Saturday, December 26, 2009

CHRISTmas as a Universal Impulse

A woman online who is a non-Christian Unitarian Universalist was peeved by a follower of Christ who:

  • had a history of complaining about non-Christians keeping "their hands off of CHRISTmas"
  • always spelled CHRISTmas like that (emphasizing Christ in Christmas)
She didn't have a problem with those two items at all until it got connected together with this on Christmas day:

  • he commented: "I win at CHRISTmas. I got Super Mario Bros Wii!!"
Certainly, we have no clue about the breadth of this Christian's feelings about Christmas day. And, I am not going to focus on the materialism of Christmas - at least not directly. I commented on her post about what I saw as the "wins" for me this Christmas:
  • seeing my older step-daughter today
  • seeing my wife's joy at the gifts she recieved - and seeing her older daughter
  • my younger daughter nearly begging me to spend time with her at a movie ("Avatar") and the eventual conversations on substantive issues that movie may raise with her.
  • cooking breakfast for my family, and now getting ready to cook dinner.
  • attending Christmas morning mass with my MIL at her Catholic Church. She was blessed by it - and I "won" in her being blessed.
Her response to that comment is what really triggered this post:
I think the issue I'm having is ... all the things that were wins for you, are wins for me also. Or would be, I mean, if I had a wife and daughters. ;-)

I think there are relatively few parts of a modern Christmas celebration that aren't shared by the whole world, and I think the holiday is richer for it.

I do think winning can be ... not about a gift, but the gift can be a powerful symbol of a win. My sister, with whom I had a rather rocky relationship most of our lives (until she moved out of my parents' house a year ago) and who is on a very limited budget, happened to see something she thought I would like for my house ... and got it right; it's exactly my taste, and I didn't think she knew or cared what I would like. That's a win. It would have been better to see her in person, but that wasn't possible. So if he'd posted and said "John Doe's wife/sister/whoever knows him better than anyone else, he/she gave him Super Mario Bros because he/she knows he loves games like that" then I wouldn't have disputed that was a sort of win.

But if one is going to insist that Christmas is a purely Christian holiday, shouldn't there be some Christ in there somewhere?

Absolutely, but in the United States (or really in the world) what does that mean? It reminded me of three things:
  1. A quote from Christ
    Matthew 10:34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, 36 and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.
    Christ certainly divides the United States, if not the world. People can see His death and resurrection as proof of God's love and grace; or as proof that the God of Christian scripture - if real - is a brutal sadist unworthy of being followed.

  2. A quote from C.S. Lewis
    The world does not consist of 100 per cent Christians and 100 per cent Non-Christians. There are people (a great many of them) who are slowly ceasing to be Christians but who still call themselves by that name: some of them are clergymen. There are other people who are slowly becoming Christians though they do not yet call themselves so. There are people who do not accept the full Christian doctrine about Christ but who are so strongly attracted by Him that they are His in a much deeper sense than they themselves understand.
    As much as my life is proof that God does not let go of what is His easily, there is certainly truth in this when it comes to how one acts even if there is (and I think there is) perserverance of the saints.

  3. A quote from John:
    1 John 4:7 Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been fathered by God and knows God. 8 The person who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
    I generalize this (as a believer in natural moral law) perhaps more than John would have (he is talking to followers of Christ here). I believe that love is a general revelation in the world that overflows from God's nature into his creation - and particularly into humans that were created in his image. Certainly, John is not saying that a mother's love for her child, or the love between two people, makes one a Christian (see this same chapter in verses 1-6 and 9-10) - only that we creatures love because the Creator is love and that love flows from Him. The more we are connected to Him, the more we love; and the less we are connected then the less we love.
So, the celebration of the birth of the Savior brings all of this out: love vs selfishness, giving vs greed, and service to others vs self-service. The nature of Christ, and God, brings out the best and worst in Christians and non-Christians alike drawing some closer, and driving others farther away. This season is either a blessing, or a curse, to Christians and non-Christians alike.

It is impossible to take Christ out of Christmas, or for Him not to be the reason for this season (and every other one). What is not impossible is for us to suppress God in ourselves; and to ignore our impulses to love and serve as our Creator loves and serves.

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How to debate charitably (rules are links to more description of rule):
1. The Golden Rule
2. You cannot read minds
3. People are not evil
4. Debates are not for winning
5. You make mistakes
6. Not everyone cares as much as you
7. Engaging is hard work
8. Differences can be subtle
9. Give up quietly