Category Archives: Christmas

Behold, Christmas is upon us….

…and I wish I was somewhere else. Pluto would probably be pretty quiet right now….

I have already ranted blogged at length about how American culture denigrates and corrupts Christmas, particularly from my perspective as a Christian, so I will not belabor the point. Instead, I just have a few curmudgeonly, very-nearly Scroogish observations about the season–

1. I’m currently working a temp job at an office supply store which runs a loop of Christmassy songs that sound as if they’re mostly from the Big Band era or earlier. Having listened to this stuff for hours on end, I have one pressing, existential question–

Just how many versions of Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer are there?

I mean, I’ve heard versions by Bing Crosby, Gene Autry, and Burl Ives, along with jazz versions and scat versions. There’s probably Andy Williams, Perry Como, and Elvis Freaking Presley versions, too. There may even be a Mormon Tabernacle Choir version, which, if it does exist, is probably a definitive sign of the demise of American culture. I mean, what’s the big deal?

2. While we’re on the subject of Rudolph, it probably says something about me that I have always thought Rudolph should have told Santa to shove it. On the other hand, Rudolph could be taken as a metaphor for how oppressed classes still lend their support to their oppressors in the service of some mythical greater cultural good that purports to shower blessings on all members of society, while actually disproportionately advantaging the dominant/oppressing class (and, crap, I’m not even a Marxist). I mean, what’s does Rudolph get out of hauling that heavy sleigh through the mucky weather? A warmer stall in the stable? Extra deer-chow? Single-payer health-care? Not on your roasted chestnuts, brother….

3. Regarding Santa– if you took at least one secular song about him seriously, you’d have to report him to the cops as a peeping tom and creeper….

(The Boss almost makes the song decent, though…)

4. In that same vein, we now have Elf on the Shelf. Frankly, I had never even heard of this until this year, and I agree with the criticism that it equates good behavior with gifts. And, yeah, it’s kinda skeevy and creepy, too. The frightening thing is that some people make this their whole holiday tradition. Freedom of religion, sure, but oh, wow….

5. Re: the War on Christmas controversy– well, duh, when did these numb-nut right-wingers actually get around to noticing? (Answer- when it served their political agenda, of course). Hot flash, bunky– there’s been a war on Christmas for at least the last century. However, the main adversary of Christmas hasn’t been those nasty, perfidious secular humanists (most of whom are actually very nice people) or the advocates of political correctness (who are mostly folks trying to balance out centuries of oppression embedded in language and conceptual categories)– no, the great enemy of Christmas is the commercial impulse of American culture, in particular, and Western society in general. Linking Christmas to commerce drains the sacred and powerful out of the whole business (C.S. Lewis, as usual, wrote a short but pithy satire on the subject) and obscures it’s great and critical point– the inauguration of God’s decisive redemptive act in human history.

6. Which brings me back to those asinine Christmas songs I have to listen to at work. In removing the central, true message of Christmas and focusing instead on the ‘festive season’, these tunes– many of which were written by very good song-writers, who had no idea they were participating in a cultural and spiritual debasement– take Christmas and make it sound as if it’s a double-helping of pink cotton-candy, rather than the awesome– ‘awe-full’– act of redemption it actually was. Listening to this crap, which I would never do willing on my own (I’ve walked out of church services where they sang “Jingle Bells”), is worse than fingernails on a blackboard. It doesn’t help me get through my shift.

Sigh. As I said, this is a curmudgeonly, intolerant, ‘bah-humbug’ sort of rant (Scrooge’s problem was not so much that he disliked Christmas celebrations, but that, in the sour bitterness of his soul, he forgot God’s call to mercy and charity, of which Christmas-keeping is, properly, just a reminder). It’s my way of blowing off the pent-up steam of frustration at all the things that irritate me at this time of year. I don’t expect to startle anyone with my insights (none of which are original with me), and certainly I don’t expect to affect the course of my native culture. Just an old fart venting….

