Well, 2020 sure has been a doozy of a year, hasn’t it? I normally begin these by saying that it is the time of year for your weekly/monthly/annual trip to church, but my congregation is still doing online-only worship because of how rampant the pandemic has been in the United States, so our trip to church will be virtual!

But it is still Christmas Eve, and I always love doing these, so let’s generate a bit of holiday cheer together. Ask me anything (usual disclaimer to follow) about Christmas, the Bible, the church, whether the chicken or the egg came first…anything. I have over a decade of parish ministry experience--seven years of solo ministry experience and nearly four years of associate minister-type experience, and I have seen some stuff and learned some stuff.

Usual disclaimer every time I do one of these: I am posting here solely in my personal capacity, and not on behalf of my congregation which employs me, my region that governs my standing and issues my ministry credentials, my denomination, or my publisher. I also will not answer a question in a way that would betray the confidences of the people I minister to.

My last few years' worth of AMAs: 2016 2017 2018 2019

Proof: https://imgur.com/a/dPBgobT and https://twitter.com/RevEricAtcheson/status/1342125130340839426

Edit: Alright, y'all, it's late and that's going to have to be a wrap on this year's AMA! Thank you for joining in on the fun, I always have a good time doing these, and I'm very sorry if I wasn't able to get to your question. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and be safe so that we will all be here for Christmas 2021!

Comments: 923 • Responses: 89  • Date: 

danccbc336 karma

How did The Flintstones have a Christmas special ?

revanon613 karma

Their inventiveness, while arguably impressive, is largely limited to impressing dinosaurs to work for them against their will, so the obvious conclusion is that dinosaurs were capable of time travel.

pellmellmichelle31 karma

So is your suggestion that they are post-christianity humans who travelled back in time to enslave the dinosaurs, or humans who imported dinosaurs through time travel to a post-christianity time period to press into slavery? Both are very interesting hypotheses. Hmm...

yourcool37 karma

The dinosaurs were the time travelers.

pellmellmichelle18 karma

Oh snap, this changes everything...Clearly the dinosaurs lost the human-dinosaur war then

revanon32 karma

It sure wasn't for lack of trying once the Flintstones cinematic universe gave way to the Jurassic Park cinematic universe.

GeorgeEliotsCock215 karma

I've noticed that the figures in nativity scenes are incredibly short. Why were the 3 Wiseman only about 2' tall, but baby jesus is normal size?

revanon477 karma

The Magi didn't arrive on Christmas Day after all (in many western Christian denominations, they arrive on Epiphany--the twelfth day of Christmas). So I imagine they're true to size if they're still coming over the horizon? Accurate nativity scenes need to make everyone's skin some shades darker and put the Magi somewhere in, idk, the garage or the yard or across the street.

dutsnekcirf94 karma

And apparently an accurate nativity scene needs to be depicted underground in some grotto according to the tour I took to Bethlehem a few years ago. They built the Church of the Nativity on top of the cave where they claim Jesus was born. Taking this tour completely disillusioned my perception/belief of the events that occurred on Jesus’ birth.

revanon195 karma

There is probably a great deal of the nativity scene that needs revising, or that has been lost in translation. My seminary has an archaeology professor on staff (not Indiana Jones, but still a great guy), and learning from him was an excellent complement to my Biblical studies during God School.

Cethinn33 karma

I mean no offense, but, from your experience, are archeology professors working with a seminary trying to discover what happened in the past, regardless of their beliefs, or trying to find what they believe, regardless of if it's true or not, or some combination of the two?

revanon22 karma

My seminary is multidenominational Christian and my archaeology professor is Jewish, so I feel pretty safe is assuming he's not working there because he is looking for what he already believes in.

The_World_of_Ben30 karma

So Father, they're not small, they're far away?

revanon25 karma

I mean, they could be both, and for all I know the historical magi themselves were smaller persons. It's certainly not mutually exclusive.

strontal21 karma

Noting of course that the number of wise men isn’t mentioned anywhere in the bible

revanon77 karma

There were six of them, and they went in halfsies on each gift. True story.

orangepalm196 karma

I'm not a Christian personally but my mother is. Since I love her, I usually go to church with her on Christmas eve because I know it makes her happy and her church has a banging bell choir.

My question is, is there anything you think people in my position can do to be supportive of our loved ones faith this Christmas without being condescending or disingenuous? I thought about buying a nativity scene but she's already got a much nicer one than I can afford and it doesn't really ring true.

Thanks for the ama!

revanon290 karma

If you want to sit with her in y'all's living room and attend an online worship service, I think that would be absolutely lovely. At my congregation, we had everyone dim their lights at home and turn on their Christmas lights and light candles for Silent Night at the end of worship, and I have to admit, it was a really, really cool effect. So there is definitely the possibility of a good worship experience together this year, even though it is nothing like what we expected this time a year ago. If you wanted to gift her something that maybe speaks to her faith without ringing false to you, maybe gift her some good Christmas music on whatever device she uses?

