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The Myth of the Pagan Origins of Christmas

It is that time of year again!

The idea that typical Christmas traditions – like Christmas Trees, Santa Claus, or even its date – all somehow derive from paganism is so common that it has become almost a truism.  The pagan source is either described as something the Christian Church coopted and Christianized or merely as something that has survived as a historical or cultural accident despite the influence of the Church in Western Civilization.

As it turns out, the assumption that Christmas traditions are just pagan holdovers may, indeed, not be based on reality or historical facts but, rather, on unquestioned presumptions – a “conventional wisdom” if you will – based merely on the similarity between the traditions.

It appears, for one reason or another, scholars have recently taken another look at the origin of Christmas traditions, and their findings have revealed that the conventional wisdom about their origin appears to be mistaken.

Instead of rehearsing the facts and arguments myself, I would suggest checking out this article (see here (“Yes, Christ was Really Born on December 25: Here’s a Defense of the Traditional Date of Christmas” by Dr. Taylor Marshall on his website)) and this article (see here (“Calculating Christmas” by William J. Tighe on Touchstone)).

In addition to the above articles, I highly suggest watching this video:

This additional video is primarily addressed to Christians who object to Christmas trees on biblical grounds:

As it turns out, a great article by Daniel Lattier on this subject was recently published in Intellectual Takeout and can be found here and below:

It’s generally accepted that early Christians adopted December 25th as the day of Christ’s birth to co-opt the pagan celebration of the winter solstice. Some believe this fact undermines Christianity.

But according to Professor William Tighe, this “fact” may actually be a myth.

Based on his extensive research, Tighe argues that the December 25th date “arose entirely from the efforts of early Latin Christians to determine the historical date of Christ’s death.” He also goes so far as to claim that the December 25th pagan feast of the “’Birth of the Unconquered Sun’… was almost certainly an attempt to create a pagan alternative to a date that was already of some significance of Roman Christians.”

Tighe explains…

In the Jewish tradition at the time of Christ, there was a belief in what they called the “integral age”—that the prophets had died on the same days of their conception or birth. Early Christians spent much energy on determining the exact date of Christ’s death. Using historical sources, Christians in the first or second century settled on March 25th as the date of his crucifixion. Soon after, March 25th became the accepted date of Christ’s conception, as well.

Add nine months—the standard term of a pregnancy—to March 25th, and Christians came up with December 25th as the date of Christ’s birth.

It is unknown exactly when Christians began formally celebrating December25th as a feast. What is known, however, is that the date of December 25th“had no religious significance in the Roman pagan festal calendar before Aurelian’s time (Roman emperor from 270-275), nor did the cult of the sun play a prominent role in Rome before him.” According to Tighe, Aurelian intended the new feast “to be a symbol of the hoped-for ‘rebirth,’ or perpetual rejuvenation, of the Roman Empire…. [and] if it co-opted the Christian celebration, so much the better.”

As Tighe points out, the now-popular idea that Christians co-opted the pagan feast originates with Paul Ernst Jablonski (1693-1757), who opposed various supposed “paganizations” of Christianity.

Of course, to Christians, it really doesn’t matter that much whether or not they co-opted December 25th from the pagans, or vice versa. The Christian faith doesn’t stand or fall on that detail. But it’s nevertheless valuable for all of us to give closer scrutiny to shibboleths—such as that of the pagan origins of Christmas—which are continually repeated without being examined.

 

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Democrats and ‘Dogma’: Are you now or have you ever been an ‘orthodox Catholic’?

Every now and again I come across a fantastic article the warrants posting here; I recently came across one in The Wall Street Journal which, I thought, was pretty insightful. Be edified.

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‘Why is it that so many of us on this side have this very uncomfortable feeling that—you know, dogma and law are two different things. And I think whatever a religion is, it has its own dogma. The law is totally different. And I think in your case, professor, when you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for years in this country.”

