
-Don't call attention to yourself

I may be conflating Dutch Reformed culture with Protestant culture a bit; I'm not knowledgeable enough to entirely pull them apart.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 06, 2013 5:01 pm 
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Nin wrote:
I had never heard about confessions in a reformed church before. No protestant church I have ever heard of practices confession. .


It is an integral part of every Protestant church service I have ever been to. The difference is that we do it as a group and silently, before God...not individually behind a door to a priest.

It is actually part of the Catholic Mass, as well (Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa...)

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 06, 2013 5:13 pm 
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I may be entirely mistaken here, but I think Nin meant confessing to, and through, priests, rather than directly to God.

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 06, 2013 5:43 pm 
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Yes. Protestants confess their sins but they don't "go" to confession like Catholics are supposed to. At least not that I've ever heard of.

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 06, 2013 5:59 pm 
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Frelga wrote:
I may be entirely mistaken here, but I think Nin meant confessing to, and through, priests, rather than directly to God.


I was wondering if that's what she meant. That perhaps she had a different definition of confession than I do.

But I do understand that we have confession, in the Protestant faith. Certainly confession as I understand it. If confession is defined as happening through a priest, well, it's still confession to God, at the end of the day, isn't it? Just with the priest step as part of the process?

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 06, 2013 6:16 pm 
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Frelga is right - I meant confessing to a priest (in one of those separate spaces) who will fix your penitence and then you will be forgiven.

(The German Word is Beichte, in french you say "confession" - maybe it's a bit of a false friend then).

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For me, to celebrate Christmas without believing in Christ is an oxymoron of the most befuddling type.

I thought about the oxymoron it means to celebrate christmas when you don't believe in God and I wondered:

When you prepare christmas eve - how much is religious and how much is cultural?

When you decorate your tree, do you think during this time about Jesus and what his birth meant to mankind or do you enojy the ornaments you put up and the memories they bring to you or just the beauty of them?

When you wrap up your gifts - do you think about the three kings and the presents they brought or do you think of the smiles of your family when they will open their packages?

When you prepare your meal (turkey? goose? whatever....) do you think of Maria in the stable or do you think of your family around the table?

When you prepare christmas cookies - do you think of the gospel or of the quantity of sugar and flour?

How much of your celebration is actually religious and how much is a ritual, a family meeting, a moment of gift?

I really wonder this, it's an honest and not a rethorical question!

I really greatly enjoy christmas. I love preparing advent's calenders for my children, I love to build up to a special day during which my aim is to give as much as possible: gifts, food, joy, beauty, music.... to share them with my family - I love to prepare little moments of surprise throughout the month to light up candles, to create moments of being together and sharing joy of life. All this is christmas, it's in the bleak of winter, when lights arise around us to make the dark and cold bearable, to remember that we are not alone, that there is life around us. I like the symbolic of a child born, a new light, like each child born a new hope, life that goes on. I enjoy celebrating all this. It means something. I just don't believe in God.

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 06, 2013 6:57 pm 
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Okay, okay!! :D I already wrote that you helped me understand this, that people like Christmas in ways that have nothing to do with the birth of Christ. You made your point long ago, with me!


But if you are really interested me answering your question, if you honestly do want to know...

I do like the tree and the presents and such, and it is certainly part of the Christmas season for me. Your examples of what I might be thinking while doing these things is an interesting thought... what *am* I thinking while cooking turkey? Probably praying that I don't burn it, actually. I'm not a good cook.

But I'm not sure that I feel like the trees and the turkey and the ornaments *are* Christmas, and this is where our definitions diverge, I suspect. I think of the traditions of the holiday somewhat separately from the religious reason for the holiday. Could I celebrate Ramadan, for example, if I do not believe in the teachings of Islam?

Ramadan is a time of fasting, spiritual reflection, improvement and increased devotion and worship. I could certainly do these things, and I'm sure it would be an interesting, and maybe even beneficial, experience for me. However, since I do not follow the teachings of Islam, I can't imagine that I could say I really celebrated Ramadan. Ramadan is a Muslim holiday, and I'm not a Muslim. I wonder if they are thinking about the Quaran every minute of their fast? Maybe they do, but I suspect they do about as well at constant focus as Christians do at Christmas or Easter. :)

In our family, we are well aware that the "machine" of Christmas can overtake the message of Christmas, even for Christians. We do our best to make sure that doesn't happen for us. For us, there is a fairly specific reason for the season.

We do try. Perhaps this will answer your questions; we HAVE added the tradition of a birthday cake for baby Jesus on Christmas day. :) We do try to read the gospel aloud when we eat dinner together as a family. We do have ornaments that remind us of the events of Christ's life. We do set up a... oh, what is it called, I'm blanking... a diorama of the manger scene. We go to church that whole week. We pray together every day for the entire Christmas season.


