Thursday, December 27, 2007

Merry Season's Holidays!

It has been pointed out to me that Christmas has come and gone with nary a word from me. (Nary a Christmas letter, either, but that's another story. Anyhow, I'm given to understand by the previous post that the Armenian and Orthodox churches celebrate Christmas next month, so I'm still in the zone.) Well, what is there to say? The holiday has religious significance or not, depending on your point of view. I'm fully aware that Jesus was not born on December 25 (so too, it appears, are our Armenian and Orthodox cousins), but that makes me no never-mind: Since we know not the date Jesus was born, it hardly matters what date(s) we've settled on to celebrate same.

Religion aside, I am as always appreciative of the time to slow down and catch our collective breath a little, and to spend "quality time," whatever that is, with the family. It's a very busy time in our little household these days, and any opportunity to not have to be in two or more places simultaneously is welcome.

Of course, no Christmas season would be complete without this or that element of the lunatic fringe insisting there's a "war" on Christmas. (Is it just me, or is everything a "war" these days--war on poverty, war on drugs, war on terror. And does it not strike you that we are intent on declaring wars that can't be won? How, for instance, do you "win" a war on drugs? Who signs the surrender papers?) I was especially amused by this post, commenting on a typically hard-hitting article in the local rag ("Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays: Season's greetings spat rankles some, mystifies others"), which ran earlier this month:

    As the old saying from "Oklahoma" goes: "We've gone about as far as we can go!" in letting the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other non-Christian groups literally push "Christ" out of "Christmas." And we're so caught up in our materialistic world, we no longer remember that our country was founded on Christian principles. For us, when shopping, if there's "No Christmas" ... there's "No Cash".

    If people want to be really honest, most of today's major "holidays" started out as "holy days" such as Christmas, New Year's, Easter, and Halloween ("all hallows eve" - the feast of all saints).

    Yet, when the chips are really down, like 9-11, everyone gets down on their knees once again. When we lose a beloved family member, we pray s/he will be received by the Lord. But how soon we forget!

    If other groups don't want to partake in our observances and celebrations, let them observe their own, but don't scuttle ours! We were here first, and by God, we'll remain here under His care!
    - Rod Simon

Every time I read some quarter-baked commentary such as the above, I renew my ACLU membership. And I'm sure Simon didn't realize what he was saying (I could stop there, but I forge ahead) when he wrote "...our country was founded on Christian principles...." Ooops--"Christian principles," not "Christianity." Big difference. Not gonna score too many right-wingnut points with that kind of a slip: The object of the game is to redraw history by claiming, loudly and frequently, that the USA is a "Christian nation," not a nation founded on "Christian principles." Tsk tsk. (One does wonder what those "principles" might be. I tend to think of things like "love thy neighbor" and "do unto others," but one has long detected a strong disdain for such namby-pamby "liberal" sentiments among those who brag the loudest about what swell Christians they are.)

As a love of irony, I must point out the further deliciousness of the longer passage in which "Christian principles" appears:

    And we're so caught up in our materialistic world, we no longer remember that our country was founded on Christian principles. For us, when shopping, if there's "No Christmas" ... there's "No Cash".

I'm not quite sure how the "Christian principles" bit fits into the "materialistic world" bit, but no matter: I'm madly in love with the condemnation of the "materialistic world" followed immediately by the oh-so-subtle threat to retailers--no Christmas, no cash. "Man, I hate the commercialization of you take American Express?"

Then there's the amazingly stupid conclusion:

    We were here first, and by God, we'll remain here under His care!

Actually, I'm pretty sure that "we" (white Europenas) were here second. And I'm pretty sure that it doesn't matter. (I feel much the same--cold--about all of these self-aggrandizing "first" churches: Who the heck cares?) Going back to one of those "Christian principles" that "Christians" seem to like to ignore, the exhortation is generally rendered something like "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you"--not, "Do to others whatever you damn well please, for you were here first"...

Frankly, I have to wonder about the faith of some of the "devout"--how strong, how deep is the faith of someone who seems to put so much stock in externals? I make no claim to being much of a Christian, and as I'm wont to say I'm certainly not the sort of Catholic that the boys in Rome dream of, but it seems that my belief system and spiritual foundation are strong enough to withstand being greeted with "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas"; with seeing "Christmas" rendered "Xmas" (note to the illiterati: that's not an X!); with seeing eight tiny reindeer instead of a manger; and with the knowledge that for some people Christmas is no more than a few days off from work. I don't mean to brag, but none of that has anything at all to do with my attitudes toward God, toward Jesus, toward Creation...toward Christmas! Those attitudes, an odd assortment of orthodoxy and heresy, seem pretty solid whether the local five-and-dime is piping in sacred or secular Christmas music.

So I ask you: If a lousy Christian like me isn't shaken by hearing "Season's Greetings" instead of "Merry Christmas," why are all the truly fabulous "Christians" driven to spiritual crisis by same?

Obviously, the peace and goodwill that I have always taken to be a hallmark of the Christmas season have not thoroughly descended upon those who would purport to be its great "defender." Maybe that's the real "war" on Christmas: hard-heartedness and intolerance. And that war would be worth fighting.

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