Christmas Creche Controversy: St. Francis of Assisi

An Australian Reverend and theologian who teaches at a prestigious school also – blogs. His latest is a rant against “American” Christians (American Christians are a particular preferred target in this and other of his blogs) who take offense when crèches and other symbols of Christ’s birth are prohibited from displays because they are considered religious and hurtful. In his rant he likens these Christians as deplorable idiots for not understanding that these symbols are meaningless, and goes on to explain just how ignorant American Christians are.

OUCH!

It would appear this scholar, teacher, theologian does not know that as a ‘teacher’, or shepherd, it is not his job to kick his sheep, it is his job to protect them, nurture them and grow them.

I was reminded of Psalm 23, of a shepherd who is tasked with tending to the needs of his sheep, whether they need food, water, or lay caste, they are in constant need of a prod and a gentle hand. It is considered one of the most brutal undertakings a man can be called to in this world requiring a 24/7 workday.  The shepherd protects his sheep from predators, from poisonous weeds, from harsh weather, loving them without judgment as he is their guide, and their only hope for survival.

This Reverend would seem to have forgotten his role as ‘teacher’, and instead of tending his sheep, he chastises them, slays them with his tongue, and ridicules their ‘ignorance’ given he is so much better informed. He has placed himself on a pedestal of worthiness belittling all the lowly for their stupidity, despite the fact that their hearts are in the right place.

And in so doing, this shepherd displays a high degree of Arrogance and Pride.

It is the job of the shepherd to protect the sheep from wolves. It is not his job to turn the sheep into shepherds… But he would seem to be confused. It would also seem he doesn’t much like his sheep given they haven’t the theological acumen that he purports to have. But then, given his actions, his ‘acumen’ would appear to be rather short-sighted… and built more on a core of self kingship.

Perhaps this Reverend would be better suited in a different role, because as a shepherd he seems to feel that preserving the wolves, allowing the sheep to be slaughtered, and kicking them to get them to stand when caste, is a Godly way.

There is a second lesson this Reverend seems to be missing, that of the ‘tongue’. Given his stance as ‘teacher’ he is called to a higher standing than the sheep, and in unleashing his rather bitter plethora of anger, he reveals that he no longer wants to adhere to the guides of his Biblical calling.  And for some odd reason, he targets only American Christians.

He references the ‘ignorance’ of American Christians numerous times throughout his blog, high-lighting such references as to the barn, making claims that during Jesus birth he was most likely tended by a host of women nursemaids all the while bemoaning the depiction of a twig and moss structure as stupid and unrealistic. He is belligerent at the use of ‘donkeys’, claiming there is no such reference and donkeys didn’t exist. But St. Francis would seem to disagree, because he commissioned an ‘ass’, the wild donkey, as a part of the first crèche!

This Reverend takes deep offense to American Christians creating false depictions, and then creates one of his own… while apparently not having researched the history of the crèche, and making assumptions that are not revealed in the Bible.

All the while he has sort of lost the sight, the cause, the value, and the heart of Christians in his bitter quest to denigrate. Why?

He claims that keeping ‘historically inaccurate and culturally anachronistic religious displays in shopping malls isn’t a victory for the gospel at all.’ He further demands that good Christians should burn their nativity scene because it furthers false doctrine.

Saint Francis of Assisi would seem to disagree because it is he who is credited with the creation of the first crèche display whose function was to divert emphasis from gifts and restore Christ as the center. His crèche utilized human participants, live animals, including an ass, and was produced inside a cave. These ‘scenes’ became quite popular and the Catholic church is then credited with elaborating the nativity scene, dressing up the magi in elegant robes thus mimicking the robes of Catholic Priests, as well as adding elaborate marble baubles and various other animals.

These crèches then spread to Germany, Austria, Poland, and England as the popularity expanded.

Creches were not born of American Christians, despite Mike Frost’s prideful denunciation of American Christians.  German immigrants ultimately brought the original pantomime creche performances to the US in the 15th century. Southern Italy is credited with designing such elaborate crèches today that they bring tourists from around the world to view the creativity and enjoyment they bring to children and adults.

Artisans work with delicate diligence to produce absolutely beautiful exhibits throughout Italy, the Vatican and the Czech Republic. While the US creates less expensive models, which Mr. Frost finds quite offensive, the purpose is still the purpose – to remind the sheep and the wolves that this is the day Christ was born.

So, Mr. Frost, Mr. Scrooge, I imagine Saint Francis of Assisi is a might bit better shepherd and source of Christian reverence for Christ. And the fact that the crèche is symbolic in trying to remind us sheep that Christmas isn’t about Santa and reindeer, and snowmen, it is about the birth of Christ is a good thing born of heart.

Bah-Humbug.

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