Church Calendars, National Calendars, & Hallmark Calendars
There are many ways to break up our annual trips around the sun. The most natural approach is to divide 365 by four (roughly) and offer the names: Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. Yet there are other ways to divide up the calendar. Elsewhere I have written on the importance of a liturgical or church calendar. While I will not be positively arguing for that in this post, I will be attempting to pour disdain on the way that American Christians have chosen to organize their calendars.
For many American Christians the “Hallmark Gift Card” calendar serves as their organizational schema. Another word for this is “consumerism.” For others it is the “National Holiday” calendar that determines annual feast days and celebrations. Another word for this “vacationsim” (Yes, I made that up. See also “leisurism”).
For both of these calendars there are designated liturgical activities. “Black Friday” and “Memorial Day Weekend Sales Events” are staples for the “Hallmark Gift Card” calendar. “Labor Day” and “MLK Day” are staples in the “National Holiday” calendar. For each liturgical day of celebration the idols of these calendars are being worshiped. While it should come as no surprise to us that pagans would form their own annual calendars, what is scandalous is the way that American Christians have adopted (unapologetically) the liturgical calendars of American Secularism.
Year in and year out Christians who organize their calendars around Hallmark cards and national holidays skip church and the feast days embedded into her calendar for American idols. Our blindness to these idols just proves their power over us. Moreover, we are also entirely blind to the source and enduring cause of our cultural capitulations: Baptist theology, poor sacramental theology, and lack of church discipline, or so says Peter Leithart:
In America, where Baptist theology has been dominant since the revivals of the eighteenth century…the church has been co-opted by the American story and become an appendage to the American democratic experiment; the Fourth of July receives more attention in many American churches than pentecost. The church’s rites are not considered important by members or by the leadership; cultural rites of passage and cultural “feast days” take priority. Church discipline is sporadic and weak, and world’s values and behavior are as likely to be found among Christians as among unbelievers. Christians no longer have a sense of living in a world that is different from the world surrounding them because they are not living in a different world. At best, Christians are internally divided, with one foot in and one without Christian culture, speaking Zion on Sunday and the language of Ashdod during the week. And they are divided or completely assimilated because infant baptism has not, along with the Word, Supper, and Discipline, formed Christian culture in the church. (The Baptized Body, pg. 135)
Individual choice, instant gratification, and sensory titillation are stalwarts in the American church because they are stalwarts in American secularism: the true enculturating power behind much of American Christianity. The church has been called to be a new world within the bounds of an old world. Yet we seem to content ourselves with the ways and world of the first Adam even while we are called to pray for the kingdom of the second Adam to come on Earth as it is in heaven.
Food for thought.