Thus did California Sen. Dianne Feinstein pronounce on Wednesday that, by virtue of being a faithful Catholic, Amy Barrett, a respected law professor at Notre Dame, may have excluded herself from a federal judgeship. President Trump has nominated Ms. Barrett for the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. But the Democratic obsession with Ms. Barrett’s religion transformed what should have been a routine Senate confirmation hearing into a tour of the mind of the modern secular left.

The ugly implication of Mrs. Feinstein’s words is underscored by the context. She deployed them to suggest Ms. Barrett’s faith would lead her to substitute her personal beliefs for the law, basing the accusation primarily on a law review article Ms. Barrett wrote in 1998 as a law clerk.

Ms. Barrett and her co-author explicitly reached the opposite conclusion: “Judges cannot—nor should they try to—align our legal system with the Church’s moral teaching whenever the two diverge.”

The question addressed by the law review article was what Catholic judges ought to do when they conclude they cannot in good conscience apply the law as written because it clashes with their own moral views. If she was rattled by the question, Sen. Feinstein ought to have been reassured by the answer Ms. Barrett gave: They should recuse themselves.

David Rivkin, a constitutional litigator, says “the tenor of questions by Democrat Senators seemed designed more to challenge the ideas of Catholic orthodoxy—a subject more fitting for a theological debate than a Senate hearing.”

Proving Mr. Rivkin’s point. Sen. Dick Durbin jumped in to demand of Ms. Barrett: “Do you consider yourself an orthodox Catholic?” Does Mr. Durbin understand that he sounds like the Southern Baptist ministers in 1960 who thought Jack Kennedy shouldn’t be President because he’d take orders from the pope?

This questioning is part of a broader effort on the left to disqualify people with strong religious views from the public square. Ms. Feinstein’s smear about Ms. Barrett’s “dogma” dovetails with the left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center’s effort to label any outfit that doesn’t go along with its agenda a “hate group.”

Sen. Al Franken, the great legal philosopher, wrapped it all up nicely by accusing Ms. Barrett of having appeared before a “hate” group. He was referring to the Alliance Defending Freedom, a religious liberty outfit that the Southern Poverty Law Center designated a hate group because it adheres to traditional views about human sexuality and marriage.

As for judges imposing dogma over the law, it’s worth noting that not all dogmas are religious. Democratic interest groups are explicit in demanding that Democratic judicial nominees be committed to overturning Citizens United’s defense of free speech while brooking no modification in Roe v. Wade.

Let’s hope the Senate rejects the bigotry that marred Wednesday’s hearing and approves the eminently qualified Ms. Barrett for the Seventh Circuit. The federal bench could use more judges who understand their civic duty as well as Ms. Barrett does.

By “The Editorial Board” and originally published in The Wall Street Journal on September 7, 2017 and can be found here.

 

Student Sues After Suspension From M.S. Program Over Refusal To Counsel Gay Couples

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

“A suit was filed last week in federal district court in Missouri by a former student in the Masters in Counseling program at Missouri State University alleging that he was removed from the program because of his religious views on counseling same-sex couples on their relationships.  The complaint (full text) in Cash v. Governors of Missouri State University, (WD MO, filed 4/19/2016), alleges in part:

Plaintiff’s experience at MSU has been devastating, crushing, and tormenting, culminating in his termination from the program — all because he interned with a Christian organization and expressed his religious beliefs on a hypothetical question about counseling a gay couple on relationship issues.

… Plaintiff was targeted and punished for expressing his Christian worldview … regarding a hypothetical situation…. Since he did not give the “correct” answer required by his counseling instructors, he was considered unsuitable for counseling and terminated from the program.

Thomas More Society announced the filing of the lawsuit. AP reports on the case.”

You can learn more about this issue here.

What’s changed in Britain since same-sex marriage?

Every now and again I come across a fantastic article the warrants posting here; I recently came across one in The Spectator which, I thought, was pretty insightful. Be edified.

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Four years ago, amid much uncertainty, 400 British members of parliament voted to redefine marriage in the United Kingdom.

Then prime minister David Cameron announced that, despite having made no mention of the issue in his party’s pre-election manifesto, it would be MP’s who decided the fate of marriage.

