Monday, December 24, 2007

"HOLY NIGHT", Batman!!

Dec. 24th, 2007

In this day and age I think we easily hear the same old Christmas songs on the radio over and over again (on stations in their 24-7 Christmas music modes)...and maybe tend to dismiss them as our parents or grandparents music.

Last night in my church's Christmas presentation though, the music director took the time to take one of those old tunes and make it relevent and come alive for me. So much so, I felt compelled to share this bit of history with all my brothers in the blog-o-sphere.

"Oh Holy Night", is a song that's been around since the late 1800's. It was originally written in poem form by Placide Cappeau, (who was a French wine merchant and poet and not a very devote church goer). Cappeau as asked by his local parish priest to write a Christmas poem that he could use in his sermon that week. The poem was later put to music by Adolphe Adam in 1847.

In 1855, it was translated into English by John Sullivan Dwight, (an Unitarian Minister and editor of Dwights Journal of Music). Because of it's reverent homage to a first person viewing with awe the birth of Jesus, and it's verses concerning freedom from slavery and opression it became widely popular and an instant classic in the civil war era.

On December 24th, 1906, Reginald Fressendon, broadcast the first AM radio program, during which he played "Oh Holy Night" on the violin....making it possibly the first piece of music ever broadcast on the radio?!

It's rumored that on a Christmas eve during the ongoing trench warfare of World War one in Europe, a French solider arose from his trench and began to sing the hymm loudly over the battlefield in his native French language. In reponse a German soldier also stood up and began to sing the hymm in German. Soon the whole battlefield was filled with the sound of "Oh Holy Night"....and for the next 24 hours of Christmas day, not a shot was fired and there was peace on the battle fields in honor of the birth of Christ.

So next time you're singing this old tune in church, with your kids, your friends or along with the radio...remember it's significance and revel in the holy spirit that inhabits both its creation and development in our society.

May you all have a blessed Christmas celebration.

RJ luedke

Friday, December 14, 2007

Is here a True Christian Leader in the House?

Tell me if this sounds familiar.

I’ve found myself struggling these past couple of years as I’ve continued to develop my faith through reading and re-reading the gospels; studying Jesus and his times; and placing his message in the historical context of life during the Roman occupation, (which is partly an occupational necessity, due to the research needed for my Eye Witness graphic novel series/ ).

The struggle develops, because the better understanding I seem to gain of the messages Jesus’ delivered through his words to his apostles, his sermons and his parables (The Good News), the harder time I have reconciling life in the 21st century and how many people who claim to be “Christian” leaders seem project themselves to the world, as the very opposite.

One way to summarize my struggle is to put it in the context of the public-political discourse leading up to next year’s primaries and presidential election. As American voters we obviously want the strongest, best-suited person to lead our country over the next four years. Determining who’s best suited, involves many things, including how we perceive: Their ability to make decisions; how they handle themselves in extreme pressure situations; their ability to deal with people and willingness to compromise without having to sacrifice their principles; their previous job-related histories (re: have they governed another group successfully); their temperament; their character…and the list of traits is potentially endless.

But as people of faith, we (the editorial we) also feel our leaders should embody the qualities that Jesus mentions in the Gospels. In Jesus words, the greatest leader is not the one with the most money, political fundraisers and power-broker allies, but the best servant to his fellow man. Hence, I find myself conflicted when trying to determine whom best fits that bill among the possible candidates. There are those we can write off pretty quickly, while others who always seem to ride the spiritual fence, so to speak…while still others (Like governor Hucklebee), who wear their religious credentials out front and center, (being a former minister who is actively seeking to court the religious conservative voter). But being the president involves a lot of decisions that can/may/do compromise the foundation of what Jesus tells us a leader is, should be.