Separately, thank you for being so thoughtful regarding your mom's faith. Christian or not, you sound like a good egg.

pipisicle150 karma

What is your take on evolution vs creationism? A lot of educated church leaders with doctorates seem to take a more literal interpretation of some of the scriptures rather than figurative ones whilst a lot of laypeople take the figurative interpretation. How do you interpret the scriptures - literally or figuratively and how do you feel if it is different from those in your congregation?

revanon487 karma

I think that the days of Genesis 1 are pretty clearly metaphorical, rather than literal 24-hour days, for a couple of reasons: the fact that the sun wasn't created until the fourth day, and the fact that the seventh day doesn't actually end (every other day ends with "And there was morning and there was evening, the nth day"). I personally believe that the theory of evolution is in no way incompatible with a belief in God as revealed through Jesus Christ, or the scriptures of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and New Testament.

My congregation skews pretty heavily towards the pro-science direction, I think--we've got a disproportionate number of medical personnel in our ranks, and when I shared my beliefs on this topic with them in a sermon son after I started, we seemed to be understanding one another well.

WiseMenFear76 karma

At what point was man evolved enough that God have him an immortal soul? Or do all creatures, large and small, have a soul and a shot at eternity?

revanon189 karma

I personally believe that right relationship with God (or salvation) is possible even after we die, and so all creatures, once free from their mortal coils, may well be capable of such a relationship with their creator. After all, I can't say for sure what the afterlife looks like exactly. If that means the mosquitoes who eat me alive in the summer are there, well, I tip my hat to them (after all, if we're in heaven, their bites can no longer possibly itch).

New_Tadpole_89 karma

This response has helped me shed some of my deep seeded prejudice against mosquitoes, thank you.

revanon114 karma

To be fair, the animosity has been well and truly earned.

pellmellmichelle33 karma

The biting and itching doesn't bother me so much with mosquitoes, it's the malaria, yellow fever and zika. Still, forgive them father, for they know not what they do.

revanon57 karma

I sometimes get allergic reactions to mosquito bites beyond the usual itching, so the forgiveness from me is probably arriving more slowly than it is from God.

iExodus174433 karma

As a parish pastor, can you maybe refer to scriptures to support your belief? That first sentence of yours pretty much says Jesus' sacrifice was pointless.

revanon69 karma

Jesus's sacrifice only becomes pointless if you set aside the fact that the full reconciliation of God with humanity occurred after He died as well, in the form of the resurrection.

thelazyemt1 karma

Can you expand more on what you mean in your first sentence about salvation being possible after you die

revanon21 karma

In John 12, Jesus says that we are judged at the end of time (as opposed to when we die). In other passages, like the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, it is pretty heavily implied that while we may go one direction or another in the afterlife that movement between the two is theoretically possible. So I think I have to leave room for the possibility that we may be redeemed and brought back into right relationship after death. I'm not saying I know how for sure--only that I believe it to be possible.

Or, as C.S. Lewis put it far more simply than I am right now, "The gates of hell are locked from the inside."

Playisomemusik14 karma

Where do you draw the line between allegory and fact then? Or which passages to pick and choose to follow?

revanon46 karma

I tend to err on the side of a bigger tent and a more just vision of heaven because the balance of the totality of Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, strongly suggests that this is what God is concerned with as well.

Anyone can pick out a verse with tweezers and supersize it--witness what Christians have done with Leviticus 18:22 or Romans 1:26-27 for decades. But on balance, Scripture tells me that God is concerned with being in relationship with more of us, rather than fewer of us, and with seeing all of us have our basic needs in this lifetime of dignity, human rights, and financial security respected. So, I strive to preach and teach likewise.

me_hill129 karma

Have you ever had to solve a Father Brown style murder?

revanon246 karma

No, but I was raised by two lawyers with years of both criminal defense and prosecutorial experience, plus a childhood's worth of Encyclopedia Brown stories, so I am clearly extremely well qualified for such an eventuality!

24ktBass46 karma

Do you think your parents professions influenced your choice of profession?

revanon232 karma

In that I spent a couple summers getting a taste of the legal profession as an office assistant and ran screaming in the opposite direction, yes.

jutah1983123 karma

Can Jesus fly?

revanon518 karma

Jesus both can fly and is fly.

kel0131138 karma

As another pastor, I feel like we could be friends because of this response.

revanon96 karma

Find me on Twitter--I'm revericatcheson--and lets find out.

OneWayOutBabe30 karma

Spicy baby Jesus... I'm a new follower!

Nothing-But-Lies13 karma

This is my main issue with Jesus, far too spicy. When I'm eating other babies I don't start sweating and get diarrhea.

revanon12 karma

I definitely read that last word in the Pepto Bismol jingle voice.

Rosmucman72 karma

He was a socialist from the Middle East,I’m fairly sure he’d be on the no fly list

revanon134 karma

As a run-of-the-mill brownish, bearded Armenian chap who got thrown out of LAX last year while playing Pokemon Go, this salient observation hits a bit close to home. Oof.

allamakee9 karma

Of COURSE Jesus can fly!!

jutah198323 karma

Could he dunk a basketball on a regulation hoop without using his flying powers?

revanon64 karma

With God, all things are possible.

finnlikefish122 karma

I truly apologize if this is a stupid/ignorant question, but if you’re a parish pastor, what denomination of Christianity do you follow/preach? Also, how are you addressed (e.g. “Father,” etc.)? Do you find that there are vast differences between different denominations of Christianity despite following the same core philosophies?

