A common view about the date of Christmas goes something like this:
“Well, it was a pagan festival, something to do with the sun, and the Christians pinched it to try to make their religion more popular.”
This is one of those things people just ‘know’. But like many things everyone ‘just knew’ at one time (eg, the Sun goes round the earth, older women with moles are witches), we now know this to be false.
The belief that Christians appropriated a pagan festival and made it into Christmas started with Paul Jablonski, a German historian writing in the 17th century.
A radical protestant, Jablonski wanted to show that the Catholic faith was unreliable because it had almost immediately started absorbing pagan beliefs and customs. Jablonski believed, and wanted to prove, that ‘Sola Scriptura’ (Scripture alone) was the only safe foundation for faith.
In the Julian calendar, created in 45 B.C. the winter solstice fell on December 25th. It seemed obvious to Jablonski that the day must have had a pagan significance before it had a Christian one.
He was wrong.
In fact the feast of Sol Invictus, or the invincible sun, was instituted by the emperor Aurelian in 274AD. By this time Christians had been celebrating the birth of Jesus on that date for many years.
Hippolytus, a priest in Rome, wrote thirty years before this that Jesus’ birth “took place eight days before the kalends of January,” that is, on December 25th. St John Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople, also confirms that Christians had celebrated the birth of Christ on this date from the early days of the Church.
It was the pagans who attempted to bolster their falling numbers by appropriating a Christian festival, not the other way around.
How could the Church have known when Jesus was born? The simplest explanation is that Mary, Jesus’ mother, told His disciples what had happened, and they remembered and told those who came after, just as they related the other facts of Jesus’ life and teaching.
A little additional confirmation comes from John Chrysostom. He explains that the date is confirmed by Luke 1 which says Zechariah was performing priestly duty in the Temple when an angel told him his wife Elizabeth she would bear John the Baptist.
During the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, Mary was also visited by an angel and Jesus was conceived. She then went immediately to visit Elizabeth, who was her cousin.
The 24 classes of Jewish priests served by roster in the Temple. Zechariah was in the eighth class. Jewish tradition tells us the class on duty when the Temple was destroyed in A.D. 70.
Calculating back from that, Zechariah’s class would have been serving in October in the year before Jesus’ birth. That is when Elizabeth became pregnant.
Mary visited Elizabeth six months later, just after her visit from the angel Gabriel. That is, in March. Jesus was born nine months later – in December.
So Happy Christmas!
Two songs by Jewel. Thoughtful lyrics, and what a rich, pure voice.
Angel Standing By
Hands – If I could tell the world just one thing, it would be that we’re all OK – not to worry in times like these… only kindness matters…
Iran has warned Switzerland of “consequences” over a referendum banning the building of new mosque minarets, and urged the Swiss government not to enforce the ban.
As I noted a couple of days ago, the Swiss decision is not about freedom of religion.
Muslims in Switzerland are free to worship, to proselytise, and to build more mosques. They just can’t build any more of those big towers with massive PA systems where people screech at the entire populace three times a day.
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told Swiss counterpart Micheline Calmy-Rey that: Values such as tolerance, dialogue and respecting others’ religions should never be put to referendum.
This from a country which two months ago formalised approval for the death penalty for anyone who converts from Islam, and where it is illegal to publish the Bible or other Christian literature.
More Islamic Religious Persecution from Doug Bandow at National Review Online:
Islamic governments are in no position to complain about Western intolerance and “Islamophobia.” Most Muslim nations are repressive or offer only limited political freedom. More often than not, Islamic states violate basic human rights; and almost all persecute Christians, Jews, and other religious minorities.
No surprise there.
Mr Rudd says he is not interested in debating climate change with Mr Abbott.
He says Mr Abbott should stop talking and develop a coherent policy on climate change.
Give him time Kevin. And start packing.
In a speech to the Australia Israel leadership Forum on Sunday night Julia Gillard said :
“But with passion must come reason. While we extend debate to all views, our policies must be based on scientific consensus and our actions should be based on reason.”