Now, it’s Australia’s turn to choose. There’s one key difference. Unlike in Britain, it will be the people who decide.

Everyone agrees, whether they admit it or not. This is a decision of enormous significance.

Therefore, it seems sensible to analyse the consequences of the potential change, within nations in which redefinition has previously been carried out.

In the United Kingdom, it has become abundantly clear that redefinition has affected many people, across many spheres. At first glance, these spheres appeared distinct from marriage redefinition. However, subsequent changes, have proved that they are entirely intertwined.

Gender: Current Conservative Prime Minister, Theresa May, has revealed proposals to abolish the need for any medical consultation before gender reassignment. Simply filling out an official form will be sufficient. A ‘Ministry of Equalities’ press release, explicitly announced, that the proposals were designed to: ‘build on the progress’ of same-sex marriage. Guardian journalist Roz Kaveney boasted that changing your gender is now: Almost as simple as changing your name by statutory declaration’.

Manifestations of the ‘British gender revolution’ are not difficult to find. Transport for London, have prohibited the use of the ‘heteronormative’ words, such as ladies and gentlemen. Meanwhile, universities across the nation are threatening to ‘mark down’ students, who continue to use the words ‘he’ and ‘she’. Instead, ‘gender neutral pronouns’ such as ‘ze’, must be uniformly applied.

Such gender-theory radicalism has delighted Stonewall, the UK’s largest LGBT lobby. Their Orwellian tagline: Acceptance without exception’, can be seen plastered on posters and adverts. Politicians, attempt to ‘out-radical’ one another, in the race to be an original champion, in the next emancipatory front of ‘Trans-rights’.

Freedom of religion: Much was made in the UK, about supposed exemptions, designed to ensure that believers would always be allowed to stay true to their convictions.

Four years later, the very same people who made ‘heartfelt promises’, now work tirelessly to undermine them.

Equalities minister Justine Greening, has insisted that churches must be made to: ‘Keep up with modern attitudes. Likewise, the Speaker of the House of Commons, a position supposedly defined by its political neutrality, had this to say: I feel we’ll only have proper equal marriage when you can bloody well get married in a church if you want to do so, without having to fight the church for the equality that should be your right’.

It became clear, during this year’s general election, just how militant the LGBT lobby have become, following marriage redefinition. The primary target was Tim Farron, leader of England’s third largest political party, the Liberal Democrats. High-profile journalists had heard that Farron was a practising Christian. In every single interview thereafter, they demanded to know. Did he personally believe homosexual sex to be a sin? He practically begged the commentariat, to allow him to keep his personal faith and legislative convictions separate. For decades, he pointed out, he had out vocally and legislatively supported the LGBT Lobby. Likewise, he had long backed same-sex marriage, voting for it enthusiastically. This simply was no longer enough.

Shortly after the election campaign, Farron resigned. He stated that it was now impossible, for a believing Christian to hold a prominent position in British politics.

In a heartbreaking development and in spite of Britain’s ‘foster crisis’, aspiring foster parents who identify as religious, face interrogation. Those who are deemed unlikely to ‘celebrate’ homosexuality, have had their dreams of parenthood scuppered. This month, Britain’s High Court, ruled that a Pentecostal couple were ineligible parents. While the court recognised their successful and loving record of adoption, they decreed that above all else: ‘The equality provisions concerning sexual orientation should take precedence. How has Great Britain become so twisted? Practicing Jews, Muslims, Christians and Sikhs, who want to stay true to their religious teachings, can no longer adopt children.

Freedom of speech: In the lead-up to the Parliamentary vote, we witnessed almost incomprehensible bullying. David Burrows MP, a mild-mannered supporter of the ‘Coalition for Marriage’, had excrement thrown at his house. His children received death threats and their school address was published online. Similarly, ‘Conservative’ broadcaster Iain Dale promised to, ‘publicly out’ gay MP’s, who did not vote for redefinition.

