Size 46—Red, Please!

Nicholas has been removed from sainthood. There was a great deal of trouble over uncanonizing him, I assure you! The miracle is that it hurt neither him nor his reputation. It didn’t even alter his name: he is still “Saint Nicholas,” even after his austere holiness was stripped away and he was de-godded before the whole Western world.

His sainthood, I regret to say, was much unlike Saint Theresa’s anyway. She chose the way of the cross and separation and devotion. Saint Nicholas chose the way of gluttony and indulgence. In some cultures they say his alter ego, Father Christmas, Père Noel, and the like, was a lean man, made thin by hiking from door to door on Christmas Eve. But in the materialistic culture in which we live, Nicholas gave up walking, like those to whom he delivered goodies and presents. Riding around in his velvet-tufted sleigh, he picked up a little weight season by season.

Dancer and Prancer and Donder and Blitzen were the first to notice his growing obesity. They were fagged after only a few hours of serving the Eastern seaboard. But they flew on, dragging their heavy master through the frosty skies. Obesity is the same for saints or for ordinary folks: it usually comes from failing to say “no” to ourselves. And Saint Nicholas was much like the culture he served.

Christmas Eve by Christmas Eve his waistline grew until finally, full of egg nog, he wedged in chimneys and began having a lot of ankle problems.

One of the elves told him that he should lose some weight. But Saint Nicholas realized that if he was to remain the most popular saint in Christendom he couldn’t be a wet blanket and let it be known he was counting calories. As his weight grew, he found it harder and harder to get down on his knees and pray as other saints had done. Once, when he did get down to pray, he found he couldn’t get up. He took to praying while standing, then finally gave it up all together. It made him neurotic to talk seriously to God while keeping a jolly front for the end-of-the-year good times. Finally, he knew the “bowl-full-of-jelly” syndrome was all he could crowd into his old, red coat, so he called his tailor.

Mrs. Claus came in just in time to hear him say, “Still the same fleece trim—yes, make it red, Sam, size 46.”

“Nick,” she said, “I know people prefer you jolly and fat, but don’t you think a saint has some obligation to do without—you know, sacrifice a little?”

“I told you before—don’t you ever use that word in my presence again!” the obese saint roared.

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“I’m sorry, Nick. It’s just that—well, you’re a Christian saint. Should you eat and laugh your way right into this North Pole snow cap? Who respects a saint in a size 46-short coat?”

“You’ve got it all wrong! I’m the kind of saint they all want: a high-indulgence, low-demand saint.”

“But other saints pray and talk to God and sacrifice—”

“I told you to not to use that word!” bellowed Nicholas. “I’m a saint for people who really don’t like saints—pass the chocolates. I’m the perfect kind of saint for the holiday that Christmas is becoming.”

“Remember, it is his birthday, Nick.”

“Look, Gladys, if there’s anything besides the word sacrifice I don’t like hearing, it’s that it’s ‘his birthday’. Honestly, you’re going to ruin my Christmas!”


Evangelical Celebrities

I suppose it is inevitable that our fixation on evangelical celebrities will continue to call forth articles by and interviews with Senator Mark Hatfield [“Mark Hatfield Taps into the Real Power on Capitol Hill,” Oct. 22]. I find his logic tortured, his thinking muddled, and his evangelicalism strangely expressed. In my opinion, he has been on the wrong side of virtually every major issue that has confronted our country during his tenure in the Senate. If Mark Hatfield represents mature Christianity in the hall of government, God help us all!


Dallas, Tex.

Name Change

With reference to a recent interview, “The NAE: Building on Evangelical Consensus” [Oct. 8], please be informed that the National Holiness Association became the Christian Holiness Association in 1971. The CHA now consists of 17 denominations, and has a constituency of at least two million people. Our four largest denominations are the Church of the Nazarene, the Salvation Army, the Wesleyan Church, and the Free Methodist Church.


Christian Holiness Association

Stanhope, N.J.

Rich Spiritual Heritage

I wish to compliment Eutychus on his/her insights in “Saint Francis the Sissy” [Oct. 22]. Too often we evangelicals have rejected anything that hints of medieval Christianity out of our own self-righteous pride. We paraphrase Nathanael and ask, “Can anything good come out of medieval Christianity?” I have found more spiritual mentors in the Middle Ages than in the past two centuries of evangelicalism. One can hardly sing Saint Bernard’s hymn, “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded,” or read Saint Anselm’s first chapter in his Proslogion without sensing in these men a deeper relationship with the Lord than many of us experience. We cannot expect a spiritual awakening in our nation if we continue to ignore so much of our spiritual foundation in our history. This time, instead of making me laugh, dear Eutychus, you made me think of the rich heritage of which I am so glad to be a part.