Currently, I’m reading Brian McLaren’s latest book, “Every Thing Must Change” ( If you’ve never read McLaren’s earlier work, including the Secret Message of Jesus, he is driven to spark a spiritual revolution in our world, based upon getting back to the roots of the original message of Jesus (through understanding it’s historical context) and how it has been manipulated over the centuries into something that is now bolstering the very same destructive culture Jesus sought to topple 2000 years ago. In this latest work, McLaren talks about what Jesus was referring to, when he mentions the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth (which in McLaren’s view, is a revolutionary concept of a new, better Godly empire than what 1st century Jews were a prisoner of…I.E the Roman empire). Every quality of a man (or leader) Jesus talks about in the Gospels ran counter to the viewpoint of the predominant Roman culture. I mention it here, because it brings to mind many of the same issues we, as 21st century Christians, face today…especially if we find ourselves being called to lead (our business, our church or our city-state or country). Remind yourself what Jesus called us to do (or be)….

1.Don’t get revenge when wronged, but seek reconciliation.
2. Don’t repay violence with violence, but seek creative and transforming non-violent alternatives.
3. Don’t focus on conformity to external moral codes, but rather on internal transformation in love.
4. Don’t love insiders and hate (or fear) outsiders, but welcome them in the context of love for all, justice for all and mutual respect for all.
5. Don’t have anxiety about money, security or pleasure in your life, but trust yourself to the care of God and he will provide for you.
6. Don’t live for wealth, but for a living God who loves all people, including your enemies.
Don’t hate your enemies (or competitors) but love them not based upon what they have done to you, but as you wish they would do for you.

Its pretty daunting list, isn’t it? Take a minute to reread each of those, but think of them within the context of a particular situation our next president could face, (re: terrorist violence, what to do about illegal immigration, dealing with our perceived enemies like Iran, reconciling how the Christian (west) can co-exist with the Islamic (east); the place for homo-sexuals in our society; etc, etc…).

Is there one man (or women) out there among the hopeful that will lead using this kind of solution solving foundation? The sad truth is probably no…because the political expert would say…America can’t afford to operate that way, we’d be perceived as too weak economically and politically, to vulnerable to attack. But you know what? We’ll never know till someone who say’s he’s a “Christian” who wished to lead this country, has the courage to try! Take just a minute to ponder that statement.

The pundits would say, that just announcing such a thing would be political suicide. But would it really? How many people out there would embrace such a revolutionary concept of leadership? Some will say this is pure idealism, fantasy, not realistic in our day and age. Can you imagine how many forces, both internally within our country and externally around the world, would stand in the way of such a leader! There would be virtually no one on his side, except of course….God!

But I would answer that with, this is what Jesus laid out for us. There are over a billion people in this world who still follow his guidance 2000+ years later (it’s still the largest religious following in the world), but yet not one country is truly using his leadership guidelines, (and no, I’m not referring to the rules and regulations laid out by the modern day Vatican), but Jesus original intent. Can you imagine the potential not only for this country, but also for the world if we (being the good ol’ US of A) became a beacon for Jesus’ example in this manner? There literally would be no stopping us, figuratively speaking!

When you read McLaren (and I’m sure there are many other authors and/or theologians that hold this viewpoint) the message is very clear that Jesus came to us to give us the blueprint for the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, not “just” in heaven. He demonstrated for us through his life, his deeds and his words exactly what God originally created us to be, until that is, we were corrupted by original sin. Jesus called upon his disciples to carry this “template” (if you’ll excuse the pun….see my previous comic work for the in-joke) of what it means to be a Godly man to the nations of the world, (including their kings).

Could it be that 2000+ years later, that God is still waiting for the Kingdom of Heaven to evolve (excuse another pun) and begin on Earth?

So as you can see, I for one, am slightly conflicted about the impending election, because hearing that a candidate would repeal Row verse Wade, wishes to discriminate against homosexuals (See #3) and would build a fence around our nation (See #4)…does not tell me if this man (or women) is the kind of servant leader this country really needs to take our country forward in these increasingly difficult and dangerous times. It just tells me he’s pandering to the politico-religious-powerbrokers, using “Christian speak” to get votes.

Robert Luedke