The True Meaning of Christmas, by Oxycodone
The Third and Final Commandment in our on-going series will have to wait until next week, as I have just had a septoplasty/turbinectomy (nose surgery-- not to be confused with rhinoplasty, which, I am fairly certain, is a Primus Album) and am on heavy pain killers as thick blood oozes constantly out of my nostrils. Good morning, by the way. Hope you ate earlier.
So, since I’m all doped up, I figured I talk about religion and politics. There is no way this could possibly go poorly. So let’s get started, shall we?
Hey, remember the War on Christmas? Vaguely? You may recall that a couple of years back, the forces of Good and Light and Apple Pie and Virginity and Jesus and Fluffy Bunnies were under assault from a legion of demon liberal atheist Nazis who marched from town to town dressed in terrifying, non-denominational business suits, setting fire to Christmas trees and peeing on the baby Jesus in nativity scenes. This hell-horde had effectively sterilized three-quarters of America before General William “Falafel Bill” O’Reilly and Admiral John “I Support Shooting Innocent People in the Head” Gibson mounted up with Santa Claus and drove the heathen bastards back to Hollywood where they belong.
Alternatively, perhaps you recall a bunch of idiots talking about how there was a furious War on Christmas, and you don’t remember seeing or hearing anything from the actual invading forces. So odd. Well this true soldier remembers: http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/12/20/roland.martin/index.html. Yes, that’s right, the Christmas Defense Force is back in business, despite, once again, the abject lack of any kind of opposition whatsoever, under the control of Rear Admiral Roland S. Martin. Mr. Martin refers, “stridently,” to the “seeming backlash against Christianity,” and demands that we take “a fuller account of WHY we celebrate Christmas.”
So what about this “backlash against Christianity?” Well, Martin (like O'Reilly before him) doesn’t actually cite to any kind of facts, but I did find this in the public record: it seems the U.S. House of Representatives just passed this House Resolution recognizing Christmas as a Christian holiday and talking about how great Christianity is and the role it’s played in our nation’s history. Would anyone like some governmental endorsement of religion with their sanctimony? In fact, I believe this is about as literally an “endorsement of religion” as you are likely to find-- the resolution specifically talks about how great Christianity is, how important it is, and how the U.S. firmly supports Christianity. No other religions get a name-drop, just the big C. For their next trick, the House will be altering the First Amendment to read “Congress shall make no law regarding the establishment of religion ; )” That’s right, folks, we are just one step away from putting emoticons into the Bill of Rights.
Let’s recall that we do, ostensibly, live in a nation that was founded by people who had to flee religious oppression in their home countries and who therefore believed that each man should be allowed to follow his personal faith without the interference of the government. A lot of Christians these days are rejecting the principle of separation of church and state. I wonder what those same people would think if the House passed a resolution recognizing the importance and value of Catholics (and only Catholics). Or Mormons (because they’re technically Christians too). I bet you the Southern Baptists would not be too pleased.
The irony is that in a way, this is precisely what M. Martin and his Christmas Defense Compatriots are promoting (generously assuming that they’re actually pursuing this for a reason other than simply getting their own name in the spotlight) when they talk about returning to the Christian roots of Christmas. Because if you really want to go back, Christmas is all about the way we look at others’ religion. Is there anyone around who really thinks Jesus was born on December 25th? I doubt it. The reason we have Christmas comes from old pagan festivals related to the winter solstice, most particularly the Roman Feast of Saturnalia. As with Halloween and All Saint’s Day, the early Church essentially imported these pagan festivals whole-sale into Christianity in hopes that it would ease the transition for the pagan masses into Christianity.
It turns out that, despite accepted dogma, up until around the Renaissance and even later, European commoners quite routinely were Christians on one hand while retaining their pagan religions with the other, and they never saw any problem with this. Thus, you might find that after church on Sunday, the local farmer would go sacrifice a goat for rain, and would never consider that this might be internally inconsistent with his faith. The early church capitalized on this, gaining converts by, essentially, not requiring them to convert very much. This is why our modern Christmas incorporates druidic tree-worship as a central part of its milieu. Thus, the early church relaxed some of its own rigid requirements to allow the assimilation of these pagan beliefs.
My point is, from the beginning, Christmas has been about embracing the beliefs of others at the expense of your own. But Mr. Martin and friends don’t like that, because, let’s be honest, they don’t like other people’s beliefs. So they make up a war that isn’t being fought and they promote resolutions like the one that’s just passed the House, and they make Christianity seem besieged, even though 80% of Americans are Christian, so that slowly the wall between church and state crumbles. And when it does, you can guarantee that folks like Mr. Martin will be waiting on the other side, ready to put irons on anyone who dares to wish them a Happy Holiday.