Lake Woebegone sage Garrison Keillor has stirred things up with a column entitled Nonbelievers, please leave Christmas alone. An excerpt:
You can blame Ralph Waldo Emerson for the brazen foolishness of the elite. He preached here at the First Church of Cambridge, a Unitarian outfit (where I discovered that "Silent Night" has been cleverly rewritten to make it more about silence and night and not so much about God), and Emerson tossed off little bon mots that have been leading people astray ever since. "To be great is to be misunderstood," for example. This tiny gem of self-pity has given license to a million arrogant and unlovable people to imagine that their unpopularity somehow was proof of their greatness. . . .
Unitarians listen to the Inner Voice and so they have no creed that they all stand up and recite in unison, and that's their perfect right, but it is wrong, wrong, wrong to rewrite "Silent Night." If you don't believe Jesus was God, OK, go write your own damn "Silent Night" and leave ours alone. This is spiritual piracy and cultural elitism, and we Christians have stood for it long enough. And all those lousy holiday songs by Jewish guys that trash up the malls every year, Rudolph and the chestnuts and the rest of that dreck. Did one of our guys write "Grab your loafers, come along if you wanna, and we'll blow that shofar for Rosh Hashanah"? No, we didn't.
Christmas is a Christian holiday – if you're not in the club, then buzz off. Celebrate Yule instead or dance around in druid robes for the solstice. Go light a big log, go wassailing and falalaing until you fall down, eat figgy pudding until you puke, but don't mess with the Messiah.
I don’t remember hearing Keillor being so crotchety. I’m not sure I agree that only Christians should celebrate Christmas. I think it is a wonderful tribute to the Lord Christ that even people who do not know Him nevertheless unwittingly celebrate His birth, giving gifts and invoking Christmas blessings on their neighbors. It is a case of every knee bowing and every tongue confessing that Jesus is Lord.
UPDATE: Read Lars Walker’s comment on Keillor’s rant. Among other trenchant observations, he raises the important underlying question: Do we think that Christianity with its holidays like Christmas should impact the culture as a whole, or not? Political liberals like Keillor, as well as separatist Christians, say “no.” Christmas like Christianity should be a matter of personal reflection and private practice. But it should be kept out of the secular marketplace. What we see here is that some Christian theologies affirm culture, while others do not. Also, note the agreement on this issue between liberalism and fundamentalism.
ANOTHER UPDATE: And yet, I appreciate Keillor’s critique of Unitarianism, the cultural elite, and the influence of Emerson. I especially appreciate his affirmation of creedal Christianity and the Messiah.
HT: Cheryl at A Ropund Unvarnish’d Tale