Some Thoughts on the “War on Christmas”

As my regular readers know, I try not to get political in my writing but I’m a little cheesed off about this whole war on Christmas bull crap. The “war on Christmas” boils down to three things: xenophobia, homogeneous thinking, and the death of Christendom.
We’ll start by discussing xenophobia. Per dictionary.com, xenophobia is: “fear or hatred of foreigners, people from different cultures, or strangers” or “fear or dislike of the customs, dress, etc., of people who are culturally different from oneself”. When we get down to it, one of the big fears behind the bullshit here is a fear of being usurped or displaced by people who aren’t like you. War Christmasers are ultimately afraid that eventually their traditions and to some extent their race or nationality will become marginalized. Those who believe in the war on Christmas probably also struggle with Homogeneous thinking.
Which brings me to my second point homogeneous thinking. Basically, there is an irrational and unfounded belief at the heart of the “war on Christmas” movement, and that is, “everyone in America is just like me”. Now this is bat crap crazy, I have lived in America most my life, and I have had friends who come from all races, religions, sexual orientations, cultures, political affiliation, socio-economic classes, etc. So again, I have to call bullshit on the “war on Christmas”. We in America are not all the same. There are so many ways of even celebrating Christmas, that we can’t claim just anyone of them as being the American way. And we have always been a melting pot, people from all cultures and traditions are welcome here (that sense of welcome is why we have become more sensitive to people and why we say “happy holidays”).
My third point, to me, is the most sinister reason for the belief in a “war on Christmas”, and that is bitterness over the death of Christendom. Now, I am a Christian, I love God with all my heart, and I would defend my or any else’s right to be a Christian to the death (I would also defend anyone’s right to believe whatever the hell they wanted). That being said, I am glad for the death of Christendom. Christendom has nothing to do with true faith in Christ, and everything to do with the pursuit of power, both political and otherwise. The rise of Christendom began when Constantine declared Christianity to be the religion of the Empire in Rome. For year following Constantine’s decree, Christianity was the religion of empire, it’s members enjoyed tremendous power. They enjoyed this power too much, they committed atrocities in the name of God. They sought wipe out all other ways of thinking and worshipping. Christmas itself was basically a war on Solstice (we’ll come back to this point in a minute). Eventually people started to buck against the homogeneous thinking and brutal power of the “church”, first with the reformation, then the renaissance, the age of enlightenment. In these movements, people were rebelling against God, they were rebelling against Christendom. Now with the fall of Christendom, it’s followers see persecution around every corner, and to be fair there has been some payback (justly earned) for the persecutions and privations meted out by the church. This “war on Christmas” is nothing more than a misguiding rallying cry to restore Christendom.
Now I believe Christendom was never Gods intention. If it had been, why did God announce the birth of son to outcasts and priests of a foreign religion (shepherds in Israel were regarded much like gypsies in Europe are today. And the Magi, per my studies were either Zoroastrian priests or astrologers, both of which would have been looked down upon by the religious establishment of the day), instead of the kings and religious authorities of Israel. Christianity was always meant to be a movement on the Margins, effecting change in establishment from the outside. For further proof of this look at the ministry of Christ and who he chose to come to, tax collectors, prostitutes, fishermen, lepers, Samaritans, outcasts.
And if you want get down to it, the idea of forcing people say “Merry Christmas” is just dumb. Solstice, Saturnalia, Yule, and several other holidays predate Christmas. Jesus was born most likely in August, and Christmas day itself very little to with him. After Constantine’s decree, the position of the church toward other religions, especially the pagan religions of Europe, was, if you can’t beat it, co-opt it. That is why many of the Christian holidays have strange names or weird, non-biblical traditions (I’m looking at you Easter Bunny). The position of the church became one of stamping out and converting rather than one of love. If the Pagans wouldn’t come to God on their own, the church would rechristen the festival in honor of Jesus. The three biggest festival times in the pagan world were the Spring Equinox (Oestre), The Autumnal Equinox (Samhain), and the Winter solstice (Saturnalia, Yule, etc.), or as we now know them Easter, All hallows eve (Halloween), and Christmas. Only Easter falls anywhere near the holy days prescribed by God to the Israelites (Passover). While I am not saying that Christians should abandon the holidays, I am saying maybe we shouldn’t take them so seriously.
I had originally entitled this “Happy Holidays, Ya Filthy Animals”, because I love the line from Home Alone, “Merry Christmas, ya filthy animal”, and I felt it conveyed my irritation and frustration at the ridiculous nature of the “war on Christmas”. But as I thought about this title didn’t convey love and ultimately, isn’t that what this time of year is about. I think that is why so many people say “Happy Holiday”, because they want to convey love without assumption. That love is what I hear whether you say “Happy Hanukah”, “Merry Christmas”, “Happy Kwanza”, “Joyous Solstice, “Good Yule”, “Happy Holidays”, or any of the greetings that relate to the many celebrations that happen at this time of year. I myself celebrate Christmas and so I say “Merry Christmas”. Let’s never let offense and view point cloud our view of love.
Merry Christmas, ya filthy Animals