Many hardworking Brits have lost their jobs. Consider Adrian Smith, sacked by a Manchester Housing Trust, for suggesting that the state: shouldn’t impose its rules on places of faith and conscience’. Or Richard Page, fired for gross misconduct after articulating, that children might enjoy better outcomes, were they to be adopted by heterosexual couples.

Simultaneously, contrary to ‘steadfast’ government assurances, small businesses have been consistently targeted. Courts in Northern Ireland ruled that the Asher’s Family bakery had acted unlawfully. What crime committed by this tiny business? Politely declining to decorate a cake with a political message in support of same-sex marriage. The courts maintained that business owners must be compelled to promote the LGBT cause, irrespective of personal convictions.

Even the National Trust, a British institution with over 4.2 million members, has decided to join the bullying LGBT crusade. A message went out. Each of the Trust’s 62,000 volunteers, would be required to wear a compulsory same-sex rainbow badge. Those who said they’d rather not were told they would be ‘moved out of sightuntil they were prepared to publicly demonstrate inclusive tolerance.

In retrospect, the silent majority in Britain remained silent for too long. Reflecting on redefinition, Ben Harris-Quinney, Chairman of the Bow Group think tank pondered that:‘Same-sex marriage was promoted in the UK, as an issue of supposed tolerance and equality. What we have seen, is the most unequal and intolerant outcomes of any political issue in recent history’.

Children: Across the UK, ‘sex education’ has been transformed and disfigured. TV programmes, aimed at children as young as three, promote ‘gender fluidity’, as an enabler of thoughtfulness and individuality.

At the same time, Ministers have denied worried parents the right to withdraw their children from primary school classes. Meanwhile, ‘outside educators’ teach children about sex positions, ‘satisfying’ pornography consumption and how to masturbate. Concerns regarding STI’s and Promiscuity, are derided as ‘old-fashioned’.

Independent religious schools are under intense scrutiny. Dame Louise Casey, a senior government advisor, recently insisted that it is now: Not Ok for Catholic schools to be homophobic and anti-gay marriage’.
Ofsted, the body responsible for school-assessment, has been wildly politicised. In 2013, Prior to the redefinition of marriage, Ofsted visited Vishnitz Jewish Girls School. They passed the school with flying colours. In fact, they went out of their way to highlight the committed and attentive approach to student welfare and development. Four years later, Ofsted returned. This time, they failed the school on one issue alone. While again, noting that students were ‘confident in thinking for themselves‘, their report, pointed to the inadequate promotion of homosexuality and gender reassignment. As such, it was failing to ensure: a full understanding of fundamental British values’. It is one of an initial seven faith schools that face closure.

I mentioned that I was writing this article to a good friend in the Conservative Party, back at home. He expressed his genuine concern. Had I not considered the consequences? Did I not realise that what I said in Australia could be found when I returned to the UK? ‘LGBT progress is an unstoppable tide’. He assured me, that it was ok for me to ‘privately’ believe that marriage was between one man and one woman. He even privately agreed, that the stuff being taught in primary schools was too much.

But to say it out loud? To actually have it in print? It would blight my career and my personal relationships.

Good God. How much more important the institution of marriage and freedom of thought, religion and speech. How much more important the future of our children, than any naïve career ambitions I might harbour.

I urge every Aussie to examine the evidence, analysis the results and be clear about what you’re voting for. If it was solely marriage, it would worth preserving.

It’s infinitely more.

By David Sergeant and originally published in The Spectator on September 7, 2017 and can be found here.

 

New York Court Refuses To Dismiss Suit To Declare Muslim Marriage Valid

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

“In Jackson K v. Parisa G, 2016 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 1487 (NY Sup Ct New York County, April 8, 2016), a New York state trial court refused to dismiss a suit by plaintiff who believed he had validly married defendant in an elaborate Iranian Islamic ceremony in New York, attended by 200 guests, even though the couple did not obtain a New York marriage license.  Alternatively plaintiff sought damages for fraud and conversion of a $25,000 engagement ring. A 20-minute ceremony was performed by Ms. Sholeh Sham, who now says she is not a member of the clergy and had no authority to marry the couple. Plaintiff however claims the marriage was valid under NY Domestic Relations Law Sec. 12 that validates marriages solemnized “in the manner heretofore used and practiced” by a particular religious denomination. The court said in part:

