Christmas fast approaches, and with it the usual litany of Christian sermons about what they (mistakenly) imagine to be the reason for the season. Christian narcissism and ignorance are annoying at any time, but around the holidays, both telescope into levels you’d swear were caricature or parody. In one example of this exact narcissism and ignorance, we see why Christianity, as a religion, is such a mess.
He’s Just Astonished!
One fundagelical pastor, Rick Gregory of the woefully-misnamed Grace Bible Church, recently wrote a post on his church blog about how “astonishing” he finds it that people “can become hyped up over celebrating something that they fail to understand.” You’ll be happy to know that he totally understands, however!
The “something” in question is Christmas, of course. It can’t be Christmas without a fundagelical freaking out over the War on Christmas, now can it? He’s clutching his pearls as hard as he can over here, and it’s making him sloppy. Here’s what I mean. (His comments are in bold, my commentary following; all quotes are directly from his post except as noted.)
“People celebrate ‘the season’ simply because they enjoy celebrating” and that “if it weren’t the birth of Christ, it’d be something else.”
Oh noes!! How can it be?!? How can people possibly ever celebrate stuff for their own reasons instead of his chosen reasons?!? How can anybody possibly ever do anything differently than he does? How on earth did his particular religious celebrations somehow stop being the center of everyone else’s universe?
The phrase “get over yourself already” was invented for people like this.
The growing secular nature of Christmas means that his god has been “marginalized.”
Because obviously that’s what it means. We’ll forget that America is still dominated by Christianity at every single level, because he sure has, and also that a great many of the people he laments as having “marginalized” Jesus are Christian themselves. The secularization of Christmas could not have happened without a lot of Christians having decided to go hog wild at the nation’s cash registers. There just aren’t enough atheists and Nones to do it on our own!
Later on, he does make clear that he’s also upset at his own tribe for not being fervent enough. Why, even Christians are “marginalizing” Jesus, in his view! Gosh, won’t anyone think of the TRUE CHRISTIANS™ like himself?
Yay, more of that religious liberty hogwash.
He is very, very sad about how mean ole atheists “express hostility toward Christ as though He were an imposition on an otherwise delightful holiday,” trying to make Christmas more secular and even (GASP!!!! HORRORS!!!!) “banishing nativity scenes from public locations.”
He forgets that our Constitution makes it illegal for him to coerce taxpayers into hosting his grandstanding efforts. If he wants nativity scenes, he can knock himself out paying for them and putting them on land that he owns and controls. But that wouldn’t be a reminder that his tribe still owns everything it’s pissed on, would it? I’m sure he’d freak out if another religion got permission to do exactly what he is so very sad about not getting to do–why, we saw others of his ilk do exactly that just a few days ago.
Of course, that’s kind of the problem here, isn’t it? Christians used to break the law with impunity and not even think twice about it. Of course they got comforting religious displays on taxpayer-funded land to remind them that they were superior to everyone else. Of course they got all kinds of perks and concessions that nobody else got. They got used to these unwarranted allowances. I’m sure losing some of them feels a lot like persecution, but the fact that he’s so confused about the law indicates exactly why the rest of us need to be vigilant about those displays.
Freedom for me, but not for thee is the slogan of his religion. His post should serve as a potent reminder to maintain our firm stand against all religious overreach. Jesus sure ain’t going to make him obey the law and keep his grabby little hands to himself. It falls upon the rest of us to ensure that he and his tribe behave themselves.
The abbreviation “X-Mas” is an evil plot to remove Jesus from Christmas.
Except it totally isn’t and Mr. Gregory is categorically wrong again. According to Snopes.com and Today I Found Out, “X-mas” was a shortening of “Christmas” that was begun by religious scribes as a shorthand. In fact it shortened anything with “christ” in it, including “Christina” (Xina)–just like you see vanity plates that say things like “CRE8.” In reality, the misconception that X-mas is some attempt to remove Jesus from Christmas appears to have started with an ignorant Christian politician in 1977, and its validity hovers around the level of the idea that “hello” has something to do with Hell.
Rick Gregory is over here having conniptions about people saying “Happy Holidays” and “Season’s Greetings” instead of the salutation he likes best, but maybe someone should tell him that until his tribe got a bee up their collective asses about the whole thing, even Christians used those terms. When I was fundamentalist, I sent cards saying all three greetings at various times; I chose them by the picture and printing inside, not by how tribally-approved the greeting’s wording was.
Incidentally, some people eschew the exact word “Christmas” because they want non-Christians to feel welcome and included. They know that Christianity has hurt a lot of people and alienated even more, and they don’t want to potentially remind anyone of any pain on what should be a happy time for everyone. Rick Gregory doesn’t care about that, however. All that matters is how he feels, and he feels stung over the reminder that somewhere, someone he doesn’t even know might be celebrating a holiday in a way he doesn’t like.
