Friday, December 24, 2004

Have Yourself a Merry Little Whatever

Last night the CBS Evening News aired an interesting little tidbit about the effects of political correctness on how Christmas is celebrated in the U.S.

Pastor Patrick Wooden (can't remember the church and the video feed would not load as of this a.m) noticed that many stores advertise "Holiday Sales" but no one really knows what the "holiday" is. He is urging his congregation to shop for Christmas at stores that advertise Christmas sales. Pastor Wooden feels that we are forgetting why we even have a holiday season and would like his congregation to remember.

The report continued to bring up some salient points regarding how we view the holidays at this time in history. One comment made noted that for those coming into this country, not stating what the holiday is creates a bit of confusion. I know something of this from years of living in Central New Jersey, where there is a high concentration of new immigrants from India. In my conversations with them, I found that many wanted to know the roots of American holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas. Some were familiar with Christmas if they had attended Catholic schools in India (yes, they exist in certain parts of the continent), but were still curious to know how the holiday fit into the American scheme of things. And how religious thinking shapes what it is to be American.

When we deny what makes us uniquely American, we deny others the opportunity to know who we are and what we are about. As it stands now, all most immigrants can understand about Christmas is Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and the Grinch--two entertainment concepts that have existed only in the past 40 years and do not truly represent what the Holiday Season is about.

There was also another comment, by an advocate for the separation of church and state, who agreed that political correctness has gone too far. Yet what this gentleman later said contradicted what he initially asserted. He made a point to note how many people had been "hurt" by Christmas and Christianity.

But do we have to atone for what happend centuries ago? And is re-hashing the wrongs of the European Middle Ages and the Renaissance make sense to us in America?

Yes, we can remember the evils of slavery and the biblical justifications for it--but we should also remember that Dr. Martin Luther King was a Christian minister, and we should also remember how many white protestants put their lives on the line, and the three who died, during the civil rights struggle of the 1960's. And how a Roman Cathoic president and his brother supported this movement.

Yes, we can remember the genocide against the Indians. But this genocide had more to do with capitalism and economics--and land grabbing--than it did with Christianity.

And yes, we must remember the Holocaust of the 20th Century-- because there are so many who still suffer the effect of the Holocaust, and there are others who still want to say Hitler was an okay guy. But if you look into the motivations for the Holocaust, what moved Hitler and his minions had more to do with pagan idolatry and nationalism than it did with Christianity. Hitler's SS wore skulls and lightening bolts and snappy black uniforms--they were more fashionable and secular than they were devout.

But we should also think about how dwelling on the evils of centuries past has created genoicide in the late 20th and early 21st century. We should be reminded that it was the ideas of past wrongs done to Christians by Muslims that spurred on the genocide in Bosnia. It was wrongs "remembered" by the Hutus that caused the genoicde in Rwanda. It is wrongs anticipated and recalled that undergirds the genocide in the Sudan.

If we dwell on the past in a p.c. effort to make others feel good, we could be planting the seeds of ethinic cleansing in our own time.

We cannot constantly be atoning for the evils of other centuries and other peoples whose beliefs and modes of thinking have not directly shaped way we live and think at this time in history. We have progressed beyond the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Colonial Era in America. But when we dwell in the past and constantly beat our breasts with white guilt mea culpas, we gut our idenities of any siginificance, reduce who we are and what our holidays are to nothing more than empty exercises in mass consumption. We look like spiritually empty fools to other cultures that still value spiritualty. And, in a strange way, because American values have such far reaching tenticles, we manage to sew the seeds of ethinic cleansing in other cultures and countries far removed from where we live.

So, I, unapologetically, would like to wish all of you a peaceful and merry Christmas.

(originally posted on Tish G's blog Love and Hope and Sex and Dreams)

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