Sunday, December 15, 2013

"War" On Christmas

It's kind of hard to imagine a more idiotic idea.

I'm willing to bet that if you drive or walk through any area in and around your home, you will see windows ablaze with candles, trees festooned with lights, inflatable Santas, candy cane decorations attached to light poles, and a massive panoply of other signs that it is Christmastime. I'm certain if you tune to your favorite radio station, you will hear at least a handful of Christmas carols, in every genre of music imaginable. Every store will be swathed in exhortations to come inside and fulfill your holiday shopping list.

So to anyone ringing the klaxon to rouse the troops to do battle for the soul of Christmas, I have two words for you:

Bah! Humbug!

I hasten to believe that most people who shriek affirmations about the death of Christmas are simply parrots, squawking out timeworn phrases and a liturgy of offenses toward the holiday which is meant to signify the birth of Jesus Christ. I say signify, because we have no idea when Christ was born. Even our whole means of numbering years is based on the false assumption that would could know exactly what year the Christian Savior was born in.

The holiday, Christmas, is a fabrication, built by the early Roman Catholic Church to coincide with the pagan rituals of the Winter Solstice, to imbue the season with more of God's power. It was a not-so-subtle attempt to nullify the strength of other belief systems, and make it seem like it was God's will all along that there be a celebration at this time of year. As centuries passed and Catholicism spread, the trappings of other belief systems and other societies became enfolded within the aegis of Christmas, leading to the holiday we see today.

Except the holiday we see today is a bastardization of the true spirit and intent of the original holiday. And no, it is not the secular, First Amendment rights waving crowd that has done this, but the ordinary person, by losing contact with the ideas behind Christmas. It is ironic that in 1965, one of the most beloved Christmas TV specials, "A Charlie Brown Christmas," bemoaned the commercialization of the holiday and the loss of focus on its meaning. Almost 50 years later, and the same special rings as true now as it did then.

If there's truly a "War" on Christmas, it is fought by those who use it to their own ends, to settle political scores, to weaken the separation of Church & State, to promote Christianity over any other religious belief system. It is the proselytizers and profiteers who have declared war on the holiday, not those of us who would see each and every one of us celebrate -- or not -- it in their own way. Christmas has become an economic engine, a religious meat-grinder, a political cause célèbre, for those who are less interested in its meaning and more interested in the leverage it can afford them.

Nowhere is that more self-evident than with the subset of the season's political propaganda, the "Keep Christ in Christmas" movement, engineered to be the modern version of the bony finger of Dickens' Ghost of Future Yet to Come. This popular screed may be seen on the bumpers of cars in the parking lots of big box retail stores the day after Thanksgiving, as people swarm and surge forward to secure the consumer goods which are the "reason for the season." It is seen in popular media, as we are told that by forbearing Christ on his sacred day we are somehow bad people; right after, we are told that the President, the poor, the Liberals, and the immigrants are responsible for our pitiful lot in life, and they should be shunned and smacked down.

The fact is: Christ is not part of the Christmas we know it now. The Christ born in Bethlehem eschewed wealth, spoke of peace and justice, and most importantly, implored us to help those less fortunate than themselves. While many find Christmas an excuse to perform the charity that they cannot be bothered with the other 364 days a year, the whole lesson of Christ's birth and eventual death is lost to them. They see Christmas and its trappings as meaning, in and of itself, never stepping too far away from the comfort of their preconceived notions. Anyone who does not share their view is branded a traitor.

The other fact of import, which those who holler so maddeningly about the "War" on Christmas often ignore, is that Christmas is only one small facet of Christ's life. Christ should not be confined to Christmas, anymore than to Easter. The idea the young Jewish rabbi promoted was that we must do good work among the people every day, not just when it is convenient or useful. The stories of the New Testament tell us of a man who preached the gospel of love and compassion, and expected his followers not to preach, but to do. There is no better way to honor the birth of Christ, his life, or his death, than to follow in his footsteps, spreading love and charity wherever we go. Christ must not be kept in Christmas, but in our hearts.

So when the phrase "War on Christmas" passes someones lips, assume they are confused, show them compassion, and turn their rhetorical swords into charitable plowshares. If we show them, by example, the true meaning of Christmas, perhaps they will tire of the fight.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Madiba Smiles

When the jailer whistles
Madiba smiles

When the child plays
Madiba smiles

When enemies embrace
Madiba smiles

When sunshine touches his face
Madiba smiles

When Madiba smiles
The world smiles with him