Monday, December 27, 2004

MERRY CHRISTIANS

Let all weep for the downtrodden Christians.

“It seems that it’s okay to be anything these days but Christian,” said the Rev. Gaylord Hatler, of the First Christian Church in Colorado Springs, Colo., in the Dec. 24 New York Times.

One of the Christians’ major complaints these days is, as Chris Birkett says in the Times today, “We’re being asked not to say ‘Merry Christmas.’ They want you to say ‘Happy holidays.’” Even Eric, of the Movin’ Out blog, speaks up boldly to wish everyone “Merry Christmas” and wonder “Am I the last person in the world not afraid to say that?"

Yes. Eric and Chris are the last people in the United States bold enough to break through the chains of political correctness constricting this once great nation ... except perhaps for all the other citizens identifying themselves as Christian, now between 76.5 percent and 82 percent of the entire country. Perhaps standing among more than 235 million people against 59 million will reassure these poor men that it is, in fact, okay to be Christian, or wish people “Merry Christmas” or any combination thereof.

Maybe they would be comforted by a reminder that “The Passion of the Christ” grossed more than $370 million in the United States just as of July 29, never mind sales of the DVD. Or that the hardcover fiction best-seller list of the Times is topped by Mitch Albom’s “The Five People You Meet in Heaven,” which has been on the list for 65 weeks. Also on the list is “The Christmas Thief” at No. 11, “A Redbird Christmas” at No. 15, “The Christmas Blessing” at No. 29 and “The Christmas Shoes” at No. 32. The “Left Behind” series has sold more than 60 million copies worldwide. “Skipping Christmas,” by John Grisham, is No. 6 on the paperback fiction best-sellers list, and it’s been on the list for 10 weeks. Despite awful reviews, the movie it became, “Christmas with the Kranks,” has grossed more than $62 million in the United States as of Dec. 19, and it was only released Nov. 24. The television is polluted with everything from “A Charlie Brown Christmas” to reruns of “Touched by an Angel,” which ran for nine seasons before ending last year. Our president is a born-again Christian and may have been re-elected based on “values and morals.” Dramatic advances are being made in the field of religious ignorance, with Christian pet projects such as abortion and evolution on the run around the country.

So maybe the Christians could shut up and stop whining for a moment. They are not an oppressed minority, or even an oppressed majority.

“Happy holidays” is simply a safer thing to say than “Merry Christmas” in a country of growing diversity, as well as more inclusive — not only of Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, but of New Year’s.

And how about this most Christian of holidays, which Christians intend to safeguard semantically by preserving the “Merry Christmas” greeting? Are Christians aware Dec. 25 was a holiday belonging to Mithraism, and that early Christians moved Christ’s birthday to the date just to make it easier to win converts?

“Fudging the Lord’s birthday for the purpose of gaining converts may seem like a terrible sin today, but in the fourth century A.D. it was no big deal,” writes John Dollison in “Pope-Pourri” (Simon & Schuster, 1994). “In those days it was a person’s death day that mattered; except for kings, in most cases birthdays weren’t even recorded. Jesus probably didn’t know his own birthdate (which most contemporary estimates place at the end of May).”

Tom Flynn’s “The Trouble with Christmas” (Prometheus, 1993) expands on this:

No, the odds that the historic Jesus was actually born on December 25 are, at best, 365 to 1. Even those odds may be overly generous, for evidence in the gospel of Luke all but rules out a winter birth date. Recall that the shepherds were out in the fields watching their flocks by night. Palestine is warm, but not tropical. To this day, shepherding peoples leave their flocks in the pastures overnight — and stay outside with them — only in the nicer weather. In some areas, the flocks are supervised by night only in the spring, during the lambing season. This is the only clue the gospels give that links the Nativity to a specific season of the year, and it argues against a December birth date.

Merry Christmas!

7 comments:

Nina said...

[begin rant] As a Jew (and of course I don't speak for all Jews) I _hate_ being wished a Merry Christmas. I don't care if Christians wish each other a Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays but I think the least they could do is wish me something even remotely appropriate. In fact being wished a Merry Christmas is right up there with the comment "oh is Hanukkah over already, I never know when it is?" I can't walk outside my house without being reminded that I am the minority - there's x-mas music and decorations in every public space I go. I really don't see how wishing me "happy holidays" is ruining anyone's x-mas. [end rant] Thank you.

Scape7 said...

Yeah. It's just polite, like not talking about someone's pregnancy until you know they're actually pregnant. Wish "Merry Christmas" to all those you're sure would appreciate it, and "Happy holidays" to those you're unsure of. And then, if you want, go complain to your fellow Christians about what an imposition it is and about how your quality of life has plummeted.

eric said...

Call me "Linus."

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Scape7 said...

I wish I knew what that meant ... Linus.

Indri said...

What I hate is when people call Hanukkah "Jewish Christmas". God, does that ever drive me up a tree. It's so funny, to me, the way folks who don't know what Hanukkah is or means make this one-to-one correlation...and think that Hanukkah is as important to us as Christmas is to Christians, when in fact it's really minor in the greater festal scheme of things.

Poor American Jewish parents, all these years, trying to make their kids feel better and making Hanukkah into something it isn't. Hanukkah bushes. Grrrr.

Scape7 said...

Eh. All I care about is the loot ... oh, and the family togetherness.

eric said...

Charlie Brown: (shouting in desperation) Isn't there anyone out there who can tell me what Christmas is all about?
Linus Van Pelt: Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you. Lights, please. (A spotlight shines on Linus.) "And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not, for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you this day is born in the City of Bethlehem, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; you shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel, a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace, good will toward men'". That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie brown.


I meant it tongue-in-cheek.