I’m not Christian (I’m an Ashkenazic Jew), so I’ve always found this very interesting. Thanks so much, and merry Christmas!

revanon207 karma

Not stupid or ignorant at all! Different Christian denominations have different titles for their clergy, and I definitely see how it isn't easy to keep up with for people of another religious tradition.

I am a member of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), which spun off from American Presbyterianism about two hundred years ago, during the Second Great Awakening. In writing, I am styled Rev., or Rev. Dr. since I have a doctorate. In conversation, I'm "Pastor."

I do see, and experience, vast differences across American Christianity (as the US is my primary context), not just theologically but in terms of politics and ethics as well. On those latter counts I sometimes find myself having more in common with people of other religious traditions!

Studoku55 karma


revanon96 karma

My denomination split from another Protestant denomination, so we're like splitters squared.

greenmtnfiddler53 karma

EVERY Protestant denomination split off of another Protestant denomination.

A fun hobby in New England villages is to look for a "First Church of Springfield" and then start looking for The Other Guy, who might be titled The True Gospel Church or the Trinity Church or some other clue to why the split.

revanon26 karma

We have a lot of "First Christian Church" congregations in the Disciples, because we want you to know that we were the first! Even when we weren't!

oneofmanyany23 karma

Does your religion allow women to become pastors?

revanon81 karma

Yes. I was raised in a congregation with a female senior minister, and at my first congregation out of seminary, my regional minister (our rough equivalent of bishops) was a woman. Some of my most talented colleagues are women. Scrapping male-only ordination has been an infinite good.

JeanLouise_20 karma

I’m not OP, but I grew up in this denomination and women are very much a part of church leadership at every level. I believe the leader of the whole organization (don’t remember the title) is a woman. They are pretty progressive as far as churches go.

revanon35 karma

If memory serves, we were the first mainline denomination to elect a female leader, back in 2005. I was pretty proud of that, and proud that we elected a Black woman to succeed her.

armageddon_20xx16 karma

Interesting. As a Presbyterian myself I’d be curious what the differences are

revanon46 karma

Before coming to my current congregation earlier this year, I spent almost two years in an interim associate-type role at a Presbyterian congregation. If you scrapped the weekly recitation of creeds and replaced it with weekly communion, it could 100% have been a Disciples of Christ service. The differences come more in theology (our founders basically realized they were really, really bad at being Calvinists). The stylistic differences are honestly minimal, and that made it easier for me to acclimate to that setting.

pipisicle15 karma

What subject is your doctorate in?

revanon65 karma

Religion and Leadership. It's a Doctor of Ministry, so it's a professional doctorate rather than an academic doctorate like a PhD or a ThD. I wrote my thesis on American Christian values and labor organizing, and that experience eventually inspired my second book, On Earth as it is in Heaven: A Faith-Based Toolkit for Economic Justice.

Syrdon20 karma

American Christian values and labor organizing,

Wait, what? That’s not a set of things I normally see together, could you expand on that a bit?

revanon39 karma

There is a long history of Christian pro-labor union activism! At least as far back as Leo XIII's encyclical Rerum Novarum, it has had theological and ecclesiastical backing in western Christian tradition. There has been a great deal of support lent to labor organizers by Christians over the decades, and I was happy to add to that tradition in my small way.

Iamananorak12 karma

Have you heard of r/radicalchristianity? It’s a fantastic sub!

revanon6 karma

I have now. Thanks much.

aptmnt_2 karma

Why do you think there are so many damn flavors of religion and why do you think the one you happened to be born into is the “right” one?

revanon12 karma

I don't think mine is the "right" one, I simply have experienced truth by going along this tradition and am enthusiastically seeing where the path along it takes me. It doesn't mean there isn't truth in any other traditions.

But also, Baskin-Robbins has pretty conclusively shown this number of flavors is a viable business model, so I'm fine with letting that ride for now.

Connoisseuro121 karma

Have you ever seen Vicar of Dibley?

revanon214 karma

Every episode. A silver lining of this pandemic, to the extent that there is one, is that I am not being invited to every congregant's house for Christmas dinner with sixteen different vegetables.

agreeablelobster113 karma

Do you have any opinions on Hallmark Christmas movies?

revanon350 karma

I think before 2020, I'd make a snarky comment about their formulaic plotlines and...I'll be kind and say uninspired casting demographics, but honestly, I feel like 2020 isn't the year to be yucking somebody else's yum. My wife and I watched the one this year with Tamera Mowry-Housley, and I think seeing that genre of movie with a smart, competent female scientist as a protagonist--especially a Black female protagonist--who doesn't kowtow to the men around her yet also isn't a my-work-is-my-only-true-love caricature...that was a really meaningful thing for her.

eatmykarma171 karma

2020 isn't the year to be yucking somebody else's yum.