We DO see Christmas as a celebration of the birth of Christ, first and foremost. I'll have to do better thinking about that when the turkey is cooking. :)




By the way...I didn't decorate a tree this year. :( We were moving, and I was so overwhelmed... we ended up having a very moving, and simple, Christmas, having dinner as a family and praying together and talking about what Christ has done in our lives. I do feel like I celebrated Christmas, this year, however. No turkey involved. :)

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 06, 2013 7:05 pm 
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Hah! :). You got us, Nin. :D :). Very good. :):):):)

Those are excellent questions. :)

And my answer is: no, when I do most of all those lovely Christmassy things, I am not being consciously religious or spiritual.

I do, however, try to find time to read the birth narratives in the New Testament and spend some time reflecting on the Incarnation and the light of the world. I like to read poems with a Christmas theme and I love carols. I try to get to as many carol services as I can. I don't always succeed. And the highlight of my Christmas is attending Midnight Eucharist by candlelight. It's magical.

My biggest problem with Christmas is the festival's high-jacking by the monstrous tsunami of consumerism.

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 06, 2013 7:34 pm 
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Even when I was a Christian waaay back when, Christmas always seemed mainly to be about the gift exchange thing. That's always seemed like the real central core of the holiday to me.

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 06, 2013 7:40 pm 
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Nin wrote:
I really greatly enjoy christmas. I love preparing advent's calenders for my children, I love to build up to a special day during which my aim is to give as much as possible: gifts, food, joy, beauty, music.... to share them with my family - I love to prepare little moments of surprise throughout the month to light up candles, to create moments of being together and sharing joy of life. All this is christmas, it's in the bleak of winter, when lights arise around us to make the dark and cold bearable, to remember that we are not alone, that there is life around us. I like the symbolic of a child born, a new light, like each child born a new hope, life that goes on. I enjoy celebrating all this. It means something. I just don't believe in God.


Nin, you have described almost perfectly my feelings about Christmas...especially the bolded part.

Yes, it is a celebration of a baby born in a stable. And many people believe this baby was the Christ Child. But even if you don't...it means something. The light and the love and the giving and the remembering.

The not being alone.

The hope.

I believe that through these things, we embody the spirit of God. That we, ourselves, become holy and blessed. That we make God manifest in our love for each other.

I *do* believe in God...but I honestly don't think it matters exactly what one believes (or doesn't believe.) I think God looks inside our hearts and that every time we show love, we please the Divine.

Our dear friend vison stated many times that she did not believe in God...and yet, I am positive that she was welcomed with open arms as a good and faithful servant when she left us here.

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 06, 2013 7:45 pm 
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JewelSong wrote:
Yes, it is a celebration of a baby born in a stable. And many people believe this baby was the Christ Child. But even if you don't...it means something. The light and the love and the giving and the remembering.

The not being alone.

The hope.

I believe that through these things, we embody the spirit of God. That we, ourselves, become holy and blessed. That we make God manifest in our love for each other.

I *do* believe in God...but I honestly don't think it matters exactly what one believes (or doesn't believe.) I think God looks inside our hearts and that every time we show love, we please the Divine.


:love: :love: :love:


Ah, Jewel. You speak to my heart.


:love:

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 06, 2013 9:23 pm 
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Ramadan is a time of fasting, spiritual reflection, improvement and increased devotion and worship. I could certainly do these things, and I'm sure it would be an interesting, and maybe even beneficial, experience for me. However, since I do not follow the teachings of Islam, I can't imagine that I could say I really celebrated Ramadan. Ramadan is a Muslim holiday, and I'm not a Muslim.


Well I think the main difference comes from the fact that you have not grown up and do not live in a muslim impregnated culture. When you live in a place where every year most of the people you know for one month fast and pray - and celebrate every evening (one of the main aspects of Ramadan is the breaking of the fast every evening, it's a real party... I have done so with Muslim friends here and heard about it from friends travelling in Muslim countries during the Ramadan) - you get used to it and it's something that gives rhythm to your life, that will remind you of home and childhood and that will make sense to you despite your religious beliefs or non-beliefs. Arab christians often talk about this identity of a christian in a muslim environnement, where the muslim traditions are just as well part of their cultural identity, because they are impregned in it.

Quote:
And many people believe this baby was the Christ Child. But even if you don't...it means something.