So far so good. But what do you do if there is a conflict between reason and consensus?
Or even easier, what do you do if the confict is between reason and science on one hand, and a carefully constructed mirage of consensus on the other?
If Julia is true to her principles, she will end up voting with the Liberals.
The Parliament of the World’s Religions 2009 opened this week in Melbourne. “Major speakers” include Jimmy Carter, Joan Chittister and Michael Kirby.
Miss Jean Brodie said it best: “For those who like that sort of thing, that is the sort of thing they like.”
A visit to the Parliament’s website makes it clear that environmental issues are a key concern:
The Melbourne Parliament will draw forth the sacred nature of the environment from all religious and spiritual traditions, led by the Indigenous peoples of the earth. It will also showcase the partnership between communities and other guiding institutions in pursuing practical approaches for reversing climate change and its effects.
John Cleary, who presents a religious program on the ABC on Sunday nights, says there are parallels between the Parliament of Religions in Melbourne and the climate summit in Copenhagen.
Cleary does not have in mind any sense of religious fervour, which I suspect will be more in evidence in Copenhagen than Melbourne, but the fact that both are concerned with “healing the planet”.
George Browning, former Anglican Bishop of Canberra/Goulburn, says in the document Common Belief: … if Christians believe in Jesus they must recognise that concern for climate change is not an optional extra but a core matter of faith.
But there is a huge leap in the claim that being a Christian means an obligation to take action to prevent climate change.
Being concerned for the responsible exercise of the Christian duty of stewardship for creation need not involve church leaders rushing to grab a share of the latest climate apocalypse action.
John Cleary said in his conversation with Derek Guille that the knowledge that “God so loved the world” should lead to a sense of global responsibility, and that such a sense of responsibility could add “real grunt” to the climate change debate.
Christians have two key things to offer to any debate about the environment and our role in it. But neither of them is a vague sense of responsibility, or “grunt”.
First is a right understanding of who we are in relation to the rest of creation. Because of the incarnation, we know that the material word is not evil, or something to be used or ignored. It is the product of a loving and rational God. It is good. It will be redeemed. On the other hand, it is not a god. There is no Gaia. Awe inspiring and beautiful as it is, the material world is not to be worshipped for its own sake.
Second, because Christianity is a faith based on reason and evidence, Christians ought to be buffered from, and help to buffer others from, ideology or wishful (or alarmist) thinking. Christians who are true to their calling will think, research, pray, consult and consider before arriving at a conclusion about how to respond to any particular issue.
Pope John Paul II pointed out that “Reverence for nature must be combined with scientific learning”. (Pastoral Statement, Renewing the Earth: An Invitation to Reflection and Action on Environment in Light of Catholic Social Teaching.)
Maybe the church’s climate scare collaborators could try it.
And maybe, as the scarecrow did, they will think of things they never thunk before.
One of the reasons I was not able to post anything on Friday was that I had a number of clients whose computers I needed to attend to urgently.
The other reason was that I was writing a longish article on climate change discussions at the Parliament of Religions in Melbourne.
The lines above are a brief summary. Visit The Australian Conservative to read the whole thing.
The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, an informal interdenominational network of Christian congregations, has released a statement saying:
Global warming alarmism is based on biased science, sloppy economics, and misguided theology …
Global warming policies would produce unethical results that would:
•destroy millions of jobs.
•cost trillions of dollars in lost economic production.
•slow, stop, or reverse economic growth.
•reduce the standard of living for all but the elite few who are well positioned to benefit from laws that unfairly advantage them.
•endanger liberty by putting vast new powers over private, social, and market life in the hands of national and international governments.
•condemn the world’s poor to generations of continued misery characterized by rampant disease and premature death
The result of all these sacrifices will be at most a negligible, undetectable reduction in global average temperature a hundred years from now. …
such policies are wrongheaded, destructive, and detrimental to the poor.
Why is that kind of clear sightedness, attention to evidence, and moral sense so hard for mainstream Australian church leaders?