You've just made me join your flock, too bad your anonymous!

revanon82 karma

I'm not anymore--I made this handle when I was still doing these anonymously, but you can find me at twitter.com/revericatcheson

scottyboy21851 karma

How do you best handle people who start quoting scripture and using it as an excuse for hatred/hostility?

revanon97 karma

I think it depends on the context. Like, I once had some fundamentalist Baptist door-knockers come by my place a few years back, and I pretty much just let them tire themselves out, because I know I'm not going to change their minds by going on the offensive in that context. In a more public context, I'm a bit more willing to mix it up because I think it is important to offer an alternative vision and interpretation of Scripture than the ones we see bandied about by the hatemongers and the hucksters. In those contexts, my audience isn't necessarily the person doing the proof-texting, it's the person listening to it and wondering if this means that God hates them, or the person asking if there is more to the church than what they are witnessing from the hatemonger. They're who I have hope for, and will always have hope for.

duckface0848 karma

A light-hearted one: Can you tell us your best Christmas or Christian joke? You must have one up your sleeve!

revanon101 karma

It's not a joke per se, but my absolute favorite Christmas cartoon is of the Magi, and one of them has brought Frankenstein's monster, and another is like, "No, Gaspar, we said 'frankincense.'"

StrongDorothy87 karma

My wife’s an Anglican priest. My favorite one...

How many Anglicans does it take to change a lightbulb?

“Change?! My great grandmother put that lightbulb in!”

revanon22 karma

I thought the answer to that question was, "Three--one to notice it's broken, one to change it, and a third to mix drinks for the first two?"

jdith12345 karma

I’m not trying to be critical, but just curious... why do you think so few congregations have been holding outdoor services during the pandemic? It seems like such a natural thing to me.

Good sound systems and giant monitors are not crazy expensive in the scheme of things.

Why haven’t we seen outdoor public prayer meetings on the steps of the Lincoln memorial and the like?

You could do it relatively safely I think. Make sure you socially distanced. Chalk circles on the lawn like they do in the parks for sun bathers, etc.

I’m not religious myself, I wasn’t raised with it, but I have enormous respect for the comfort that people get from their religious observance. It seems like in these horrible times we could use some prayer.

Maybe I’m missing something, and it’s happening somewhere, but the only time churches are showing up in my news is when some crazy televangelist type refuses to stop having maskless services inside, or when someone like that tests positive for covid.

revanon156 karma

I just did a Twitter thread on this exact question when I got tagged into it the other day!

The easy answer is, "because of the president," but like some other easy answers, it is incorrect, or at least incomplete.

The truth is that swaths of the (predominantly white) Christianity I was raised around have been conditioned for decades to treat science as sin and not as a quest for understanding and truth. I didn't have to be taught evolution in school because of this mentality--the first time I read Darwin, I was a 21-year-old college student, and it was for a history class, not a science class.

Instead of discovering truth, many in the church have tried to manufacture truth. This is why in place of therapy and mental healthcare you have Biblical counseling, and why instead of simply accepting and loving LGBTQ people we came up with conversion therapy. If it isn't truth that we ourselves made for ourselves, it was to be shunned as sin.

Ironically, one of the very first stories in the Bible, the tower of Babel, is about about how us manufacturing reality for ourselves can go horribly wrong. We have chosen to ignore that lesson, and now millions of people are suffering. There is repair we will need to do, and I do not know if there will be the appetite for it. I hope there is.

jdith12344 karma

I’m so sorry to hear you say that! It’s so sad!

When the smallpox vaccine came, there was national celebration. Church bells rang and people held prayer services thanking God for helping the scientists find the way.

I’m firmly on the other side of that “debate” but it’s so sad to me that we can’t all declare a Christmas Truce and sing carols across the trenches for the vaccine. It’s such an amazing achievement for science, but also for what the best of humanity can do when we come together.

We need bells to ring and also some kind of mourning for our terrible losses.

revanon89 karma

I wish I had a more optimistic answer for you. I really, truly do. I do share in your rejoicing for the vaccines that have been created, and I fully agree that, like Jonas Salk curing polio and then refusing to patent his vaccine, it represents some of our best. Many, many lives will be saved, of that I am certain.

But there has also been a lot of pain, and a lot of death, that could have been mitigated if more of the church had responded to the pandemic from a culture of life rather than misusing religious liberty and claiming persecution. That, to me, is part of the mourning of which you speak--I am mourning that we could have been better, much better even, and actively chose not to be.

I find myself both rejoicing and grieving, then, and I think that is okay right now.

zexonomus43 karma

Over the years many people have brought up the idea of renaming Christmas or changing the celebration date of the Christian aspects of Christmas due to a large portion of Christmas traditions being pagan in nature (wreaths, feasting, Christmas trees, mistletoe, etc) what are your thoughts on this?

revanon85 karma

I guess I could make a fuss, but a) my wife and I get a tree every year, so I suppose I'm a proud hypocrite, b) it's not my birthday church is potentially celebrating incorrectly, and c) I feel like this year especially isn't the time to be yucking other peoples' yum. I certainly do empathize with contemporary pagans who wish the church had kept our hands off their trappings, but unfortunately I think that proverbial ship has sailed.

