Monday, November 15, 2010

It's More Like a War on Logic

So, I'm already seeing holiday displays at most local retailers. When you build your economy not on the needs of the planet and the true nurturing of humans but on getting people to buy (often on credit) increasingly larger and larger amounts of plastic stuff created in 3rd World sweat-shops, well, it's important to start in as soon as possible on the selling. But this post isn't about the economy.

This post is about the upcoming battle in the "War for Xmas." No, not the "War v. Xmas," that's a fundie lie; there never was and there is no such thing. Let's act like grown-ups for a moment, grown-ups possessed of some simple reasoning abilities and a basic understanding of how language works.

Right around the Winter Solstice, quite a number of different religions have a holiday of some form or another. In my religion, the Winter Solstice (Yule, as we sometimes call it) is the holiday. For Christians, the religious holiday is Christmas, a day (conveniently) located just a few days after the Winter Solstice, when they celebrate the birth of Jesus. Zorastrians celebrate Deygan. In Mali, they celebrate Goru, the arrival of their god, Amma. More: here. Those are religious holidays with, often, deep religious meaning for those who keep them.

And, at the same time, here in America, a secular holiday occurs around the period from December 25th through January 31st. It's not at all religious; in fact it's quite material and commercial. It's about enjoying winter sports such as ice skating or building snow men, about getting together with friends and family, about exchanging gifts, about decorating our houses and town squares (and, yes, our stores), about having a big feast, and, more and more, about watching sports events on tv. This secular holiday is celebrated by people of all different religions and by those who do not belong to any religion and who do not celebrate any religious holiday. I celebrate Yule on the Winter Solstice with the women in my circle and, a few days later, I celebrate the secular holiday with G/Son and his extended family. I get a lot of spiritual strength from doing the work of a Witch -- helping to turn the Wheel -- with my sisters. And, I get a lot of enjoyment out of seeing family, watching G/Son enjoy the decorated tree and his presents, catching up via cards with old acquaintances, and being able to pause for a moment before the new calendar year (my liturgical year starts on Samhein, October 31st, the occasion of yet another secular holiday). But I don't imagine that I need to force family members to be willing to celebrate the darkness, as my circle does, nor does, for example, my DiL's mother imagine that she must make me pray to Jesus. So what's the problem?

The problem comes from the fact that the secular holiday often, due to historical developments, goes by the name "Christmas," which is also the name of the Christian religious holiday. (And from the fact that there is a growing xian Dominionist movement in America.)

Now, you know, sensible grown ups can figure this out and deal with it.

We use the word "bank" to describe the place where we deposit our savings and to describe the the sloped ground that borders a stream. And, yet, no one expects the bank president to get upset when people use the word bank to discuss the place where they like to stand and fish, nor do we insist that all bank buildings contain a stream. We use the word "dear" to describe someone we love and the word "deer" to describe a forest animal, but no one insists that you love the deer in the forest or that your beloved is, in fact, a forest animal.

So it's time for the Christians to stop pretending that they can't understand the difference between a secular wintertime holiday and their own religious holiday simply because the same word is used for both of them. Frankly, I'd be quite happy to see a different term develop for the secular holiday, which is what I think has been happening for a number of years with the word "Holidays." (And, again, we don't insist, when someone in mid-December wishes us a "Happy Holiday" that they must mean the Fourth of July, just because the Fourth of July is a holiday). But that's precisely the thing that drives the xian Dominionists batshit insane: How dare the store employee wish them a "Happy Holiday" when they make their purchase! She should have said, "Merry Christmas!" "After all," they say, deliberately conflating their religious holiday with the secular holiday, "Jesus is the REASON for the [holiday] season!"

Really? Really?

Let's forget the fact that the sales clerk is mouthing something she's been told to say and that, honest, having done this job, the only thing that woman really wishes is that she were home, off her feet, and not dealing with grumpy shoppers. She doesn't know you and she's got zero interest in your religion, your secular holiday, or anything else about you. If she were told that one of her job duties was to wish you a "Merry Christmas," she wouldn't care a whit about how your religious holiday went and she'd do it even if she wishes that the baby Jesus had never been born. If she were told to wish you a "Joyous Goru," she really wouldn't care whether Amma arrived, or not. Let's forget the fact that a god whose power is threatened by what a store clerk says or by a secular holiday isn't much of a god. Let's forget how weird it is that you insist that your religious holiday be honored by commercial establishments. And, let's forget the fact that no matter how many times you say differently, America is not a "xian nation."