OK, a little poetic license there.
There ABC’s refusal to mention Climategate/Climaquiddick, or to acknowledge the lack of warming for the last ten years, or any aspect of scientific reality, means it is getting more and more desperate for stories to bolster up its Christmas TEOTWAWKI appeal.
TEOTWAWKI is an ancient Mayan word that means bollocks.
All right then, it isn’t. It stands for The End Of The World As We Know It.
What the ABC needs is to get rid of the medieval warm period. No, darn, we tried that already. How about a story about some charismatic mega-fauna driven to the ultimate extremes of horror by human inaction on climate change?
No problem. How about:
Scientists are reporting more cases of cannibalism among Polar Bears.
Tourists often take excursions to northern Manitoba, for a first hand look at Polar bears. But one group recently experienced a horrifying site as a male bear separated a cub from its mother, then killed and ate the cub.
Scientists say there have been at least eight cases of polar bears eating cubs this year. They say the cubs are being killed for food.
Gosh. Horrifying. The tourists were crying and shaken. Those cute poley bears are like, wild and stuff. And hungry. It must be global warming!
Except, that, as local Inuit elder Jose Kusugak points out, the whole story is TEOTWAWKI, in the Mayan sense. He says male polar bears kill and eat other bears frequently. Nor are their numbers decreasing.
Conservationists disagree. They’ve never seen bears eating bears before, and it’s yukky. But according to the peer reviewed scientific literature, Jose is right.
My wife asked me on the way into Kingscote yesterday if I thought a double disillusionment was likely.
She meant double dissolution, and corrected herself immediately. But it is a great phrase.
For the Labor Party, a double disillusionment is more likely than a double dissolution.
Malcolm Mackerras predicted on Thursday that the Liberals would lose in Higgins and that Bradfield would go to preferences. This is a big prediction when you consider that both have been safe conservative seats since they were created.
Labor is not running a candidate in either seat. This means the only meaningful opposition to Kelly O’Dwyer in Higgins and Paul Fletcher in Bradfield is the Greens.
The Greens vote in both electorates will increase substantially. This is not because people agree with the Greens’ policies, but because those who will not vote Liberal have no one else to vote for.
But neither electorate will go to preferences. Both will remain safe Liberal seats. There is even a possibility that the Liberal’s primary vote in both seats will increase.
Of course, tomorrow I could be the one suffering from double disillusionment. But I don’t think so.
For the Greens to take the necessary number of votes from both Labor and Liberal in either seat to force a count of preferences would require that:
- Liberals voters turn from the Liberal Party because the Liberals now have a more conservative leader. This is not likely. The Liberals do better, not worse, when they are more conservative, and when their policies can be clearly and easily distinguished from those of Labor.
- Voters in general are convinced that anthropogenic global warming is real, and are more concerned about the impact of AGW than they are about the economic consequences of an ETS, or of Australia signing up to the Copenhagen Treaty. This is a little harder to call. My impression is that most ordinary people do think there is possibly, maybe, perhaps something in the AGW scare. This is hardly surprising – the media has had 15 years to convince them, with very little of the opposing view allowed through the filters. But are they more concerned about this than job losses and increased taxes? I don’t think so.
- Even for Liberal Party voters who do believe in AGW, and think its possible consequences merit action which will slow down industry, increase prices, etc (and this is a minority group), doing something about AGW would have to be more important to them than any other policy matter which has infuenced their vote before. There will certainly be some who fall into this group. But enough to force either electorate to preferences? Highly unlikely.
The ABC says the result will be a voter verdict on the Liberal Party stoush. The change of leadership and the issues that lead to to it have had enough media coverage for this to be true.
But there are other local and state considerations.
Two of those considerations may push votes to Liberal.
Bradfield is in Sydney. Sydney is in New South Wales.
The NSW Labor Party is a train wreck, with even left wing union bosses predicting it will be annihilated at the polls in the next state election. This disillusionment with Labor, even among Labor diehards, will have an effect in Bradfield.