Runzair32 karma

As a child, my pastor explained to our youth group that Christian holidays were intentionally associated with pagan traditions as Christianity emerged as a means for the early church leaders to influence people to follow this new religion.

revanon19 karma

That was certainly a big reason for it.

seanightowl35 karma

Do you really believe that the son of god was a human being that lived ~2000 years ago, and he was reanimated after death?

revanon45 karma

Yes and yes.

seanightowl26 karma

Thanks for the reply. I wasn’t trying to be offensive, just curious. When I was a kid I believed in god and what not, but now as an adult, I feel that it’s all made up stories. Part of it is that if god was doing things like that 2000 years ago my questions are. - why did god only be active during a small fraction of human history - why is god not active anymore

Humans have been around for more than a 100k years, why wait 98k years and then disappear again?

FYI I’m not asking you to answer these, just wanted to share my perspective as a nonbeliever. Even though I don’t believe the same things you do, I wish you the best, and I’m sure that you’ve had massive impact on the lives of some of your congregation.

revanon21 karma

These are valid questions, and I want to thank you for the thoughtful way you posed them to me.

I don't claim to have guaranteed-correct answers here (after all, part of taking a leap of faith is, for me at least, the humility in acknowledging this is some possibility I am getting at least some of this wrong).

I do think God has always been active, but also that we, for any number of reasons, do not always see or hear that activity. We have interpreted activity in the past as God directly intervening in the order of the world, and I don't think those interpretations were wrong, but I also see God as intervening to help more when there were fewer means we had at our disposal to heal and help people.

For me, the hardest questions come down to why God doesn't directly intervene to prevent things like genocide and chattel slavery. Part of that, especially re: genocide, is my ethnic identity and family history, and part of that is me trying to discern what God wants me to do about those titanic sins. I do think God guides me to channel that righteous anger at such sin into positive change in the world.

I acknowledge this may not fully answer your questions. I'm starting to lose a bit of steam and am trying to get to as many questions as I can. But I appreciate the conversation and have hopefully reciprocated the respectfulness and graciousness you have shown me.

erellsworth33 karma

Do you consider Die Hard a Christmas movie?

revanon42 karma

I recently saw an amazing Die Hard Advent calendar, so it clearly is an Advent movie.

(Advent is the four-week season of preparation in the traditional Christian liturgical calendar that precedes Christmas Day.)

CletusToothrot28 karma

In you opinion, what are the differences between a religion and a cult?

revanon62 karma

In a word? Accountability.

Twigglesnix25 karma

Why is it that Christians don't have to keep kosher?

revanon38 karma

Us laying claim to Jewish religious practice (i.e. "Christian" seders) tends to go badly, if not offensively, and we shouldn't be just helping ourselves like that to Jewish tradition.

DearDreadful20 karma

Why are feelings of "us vs them" so prevalent in the church? For example, growing up I was taught not to associate with gay people, people with addiction problems, followers of other religions, etc.

It doesn't seem to reflect a culture of love, that's for sure.

revanon30 karma

You're right, it doesn't, and it is something the church needs to reckon with, repent for, and repair with those whom we have harmed.

I think we are guilty of treating our relationship with God as a quid-pro-quo--like, we will loudly and publicly praise and glorify God and in return God will prioritize and privilege us, which is...very much not how things worked out in the Bible, and not necessarily how they should work out ever. But as long as we think God is keeping us at the top of this heap we have constructed, we keep this act up, and we keep harming others as a result. But the bill for that is fast becoming due, and we may have written a check we can't cash.

WhosYoPokeDaddy19 karma

The last 4 years have made me really sad about the church in america, and my family and I stopped going this year. Do you have any advice?

revanon27 karma

I empathize completely with why the past four years have saddened you about American (and, I am assuming, you are referring to historically white?) Christianity, and I understand why you stopped attending.

I am hopeful that there is some church community in your vicinity (although if you're very rural, it may be a bit of a hike) that does not treat theology and Trumpism as interchangeable. But when (or even if) you decide to return needs to be on your timetable, not ours. Give yourself permission to take the time you need to decide what you need your relationship with the church to be going forward, and pray that God will lead you on the path that will most allow you to flourish. If I can help you in finding a church or pastor who can be there for you the way you need, please let me know.

Alxcooldude318 karma


revanon98 karma

Are you asking about what I, personally, feel about LGBTQ people? I think they're amazing, awesome creations of God made to be loved and affirmed just as we all do.

PapaSteel18 karma

I don't know if you're ever going to read this late submission, Pastor, but I've enjoyed this thread the last two years and wanted to finally ask a question.

Lifelong-atheist-turned-genuine-believer here after a divine experience, but still not yet a fan of specific church denominations or even the bible. Instead of going to church, I would RATHER just help my community or people in need each week.

What are the most important things I'm missing out on by skipping group worships and sermons, and what would you suggest I add to my life to help supplement that?

revanon27 karma

Even as a diehard introvert, I think that Christianity was always meant to be practiced in a communal setting (unless you're a hermit, and tbh I think few of us are well and truly hard-wired for that--some, yes, but not many).

The fellowship and friendship are obvious benefits, especially when you are in a moment of crisis and a community can care for you and lighten your burdens. But in terms of your own worldview, whose changes you allude to here, I'd say that the context of community can help you refine that worldview and bolster your owndiscernment of what you believe or don't believe.

