Whose job is it to keep Christ in Christmas–and in sermons?

Issues, Etc. host Todd Wilkens has posted a provocative point on his Facebook page on the perennial “keep Christ in Christmas” controversies.  Since I’m one of the ten or eleven Americans not on Facebook, I’m indebted to my friend Michael O’Connor for showing it to me and for asking Todd for permission to post it here:

I don’t expect the culture to keep Christ in Christmas; that’s the church’s responsibility.

Besides, the “Christ” of culture bears no resemblance to the Christ we find in scripture. So it’s probably best that the culture leave Christ out of the holiday.

What does disturb me is that many of the Christians worried about keeping Christ in Christmas have little problem with Christ being left out of the preaching they hear the rest of the year.

“Rudolph” accused of promoting bullying

Some experts are saying that the song and the cartoon “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” promotes bullying! See Does ‘Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer’ Promote Bullying? « CBS Pittsburgh.

This is a classic example of confusing the content of a story with its meaning.  Yes, the other reindeers are mean to Rudolph because of his nose, making fun of him and not letting him play in any reindeer games.  But the story doesn’t teach its hearers to do likewise!  The sympathy of the story is all with Rudolph.  And Rudolph ends up triumphant over the bullies when the quality that they made fun of turns out to save Santa’s Christmas journey.

The meaning, the message, and the effect of the story is to teach children not to bully!

What other examples have you noticed of this confusion of content and meaning?

Did St. Nicholas slap Arius?

Happy belated St. Nicholas Day yesterday.  A piece I wrote for WORLD a few years ago has been going around again, in which I take up the account of jolly old St. Nicholas slapping Arius at the Council of Nicaea for denying Christ’s divinity.

Many historians dispute that this ever happened, and they may be right.  Still, legends have a meaning of their own, even if they leave history behind.   (Then again, it might have happened.  The alleged incident is better attested than the claim that the Bishop of Myra is currently living at the North Pole running a gift-manufacturing and delivery service.)

The point is, I have written a more thorough article on St. Nicholas for the latest Lutheran Witness, though it won’t show up online for a few months.  I discuss that article on Issues, Etc.

 

The Elf who stole Christmas

Far more subversive to the true meaning of Christmas than the secularizers is the “naughty or nice” legalism of “Elf on the Shelf”:

Who can resist the holiday fun of scaring the children into good behavior? Ask any of history’s most efficient dictators — they’ll tell you. Christmas just isn’t Christmas without the naughty-nice punishment paradigm. Where would this holiday be without its good old-fashioned behavioral paranoia? Charles Dickens may get all the credit for this, but do also consider George Orwell.

That’s what makes “The Elf on the Shelf” so ingeniously successful. Cooked up in 2005 by a mother-daughter duo in Georgia, “The Elf on the Shelf” began as a children’s storybook that came packaged with a benign little elf doll — “a pixie scout” in the tale — togged out in a cute red leotard.

As the story goes, once a family gives their elf a name and places him on a shelf or mantel, he is endowed with magic powers. Beginning around Thanksgiving, the pixie scout watches everything that goes on during the day. At night, he flies back to the North Pole and gives Santa a full account: who behaved, who didn’t.

The elf returns to your house in the dark of morning, before everyone gets up, positioning himself in a different spot from where he was before, so that the children have to find his new vantage point. Also, very important — if anyone in the house touches the elf in any way, he’ll lose his magic. And if that happens, then we’re all royally screwed come Christmas Eve. In other words, it’s no longer Santa Claus who knows if you’ve been bad or good. It’s a whole army of his pixie-scout elves. (All a parent has to do to sustain the fantasy is remember to move the elf each night after the kids have gone to bed.)

via CBS’s ‘Elf on the Shelf’: Unwarranted Christmas surveillance techniques – The Washington Post.

Look at the message of the “naughty or nice” Santology:  You will get a gift, but only if you are good.   Gifts must be deserved.   The gift of the Christ child, though, is precisely to those who do NOT deserve it.