In Higgins, the Greens have run a celebrity candidate, Clive Hamilton. But Clive is not a local, and is not popular. Leftie (but relatively sensible leftie) David Jackmanson wrote in the Age yesterday that:
It’s a sign of the decline of Left politics that a reactionary, pro-censorship sexual moraliser who hates the idea of working people enjoying a higher material standard of living could ever be considered left-wing.
Finally, some former Green voters are disillusioned with the Greens because despite their claims about the urgency of immediate action to stop climate change, they have blocked the government’s ETS legislation at every turn because they could not get their own way.
And Mackerras and other left-wing commentators believe that voters will flock from the Liberals to the Greens because the Liberals under Abbott voted with the Greens to block the ETS?
It is 7.30pm South Australian time and already the ABC is running the headline: Liberal candidate Kelly O’Dwyer expected to claim victory in Higgins by-election.
7.35 pm. The ABC has: Liberals On Verge Of By-election Victory.
At this stage Kelly O’Dwyer in Higgins and and Paul Fletcher in Bradfield both have a slightly higher percentage of the vote than the previous Liberal incumbents. It is still very early though.
7.45. Paying insufficient attention to what is happening in the kitchen, and I have burnt my dinner. Another Crown Lager will make me feel better.
8.25pm The ABC has: Kelly O’Dwyer Claims Victory in the Melbourne Seat of Higgins
Channel Nine News headlines with: ‘I was trying to be cool’ Chubby teacher gets fired after doing striptease for rowdy students. Good to see they are keeping their eye on the ball.
8.35 Kelly O’Dwyer has claimed victory in Higgins. With 58.2% of votes counted, she has 51.5% of the primary vote.
Greens candidate Clive Hamliton has 35.2%. Considering this is the Greens and Labor vote combined, it is an embarrassing result.
In Bradfield Paul Fletcher has 55.5% of the primary vote with 58.5% counted. Greens candidate Susie Gemmell has 26.1%. Again, given that Labor did not field a candidate, this is a dismal result for the Greens.
It should also be embarrassing for Malcolm Mackerras and the rest of his motley mob. Why did they get this so wrong?
Probably a story for another time, but in essence, I think it is because most ABC commentators simply do not talk to anyone outside their own circle. No-one they know votes Liberal, and they are genuinely taken aback when people express an opinion they do not share.
8.50pm SA time. Last update for the night.
Paul Fletcher has claimed victory in Bradfield.
In Higgins with 61.5% counted, the result is Liberal 51.5%, Greens 35.2%, expected two party result, Liberal 57.4, Greens 42.6%.
In the last election the two party result in Higgins was Liberal 57%, Labor 43%.
In Bradfield with 61.4% counted, the result is Liberal 55.5%, Greens 25.8%, expected two party result, Liberal 63.3%, Greens 36.7%.
In the last election the two party result in Bradfield was Liberal 63.5% Labor 36.5%
Postal, absentee and hospital votes in both electorates tend to favour the Liberals by about 70%, so the final result, which will not be known for a few days, should give another half a percent overall to Liberal in each seat.
This would give a final two party result in Higgins of about 58% to 42%, and in Bradfield of about 64% to 36%.
Last ABC headline for the night: Liberals Knock Out Greens in By-elections.
ABC election analyst Antony Green says there has been no discernible swing to the Greens after preferences.
Afghanistan was always going to be a harder fight than Iraq.
It is also a fight that must be won – not just for the people of Afghanistan, but for the people of Pakistan. If Afghanistan falls, Pakistan will be in danger.
If Pakistan falls, the world will be in danger.
So I was pleased when Obama announced a ‘surge’ of 30,000 troops, even though it had taken months of damaging dithering for that announcement to be made.
But he also announced that troops would be withdrawn beginning in 18 months time.
As Ken Taylor at The Minority Report points out, this has turned an almost certain victory against terrorism and oppression into an almost certain defeat:
… the pathetic announcement that The United States would begin pulling out of Afghanistan in July of 2011 clearly signals to the enemy that all they need do is wait eighteen months until we leave and then step in and take over the country. Even an imbecile understands that telling an enemy when you plan to leave the field of battle only allows that enemy to hide and bide its time until deescalation.