To give one example from my personal experience, something I used to believe was that a person should only be baptized once, period. But as I began ministering in communities (churches), I began to encounter people who came to us from previously toxic or otherwise abusive religious settings who wanted to be rebaptized because they felt that when they were baptized in those contexts, they weren't really given a choice. After some prayer and reflection on what my own denomination teaches about baptism, I realized that the right, affirming thing for me to do was to honor that they felt they were freely choosing to follow Jesus this time, and I rebaptized them as an outward sign of a choice that they had now made of their own volition to follow Jesus of Nazareth. I probably wouldn't have arrived at that place on my own, but ministering in the context of community led me there, and it put me in a place to be a positive and healing presence in the lives of others. I hope this helps.

_LOTR_OA18 karma

Is it okay to play Dungeons and Dragons?

revanon36 karma

I was a Hero Quest and Magic: The Gathering kid myself growing up, but D&D is fun too.

Goatzinger17 karma

Do you consider a hot dog a sandwich?

revanon18 karma

Sandwich-adjacent, maybe?

ObjectionIrrelevant16 karma

Usually my favorite part of Christmas is going to the Christmas Eve service and hearing the choir sing the traditional carols. (I mean, the congregation sings too, but there’s something to be said for having a good choir.) Since in-person worship isn’t happening this year, so you have recommendations for good/free recordings of traditional carols?

revanon17 karma

I am sure there are lots on YouTube, and in all sorts of arrangements! Just to give one example, I've got two mainstay versions of the Hallelujah chorus in my rotation, one a flash mob version (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXh7JR9oKVE) and another a soul jazz arrangement (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5hksKXZQ3us)

We are having to do our Christmas carol singing at my congregation very differently this year as well, and I really empathize with you missing it. I hope you are able to have a meaningful Christmas worship experience this week in a way that is safe for you!

RelentlesslyContrary14 karma

Why does it seem that during religious discussions there is so much focus on the existence of a higher power and whether or not there is an afterlife?

revanon23 karma

I'm just making an educated guess here, but perhaps because for many religious folks, the existence of an afterlife would necessitate a higher power to create that afterlife?

taylorhschweighardt14 karma

Glad to see you here again! I first came across you with one of these AMA's a few years ago and have been a Twitter follower ever since. Noticed you moved recently to a southern state which I call home as well. How has the move been for you so far, any observations you've made or anything unexpected you've come across?

revanon38 karma

Don't ever move cross-country during a pandemic. Zero stars, do not recommend.

That being said, it has been worth it. Alabama is a new place of the United States for me to live in, and I have learned a couple of things: 1) My Midwestern roots definitely help grease the skids, because while Kansas is certainly not the Deep South, the barbeque-football-church culture is 100% what I was raised on as a child, and dusting it off after more than fifteen years on the West Coast was like riding a bike. 2) Assuming you know all that much about areas of the country in which you have not lived is generally a fool's errand. New places can confirm expectations but also confound expectations, and I have learned over time that embracing a new place with humbleness and humility will make that experience infinitely more rewarding and enjoyable.

taylorhschweighardt12 karma

Good to hear. Many stereotypes about Alabama are correct, and many aren't. Personally, I feel like I belong in the pacific northwest, but here we are haha. Merry Christmas!

revanon15 karma

I moved here from the Pacific Northwest, and I loved it there too. But I'm also not complaining one little bit about seeing the sun in December now.

Madame_Kitsune981 karma

If you come to my part of Kentucky, to our Disciples church?

I might actually come to church anywhere again. And I say that as a lapsed Catholic.

revanon3 karma

I almost went to Kentucky out of seminary! Of the two congregations that flew me out for in-person interviews, one was in Lexington for an associate-type position, and the other was in Washington state for a solo position. The congregation in Lexington went with their other candidate, and I very happily returned to the Pacific Northwest for nine great years. As a former Catholic, I think you'll find some of our trappings (weekly communion especially) familiar, but with a different theological twist for sure. If I can be of help connecting you to a Disciples community, let me know.

SquidDruid13 karma

Do you leave out milk and cookies for santa?

revanon55 karma

I leave out scotch and soda. Santa always has an elf as a designated driver (although I'm not sure if that is part of the elf's job description or not--I've long held that the North Pole needs to be unionized).

mcarluccia11312 karma

Not really Christmas related, but how do dinosaurs fit into the Bible?

revanon41 karma

Poorly. Have you tried fitting a triceratops in between the paper-thin pages a lot of Bibles are printed on?!

Serious answer: Yes, I understand the days of Genesis 1 to be epochs of time rather than literal 24-hour days, and I believe that God can have created the universe and still left plenty of time for the dinos to have enjoyed their day in the sun before God got around to us.

shesdumb11 karma

What’s your favourite Christmas movie?

revanon13 karma

Muppet Family Christmas (the 1987 television special). Watching the Swedish Chef completely lose his ish the first time he sees Big Bird (and is in need of a Christmas turkey to make for everyone) will never, ever stop being hilarious.

citizenkane8610 karma

what does a pastor binge on streaming during a pandemic if anything?

revanon24 karma

My wife and I recently finished bingeing Dead to Me, with Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini as the two leads. James Marsden is in it too. Very good, very addictive. I especially like the pastor character (played by Keong Sim), who starts out relatively bland (as clergy characters usually do unless they're the lead), but becomes sharper as the season goes on.

whyamisowise10 karma


revanon24 karma

You would hope so. But think of how society functioned both then and now. Joseph was a 'tekton,' which we traditionally translate as 'carpenter,' but perhaps more accurately means 'laborer.' He wasn't somebody you gave up a room for (even today, because the politicians who derided masks and public health measures lining up for the covid vaccines is a pretty stark proof that pulling rank still works). Likewise, Mary was betrothed to Joseph but still unwed, and that carried its own stigma (again, just as being a single mom or a 'welfare queen' in the racist doublespeak of the 80s and 90s of today).

