Saturday, December 20, 2008

Of Princes, Ostriches and Christmas

Some 22 years ago we visited our friends, Jim & Connie Penturf, on the exotic game ranch Jim managed near Camp Verde, Texas. It was a hoot, and included some fun photography, including this shot of a pair of ostriches. (One of their empty eggshells rests on our bookcase still.)

I'll get back to these famous birds, but segue with me here to another favorite species: homo sapiens. The older I get, the more appreciation I have for people. As I have blogged before, people are unique in God's creation, the only creature in fact made in the very image of God. People are capable of unbelievable good and impressive heights of genius.

Then there’s the occasional reminder of the sheer nonsense we humans are sometimes given to. In particular, I'm thinking about this new term that keeps popping up everywhere: “Common Era."

What better time to reflect about it than Christmas?

Yesterday, the daily email from the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) included a story headlined, Ancient coins found among Temple Mount rubble. The story contained the following excerpt, “The first coin, a silver half-shekel, was apparently minted on the Temple Mount itself by Temple authorities in the first year of the Great Revolt against the Romans in 66-67 CE.”

As you know, CE stands for “Common Era.” Actually this is not a new label; it was first used in English in 1715, a century after its first Latin use. (For that, and for much of the following, I am indebted to the Wikipedia article on the subject.)

What’s new, however, is the growing inclination of published sources to use CE to replace AD (the abbreviation for Anno Domino, Latin for “Year of our Lord”). Using a date like "66-67AD" creates an obvious reminder that our calendar is based on the birth of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, and for some people, that's just too much.

Most academics and media outlets have dumped AD for CE (and BC “before Christ” for BCE “before the Common Era”). Wikipedia lists arguments both in favor, and opposition, of CE/BCE. Some of them have some merit. But it seems safe to suggest that the overwhelming point on the part of people who use CE instead of AD, or BCE in place of BC, is the rough equivalent of saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”

Which reminds me of an old fable … you know, the one having to do with a prince and his attire?

Changing the name does not change the truth. Every time I see or hear this “CE” label, I wonder (sometimes out loud) “When do they think this ‘Common Era’ began?”

God became man, and nothing has been the same. Given that the entire planet uses a calendar based on that, creating a new tag so we don’t have to be reminded that it’s all about Jesus is a little like the behavior that ostriches are famous for.

Which is fine, I guess, if you’re an ostrich.