Common sense demands that a military action never sets a specific end date, but then no one has ever accused Barack Obama of having any common sense. Once again Obama fails to take heed the lessons of Vietnam. At one point the Vietcong were on the verge of surrendering because we had them on the run. Then it was announced that The United States would begin drawing down our troops and the Viet Cong pulled back and went into hiding until the draw down was complete. Within weeks after our signaled withdrawal was over the Vietcong overpowered South Vietnam and have controlled the country since. …
It took more than three months to develop this strategy which is weak and very much designed to appease Obama’s liberal base and a political maneuver rather than a strategy for victory, defeating our enemy, destroying Al Qaeda and the Taliban and leave a stable and secure Afghanistan free of terrorist influence. It seems that Obama’s goal is to leave without victory and offer the Afghans as a lamb of sacrifice for the country to once again becomes a terrorist safe haven after the enemy waits out Obama’s signaled end date of surrender. A danger to the world, a danger to the Afghans and most importantly a danger to The United States.
The article is worth reading in its entirety. The only thing Ken gets wrong is his claim that being a danger to the US is more important than being a danger to the Afghans or to the world. But since the US is still bearing the major part of the cost of that war, a measure of parochialism is understandable.
Public opinion on climate change is shifting as awareness grows that the media has not been telling the whole story. People want to know what the evidence and arguments are.
I have posted links to my introduction to the politics and science of global warming before. It is (I hope and believe) an easy to read, accurate and straightforward summary of key theories and evidence.
Please feel free to download, copy, give to friends, send to politicians, etc.
Despite the floor crossing brain-ejecting party betraying antics of Boyce and Troeth, the ETS/CPRS/RAT scheme has been defeated in the Senate.
At very least this will give parliament time to re-examine the evidence.
And for as long as common sense prevails we have been saved from a pointless and crippling tax on everything.
Senators Sue Boyce and Judith Troeth have announced their intention to cross the floor and vote for Labor’s mind-bogglingly pointless and expensive ETS.
They both express the hope that the party members and constituents they are betraying will understand they have acted in good faith.
I have just emailed both of them as follows:
I urge you to vote against Labor’s ETS scheme.
Opposition and government both have an absolute obligation to ensure that legislation which would impose massive additional costs on industry and transport, and consequently undermine the wealth of every Australian, is necessary and based on clear evidence. The ETS is neither.
The evidence for human caused global warming is very thin indeed.
Over 30,000 scientists have signed a petition saying humans are not causing harmful climate change.
The ETS will not change the climate. It will achieve nothing at huge cost.
At very least there is no rational reason to rush this legislation through.
Please oppose it.
Senators, have you read from a variety of sources on the climate debate?
Have you, for example, read the recent WSJ article by one of the world’s leading climate scientists, Richard Lindzen, Professor of Meteorolgy at MIT, in which he says:
Our perceptions of nature are similarly dragged back centuries (by climate change alarmism) so that the normal occasional occurrences of open water in summer over the North Pole, droughts, floods, hurricanes, sea-level variations, etc. are all taken as omens, portending doom due to our sinful ways (as epitomized by our carbon footprint).
Have you read the petition signed by over 30,000 scientists disputing the claim humans are causing harmful climate change?
Have you considered the massive summary of peer reviewed research undertaken by the Non-Governmental International Panel on Climate Change?
Have you spoken to leading Australian scientists like Ian Plimer or Robert Carter?
If you have not yet managed any of that, have you at least read a straightforward lay summary of why the alarmist claims are doubtful? Like Jo Nova’s or mine (Jo Nova’s is prettier, but I think mine is more substantial).
And if you haven’t done any of these things, on what basis do you claim to be acting in good faith?
Your opinions may be strong. So were Mussolini’s.
