When you first enter the world famous “Pantheon Of Nonsense”, one of the first rooms you come to (and how can you miss it, there’s so much light coming from it?) is one marked “The War On Christmas”. Inside, the room feels both enormous and yet crushingly small; it’s such a massive complaint about nothing. The walls are literally aflame with worry. But when you touch the actual flames and worry? They lose all form like melting jello. They never really were to begin with.
The “War On Christmas” is the ultimate white person’s outrage. When you wipe off the red and green holiday icing and get down to the “why there’s a holiday to begin with” cake, you realize: there’s no cake here and the icing, pretty as it is, tastes awful. Here in America, Christmas belongs to every other sector way more than it belongs to any “religious sector” there might be.
Ask “what’s the point of Christmas?” and you’ll get a blast of pretty but empty words flying at you. That’s not to say there isn’t a point – or that there isn’t a point worth making (they’re not necessarily the same thing). But, here in America, Christmas got hijacked early on by commercial interests. Harriet Beecher Stowe bemoaned how “there are worlds of money wasted, at this time of year, in getting things that nobody wants and nobody cares for after they are got” all the way back in 1850! Buying things – making it as easy as possible to buy things – that became “the Christmas spirit” very early on. As early as 1867, “Macy’s store in Manhattan accommodated last-minute shopping by opening until midnight on Christmas Eve.” It’s just a stone cold fact. The “Christmas” these sad, little Christians insist there’s a war on is entirely about buying things. There’s not an ounce of Jesus in it.
But then, there’s never been an ounce of Jesus in Christmas. The concept of “Christmas” doesn’t occur to anyone for over 300 years until after Jesus is gone. Paul – Christianity’s actual inventor (Jesus had zero to do with creating Christianity; he was born, lived his entire life and died a Jew preaching Jewish things to other Jews) – wasn’t interested in Jesus’ birth (other than to revise the details to make them fit the messiah mythology Paul needed them to fit inside of). Paul’s genius (and it was genius) was to focus instead on Jesus’ death and the idea that if Jesus could beat death, so could anyone who believed in him (so long as they believed in Jesus the exact way Paul told them to). As for the December 25 date? Pope Julius I chose it around 336 AD. “It’s commonly believed that he chose the date in an effort to adopt and absorb the traditions of the pagan Saturnalia festival.”
In addition to this blog, I also do a podcast called “The Faitheism Project” with my friend the Reverend Randy Lovejoy. In our podcast, my friend Randy and I talk about the difference between religion and spirituality. I have always been grateful to Hebrew School for making me the atheist I am today. Actually, I thin I dropped from the womb an atheist. Hebrew School simply closed that deal for good. But, when I gaze up at the cosmos, I feel the same sense of awe, wonder and mystery as Randy does when he contemplates the will of God. The constant discovery of our podcast is that though on paper Randy and I should be incapable of having a civil conversation, in fact, we’ve been having the same great conversation for almost twenty years now (except now we share it with an audience).
This week’s podcast talks about this very subject. The war on Christmas v Christmas’ war on us.
I’m biased of course, but I highly recommend the conversation (hell, I recommend the podcast as a whole but then, I would). As our conversations almost always do, this one went someplace neither of us expected it to go. When Randy asked me about my experience of Christmas, I told him. Honestly. That’s how our podcast rolls. And, what I said took Randy aback. Randy wanted to find a way to make the Christmas spirit truly universal.
I wondered aloud if that was truly possible.
Randy doesn’t believe there’s any “war on Christmas”. In fact, he feels as worn down by Christmas’ commercialization as anybody. What he didn’t anticipate hearing was that Jews can feel something deeply anti-Semitic inside the “Christmas spirit” because it’s there. You have to remember: the entire Christmas story is a fabrication. Every last bit of it. Jesus’s death and resurrection also was a story. The entire blood libel? Another story, entirely made up by the early church fathers as they spun Christianity out of whole cloth. Christmas celebrates a massive fiction about the birth of someone the Jews – as a whole group – get blamed for murdering (even though he’s half-God which should, in theory, make him a little tougher to kill than that). Logic problem: if the whole point of Jesus’ existence is to “die for humanity’s sins” (to correct for Eve having committed the “original sin” in the first place), then in order for humanity’s sins to be forgiven, Jesus must die. Dying is essential to everything Jesus needs to accomplish in the big picture. If Judas (per the story) never “betrays Jesus”, and Jesus never gets captured and crucified, then he never dies then – and never resurrects. If no one dies for anyone’s sins, where does that leave Christianity?
Growing up Jewish, growing up hated by Christians because you’re Jewish, growing up hated for reasons that make literally no sense – it alters the way you look at and experience Christmas because it doesn’t celebrate anything real. Even the cheer and camaraderie feel hollow and disingenuous. Unless they’re on sale.
I won’t ruin the podcast’s ending for you but, we do come to a conclusion about what Christmas is and what exactly Christians should celebrate. As I said – biases all still intact – this conversation is both open-minded and mind-opening. Think of the hour spent as an early Christmas present to yourself!
]NOTE: the visual above is from Business Insider.]