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Free Methodist Church

Sioux Falls, S. D.

Obscure Intent

The intent of John Warwick Montgomery as a Lutheran is obscure in “ ‘Born Againism’: An Evangelical Innovation?” [Oct. 22].

First, there seems to be no substantive difference between the position of Dr. Kolb and its recasting by Montgomery.

Second, Montgomery’s terminology regarding an “age of accountability” is alien to Lutheranism. What Montgomery ought to have written is merely “that every person needs to confess Jesus Christ as personal Savior and believe in him with the heart to be saved.” He should not have molested the unrevealed dynamic that takes the Christian child from precognitive, preverbal faith to an enunciated confession.

While he rightly emphasizes salvation by faith alone, Montgomery does not expound the other points of the Lutheran triad, grace alone and Scripture alone, as the mode and means of faith, which are so pertinent to this discussion.


Trinity Lutheran Church

Cantonment, Fla.

Misrepresented by Title

I appreciated the opportunity of sharing some Eastern European views on how to live in a Marxist country [“Religion in the USSR: How Much Freedom Is Enough?” Oct. 8], Georgi Vins spoke eloquently from another historical context. I do not think our statements are contradictory. Therefore, I felt the choice of titles, “Don’t Suffer,” versus “Obey God; Don’t Count the Cost” was unfortunate. This is a caricature of the problem and does not represent my view at all. In fact, I would say that the life of a Christian, Eastern or Western, is one of suffering for the cause of Christ. The nature of this suffering may vary from nation to nation and city to city. The larger issue is the tension a Christian always has in his relationship to the state. Suffering from foolishness is one thing, but suffering for Christ is a biblical admonition. Sometimes we confuse the two.


Washington, D.C.

A Mixed Bag

Your editorial, “The Beirut Massacre: Whose Responsibility?” [Oct. 22], was definitely a mixed bag. It was one of the few pieces I have read that placed some responsibility on the Christians who did it, and for this you are to be commended. Yet, after pointing out that the Lebanese Christians did the killing, you spent the bulk of the editorial blaming Israelis who didn’t.

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You jumped the gun by editorializing before all the facts were in, and greatly overstated your case by implying that all of Israel was to blame.


International Hebrew Christian Alliance

Palm Harbor, Fla.

Your editorial will be resented by every Israeli and every American Jew who reads it. To call for a cut-off of all kinds of aid to Israel at this point would be a betrayal of commitments this government made in good faith at Camp David. Surely, this would be too strong an action!


The Friends of Israel

Oak Park, Mich.

Reclaiming Reformation

Fry and Arnold [“Reclaiming Reformation Day,” Oct. 22] have done a great service in showing the Protestant Reformation as “a profound effort to restore the faith and life of New Testament Christianity” through the four steps, or foundation stones, of Scripture, faith, conscience, and fellowship. But how can it be claimed that the Reformation and the Protestant churches faithfully implemented liberty of conscience and “the right of private judgment in religion”? How can Martin Luther be seen as a model of religious liberty?

Reformation Day ought to be reclaimed, but with recognition of freedom of conscience belonging with a free church.


Rosedale Mennonite Missions Irwin, Ohio

Stiff-necked Recalcitrance

I had already begun composing a response to W. Stanford Reid’s caricature of the ecumenical movement [“The Divisions in Christendom,” Oct. 22] and Clark Pinnock’s more thoughtful but equally unhelpful analysis of the ecclesiastical landscape [“Tradition Can Keep Theologians on Track,” Oct. 22] when I turned the next page and discovered that Father Stransky was already thinking my thoughts: “Catholics and Evangelicals: A Roman Priest Looks Across the Divide” [Oct. 22]—“Evangelicals … often act as if most other Christians are nonbelievers.”

To remember that the Reformation was sorely needed in its time is one thing. Relying on its polemic as one’s primary self-identification as a Christian is quite another, and betrays the kind of stiff-necked recalcitrance that Scripture itself repeatedly condemns.


Aumsville, Oreg.

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published. Since all are subject to condensation, those of 100 to 150 words are preferred. Address letters to Eutychus and His Kin, CHRISTIANITY TODAY, 465 Gundersen Drive, Carol Stream, Illinois 60187.

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