December 1, 2012

Is there a War on Christmas?

There has been a lot of talk about the War on Christmas so as a writer, I took a more careful look around this war torn nation to observe the damage.

I looked down my street and saw blow up snowmen, twinkling lights, and penguins. In fact, one neighbor even has Santa flying in a blow up helicopter. I drove through town and saw hundreds and thousands of lights synchronized to songs like Santa Claus is Coming to Town. Store windows are filled with displays of wrapped presents. The streets are lined with giant snowflakes and wreaths on the light poles.

There are reindeer antlers on the minivan next to me, and the car behind me has a wreath wired to the front grill. I am stunned by their bravery. To blatantly flaunt their celebration and love of Christmas in such a hostile environment must take tremendous conviction.

I look at my Christmas cookie baking supplies filled with frosting, sprinkles and flavorings. I have cutters to depict every single Christmas character that exists. Holly leaves, Santas, reindeer, snowmen. It's all there. I looked at my 9 foot tall Christmas tree adorned with ornaments depicting every vacation I've taken, every craft I've tried, and every event I've attended. We call it a Christmas tree, but I wonder if that offends the pagan worshipers who originated the custom.
The use of evergreen trees, wreaths, and garlands to symbolize eternal life was a custom of the ancient Egyptians, Chinese, and Hebrews. Tree worship was common among the pagan Europeans and survived their conversion to Christianity in the Scandinavian customs of decorating the house and barn with evergreens at the New Year to scare away the devil and of setting up a tree for the birds during Christmastime; it survived further in the custom, also observed in Germany, of placing a Yule tree at an entrance or inside the house during the midwinter holidays.
To learn more about this war on Christmas, I thought I would visit the mall. The stores have been getting ready for Christmas since mid October, and seemingly without resistance from the soldiers. More examples of immense bravery. What it must take to sell that peppermint flavored refreshment in the midst of such strife is inspiring, especially when the cup is adorned with obvious symbols of Christmas.

Neil Postman's book, Amusing Ourselves to Death contains a poignant quote, "We do not measure a culture by its output of undisguised trivialities but by what it claims as significant." 

He further comments, (in comparing society to Huxley's Brave New World versus Orwell's 1984) Huxley's vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.
What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny "failed to take into account man's almost infinite appetite for distractions"... In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.
To learn a bit more about this War on Christmas, I attended my church. According to statistics, church membership as well as attendance is on the decline for nearly every denomination in the states. Perhaps this is where the War on Christmas should be recruiting soldiers, and not the mall or city hall, tree lots, Santa workshops or front yards. Perhaps this is where to find the appropriate arsenal to combat the war on Christmas.

We have trivialized Christmas to the point of unrecognizable. That is not the fault of any government institution or other religions or atheists or agnostics. The War on Christmas is being fought from within. Jesus didn't storm city hall or demand that everyone observe as He did. Instead He went to the temple. He prayed for hours on end. He invited others to follow Him and learn from Him. He talked to the masses about caring for one another. There is no doubt in my mind that Jesus does not care what we call the decorated tree we put up in any public or private venue. He doesn't care if we sport ugly sweaters with candy canes and jingle bells and He doesn't care if we wish people well, no matter what words we choose. He cares that we love each other and love Him. He asks us to forget all other distractions and remember why He came to earth.
...and his name shall be called wonderful, counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)


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