Thursday, December 16, 2010

10 Days to Christmas

More and more I see religions as comparable to nuclear weapons, that is, too powerful to let fall into the hands of the willfully ignorant, toxically bitter, or dangerously arrogant. And yet those seem to be the personality types most drawn to conversion and/or extremism.

And so it's odd to me that the older I get and the less personal interest I have in religions of any stripe, the more I grow nostalgic for the magic I felt as a child at Christmastime.

To be clear, "Christ" was always the first part of "Christmas" in my father's house. He had no time at all for those disrespectful "X-ers," and no amount of historical justification (about how "X" was a valid synonym for "Christ") would sway his opinion. And that's OK...he's consistent and, more than that, he's entitled.

So Christmas was a religious holiday in our house growing up (we attended church services, we said a prayer before opening presents, my brothers and sisters and I even sung "Happy Birthday" to Jesus). But I have to confess, those aren't the memories that keep coming back to me most (although they are a part of the nostalgia). What really stands out for me is how my older brother and I, in our pajamas, would press our noses up against the icy window of our bedroom for hours Christmas Eve, scanning the skies for that flash of red light, convinced that if we could just stay up until midnight, we'd see the jolly fat man in the red suit flying by. And how we had decorated every nook and cranny of the house with both secular and religious symbols of the holiday. And how, bounding down the stairs Christmas morning at the first indication that our parents had finally gotten up, the sight of those shiny wrapped gifts that now appeared under the tree took our breath away.
And the bulbs on the tree with our names spelled out in sparkles that my Mom had made. And Mom's surprisingly delicious homemade TV dinners, created from leftovers at Thanksgiving, so she didn't have to cook on Christmas day. And how, on this day, I didn't mind being tickled to death by Dad because the way he smelled of the new Old Spice cologne we had given him made me feel safer than any imaginable force on the Earth could.


There's an obnoxious video making that rounds that equates progressive values with being "anti-Christmas." Andy Sullivan dubbed it "
a pure culture war IED...designed to persuade no one but those already inside the tent." It's illogical in that it suggests Christ, or those who follow his teachings, would need to be anti-diversity, pro-gun, ambivalent about the health of the Earth, and against tolerance. Having spent years studying the teachings of Christ, I'm pretty sure he was none of those things. Indeed, that video seems more designed to celebrate willful ignorance, toxic bitterness, and dangerous arrogance than it does the birth of Jesus.

What annoys me the most about this pathetic victim stance taken up the people who see a "war on Christmas" behind (perhaps misguided, but I suspect sincere) efforts to simply comply with the Constitution is how they're ruining the unbridled joy and optimism I remember and wish to continue to associate with the holiday. Rather than simply celebrating with their loved ones, they seem hellbent on demanding ubiquitous control over the symbols of the season, as continued evidence of their superiority one must assume. In the process, they are making the enjoyment of the spirit of the season impossible for the rest of us.

Indeed, it is they, and not any non-Christians, who are destroying Christmas for me. Nothing in that video is optimistic or joyful or even remotely Christian, as far as I can tell. It's simply a bitchy little pity party drenched in mean-spiritedness. And it's all the more farcical because,
after such bile is spewed all over the place, no publicly placed Nativity scene is going to all of a sudden bring peace on earth or goodwill to man.

There are 10 days to Christmas...with any luck that's enough time for me to forget I ever watched that vile little video. Actually, I know as I gather with my loved ones, I will...they're generous and charming and fun-loving and yes even tolerant, and even those who aren't Christians, are much more Christ-like than the makers of that dumb digital diatribe.

We have a bazillion holiday parties over the next week to attend. Should I not see you at any of them, I hope the season brings you moments of true joy and optimism. I'll be back tomorrow with some art world rant or whatever, but I'm feeling all nostalgic these days for some reason, and so let me be among the first to wish you a Warm and Happy Holiday Season.

Labels: happy holidays, politics


Blogger Cyndi said...

Thank you for your refreshing comments. It starts with us individuals to spread tolerance. Chirstmas for me has become secular, and I strive to remember to share in the sheer joy of just being near family members...and taking time for a little selfish 'showing of my art' to them. :) It's all in good fun. I am spending time with my own family this year and not my husband's. My family tends to be a little more religious and raucous than my husband's. To that end, I aim to make new traditions: I'm bringing a gingerbread house and lime sherbet to enact new rituals that will mesh with the old and hopefully overcome the awkward religious undertones that simultaneously bring to mind the nostalgia which you spoke of, but a little discomfort for a religious tradition for which I no longer take part.

Thanks again.

12/16/2010 11:05:00 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

May the world find a little peace in the new year.

12/16/2010 12:40:00 PM  
Blogger Saskia said...

What a wonderful post. Happy Holidays to you & yours, too!

p.s.- I love it when you share stories from you past. If you ever write your memoirs, I'm definitely putting it on my reading list.

12/16/2010 12:44:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

I skipped watching the obnoxious video, and watched this video of John and Yoko instead:

Happy holidays, everyone!

12/16/2010 02:04:00 PM  
Blogger Balhatain said...

I'm a Christian-- I don't hide that fact. That said, I will say this... I think religion needs to stay out of government and government needs to stay out of religion.

The meshing of the two only creates strife-- which fuels ignorance and hate. I really don't think religious leaders-- especially the ones who put a price tag on salvation like that 700 Club freak-- should be allowed to use faith as a tool to sway votes. The same goes for places of worship, not just Christian, nation wide. I think the pressure to vote one way or the other strictly on religious grounds should stop.

With that in mind though there would have to be a balance-- so unfortunately if the above were expected by federal decree it would probably not be possible for government funds to support exhibits or anything else that are clearly anti-religion. As you know that would open a can of worms because people interpret the meaning of art in different ways.

Point blank-- preachers are generally not politicians and politicians are generally not preachers. Religion and government has never mixed well.

12/16/2010 02:53:00 PM  
Blogger Balhatain said...

I'll point this out as well-- many of the Christians who make rants like that forget that Jesus, even if looked at as just a historical figure, tended to hang out with individuals that-- in his time-- would have been considered the dregs of society.

Jesus chose to live in poverty and to embrace individuals that others would have ignored. There is no doubt in my mind that if Christ were here right now most people, including the blunt of people who call themselves Christian, would walk past him without a second glance.

Do you want to see Christ today? Look at the homeless woman digging through garbage on the side of the road because no one bothers to help her, look at the homosexual teen beat up in school-- a place that should be safe for all youths, look at the individual who receives little to know service at a restaurant simply because he or she is a minority, the list goes on.

Christ is a symbol of what happens when someone is persecuted for their choices and simply for who they are just as much as he is a symbol of peace and forgiveness. People have lost sight of that.

12/16/2010 03:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's still Christmas to me, but this whole war on Christmas concept is actually a result of the overzealous hatefully evangelizing christians such as the ones responsible for th, "my teacher taught nativity scenes" video. Those damn teachers!

12/16/2010 06:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Gam said...

the wonderful thing about marvelous memories is that they are the ones which were not developed with intent ...(I doubt that you and your brother intended that your wishes and hopes would become nostalgia)

Nostalgia is one of those gifts that shows us how far we have come, thanks for sharing your thoughts and opinions throughout the year.

happiest of holidays to all your gallery and your readers whom celebrate when the opportunities arise


12/17/2010 07:27:00 AM  
Anonymous ml said...

When I was little, to wake our parents up on Christmas morning, my siblings and I would pretend we were mice, running around on tiptoes, lightly scratching the doors, and then scurrying back to bed when the lookout heard our parents getting out of bed. They always came out of their room laughing.

12/22/2010 08:38:00 AM  

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