Acting in good faith means more than just having strong opinions and acting on them. It certainly means more than leaning out the window and deciding it is a little hotter than it used to be.
Acting in good faith means wanting to do the right thing. Good intentions are a start. But doing the right thing depends on sound knowledge – on thinking the right thing.
Thinking the right thing means thinking based on the evidence; careful, honest research, and being willing to have your opinions challenged.
If you do not do this, then your claims of good faith are no more than hot air.
The nasty criminal type persons who have leaked those emails won’t do us one jolly bit of harm, says IPCC leader Rajendra Pachauri.
The IPCC process is so very tough and clear that proof that the data on which our conclusions were based is completely fake won’t change anyone’s opinions, not the slightest little bit, said Pachauri.
Not all diversity is good diversity, apparently.
Colourful cultural customs in Nepal have drawn the ire of animal protection and environmental groups.
The five yearly sacrifice of some 200,000 birds and animals at the temple of Gadhimai took place last week.
Bridget Bardot wrote to the President of Nepal saying the best gift she could receive would be an end to the ritual killing of animals. Thank you for sharing that with us, Bridget. I’d been wondering what to get you this year.
Activists said the sacrifices could cause bird flu, swine flu, cattle diseases and environmental devastation, and suggested the goddess might like a few nice chocolates or a chai latte instead.
Organisers were unimpressed. The goddess knows what she wants.
In related news, last week also saw the opening of KFC and Pizza Hut franchises in Kathmandu.
Democracy is also undergoing some disparagement.
In an unequivocal result in a referendum on Saturday, the Swiss said no to the building of any more minarets in their country.
Naturally, all the right people are scandalised.
‘It’s scandalous’ said French Minister of Complaining Loudly With Garlicky Breath, Bernard Kouchner, while Babacar Ba, a senior official of the Organisation of Islamic Whining, said this was evidence of growing islamophobia in Europe. Yawn.
Church leaders also spoke up, saying the ban was, well, bad and everything, and would not help Christians who were persecuted and oppressed in Islamic countries.
This is such momentous dimmness (or dhimminess, if you prefer) that it deserves a measure of respect.
European leaders are united: Something must be done to stop these uppity Swiss from thinking they can have a say in what happens in their own country.
Not to worry. The decision will be appealed to the European Court of Human Rights in Unamatrix 0-1, also known as Strasborg, where it will take years and millions of dollars to reach the conclusion that the Swiss are a bunch of rednecks who have no right to decide anything.
So all is well after all.
Democracy is OK as long people democratically decide the right things. If they don’t, then we have courts to help them decide properly. For their own good, naturally.
The Swiss decision is not about freedom of religion. Muslims are free to worship, and to proselytise, and to build more mosques. They just can’t build any more of those big towers with massive PA systems where people screech at the entire populace three times a day.
I remember the horrified tones of some commentators when the present pope was elected.
“Oh my God! This man believes the catholic faith. We are back in the dark ages. All our hopes are dashed.”
The ABC’s reaction to the election of Tony Abbott as leader of the Liberal Party is similar. The poor dears are shocked.
Australia’s conservative party has elected a conservative leader. This is not what was meant to happen. We thought we had Philby, sorry Turnbull, in place for years.
Some of the comments to the linked story also show a high degree of mental disturbance.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Bob Hawke shakes his head wisely and says Abbott won’t last.
His views are too far from the mainstream. Bob added that the government must roll out a public education scheme on the ETS as soon as possible.
You know, to convince the punters that, like, it really won’t cost all that much, we can spare $120 billion, and that it will, really, scout’s honour, make a difference to the climate, and anyway, doesn’t Kevin deserve to be the UN Secretary General?
No time to write now – I have a shop to run and clients to mollify.
But I have to sound a note of thanksgiving that in choosing Tony Abbott as leader this morning, the Liberal Party made a choice for policy rather than personality, for evidence instead of expediency.
The Liberals will now be a genuine opposition, and not just a bunch of cheer leaders for Labor.
Congratulations Tony, and well done all concerned.