09 December 2005

Rootless Trees, Baseless Claims

I just had to listen to a coworker complain for 20 minutes about how America was founded on Judeo-Christian values, and it's Christmastime, so she's going to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and if they don't like it, they can just shut up. "If they want their holiday to be recognized, then they can apply to have it sanctioned as a Federal Holiday!" she proclaimed. This also happens to be the same coworker who reads her Bible at her desk, sends her kids to a Christian school, is heavily involved in her church, and tells customers she'll pray for them if they're having a bad day. When I told her I was a Messianic Jew, she responded with, "Oh. Oh, we have one of those people come in and do that Passover dinner thing with us every Easter." Yes, that's right, I'm a cute little stuffed animal, here for you to goo and poke at for your personal pleasure.

I could have cut her to the quick and told her all about the non Judeo-ness of her Christmas holiday, but why bother? Christians have spent approximately 1692 years building this careful wall around themselves that safely separates them from both the pagans and the Jews of this world. They've plowed their middle ground into a comfortable bed for them to sleep in with no worries, until their conjured-up traditions begin to give them nightmares. Only then do the Christians realize that their middle ground, while nicely pruned and landscaped, still bears no fruit for them. Any argument they can come up with to defend their righteous practices vanishes into thin air because it has no roots to rely on.

I've already discussed the completely unmerited notion that Christmas has anything to do with celebrating the arrival of Messiah, so the claim that Christmas is some sort of religious holiday with Jewish roots is ridiculous. So, where do they go from here? The Christians can't rightly call Christmas a completely secular celebration, because then they'd be no better than those dirty pagans who are trying to take away the holiday completely. So, what do they argue? "Christmas is a Federal Holiday!!!" Right. Okay. So you're really celebrating the birth of a closet alcoholic named Ulysses S. Grant? Wait, are you trying to say that our country has a history of celebrating Christmas because the first people to settle North America in numbers were doing so for religious freedom, to worship as protestants?

According to the History Channel website: "The pilgrims, English separatists that came to America in 1620, were even more orthodox in their Puritan beliefs than Cromwell. As a result, Christmas was not a holiday in early America. From 1659 to 1681, the celebration of Christmas was actually outlawed in Boston. Anyone exhibiting the Christmas spirit was fined five shillings. ...After the American Revolution, English customs fell out of favor, including Christmas. In fact, Congress was in session on December 25, 1789, the first Christmas under America's new constitution. Christmas wasn't declared a federal holiday until June 26, 1870." Those protestants who moved to the colonies for religious freedom based their laws, customs, and practices on those found in the Bible, specifically the Torah. Apparently the freedom to worship sought out by these pilgrims had absolutely nothing to do with celebrating around a pine tree or wishing a Merry Christmas to anyone. Imagine that. Again, another seedless claim.

No religous claim; no historical claim. How can Christians justify the sanctity of their holiday in the public sphere? How can they put the Christ back in Christmas, the Christmas back in America? I don't see how they can, unless they compromise and allow Christmas to become what it is to non-Christian countries, like Japan: a Valentine's Day-esque celebration replete with Santas and trees and no religion to be found. Or, like their Puritan forefathers, they'll just have to accept the fact that the majority of Church practices are nowhere to be found in scripture, and therefore belong nowhere in their lives as believers in Messiah, or as good Americans. In either case, the Christian's wall around their middle ground of compromise is coming down, but quick. In its place is a thin line is being drawn that will act as the boundary line between increasingly gentile and eternally Jewish worlds.

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