Friday, October 31, 2014

Why We Should Celebrate Reformation Day. Officially.

Evangelicals on Reformation Day in Concepción, Chile.
Some Christians say we live in a Christian country. And by some definitions they might be right. Muslims or secular Swedes might read news stories about us, and in their own ways, view us as a Christian country. Many Christians believe that our country has strong Christian origins, and is therefore a Christian nation. But we do not live in a Christian nation, friends. One of the ways in which this is obvious is displayed in this list: New Year's Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Inauguration Day, Washington's Birthday, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas Day.


These are the days we as Americans agree are important (Independence Day), or that the goverment says by fiat are important (MLK Day, Washington's Birthday). These are the days that define what being an American is. Only one and a half of these holidays are Christian. And as we know, they by no means have to be. All that Americans agree on about Christmas and Thanksgiving is that it's a time to get together with family.

Here's a shot from a Wikipedia page on public holidays in the country of Chile.

There are twenty-one holidays listed; only five are regional or limited to certain states. As the image above says, about half of them are what people would recognize as Christian holidays.

But Chile is a Roman Catholic country, you say? And you say we are/were Protestant? You suggest that of course the Catholics would want to have all these feast days, like Assumption of Mary or Virgen del Carmen. Most Americans would have no reason to celebrate days like that.

All right.

What about Easter? All Saints? Reformation Day? Not as church feasts only, but as civil holidays? Regardless of what you think about celebrating special days in worship services, it must be acknowledged that nations celebrate great days in their history, and that Christian nations celebrate important days in their Christian history.
Evangelicals on Reformation Day in Concepción, Chile.
One of Chile's national holidays, on which businesses close, is The National Day of Evangelical and Protestant Churches. One of the objections to starting the holiday was the national loss of revenue that having a day off work would create. This is a real holiday, taken seriously (i.e. people don't work), even though it has only been in place since 2008. Although the holiday is not called Reformation Day, it is celebrated on October 31st, which is Reformation Day. Thirty percent of the Chilean people are now evangelical or Protestant, and they celebrate their history, even though they're new to it.

Now, celebrating Reformation Day does not a Christian or Protestant people make. States and municipalities in Germany and the Czech Republic and Slovenia and all over Europe formally celebrate it. Some of those places, especially in eastern or central Europe, might be experiencing revival, but most of them are post-Christian. Nonetheless, Reformation Day is a part of who they are, because it is a part of their history, even when they reject God. This ought to be a minimum for us.

How much more should we, who claim that our faith is important, civilly celebrate the history of that Christian faith? When we think to ourselves, "a day like Reformation Day does not belong on the docket of civil holidays", we are complicit in the suppression of our own history as Protestants.

You will not understand the next several paragraphs unless you understand that I am speaking of civil holidays here. Yes, I am one of those Christians who believes that special Sundays and feast days ought to exist, and you can dismiss what I am saying about civil holidays on that account if you wish, but I hope that you will hear me.

We are allowing the state to tell us what our history is.

I am not suggesting that we petition and picket until the government grants us a favor by giving us days. The state can acknowledge us if it wishes to. Going back to the first paragraph of this post, this is how you can tell we're not a Christian nation: we are irrelevant.

You and I should celebrate Reformation Day and many other days of importance in our Christian heritage as if they were actually important. It is a part of who we are, and a part of the gospel of Christ. And I believe that celebrating Christian history could be a part of changing our history.

I try to like Thanksgiving because it could be, should be, and even now is, a Christian American holiay. It's Americans celebrating God moving in their story in a way that would not move Christian Chinese or Chileans in the same way.

Is it appropriate for Christians to celebrate those of their blood? Germans celebrating Germanic history and Mexicans celebrating Hispanic history? Absolutely. But how much more when there is Christian history in it! The history of a people is not the history of a state. It is easy for Americans to make that mistake. Reject it. As Christians, the history of the Church of Jesus Christ is our history. The history of the Christians who came before us is our history. The history of the family of faith is our history.

Chileans are not Germanic. They share none of Luther's blood. But it appears that many have decided to make themselves his brothers, and to share his history. You can do that, as a Christian.

Our history may be American, but it must be Christian first. Our holidays may be American, but they must be Christian first.

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