Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The real war on Christmas

The loony bin is missing some fanatics. Apparently the members of the fundamentalist church, Praise Chapel Christian Fellowship, in Kansas City, MO are running around town dressed like Jesus. Below is a video that the church made of their exhibitionism. Please note that the man wandering around a shopping mall is not shopping. He is basically walking around in circles trying to attract attention. This is a stunt not a statement.

The Jesus ensemble includes robes and, at minimum, a crown of thorns. The church argues that they are doing this to protest the secularization of Christmas. And according to news reports they are dressing like stunt doubles from Mel Gibson’s film “at their jobs, malls and restaurants.”

Let us get something straight. There is NO evidence that Jesus was born at Christmas. And many Christian groups, and most real theologians, admit as much. This doesn’t mean that Western society was absent this winter holiday at all. Most cultures celebrated a holiday around this time of year long before the founding of Christianity.

The truth is that the Christmas holiday was not Christian to begin with. It is true that the Catholic Church invented a new take on the holiday. They redefined it away from its non-Christian roots and arbitrarily stated this as a celebration of the birth of Christ. One method by which Catholicism converted non-Catholic cultures was by incorporating non-Christian traditions into the church. So the winter solstice holiday was called by another name, the birth of Christ was imposed on it, contrary to all evidence, and voila: Christmas.

This means that “redefining” Christmas was first practiced by the Christians. If we ever did get back to “the original meaning of Christmas” they would be very upset.

In addition this sect seems to have confused the crucifixion with the birth narratives. There was no crown of thorns at the birth of Christ. And, unfortunately, we know very little about the birth of Jesus except the contradictory, and clearly inaccurate accounts of the Gospels. Most of the major incidents surrounding this event have no foundation in history.

For instance, there is zero record of King Herod attempting to kill all the babies in order to prevent Jesus from living. A slaughter of infants like that would have been recorded and it wasn’t. Even three of the four gospels make no mention of any such genocide. More problematic for the nativity legends is that Herod had died before Jesus was born. The gospel says that the alleged census, at the time of the birth, “came to pass when Quirinius was governing Syria.” And Herod died 10 years before that. This means the census took place when Archelaus was governor, after Herod had died.

While Rome did have a census now and then no census is recorded requiring everyone to return to their hometown, as the Gospels claims.

Nor are the gospels particularly clear about the order of events they do hold in common. Matthew says that Joseph and Mary were living in Bethlehem and went to Nazareth for the census. Luke has them living in Nazareth and then going to Bethlehem. Matthew says that after the birth the family fled to Egypt. Luke says no such thing and claims they “returned into Galilee”.

One thing in common is that none of the gospel accounts of the birth of Jesus include crown of thorns. Most of them attribute that to the crucifixion story.

Oddly, the first real fundamentalist types in Western history were not fond of Christmas. They didn’t want to get “to the true meaning” of this holiday confiscated from pagans. They wanted to ban Christmas entirely -- talk about a “war on Christmas”. The Puritans, or theocratic Calvinists, actually wanted to make it a crime to celebrate Christmas. In England the religious government of Cromwell made Christmas illegal in 1647. This ban stayed in place until the fundamentalists were thrown out of power in 1660. The fundy Calvinists in the early American colonies did the same thing. They made Christmas officially illegal in 1659. And this ban was lifted by an English-appointed governor in 1681.

The Christian-imposed ban on Christmas called the holiday "festivals as were superstitiously kept in other communities, to the great dishonour of God and offense to others." And the well known fundamentalist minister, Increase Mather, complained after the ban was lifted. He said the Christmas holiday "is highly dishonourable to the name of Christ". The only people who actually tried to ban Christmas here have been individuals more closely attuned to the theology of this nutty church from Missouri. It should be noted that these theocrats were closer to the truth. They wanted Christmas banned precisely because they knew the holiday had nothing to with Jesus. They were fully aware that this was a pagan holiday redefined by Church of Rome, who they hated. So when fundamentalists thought Christmas was pagan they wanted it illegal and when they think it Christian they want it mandated. Apparently they are unable to leave people free to make their own decisions.

Of course, today when these fundamentalist start complaining about a “ban on Christmas” they don’t mean an actual ban, like the one their theological ancestors imposed. They mean a refusal to use tax money to push a Christian message. All the talk about a ban on Christmas by conservatives is one huge lie. They are whining about not being allowed to use government property to sell their message. Or they want to use state school systems to push their theology. No one is stopping them from promoting their own mistaken theology. And they are free to say “Merry Christmas” and celebrate the so-called true meaning of Christmas. What they aren’t allowed to do, according to our Constitution, is access state funding to spread that message. In other words, they have no right to tax you in order to spread their message. That seems fair to me.

A woman from this crazy church told reporters that: “A lot of businesses and people are saying that they have to say, ‘Happy Holidays’ and ‘Season’s Greetings’. They’re not allowed to say ‘Merry Christmas.’ It makes us upset because that is the holiday and it goes against our freedom of speech.” Stupid is as stupid does.

First, this woman is flat out wrong. At this time of year Christmas is not the only holiday. Other holidays exist and some Christians don’t celebrate Christmas until January. Nor does this violate freedom of speech. An employee of a company represents the company when they are working. They are no more free to say “Merry Christmas” to anyone they wish, while working, they are free to say: “Suck eggs you heathen bastard” to customers.

An employee is being paid to work for someone else. During those hours they represent the business, not themselves. If they wish to exercise their right to spread theological ideas they are free to do so during their own time. To do so during work hours is to steal money from the employer -- to be paid to do one thing and instead to do another. Once again it seems these religious groups wants to have the right to take other people’s money and use it for their own purposes. Apparently they are not happy with having to use their own money, or their own time, to spread their ideas. They want their employers and the taxpayers to be forced to subsidize them.

Apparently other fundamentalist churches are now encouraging there members to follow the example of this church.