But what, you may ask, do I choose to listen to for Christmas? If you’re curious, give this a listen. And if that doesn’t completely re-frame your perspective, try this.

Just strap yourself in first.

Later.

A Christmas Story

“You will be watched,” the inquisitor said.

“I understand,” Ren said. His back and arms ached from being shackled.

“If you do not refrain from incorrect thinking,” the inquisitor said, “you will be detained again. If you persist, you will be removed, so that you do not contaminate productive citizens.”

“I understand,” Ren said.

The inquisitor held out a familiar packet of papers. “Take this– they have been updated with your latest offenses.”

Ren reached to take the papers. But as he did the inquisitor held on to them. Their eyes met.

“You infect your mind with false beliefs,” the inquisitor said. “The only truth is power, and who holds it. The sooner you accept that axiom, the sooner you will find your place in the order of things.” He let go of the papers, waved a hand. “You are dismissed.”

Ren left the police station, walking out the front gate past the fortified pillboxes on either hand. Even though he was leaving, the machine-gun muzzles protruding from the pillbox firing slits tracked him until he reached the street.

He had no money, and no tokens; he could not ride the rattling trams. One shuddered past him, shedding sparks from its pole, as he turned toward home along the sidewalk. The tram was packed with people– men, women, a few pale children, all silent, each as alone as if they were the only ones in the car.

He walked down along the littered sidewalk, past the offices of the local ministries– Internal Security, Propaganda, Corrections– all unadorned edifices of stone as grim as skulls. The guards at the entrance of each watched him, gun-muzzles followed him, but he just kept walking.

Beyond the Ministry district there were more people on the sidewalk, shabby, exhausted-looking men and women who each looked as if they were hurrying somewhere they didn’t want to go. Their breath steamed in the cold air. No one met his eyes. In general, it was safer that way.

Up ahead, there was a commotion on the sidewalk– helmeted Security men were clearing the space in front of one of the fortified townhouses that lined the street here. “Make way, make way!” the guards shouted. They pushed pedestrians out of the way and threatened others with shock-batons to open up a path from the townhouse’s gate to a huge car that idled at the curb. Ren stopped some yards short of the cordon, but still close enough to see the well-fed, well-dressed man who stepped through the gate toward the car. He was followed by a younger woman, expensively-dressed in her own way. Even the weak winter sun flashed on the diamonds about her throat. Both man and woman stepped into the car; doors were closed and the vehicle sped away from the curb.

Ren went on. Crossing the Way of Victory, he reached the checkpoint on the northeastern side of the intersection. “Papers,” the lead sergeant said.

Ren handed them over. The guard surveyed them, and his eyebrows went up. “So! Fresh from a stint with the District Inquisitor, eh? Hope you learned you lesson, citizen.”

“I know I did, sir,” Ren said.

The sergeant gave him a hard look, as if trying to detect sarcasm. “Make sure of that,” the guard growled. “You don’t want to stay on the inquisitor’s radar. Unhealthy.”

“Yes, sir,” Ren said.

Just at that moment, there was a shout. Across the Way, a guard at the checkpoint on the northwestern side grabbed the coat of a man, then shoved him to the ground. The man fell heavily, striking his head on the concrete. The guard hit the man with his shock-baton; Ren could hear the crackle of electricity. The fallen man shouted in pain. The guard hit him again, and then another joined him. The fallen man writhed on the sidewalk.

“Fah,” the sergeant said. He handed Ren his papers back. “Get out of here.”

Ren obeyed. He walked away, the cries of the fallen man echoing in his ears.

Ren turned a corner and went down the Avenue of Purity. Some distance along he began to pass a queue of people. They were lined up and waiting patiently for one of the ration stores, slowly shuffling forward, carrying cloth bags. Ren’s stomach rumbled, but he had about as many food vouchers as he had tram tokens. He walked on.

After three blocks he reached the head of the queue, which disappeared into the entrance of the store. A few yards ahead on the sidewalk was the exit. People emerged with their bags a little more full than when they entered the store. They hurried off into the fading evening light, most of them clutching their bag close.