The court need not decide at this point whether it is possible for the court to determine the validity of the purported marriage on neutral principles. The ultimate issue is whether the ceremony meets the requirements set forth in DRL §12. Plaintiff argues that, in Defendant’s denomination, no particular religious leader must solemnize a wedding ceremony. Under New York law, an officiant at a religious wedding ceremony need not be limited to a traditional concept of a member of the clergy or a minister ordained by a religious order….. Whether Ms. Shams was qualified to solemnize the marriage is an issue of fact….

The court also allowed plaintiff to move ahead with his claim of fraud, saying:

Here, the complaint includes detailed allegations to the effect that the Defendant accepted Plaintiff’s marriage proposal and engagement ring on July 29, 2009…; that the Defendant told him that her family wanted to select the wedding  officiant to be certain that the marriage would be recognized in the Islamic Republic of Iran and valid under Iranian law….

… Plaintiff alleges that Defendant convinced him that Ms. Shams was authorized to marry them at the time she officiated at the September 4, 2010 Ceremony, and that they were actually married on September 4, 2010. Only after years of purported marriage did Defendant tell Plaintiff they were not married.

You can learn more about this issue here.

Best Speech Ever On How Millenials Worship The Establishment

Every now and again I come across something that warrants posting here; I recently came across this on  Youtube which, I thought, was pretty insightful. Be edified.

 

A Collection of Family Law Writings by James W. Cushing, Esquire

Over the course of my career, I have written extensively on a wide variety of family law issues and legal principles.  These writings have been published in The Legal Intelligencer, Upon Further Review, and The Pennsylvania Family Lawyer as well as posted onto my blog.  I have collected these articles and blog posts and have listed them below.  Thanks for reading!

Articles:

Musings:

Former Kosher Supervisor At Manischewitz Sues Over Pressure To Compromise Standards

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

A lawsuit was filed Wednesday in state court in New York by Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz who was a kosher supervisor for the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations (“OU”) and who certified products of Manischewitz Co.– a major producer of Passover foods– for more than 20 years.  As reported by NJ Advance Media and AP, the suit, filed just days before Passover, claims that Horowitz was forced to take a long leave of absence after complaining that he was being pressured by the OU to be more lax in his inspections of certain products.  Horowitz claims that OU cooperated because it was afraid that Manischewitz would move to a different kosher certifying agency.  Manischewitz denies the charges. The lawsuit seeks millions of dollars in damages for emotional distress and damage to reputation.

You can learn more about this issue here.

Paying the price for breakdown of the country’s bourgeois culture

Every now and again I come across a fantastic article the warrants posting here; I recently came across one in the The Philadelphia Inquirer which, I thought, was pretty insightful. Be edified.

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Too few Americans are qualified for the jobs available. Male working-age labor-force participation is at Depression-era lows. Opioid abuse is widespread. Homicidal violence plagues inner cities. Almost half of all children are born out of wedlock, and even more are raised by single mothers. Many college students lack basic skills, and high school students rank below those from two dozen other countries.

 The causes of these phenomena are multiple and complex, but implicated in these and other maladies is the breakdown of the country’s bourgeois culture.

That culture laid out the script we all were supposed to follow: Get married before you have children and strive to stay married for their sake. Get the education you need for gainful employment, work hard, and avoid idleness. Go the extra mile for your employer or client. Be a patriot, ready to serve the country. Be neighborly, civic-minded, and charitable. Avoid coarse language in public. Be respectful of authority. Eschew substance abuse and crime.

These basic cultural precepts reigned from the late 1940s to the mid-1960s. They could be followed by people of all backgrounds and abilities, especially when backed up by almost universal endorsement. Adherence was a major contributor to the productivity, educational gains, and social coherence of that period.

