Undersea

Search




Links

Matrix: Reloaded Explained
The essay
Selected reader comments

Matrix: Revolutions Explained
The essay
Selected reader comments

Worried Wars over Stolen Relics

02 Dec, 2010 | Brian

I don't normally go in for this kind of topic. I don't really have strong feelings about it, at least no stronger than how I feel when someone holds forth ignorantly on how many "rams" their computer has. It's a bit annoying, mostly cute. People can't be expert at all subjects, and that is perfectly fine. That does not mean I am automatically on equal footing with a person who has actual knowledge though. I should know better than to sputter loudly my fervent opinion on matters I haven't bothered to research.

It is my privilege to drive my kids to school in the morning. They are going to two different schools at present, and so after delivering the first one I make my way to the other, and on the path is a house with multiple "Keep Christ in Christmas" signs bannered all over the place. Why is one sign insufficient? It's not like you can miss any of them, the way they are displayed. Anyway, I get to thinking about it, every day, the same process of running down why this is a sign of uneducated buffoonery. It illustrates why revelation cannot supplant investigation. Maybe a better way to say this is that as soon as I think I have all the answers, that is the moment I am most apt to do something incredibly dumb.

There is an abundance of rhetoric already written about how silly Christians are being when they froth on about the diluting of Christmas. Here is one. The style of that article is not much to my liking, but the points stand. It's not a "Christian" holiday at all. It's the winter solstice, which was celebrated for millenia before the advent of Christianty, Judaism, even monotheism, or - dare I say it? - the very conception of a god. (That's nearly a pun! A crappy one, yes, but come on.) Christianity was introduced to the winter solstice initially as a disguise. "Look, we're only celebrating the solstice like the rest of you." And later they outright absconded with it, stuck strips of masking tape over all the names, and wrote Christmas and Jesus with a Sharpie. The fact is there have been a staggering variety of holy figures who were all, by the most incredible coincidence, born on 25 December.

Do you suppose there were once pleadings to "keep Saturn in Saturnalia"? These bothersome Christians! They are taking a good, solid holiday with a grand tradition and turning it to the worship of their undead doomsday figure. Why don't they choose some other month to celebrate their wierd necromantic religion? I won't have it!

That might seem funny (or offensive), but I suspect there really were such outrages. Now, some centuries later, thieves bellow and wail that their stolen holidy is being stolen from them.

But the thing is, I wonder about this theft. I see no evidence of it. Everyone appears to be participating in Christmas essentially the same way I've always seem them do it. There are sparkly lights, decorated trees, wrapped presents, feasts, and the standard array of tunes on the radio. I can perceive no lessening of the number of times I hear "Silent Night." Speaking of tunes, one of the only holiday changes is the vanishing of the neighborhood carol-singer, although that was an endangered breed even when I was young. But I suspect that has little to do with a wish to censor Christmas, and much to do with the geography of suburban America.

The supposed smackdown on Christmas is...well, it isn't. Unless perhaps the hand-wringers mean something else. There is a strange, backhanded paranoia afoot that concludes by surreal, alien logic that nonparticipation is an attack. When the clerk at the toy store says "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" this is imagined to be a cutting wound. I guess it is if your basic premise is that otherness is wicked simply because it is other. I mean, if something like "Merry Ozzymas" was really catching on, and people everywhere began to substitute words in songs, so that the Little Drummer Boy was rocking an audition for Ozzy Osbourne, and we got "Oz Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," then, you know, it would be the same exact thing that Christianity did to all the holidays that came before it. Such an event, if it were to ever happen, would be to my way of thinking just desserts. Except honestly I can't summon up that level of emotion. I'll call it the inexorable cycle of civilization.

Only nothing of the sort is going on, not right now. There are some people trying to practice inclusivity, so that non-Christians can get swept up in the festivities. It's good economics, really. That is all. No dark design, no anti-Christian motive, no handbasket-shaped vehicle to the netherworld taking us. In the end all that's revealed is that many vocal Christians, in their self-assured righteousness, didn't bother to learn anything about the holiday they purport to defend against threats that they themselves dreamed up. I'd like to quip that these dreams occurred while dozing off in history class, but that's inaccurate. It's more like a sense of corporate worry, which goes hand-in-hand with a willful lack of education on the subject. It's necessary to keep rabidly crowding out potentially competing holiday concepts, because the truth is that, historically, Christmas is not special. It's just one in a series of nearly indistinguishable religious bolt-ons, each ripping off the previous one in an endless progression.

That makes some people very uncomfortable, and their response is to wall themselves off from knowing this with a blockade of yard signs, and, probably, to hope that the rest of us wall ourselves off from knowledge as well. I don't think I'll participate in that, yet my enjoyment of and engagement in Christmastime isn't diminished at all. Not being miraculously special doesn't mean Christmas has no value. It means it's part of a family.