Let's just talk about acting like adults and recognizing that forcing your religion down everyone else's throat is not, shall we say, the best way to win converts. Let's talk about the fact that it is entirely possible for me to not believe in a friend's religion nor his religious holiday but to, still, in good will, wish him a happy secular holiday and to hope that his religious holiday is full of meaning for him. Let's talk about the fact that it's pretty hypocritical to dump on liberals for being "too politically correct" and then run around policing how people wish each other an enjoyable secular holiday.

Time are tough. A lot of people are out of work, can't afford needed medical care, have lost their homes, are watching their planet die and their kids face a grim future. We could all use a few days of friends, family, whatever feast we can scrape together, a few gifts for the kids, an excuse to build a snowman or watch the Nutcracker (Hecate's least favorite ballet, ever, but, still). Could the xian Dominionists for once drop the pretense that just because two words sound alike they must mean the same thing? Because, honest, you're not fooling anyone; you're just making yourself look absolutely ridiculous.


nanoboy said...

By the way, the fundies are often the first to point out how commercialized their holiday is. They don't generally like it that it's so materialistic.

Puff said...

Once you make it a secular holiday, it becomes painfully clear that all we've ever had was a vapid secular holiday.

I would rather there be a small, intimate, highly religious Christmas with small implications for the culture outside of it than an enormous, expensive, secular shindig everyone has to get caught up in. Yes, there is a nice, big, Holiday type season with a great cultural history and a lot of neat things going on during it, but... it's not secular, but not entirely Christian either. It's... transcendent, and I'm not quite sure what the difference is, but there has to be one. I kind of like having nebulous cultural artifacts. They're fun.

I can't entirely be mad with Christmas for all the grief it's caused us, in this economy that tanks whenever we don't spend in excess. There's always been something special about it to me, something that's harder and harder to feel as you grow older, especially if you work retail. I used to think it was wonderful we were even Decking the Hells and making Hell happy, because it was just so wonderful at Christmas. Then I learned those weren't the lyrics (no Troll the Ancient Yuletide Carol, either).

Aisha said...

it's funny i had this same discussion with my mother when she went shopping for cards for the holidays. She was upset because more and more cards are saying happy holidays instead of being all about Christmas. I mentioned that Christians didn't have a monopoly on this season other holidays celebrate too and people want to send their friends cards without forcing their faiths on them, you would have thought I told her that hell was the place to go.

Good topic

Makarios said...

I rather suspect that this whole "Xmas war" thing is ginned up every year mainly as a get-penny for the fundy outfits. Liberty Council, for example, as part of its annual "Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign," sells bumper stickers, buttons, "action packs" (minimum donation $25, if you please), and sundry assorted merchandise. Nothing like setting people's hair on fire to get them to open their wallets.

Slightly o/t--you probably know this, but some readers might not: the reason that the Supreme Court begins its legal year in October harks back to the courts in England, where the legal year starts with Michaelmas Term (beginning on October 1). The other sittings for the legal year are Hilary, Easter, and Trinity. More instances of the same word doing double duty, with both sectarian and secular denotations.

sott'Eos said...

Happy Suicide Prevention Month!

Teacats said...

Seems to me that if the xians were TRULY concerned about the "reason for the Season" -- then they would be spend a lot more of their energy, time and money on charities that help the poor and elderly. After all -- I'll bet Jesus worries about folks not saying "Merry Christmas" too! (not!)

And FAR less time complaining about some store employee that has been told "Say it!!!" and then "Don't say it!!!" and simply fears for their pay! And weighing and measuring each response .... such a very xian thing to do!!

Of course -- some comic relief can be provided by simply smiling and saying brightly to an adamant xian: "And a very Merry Yule/Winter Solstice to you too!!!" And watch the looks on their faces!!

Marcellina said...

Nice post.

left rev.; wil preech 4 fud said...

I really, really love you. May I crib shamefully from this for my next church newsletter article?

Hecate said...

left rev,



I'd argue that it's not the Christian holiday that's been commercialized. It's the secular holiday. Christians are free to spend the entire day in church or doing good works or reading the bible or whatever. If they choose to engage in the secular business of buying decorations and gifts and food, well, that's their choice.