Sunday, December 25, 2005

A Christmas E-mail Exchange With Howie (My Right-Wing Friend From NY)

Peter, may you and Mary Pat have a Merry Christmas, Love you both. Howie

Howie, thanks for your Christmas wishes, and right back atcha. I love ya, bro. And MP sends her love. So when are you coming out to Chi-town?

Of course, I can't let the little piece of fiction that you sent me with your wishes go by without comment (did you think you were going to send this and hear nothing from me?).

This, of course, as you know, never happened. This is some e-mailer's fictional account of what s/he wished would happen. Something very much like this has probably happened many times in the last fifty years--years that have seen a blasphemous commercialization of Christmas.

Here's a critical reading, a "textual anaysis" of the story (bear with me--I don't do this for everyone):

A woman was Christmas shopping with her two children.

Already you feel sympathy for her.

After many hours of walking down row after row of toys and after hours of hearing both her children asking for everything they saw on those many shelves, she finally made it to the store elevator with her two children in hand. She was feeling what so many of us feel during the holiday season time of the year, getting that perfect gift for every single person on our shopping list
Here's the real message of this first paragraph. It is a willful ackowledgment of the pressures Americans feel at Christmas time. Please note that the author does NOT deny this pressure, and does not deny the artificiality of it. The author presents it, though, as a GIVEN; a normal piece of American life, and a normal piece of Christmas.

overwhelming pressure to go to every party, every housewarming, taste all the holiday food and treats
The author slipped this one in to create (or recreate) what today is an artificial atmosphere of community. The fact is that, beyond the "holiday party" at work, most people don't throw parties, housewarmings, etc., nor do they have time to home-cook feasts. Grandmothers/mothers-in-law still do this, of course. But young mothers? Working...

making sure we don't forget anyone on our card list, and the pressure of making sure we respond to everyone who sent us a card.
This, of course, goes hand-in-hand with the commercialization.

Finally the elevator doors opened revealing a crowd in the car. She pushed her way in and dragged her two kids and all her bags of stuff in with her. As the doors closed she couldn't take it anymore and blurted out, "Whoever started this whole Christmas thing should be found, strung up, and shot."
Here, the author shows his/her (clumsy) hand. Do you honestly believe ANYONE--no matter how stressed--could make a public announcement as stupid as this? (Well, you're a repuglycan, so you naturally think people are stupid) First of all, these days NO ONE makes remarks in public about shooting, bombing, violence of any sort (except for the GOP). But the author is just trying to get the reader in a position of sympathy with this character, who, faced with all this shopping, planning, buying, and kid-tending, is stretched to the end of her rope. Who has NOT felt that way? The character has lost it, and, as the author is about to tell us, has lost sight of the "real meaning" of Christmas.

From the back of the car, a quiet calm voice responded, "Don't worry, we've already crucified Him." The rest of the trip down was so quiet you could have heard a pin drop.
OF COURSE it was a "quiet, calm voice." I'm surprised it was not also a "strong and wise" voice too, but I guess the author didn't want to push his/her luck. The "christian" is quiet and calm, not like Jerry Falwell, who thinks that 9/11 and Katrina are God's revenge on gays; not like Pat Robertson, who calls for the assassination of a foreign leader. The person who SUPPOSEDLY is a "christian" is quiet and calm. I'll talk more about this in a second.

The author is a making another point in this sentence. It is a response to the woman's plaintive and desperate cry that "Whoever started this whole Christmas thing should be found, strung up, and shot." The answer, coming from a "quiet. calm voice," is that Jesus started "this whole Christmas thing."

Nonsense. Jesus is no more responsible for the commercialization of Christmas than Martin Luther King Jr. is rersponsible for the (paradoxical) "white sale." Commerce is responsible for the commercialization of Christmas. NOT Jesus. Commerce is responsible for all the pressure we feel, the cards we have to write, the list of presents we have to buy (or worse--the person on the list for whom we can think of nothing to buy!!!).

We have one small piece of the Gospels that shows how Jesus felt about the commercialization of religion (His religion, by the way, was Judaism, NOT Christianity). At a time of great prosperity in Jerusalem, the "leaders" (that is to say, the most prominent and vocal) of Judaism preached conformity to the letter of Jewish law. At the same time, they ignored much of the Torah that had nothing to do with "the law." The prophets, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekial, had all denounced conspicuous "religiosity" (animal sacrifices, public prayer, etc.) at the expense of caring for the poor. They prophesied that this conspicuous religiosity would blind them to the coming of the Messiah. But this was not "law." So these warnings went largely unheeded by the Jews of the time, who looked on the books of the prophets as little more than literature,

Jesus agreed with the prophets, and he quoted Ezekial when he came into the temple and found a market and money-changers.

"When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the Temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords and drove all from the Temple, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said: 'Get out of here.' (John 2:13-16)

"Jesus entered the Temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 'It is written,' he said to them, 'My house will be called a house of prayer but you are making it a den of robbers.'" (Matthew 21:12-13)

To say that Jesus would approve of how Christmas is "celebrated" today is absurd. I think it kills Him over and over again.

Don't forget this year to keep the One who started this whole Christmas thing in
your every thought, deed, purchase, and word. If we all would, just think how
much better this world would be.

This literally puts my stomach in knots. Can't you see how evil a work of propaganda this is, Howie? Keep Jesus in your every purchase? In the same breath as "keep Jesus in your every thought, deed, and word," the author chooses (CHOOSES!!!) to advise us to keep Jesus in our every purchase!!! Do you think Jesus really wants us to be consumers? Do you REALLY think Jesus is a Republican? Do you NOT think that, if Jesus were to return today, there would not be revolution in the world? Do you NOT think that Jesus would lower the mighty and raise the weak? (It's in the bible, look it up) Do you NOT think that Jesus would rather have us take ALL the money we spend on plastic Wal-mart CRAP every year and give it to the poor? Do you NOT think (while I'm at it), that Jesus would NOT shake the USA out of its paranoid fantasies, and take all the money we spend as a nation every year on things that go "BOOM" and redirect that to the poor?

Exactly which Bible are YOU reading, Howie?
Jesus is the reason for the season.
This is true. Don't blaspheme against Him. Don't remake Him into your image. Don't try to fantsize Him as a Republican, or as a pro-war hawk. Or as a "Christian."

Wise men still seek Him.
Yes. And Christians follow Him. And if you see someone who calls himself a "christian," but ignores the true Christ, he is probably neither a wise man nor a Christian.
May you have a blessed and holy Christmas season, not a "happy holidays season".
May you have, Howard Raymond, whatever you want. May you always want what is right in God's eyes, in Jesus's name.

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