Courthouse Christmas displays gone mad

Christmas time is here, so it must be time for controversies over Christmas displays at the county courthouse.  Every year we have one here in Loudon County, Virginia.  Having a Nativity Scene, including one that had been donated by a local family and that had become a tradition, would seem to violate the separation of church and state.  Even Christmas trees have a Christian association.  So surely if the courthouse displays Christian symbols, it would be appropriate to display a Jewish menorah, since Hannukah takes place in the same season.  And we had better display an Islamic Crescent, even though no Muslim holidays are really at issue.  But now the imperative of being “interfaith” has given way to the imperative of including no-faith and anti-faith displays.

What the county officials did, to solve the annual controversy, was to agree to put up symbols of the first 10 people or groups to apply for a space.  So here is what we ended up with:

- The Welsh family nativity scene

- A sign calling Christian figures “myths” and promoting the Loudoun Atheists submitted by a Leesburg resident

- A banner promoting the separation of church and state by American Atheists and NOVA Atheists, submitted by a Leesburg resident

- A banner calling for “reason in the holiday season” submitted by a Lansdowne resident

- A holiday display possibly including the Tree of Knowledge from a Sterling resident

- A letter from Jesus submitted by a Middleburg resident

- A Santa Claus on a cross to depict the materialistic nature of the holiday, submitted by a Middleburg resident

- Two signs from the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, one from a Leesburg resident and the other from a Reston resident

The tenth application, which may or may not be allowed to present a display, is Christmas-themed and submitted by Potomac Falls Anglican Church.

via WMAL 105.9 FM/AM 630: Stimulating Talk – Breaking News.

So in this Christmas display, there will be at most three Christian symbols (depending on what the “letter from Jesus” says, and depending on whether the Anglicans get their display accepted).  Maybe just one, the traditional Nativity scene.   The others will be signs from atheists, either directly attacking Christianity (saying that Jesus is a myth), or mocking God (“the flying spaghetti monster,” which atheists pretend to argue for, as just as valid as the arguments for the existence of God), or just being blasphemous (Santa Claus crucified on a Cross).

If the county is indeed advocating Christianity by allowing displays of its symbols to mark a Christian holiday, then by the same logic  the county is now advocating atheism.

Wouldn’t it be better not to have anything?  Is there some other solution, such as allowing different religious groups to have displays, but not groups that are, by definition, not religious?  Or just leave it to churches to celebrate the birth of Christ, cutting the government out of it, even though that, of course, is what the atheists are trying to achieve?

Thanksgiving’s poll numbers are up

Another study by social scientists that proves  the perfectly obvious:  people like Thanksgiving:

Consensus at last: almost all Americans – from coast to coast and across stiffening party lines – have favorable views of Thanksgiving dinner, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Overall, 93 percent say they have positive views of the traditional meal, including 77 percent who say so “strongly.”

Not everyone, however, is equally enthusiastic about Thursday’s main event. Fully 89 percent of Republicans have strongly favorable views of Thanksgiving dinner, a number that slides to 77 percent of Democrats and 68 percent of independents.

Across regions, those in the Midwest and South are significantly more positive about the upcoming festivities than are those who live in the Northeast or the West.

According to the accompanying chart, 98% of Republicans have a “strongly favorable” or “favorable” impression of Thanksgiving,  92% of Democrats do, and 91% of Independents; by ethnicity, 95% of Whites, 90% of Hispanics; 86% of African-Americans; by region, 92% of those who live in the Northeast like Thanksgiving, with the Midwest 94%, the South 93%, and the West 91%.  By sex, 93% of both women and men like it, though more women are “strongly favorable” at 78%, compared to men at 74%.

via Rally around Thanksgiving – Behind the Numbers – The Washington Post.

How do you account for the gaps and the differences?  I can see someone who does not have a happy family to go to not liking to have his nose rubbed in it by the holiday.  And I can see someone who does not have very much saddened by the abundance that everyone else is taking for granted.  And I can see someone who is saddled with all of the work in preparing the Thanksgiving feast not thinking it is too much fun.  We should remember people like that and do what we can for them.

But is there anything more to these statistics than that?  Why would one out of ten people in the West not even like Thanksgiving? And what is it with one out of ten Independents scrooging* out on the holiday?

[I may have just invented a new word:  "to scrooge" v.  To actively dislike a holiday.]


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