As Ren approached, a woman emerged from the store. She was small and thin. As she stepped out on to the sidewalk ahead of Ren, a youth darted across the street. He bore down on the woman. “Give me the bag, bitch!” the young man yelled.

The woman, looking terrified, back away, but she only fetched up against the rough stone of the building behind her. She clutched her bag to her chest. The young man, thin himself but still much larger than the woman, grabbed at the bag and got a hold on its fabric. “Let go!” he shouted in the woman’s face, jerking at the bag.

Ren dashed forward. “Leave her alone!” he shouted.

The youth turned, startled to be attacked in turn. He tried one more time to tear the bag away from the woman. The bag’s fabric ripped; out spilled a bunch of shriveled carrots, a loaf of bread, a plastic bag of rice, several potatoes. The potatoes bounced and rolled along the sidewalk. The youth let go of the bag, reaching for the bread. But Ren was upon him, and instead the youngster grabbed a potato at his feet, turned and ran.

The woman was already kneeling down, frantically grabbing the potatoes. Ren hesitated, long enough to make sure the youth was not going to come back; then he turned and knelt as well, rescuing a stray potato and the bag of rice.

“Don’t take my food!” the woman cried. She looked up at him with frightened, pleading eyes.

“I won’t,” Ren said. He handed her the potato and the rice.

The woman looked at him with disbelief, then snatched the food out of his hands. “I have children,” she said.

“I understand,” Ren said. “It’s all right.”

The woman stuffed the rescued food back into her bag. She tied the bag’s strings together and held the rent closed with her hand. “I…” she began to say, and then stopped. Ren had a feeling she didn’t know what to say.

“Do you live far away?” he asked. “It’s probably best if you don’t go alone. I’ll accompany you, if you wish.”

“I…I supposed so,” the woman said, every word packed with uncertainty.

Ren walked with her two blocks north, and then five west. The whole way the woman clutched the bag to her chest, while darting sideways glances at him, as if expecting him to turn on her at any moment.

After several minutes they reached the doorway of a tenement on the Street of Hope. Ren sensed the woman relax even as she touched the gate. “I’ll be all right now,” she told Ren as she pushed it open.

“Good,” Ren said. “Good night, then.” He turned away.

“Wait,” the woman said. Ren faced her. She looked puzzled, as if he were some inexplicable physical phenomenon. “Why?” she asked.

Ren smiled. “Merry Christmas.” He turned away, toward home.

Santa Claus is white!?!?! OMG!!!!!

Re: Megyn Kelly– dumb Fox commentator– I could rant on and on about Fox and its twisted, racist agenda, but I’m just gonna let Jon Stewart take care of her– thank God for Jon Stewart–

http://www.thedailyshow.com/full-episodes/thu-december-12-2013-evangeline-lilly

Proving, once again, that humor is the most powerful weapon against tyranny.

‘Nuff said.

My problem with Christmas

It’s the Christmas season. Twenty-four days of misery and suffering. Yippee.

Jingle-bells and toy soldiers and Santa Claus. Wreaths and holly-bushes and freaking Christmas TV specials. Special Christmas sales and doorbuster bargains and reindeer. I despise it all.

Geez, you’re probably saying, what’s this guy’s problem? Well, allow me to explain.

To be precise, I don’t dislike Christmas. As a Christian, Christmas is terribly important to me. But it’s because it’s important that I get enraged at how our culture handles this season. And then there’s my fellow Christians…

To put it succinctly, American culture twists Christmas to an unrecognizable monstrosity. What follows is an explanation of how and why. If strong language offends you, turn back now.

The dominant culture of America, whatever myths it tells itself about itself, whatever positive aspects it does have, is cynical, materialistic, secular, and mammon-worshiping. As such, it takes an important moment in the Christian calendar and turns it into an opportunity to sell stuff, something, frankly, it does with almost everything else in our society (think about it for a moment). Seeing this, I’m not that surprised when the mainstream media follows every up and down of the Christmas selling season with obsessive, panting interest. It doesn’t surprise me when the true message of Christmas gets buried under news of how many Playstations and LED TVs have been sold this week.