So...yes, I would hope that someone would have given their space to an obviously pregnant woman and her blue-collar beloved. But society has long looked down upon them, and while I personally think that is also partly why God chose them, it surely decreased the likelihood of having space made for them. And that should convict us today as well.

Sys327689 karma

What made you choose Christianity over all of the other religions?

revanon14 karma

I was raised in the church, have encountered truth by participating it throughout my entire life, and have never felt any strong desire to leave. That does not mean I think there is no truth in any other religion, only that my personal experience of truth has been through God as revealed through Jesus Christ.

Sys3276817 karma

I was raised in the church

Do you think that if you had been raised in a Muslim or Hindu household you would now be an adherent to those religions?

revanon22 karma

It's entirely possible, and it's a good reminder to affirm our shared humanity rather than be throwing stones.

YodaFan4658 karma

Where do you find God’s love in a year like this?

revanon7 karma

Giving me and my family the strength to undertake a cross-country move in the middle of a pandemic. I never, ever want to do that again, but the help we got along the way, and the strength we generated within ourselves and for one another...it was real. It was very real.

YodaFan46511 karma

I guess I should have asked where I can find God’s love... my father died in August, my fiancee left me the week of his funeral.

revanon10 karma

I am very sorry to hear that. This year has taken something from all of us, but it seems to have taken a whole heck of a lot from you. Please feel free to reach out privately through DM if you would like prayer or to further discern the presence of God's love for you--which I absolutely believe God does.

pseudofidelis7 karma

Fellow parish pastor here AND fellow Protestant graduate of Seattle U! I did my undergraduate degree at SU before going on to seminary. My question is: does the Jesuit identity of SU still impact your ministry or theology, and if so, how?

revanon12 karma

I have had an affinity for the Jesuits that predated my time at Seattle--when I was called to my first parish out of seminary, I dropped out of a post-seminary program I had applied for at the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University. The Jesuits and Dominicans probably account for the majority of my post-baccalaureate religious education, and the impact both religious orders have had on my academic and religious formation have been deep and ongoing. The good thing about the noncreedalism of my particular Protestant tradition, the Disciples of Christ, is that it leaves room for me to be influenced by others while still being wholly and totally a Disciple. Blessings on your ministry, fellow Seattle alum!

DrProfessor_Z7 karma

What is your view on psychedellics and the experiences they bring? What is your take on natural substances that offer great mental/spiritual healing and "enlightenment"? Also if you could touch on the mushroom references in the bible such as the soup jesus made before everyone had some crazy spiritual experience?

revanon11 karma

I personally do not partake in substances beyond the caffeine and alcohol varieties. However, I also recognize the medical science which says that marijuana, for instance, has real medicinal properties, and that certain medicinal plants have important spiritual properties for a number of indigenous peoples. I generally believe that if we took stoning to mean benefiting from said medical and spiritual qualities instead of "hitting each other with great big rocks," the world would be a better place.

bz0hdp7 karma

Why don't White American evangelicals care about Black lives?

revanon32 karma

Because white American Christianity has repeatedly refused a full reckoning of, and repentance for, the racism it was built upon and continues to benefit from. That's the thirty-second version.

hng_rval5 karma

Who did you vote for? And how did you discuss politics with your congregation?

revanon37 karma

I assume you're asking for president. I voted for Biden. I have strong opinions, but I don't tell congregants who to vote for. The Sunday before the election, I preached a sermon on how we don't have saints who (since it was also All Saints Day) are remembered primarily for their partisan affiliation, but we remember saints for their commitment to the poor and the oppressed, and that while we can (and should) have political opinions, our commitment to those who need us the most should eclipse that.

FSMFan_2pt03 karma

And how did you discuss politics with your congregation?

One would hope not at all, since they presumably don't pay taxes.

revanon16 karma

Churches pay all sorts of taxes--payroll taxes for our non-clergy employees (basically, everyone on staff but me), gasoline taxes on gas for the church van and my own car, sales taxes on professional expenses the church reimburses, etc. We pay an array of taxes, and it is proper for us to pay those taxes.

JBubes5 karma

Hi, I have been struggling with severe panic attacks and general anxiety disorder over the past month and I haven’t been a believer for awhile. People have told me praying and strong faith have helped them with anxiety but I am having trouble believing. Do you have any tips on how to find God or is there anything you tell atheists to convince them to become Christian? Thanks and merry Christmas.

revanon11 karma

I live with a certain amount of anxiety and have at times taken additional medications for it, and I would say that while prayer certainly helps calm my anxiety in individual moments, that certainly is complemented with therapy and spiritual direction. Prayer can do a lot of good, but I do not think that God ever meant for us to rely solely on it--Jesus's miracles seem to be a pretty solid indication of that.

