Est. May 2008

27 December, 2012

The Problem(?) With Christmas

On Christmas Eve, Amanda Marcotte posted an article to Slate Magazine titled, ‘Relax, Parents: There's No Need to Put the Christ in Christmas’.  Perhaps you remember Ms Marcotte, she of ‘hot, white, sticky Holy Spirit’ infamy.  If not, Kathryn Jean Lopez can bring you up to speed.

Based on her past, you wouldn’t be surprised if this recent article was another screed against the holiday, and in part you wouldn’t be disappointed; she does, however, make a valid point, which I’ll deal with first.

Her only actually-valid point is summed up in this partial paragraph:
What the context-free kids grasp that we adults may not understand is this: The myths and legends of a desert-dwelling people from 2,000 ago don't have much symbolic or cultural relationship to the Christmas of our imagining, with its snow-laden landscapes punctuated with mistletoe and jolly, gift-bearing elves. The story of Ebenezer Scrooge evokes Christmas more readily than the tale of the Christ child born in Bethlehem, which most Americans probably can't find on a map.
Sadly, she’s right – Christmas has been so severely secularized that most kids (and adults) have missed the ‘reason for the season’, to borrow a cliché.  More and more parents have removed themselves from churches, and more and more kids never even see the inside of a church outside of a possible school field-trip to a local cathedral (and if they do go to a cathedral, it’s likely just to show them the architecture and artwork).  Without some kind of attachment (tight or loose) to the church, it’s nigh on impossible for parents to relate to their children (or to themselves) why the ‘Christ’ part of the word ‘Christmas’ is so important.

Now, beyond this point, Ms Marcotte’s Christmas Train comes off the rails.

She begins her piece, which happens to be a screed against an Andrew Park article at Salon, with this:
Andrew Park at Salon has a piece up about his attempts to inject a little religion into the holiday festivities. (By "religion", he of course means "Christianity", because as concerned as he is about exposing his children to faith traditions, he isn't concerned enough to start fasting for Ramadan and teaching his children about the prophet Mohammed.)
Well, of course he means ‘Christianity’, Ms Marcotte – they didn’t name the holiday for the birth of Mohammed, after all; it’d be foolish to try to find the religious significance of ‘Christmas’ by delving into Ramadan or Mohammed.
Frankly, if you want to instill more relevant modern values into your children, you'd be better off sticking with the Dickens tale, which emphasizes the importance of love and generosity. The story of Christ's birth, on the other hand, is about how virgins are better than non-virgins, with a side dose of arguing that babies who haven't done anything yet can still be superior to everyone else by accident of birth.
But where did Mr. Dickens come up with his ideas of the ‘importance of love and generosity?  Well, according to Dr. Gary Colledge – who’s done extensive research into Mr. Dickens, it came from his Christian faith:
During his research, Colledge discovered that Dickens was a Christian and his faith in Jesus Christ surfaces throughout his works -- in the themes and characters.

Colledge read a letter from Dickens to one of his critics:

"'All my strongest illustrations are derived from the New Testament. All my social abuses are shown as departures from its Spirit. All my good people are humble, charitable, faithful, forgiving, over and over again. I claim them in expressed words as disciples of the Founder of our religion.'"

For example, in A Christmas Carol, Colledge says Marley's warning to Scrooge about what it means to truly live life reflects the importance of imitating Christ.

"The taking care of humanity, the thinking about my fellow man, doing unto others as I'd have them do unto me," Colledge explained. "For Dickens, the Golden Rule was absolutely crucial.
"By the way, the Golden Rule has its source in the book of Matthew.

As to Ms Marcotte’s dismissal of the birth of Jesus as being ‘about how virgins are better than non-virgins, with a side dose of arguing that babies who haven't done anything yet can still be superior to everyone else by accident of birth’, she obviously completely misses the point.

But, IMO, she was on the mark regarding the secularization of Christmas.  I guess the old adage is true: Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while.

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