Thank you Jewel. It really means something - christmas, protestantism... and vison. [/quote]

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 06, 2013 10:23 pm 
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that will make sense to you despite your religious beliefs or non-beliefs


Oh, it's not that the tradition associated with the religion does not make sense! My religion has practices of fasting as well. But I do understand your point, I think... having that practice so familiar to you makes it part of your story, too. Even if you don't subscribe to the religion behind it.

Although I do have Muslim friends here and have broken bread with them, I suspect you have much more experience with that. My point, though, was that even though I have been there as they celebrate their holiday, I didn't feel like I had celebrated Ramadan. I am not Muslim, and it is fundamentally a Muslim religious holiday.


I do understand your point of view on this, Nin, and you make it very well. I suspect you do not understand mine. Perhaps it is because I do not write it well enough. It is, however, what I feel, even if I can't quite describe it very well.

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 06, 2013 10:46 pm 
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anthriel wrote:
But I'm not sure that I feel like the trees and the turkey and the ornaments *are* Christmas, ... I think of the traditions of the holiday somewhat separately from the religious reason for the holiday.


This is exactly how I feel. Certain rituals belong to certain religious holidays. Coloured eggs at Easter, certain ornaments for Christmas etc., but I could do without them and merely celebrate the religious aspect of the day. It also works the other way round for many people, as Nin describes.

Of course, we don't cling all the time to the religious background of the rituals while we prepare them. I can only speak for myself and I don't mean any offence: I could not sing "Silent Night" or "Oh Come All Ye Faithful" just for the sake of the Christmas atmosphere.

Last Christmas I attended the Christmas service together with my friend at her church. I am Catholic and she's Protestant. But why should we not do this together?

I know one Muslim family who invite the husband's widowed Christian colleague every year for Christmas. They put up the tree for him a few days earlier (they usually have one for New Year) and they give him a present. IMHO, if anything, this is the spirit of Christmas, even if you have different faiths.

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 06, 2013 11:27 pm 
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This is a lovely discussion! I'm sorry I've missed so much of it—marathon doctor's appointment with my parents. So many insightful, startling, and wonderfully teaching posts.

Anthy, your Christmas sounds beautiful. :love:

I also wanted to give the Protestant definition of a sacrament—it has to center around something material, and it has to have been instituted by Jesus. That's why our list is limited to communion (bread and wine) and baptism (water). I don't think it has anything to do with whether it's a ritual. Communion can be one heck of a ritual, or as simple as passing a mug of wine and a hunk of bread around a campfire, but certain words are always said (and are supposed to be said by an ordained minister). The same for baptism: some particular words are always said.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 07, 2013 1:29 am 
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This is a fantastic discussion and I am wondering if we should change the title of the thread...or split the posts about the Pope into their own thread so we can continue in this vein.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 07, 2013 1:36 am 
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Probably it would be splitting the posts not about the Pope into their own thread.

I am not leaping forward to do things like this at the moment because time is tight for me, but if there's general agreement I could take care of it tonight or tomorrow. There does still need to be a thread for discussion of papal issues, given that the conclave presumably starts fairly soon.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 07, 2013 3:04 am 
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Lhaewin wrote:
anthriel wrote:
But I'm not sure that I feel like the trees and the turkey and the ornaments *are* Christmas, ... I think of the traditions of the holiday somewhat separately from the religious reason for the holiday.


This is exactly how I feel. Certain rituals belong to certain religious holidays. Coloured eggs at Easter, certain ornaments for Christmas etc., but I could do without them and merely celebrate the religious aspect of the day. It also works the other way round for many people, as Nin describes.


I agree. If you take away the chocolate bunnies, as outrageous as that would be... it's still Easter. :)

Quote:
Of course, we don't cling all the time to the religious background of the rituals while we prepare them. I can only speak for myself and I don't mean any offence: I could not sing "Silent Night" or "Oh Come All Ye Faithful" just for the sake of the Christmas atmosphere.


Gosh, Lhaewin, what great examples. :love: I get choked up with "Silent Night", I must confess.

And I am *so* glad you shared that you, too, are not perfectly religious throughout the entire Christmas season. <whew!> :)

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Last Christmas I attended the Christmas service together with my friend at her church. I am Catholic and she's Protestant. But why should we not do this together?


Why not, indeed. :)

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I know one Muslim family who invite the husband's widowed Christian colleague every year for Christmas. They put up the tree for him a few days earlier (they usually have one for New Year) and they give him a present. IMHO, if anything, this is the spirit of Christmas, even if you have different faiths.


:love: Wonderful! Now THAT really means something. I've kinda got goosebumps, over here.