Obviously the former conventions of using BC and AD mean that his kind of Christmas celebration is the only one allowed.
It’s a bit hard to follow his tortured logic here. I get that he’s trying to assert his tribe’s version of junk history as a way of asserting ownership over all things Christmas, but it doesn’t work. As we’ve discussed at length this past week, the only reason that those conventions exist is that his tribe gained complete dominance over all other people via politics, eradicated all other religions in a self-serving and completely secular series of victories, and then spent the next thousand years or so stomping all over anybody who dared to go any other direction. That early history isn’t anything to crow about and it’s definitely not a sign of divine favor or action.
We’ll forget, as well, that nobody actually knows what year, much less what season, Jesus is supposed to have been born, and that nobody seems to have cared about any aspect of his life until well after his death. For an event that Rick Gregory is convinced “is the central event of all of history,” it went completely unnoticed at the time and well afterward.
To people who don’t believe that Jesus existed or that if he did that he was in any way supernatural or superhuman, of course, Christmas has other meanings. We don’t feel the day is “holy,” as this pastor says, or that it’s in any way “sanctified.” If he does, that’s fine, let him knock himself out, but it’s nothing but complete historical illiteracy that leads a Christian to believe that the end-of-winter celebration has anything to do with Jesus. We need not feel compelled to change history or alter our celebrations just because he’s upset.
(We probably don’t need to wonder how he feels about modern historians moving away from BC and AD to use BCE (Before the Common Era) and CE instead. I’m not even sure he’s aware of the convention. He says that the former system is “in force today,” which indicates that he doesn’t realize that anything’s changed.)
Anybody who does things differently “fails to comprehend” the exalted wisdom that he does.
He writes that anybody who says “Happy Holidays” just “fails to comprehend” what Christmas really means. (Is it just me or does anybody else find the whole “fails to comprehend” wording especially grating and arrogant, especially when said by someone who is completely in the wrong?) I wonder if his head would explode if he knew that why yes actually, most of us do understand that Christians think Christmas is very special, and most of us are well aware of why they think so.
We comprehend just fine. We just don’t agree, that’s all.
Don’t hold your breath expecting him to demonstrate the validity of a single thing he’s claimed, either.
I Wonder As I Wander…
I chose this particular Christian’s post pretty much at random, and wasn’t disappointed; it is a perfect representative of evangelical thought right now. I realize that this pastor is talking to his tribe, not to outsiders, but he put this post up on a public site that, presumably, visitors can easily access, so he wanted it to represent him and his group. I can’t speak for all non-Christians who run across his post, but I can sure tell you what I think after reading it:
This is a pastor who is very deliberately perpetuating his tribe’s misbegotten culture wars. He’s repeating tired, oft-debunked talking points meant to rile up his presumably-equally-ignorant sheep. He wants them to feel persecuted and maligned–and therefore special for having the secret understanding of what Christmas really means. He wants them to redouble their efforts to be extra-Jesus-y over the holidays regardless of how it makes others feel. He wants them to look down their noses at anybody who does Christmas differently or feels differently about it than they do. As prettied-up as he’s trying to make it, his vision of Christmas is exclusionary, belligerent, churlish, childish, and chest-thumping–just like his version of “God,” and just like his tribe.
The War on Christmas came about because Christians like him realized that popular culture was passing them by. The way that Americans celebrate Christmas has gotten progressively less and less religious. It’s finally hit a tipping point that fundagelicals can’t possibly ignore. They’re trying–a bit too late, in my opinion, but they’re trying–to recover some of that lost ground.
And despite their frantic efforts, they’re still losing thousands of adherents every single day.
One would really think that a person leading a group called “Grace” would be more, well, gracious, but here we are witnessing a leader in the religion lamenting secular Christmas celebrations that have nothing whatsoever to do with him and that impact him not in the least, celebrations had by total strangers for their own private reasons.
That vision pales beside the spectacle of a grown man whining about a completely made-up problem that his tribe created and now has declared to be an actual war on their religion–a war that isn’t actually being fought by non-Christians, so it’s really more of a one-sided temper tantrum than anything else. I guess this sort of martyrbation makes Christians feel better, but it should be showing the rest of us exactly why their religion is failing so hard and why we are right to reject it.
Mr. Gregory ends by telling his flocks to “emulate [his god’s] goodness to others,” but he’s got a long, long way to go on that front himself before he reaches it.
Of course, if his god doesn’t actually exist, that’d go a long way toward explaining why so many Christians seem incapable of reaching that goal.
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Season’s Greetings, and all the rest! Join me next time, when we talk about a “free gift” that is neither free, nor a gift.