Did everyone abide by those precepts? Of course not. There are always rebels — and hypocrites, those who publicly endorse the norms but transgress them. But as the saying goes, hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue. Even the deviants rarely disavowed or openly disparaged the prevailing expectations.

Was everything perfect during the period of bourgeois cultural hegemony? Of course not. There was racial discrimination, limited sex roles, and pockets of anti-Semitism. However, steady improvements for women and minorities were underway even when bourgeois norms reigned. Banishing discrimination and expanding opportunity does not require the demise of bourgeois culture. Quite the opposite: The loss of bourgeois habits seriously impeded the progress of disadvantaged groups. That trend also accelerated the destructive consequences of the growing welfare state, which, by taking over financial support of families, reduced the need for two parents. A strong pro-marriage norm might have blunted this effect. Instead, the number of single parents grew astronomically, producing children more prone to academic failure, addiction, idleness, crime, and poverty.

This cultural script began to break down in the late 1960s. A combination of factors — prosperity, the Pill, the expansion of higher education, and the doubts surrounding the Vietnam War — encouraged an antiauthoritarian, adolescent, wish-fulfillment ideal — sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll — that was unworthy of, and unworkable for, a mature, prosperous adult society. This era saw the beginnings of an identity politics that inverted the color-blind aspirations of civil rights leaders like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. into an obsession with race, ethnicity, gender, and now sexual preference.

And those adults with influence over the culture, for a variety of reasons, abandoned their role as advocates for respectability, civility, and adult values. As a consequence, the counterculture made great headway, particularly among the chattering classes — academics, writers, artists, actors, and journalists — who relished liberation from conventional constraints and turned condemning America and reviewing its crimes into a class marker of virtue and sophistication.

All cultures are not equal. Or at least they are not equal in preparing people to be productive in an advanced economy. The culture of the Plains Indians was designed for nomadic hunters, but is not suited to a First World, 21st-century environment. Nor are the single-parent, antisocial habits, prevalent among some working-class whites; the anti-“acting white” rap culture of inner-city blacks; the anti-assimilation ideas gaining ground among some Hispanic immigrants. These cultural orientations are not only incompatible with what an advanced free-market economy and a viable democracy require, they are also destructive of a sense of solidarity and reciprocity among Americans. If the bourgeois cultural script — which the upper-middle class still largely observes but now hesitates to preach — cannot be widely reinstated, things are likely to get worse for us all.

Would the re-embrace of bourgeois norms by the ordinary Americans who have abandoned them significantly reduce society’s pathologies? There is every reason to believe so. Among those who currently follow the old precepts, regardless of their level of education or affluence, the homicide rate is tiny, opioid addiction is rare, and poverty rates are low. Those who live by the simple rules that most people used to accept may not end up rich or hold elite jobs, but their lives will go far better than they do now. All schools and neighborhoods would be much safer and more pleasant. More students from all walks of life would be educated for constructive employment and democratic participation.

But restoring the hegemony of the bourgeois culture will require the arbiters of culture — the academics, media, and Hollywood — to relinquish multicultural grievance polemics and the preening pretense of defending the downtrodden. Instead of bashing the bourgeois culture, they should return to the 1950s posture of celebrating it.

By Amy Wax and originally published in The Philadelphia Inquirer on August 9, 2017 and can be found here.

 

Suit Challenges Cross At Site of Historic Spanish Mission

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

The Freedom From Religion Foundation this week filed suit in a California federal district court challenging the constitutionality of a 14-foot tall granite Latin cross in Santa Clara’s Memorial Cross Park.  The complaint (full text) in Freedom From Religion Foundation v. City of Santa Clara, (ND CA, filed 4/20/2016), says that the cross was donated and placed on city-owned property in 1953 by the Lion’s Club to mark the site of the second Spanish Catholic mission established in the city in 1777. The site continues to be maintained by the city. Plaintiff claims that the city’s actions violate the Establishment Clause of the federal and state constitutions as well as the “no aid” clause of California’s constitution.  FFRF issued a press release announcing the filing of the lawsuit and containing a photo of the disputed marker.

You can learn more about this issue here.

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