Quote:
Anthy, your Christmas sounds beautiful. :love:


Oh, Prim, it really was. :love: I went into it feeling so badly... I messed up the gifts to my nieces and nephews, and didn't have gifts for my own kids (although they did get them soon enough). I was so overwhelmed, and working a lot, and so MUCH of this "Christmas" stuff falls on the female to accomplish... but this female was working and preparing one home for sale while moving her family and transporting elderly animals from place to place, while serving as general contractor for some remodeling work on the "new" house.

I would have liked to have made cookies, but I didn't know where the cookie sheets were... we had approximately 400 boxes stacked around, labeled helpfully with tags like "family stuff" and "miscellaneous". And... even if I had had cookie sheets, the oven in the new house didn't actually work. :help: Neither contemplating the gospel NOR the quantity of sugar and flour would have helped there.

We didn't have hardly any of the "stuff" of Christmas. My poor family.

And yet we had possibly the best Christmas ever. :love: It was just us, sitting amongst boxes and construction dust, with our wary animals pacing and suspiciously eyeballing the fire in the fireplace. :) We really talked with our hearts, that night, and what we shared was so much more important to me than any "special" cookies... or lack thereof.

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"A cage," Éowyn said. "To stay behind bars, until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 07, 2013 5:52 am 
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The Book of Common Prayer that Episcopalians use lists two sacraments, Baptism and the Eucharist, that were given to the church by Jesus.

It also lists 5 sacramental rites that evolved in the church: confirmation, ordination, matrimony, reconciliation of a penitent (confession) and unction of the sick (anointing for healing).

Reconciliation is described as the process of confessing to God in the presence of a priest, who delivers the assurance of pardon and the grace of absolution. Although it is a part of worship services, there is also a specific rite that can be used privately with a priest. A non-priest can hear confession, as well, but he or she gives a declaration of forgiveness rather than absolution. (Personally, I consider that a silly distinction, but I was born into a less hierarchical denomination.)

So yes, Protestants confess, at least Episcopalians do.

As for Christmas ... the most joyful Christmases I have experienced were the ones that were most steeped in the spiritual aspects of the holiday, no matter what the state of the outward traditions. That's just as well, since I often have to work on Christmas and on the days around it as well.

It's been difficult for me celebrating with my son and his wife, because they are not attuned to the religious meaning at all. Christmas is about gifts and lights -- both of which I love -- but not really about God. That makes it harder for me to find the quiet, deep moments that feed my soul. Or, for that matter, the outward actions such as church services or helping at shelters.

Between their disinterest and my nighttime work hours, it's harder to celebrate in a way that feels real to me.

Which is not what the discussion was really about, but that's what fell out of my fingers at this moment.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 07, 2013 6:14 am 
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Anthy wrote:
But that is because I live in the USA, I think. Those of us who are the children and grandchildren of immigrants just don't have the time as a coherent group and the history that other people do, and that history... as a PEOPLE... is what is getting tied into religion in other places. I tend to see religion and culture as being more loosely connected, but I have learned in other places it is very tightly associated indeed.

I think it's easier to separate the two (culture and religion) when you are hereditarily more of a "mutt", as many of us here in the USA are. For example, up until about a year ago, I believed I was part Irish (my grandfather always said he was Irish). He was a Catholic, but through the help of people on this board, I found out he was actually probably English. Not a big deal, but my cousins still define themselves as "Irish", because of this man, and attribute everything from their love of alcohol to their temper issues to their Irish roots. Which I know they don't have.


I think that there is a strong distinction between your ancestry and the culture(s) that you were actually bought up in. For example, one of my grandmothers was German, or rather, born in Queensland of Prussian immigrant families. But it would be simply untrue of me to attribute any part of my personality or identity to Germany or Prussia. My cultural identity is entirely Anglo-Australian. Of course, I suppose that I could have taken an interest in German culture, learned to speak German and subsequently started to identify as a German-Australian, but given the fact that we are talking about one grandparent who I hardly knew it would be pretty tenuous.

As a side note, I also think that there is a tendency of people to ignore or gloss over Anglo-Saxon ancestry, viewing it as being a void that it is filled out by ‘exotic’ ancestors from Ireland or Scotland or Germany or wherever. People with one Scottish grandparent will claim to be Scottish. There is an obvious disconnect between the number of Americans who identify as being of English background in the census and the number with obviously Anglo-Saxon surnames.

That said, there has been, I think, a significant melding of Anglo-Celtic-German-Scandinavian Protestant peoples across much of the middle of America, which has produced an identity more disconnected from those in Europe. It is particularly true given the number of Americans who are Baptists or Mormons or follow other churches with a limited presence in Europe. That said, I expect that the religious-cultural identity may be stronger among Irish Catholics in Boston, Italian Catholics in New York, Polish Catholics in Cleveland or other minority groups of long standing.


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