I do get enraged over the fake sentimentality and cosmetic tinsel our culture shellacs over its commercialism. It’s a horrifying, sickening white-wash of fake good-will and boisterous cheer, with candy-canes and elves and Christmas trees. Our culture vomits out this bilge to try and pretty up and disguise the naked avarice of its un-Christian Christmas. The true gospel message gets lost under layer upon layer of this tacky garbage.

What really, really pushes me over the edge, though, is how many Christians buy into this trash and seem to not realize how anti-Christ secular Christmas celebrations are. Sometimes it seems that Christians are the people most in need of reminding of the true meaning of Christmas.

Here it is– Christmas is nothing more or less than the first act of Christ’s Passion.

The necessary first act. Do we really not remember this? Do we really forget the implications of the Biblical narratives of Jesus’ birth?

The world, then and now, is broken, foul, ruined. God’s intended order of love, peace and companionship with humanity has been lost in the sins and selfish willfulness of men and women, who try to set themselves up as petty gods, whose own happiness and comfort is the axle around which the universe should spin. The result is sickness, brokeness, wars, slavery, exploitation, racism, genocide, poverty and tyranny. The whole sorry business deserves to be shoved straight into Hell, wiped clean.

Instead, God gave us Christmas.

Pause and think about what this means. God, the creator of all that was, is, and ever will be, in a stupefying act of grace, stepped down into the everyday world of mortal life, not to hang out or to lead some sort of social revolution, but to restore a broken relationship with humanity, by means of an act of sacrifice no one else could do. We see stories in the news all the time about parents, mothers and fathers, sacrificing themselves to save their children. How much more, then, would God, whose love is deeper than human imagination can picture, be willing to sacrifice himself to save a whole race of children who have lost their way? He was willing to step down and across the gulf between his divine infinity and human finiteness, to become mortal, to live and work and eat and sleep, and then, after such a short time as a man, to turn around and go willing to a horrible death for those same broken, lost people– the very ones nailing Him to a cross. When you think about what God started at Christmas, it stuns you and takes your breath away. It should drive you to your knees, every time. If it were not the Lord Almighty we were talking about, you’d almost say that this was the act of a desperate God.

That’s why Christmas is so important– and why its perversion by the dominant culture is so horrifying.

Now, nothing I’ve just said is original with me, except possibly the vehemence with which I express my opinion. You can find all these criticisms in C.S. Lewis, Francis Schaeffer and even Charles Schulz’ Peanuts, for Pete’s sake. They do seem to need to be repeated at intervals, though. Even as Christians talk about “the reason for the season”, we tend to get wrapped up in the busyness of the season and start to act like everyone else for whom Christmas means presents, eggnog, and Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.

I say “we tend” because I need to stop at this point and accuse myself of hypocrisy. I like finding a gift beneath a Christmas tree on Christmas morning as much as anyone. I love stocking stuffers, especially chocolate oranges. And we are deploying our Christmas tree even as I type this. We are all compromised by our inevitable involvement in an economic system that actually depends every year on the Christmas season to put it into the black. And all the caroling and trees and extra chocolate and lights are, frankly, seductive and fun. Of course, so is adultery.

So, in the end, what’s the point of my ranting and raving? Speaking to my fellow Christians, here’s what I am trying to say– no, you can’t get away from secular Christmas crap, not completely. I firmly believe, though, that we are still called to remind the dominant culture that there is a different way, a better way, a truly counter-cultural way, to live and be. And insisting on the true meaning of Christmas– the incarnation on the way to Golgotha, and the empty tomb– is necessary to that call.

Even if it sometimes means that people think you’re a Scrooge and look at you funny in the checkout line at Target.

That’s all I have to say.

Later.