Peace on Earth
First, a re-run: I published an op-ed called “Keep the Protest in Protestant” four years ago in Madison’s Capital Times. You can’t find it in madison.com’s online archive–apparently the Cap Times pieces don’t stick around that long. (Weirdly, an even older 2007 op-ed of mine from the Wisconsin State Journal is still available, in which I talk about merit pay, dilatory legislators, and skid-loaders, which, at the time, my son called “baby scoops.”)
Fortunately (I think), “Keep the Protest in Protestant” is still available online, but at a tea party-ish site that apparently keeps tabs on the Cap Times. You could Google it, but if you did, you’d see the comments, and I don’t want to link it here, because I don’t want to connect to them even by pinging. The comments were pretty tame, though, all in all. At the time I was attending Plymouth Congregational Church in Dodgeville & I did, and still do, appreciate the United Church of Christ as a denomination. Whatever it was I said, there were enough markers for several in the comment thread to assume I was going to hell and to hold me responsible for abortion.
Here are my favorite moments in the piece:
I’ve no doubt there is passion and sincerity on the part of some of those who choose, for example, to shop at a store where the decorations say “Merry Christmas” and not “Happy Holidays.” I’m related to some of these people…..
Never mind that “holiday” traces its roots to “holy,” whereas we all know that Christmas is a pagan cake with Jesus icing on top. If you’re hunting for your Lord’s birthday, hunt for the date astronomers estimate there was a great star in the sky or when the census would have been taken or when the shepherds would have been out tending their flocks by night. You can run the numbers six ways from the Sabbath (Saturday or Sunday) and you won’t hit Dec. 25. The Puritans knew this. They didn’t like the maypole in spring, and they didn’t like the pine pole in winter. (But they did like beer. Go figure.)
Four years ago, I wasn’t seeing other people make this argument. Someone’s made it way better, now: “The Puritan War on Christmas” was just published in the New York Times. Lots of people have picked up the “Keep the _____ in ______” idea. My favorite on Facebook is “Keep the Han in Hanukkah,” with a young Harrison Ford brandishing a menorah.
And lots of people are, of late, pointing out that the X in Xmas stands for Christ–even this fellow, R.C. Sproul, in a post from a couple weeks ago, says “There’s a long and sacred history of the use of X to symbolize the name of Christ, and from its origin, it has meant no disrespect.” That’s R.C. Sproul, a CALVINIST, (whose name I recognized from my evangelical roots) who publishes with Tyndale (a noted Christian publishing house, well respected in the land of evangelicals, even THOUGH, we talked a lot in my church, in the 70s, about how that the guy who did The Living Bible, which Tyndale published, was struck silent for seven years because the Living Bible was a PARAPHRASE, not a translation.)
So some people are offended by being wished Happy Holidays. I’m offended by their taking offense.
And, if they knew, they’d likely be offended by my being offended at their having taken offense.
Round and round and round, like a train under a Christmas tree.
Would it help if I were Labiche, and blew up the tracks?
Of course not. This isn’t a real war. It’s a peaceful protest against the warriors who see themselves as defending Christmas.
I wish I thought none of this mattered. But when someone blames Jon Stewart for a massacre, it begins to matter, right?
My favorite response to the crazy talk that began almost immediately after the shootings in Newtown is by Rachel Held Evans, ANOTHER EVANGELICAL, called “God can’t be kept out.”
I know I was remembering Rachel’s words as I was snuggling with my son this morning, looking at our Christmas tree, telling him how happy I was he knew the Christmas story, how in a very dark time, God decided to make herself known on earth, starting out as a baby.
She gave Jesus to poor parents, and made him a Jew, which was a very scary thing to be in the Roman Empire. “The Romans were just jerks,” I told him.
And when we’re feeling at our lowest, at our most vulnerable, when things seem the darkest, we can remember that’s what Christmas is about–that God is with us.
However important I think it is for people to be historically accurate in what they complain about, however much I wish we all cared more about substance than surface, however big a gap there is between the right-wing and left-wing members of my family on this and other matters, I do know what’s more important.
So I’m trying, at least trying, to save my biggest protest-mojo for what really matters.
We are in a world of hurt. Whatever love we have access to, we need to share it. Now.
(Sorry. Couldn’t resist.)