I suppose, then, what I would say instead of suggesting prayer as a means of calming your anxiety, I would suggest doing whatever works best for you to calm your anxiety and then try prayer. I have found that for me personally, quieting myself, so far as I am able to, makes me better to hear answers I may be seeking.

Boomer-Town4 karma

Being from New Zealand im a bit late to this convo but I'll throw out my question anyway!

I've been in a situation for the last 18 months where my workplace consists of Christians from a denomination who have very strong political and social views.

In particular, they seem to be heavily scripture based yet freely and openly despise the LGBTQ community, they're racist to a point where they think that certain minority groups are lesser than them, they're misogynistic, very anti-abortion and generally despise any sort of left wing political thinking.

Its been hard for me to be around them as I grew up understanding that Christ is the way, the truth and the light. From my understanding they prioritize the old testament laws of the Bible where God is a judging and vengeful God, rather than focusing on the gospels where Jesus encourages us to have a relationship with a loving God.

It seems to me that the main difference is an understanding that through Jesus, God's character has changed somewhat.

The 'sin' based theology seems to directly contradict Jesus's teaching of a 'love' based theology.

Given this, it sounds hypocritical to claim to be Christian yet ignore or oppose Christ's teaching.

From an outside perspective, how is it that masses of Americans are so convicted in a sin based theology and ignore that God is Love?

I see evangelical movements who push an 'us and them' agenda to further divide humanity. Can these people really be called Christians?

revanon3 karma

I appreciate what you're asking and get the impression that your heart is in the right place, but I would ask you to see through the views of your colleagues to the fact that they very likely do not derive from the Tanakh (Old Testament) itself, but from highly selective interpretations of it. I have come to learn from colleagues, both Christian and Jewish, that when we treat the Tanakh as the book of a vengeful God and the New Testament as the book of a loving God, that we are doing real harm to our Jewish neighbors and siblings.

But more to your point, I think a lot of the authors of books in the Tanakh would be upset at how your colleagues interpret them, and interpret God! Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, Habakkuk, Micah...all of them were intensely concerned with standing up for the oppressed, the poor, and other marginalized groups of people! There is a very powerful prophetic tradition of teaching that God cares for the people we do harm to, and it begins in the Tanakh.

I personally think that for many American (mostly white, mostly straight) Christians, we have decided that God can only be Our God if that God loves us the most and privileges and prioritizes us the most--basically, only if God has a hierarchy, and we happen to be at the top of the hierarchy. I think that also speaks to the us-and-them mentality you speak of, which is similarly destructive and antithetical to the entire balance of Scripture--Tanakh and New Testament alike.

I do think, though, that they should be called Christians, both because for me to disown them without trying to do the repair work feels a bit like a cop-out, and because I have been called a fake Christian, a fake pastor, and a wolf in sheep's clothing by many of them and have no real desire to return the favor or indulge in my own No True Scotsman fallacy. But I also think the treatment of Barack Obama's Christianity by his detractors who claimed he was a closet Muslim showed how that sort of treatment becomes quickly and undeniably racist. Again--I'm not saying you're doing that. But here in the States, it is an undeniable, and undeniably ugly, part of the conversation.

Separately, my wife and I had our honeymoon in New Zealand after we were married. We split our time between Auckland and the South Island, and we absolutely loved all of it. Please let me know if we can borrow your Prime Minister, at least until January 20, 2021.

jafuentest3 karma

How do you feel about the fact that Christmas is now more about marketing than the celebration of Jesus Christ’s birth?

revanon5 karma

Like Charlie Brown in A Charlie Brown Christmas.

alkonium2 karma

If a member of your congregation chooses to leave (whether for a different church/religion or because they're no longer religious at all), do you respect their decision?

revanon15 karma

Yes. I may talk to them to try to understand why or to communicate that the door is always open for them to stay, but demanding people who don't want to be here to stay here never seemed like a fruitful or joyful way of building community to me.

alkonium5 karma

Ah. I asked because I think how a church treats ex-believers is important but rarely touched on.

revanon3 karma

Your instinct here is a correct one. Thanks for asking a great question.

VexedCoffee2 karma

As a parish priest I've gotta ask, how do you have time to do this on Christmas Eve (in non-Covid years)?

revanon8 karma

I spent the last week and a half at my desk, churning away at things. It wasn't easy for sure, but I value doing these and value y'all who participate in them. Christmas blessings to you, my colleague.

butnobodycame1232 karma

Is it considered cultural appropriation (and all of the negative connotations that has) if an atheist celebrates Christmas?

revanon2 karma

I, personally, would not be offended by an atheist celebrating Christmas. And I think it is hard to consider it cultural appropriation when Christmas already plays such an outsized role for a full one-sixth of the year (here in the States, at least).

ididntsaygoyet-13 karma

Why is being delusional so acceptable in society? Why do we not treat religion like a mental disorder? Why is it so common?

revanon16 karma

I live with a mental illness diagnosis and the premise of your question fundamentally makes light of that diagnosis in a way that does real harm, just as Christianity's embrace of things like "Biblical counseling" in place of therapy does harm.