Facing Sea Monsters

It’s the tail end of 2016, and like most people, my mind floats to the past and what has happened, but I also look ahead to the coming year, and what I hope to get from it, and what changes I will make in it. 2016 was both an amazing and a terrible year. And 2017, is promising to be even more awesome and even more challenging.
I know 2017 will be amazing and challenging because I am stepping. I have decided to be more intentional in my life. For the last five years, I have read books like A Million Miles in a Thousand years, Love Does, and The War of Art. All these books speak to the fact that life must be intentionally lived regardless of the possibility of failure. In this current season of my life I have read/am reading two books that further speak to this, Destiny by T.D. Jakes, and Intentional Living by John C. Maxwell, and I realize that to get the things I want in life I must start being intentional. Life doesn’t just hand you things, you must look for them and prepare yourself to have them.
I am looking at restructuring everything, what I eat, how I exercise, how I budget my time and money, etc. This new mindset bodes to make 2017 interesting. At the same time, pointing at the far shore, raising your sail, and saying “I am going there” brings the sea monsters to the surface. When you step out, when you seek change, you set in motion the forces of resistance, that which would seek to keep you stagnant.
One of my favorite movies is Braveheart, and one of my favorite scenes is the famous sons of Scotland speech. But after that speech there is a scene between William Wallace and two of his lieutenants:
Stephen: Fine speech. Now what do we do?
William Wallace: Just be yourselves.
Hamish: Where are you going?
William Wallace: I’m going to pick a fight.
Hamish: Well, we didn’t get dressed up for nothing.
I think in life we often make the fine speech of “I’m going there”, and then we’ve got to pick up our harpoon, sail on, and pick a fight. Because whether we know it out not by making our fine speech, we’ve picked a fight, it’s all a matter of whether we’re ready for the fight.
And so friends, in the coming year, let us point to the far shore, raise our sails, sharpen our harpoons, and go pick a fight.

Filling the Well

I haven’t written in while, and I used to think that was a bad thing until today. My last post was written at the very of September, and it is now nearly the end of December. I have staring many different pieces, but I haven’t seen any of them through. Through a combination of busyness and restless I haven’t really felt much like writing. I felt guilty for not being a font of words daily, and then I remember a concept that has been repeated again and again in the course of my learning.
This is the concept of keeping your well filled. When I was in college I went to a retreat and the speaker told several parables that related to leadership skills. The one I remember most was the starving baker. The jest of it is that you cannot pour yourself out constantly without putting something back in. If you’re not feeding yourself eventually you will run out of inspiration to give away. This concept was reinforced when I read The Artists Way by Julia Cameron, in it she talks about daily refilling your well of inspiration, so that you can pour it into your art. And just a few weeks ago, at the Global Leadership Summit, I heard Bill Hybels, while talking about Passion, say that it is a leaders job to keep their own passion bucket full.
It wasn’t until today that I realized that I wasn’t being lazy or selfish by not writing, I was merely refilling a well that had been hard hit by the drought of the start of another school year and the impending holiday season.
We can easily forget that our first duty in life is to make sure we are sufficiently filled before pouring ourselves out, and it is even harder to remember that while pouring ourselves out, we still must keep filling ourselves up. There is no shame in taking a time out to refill ourselves. It’s not admission of weakness, or maybe it is, but maybe admitting why are fragile and broken isn’t a bad thing. I once heard a pastor say that all leadership is flawed leadership, but I think that all humanity is flawed humanity. We have weaknesses and we need rest.
For me this time away from writing has been very productive, I have attended a couple of conferences, built some new relationships, read some life affirming books, and built some great new habits. In stepping away from writing I was not lazy, I didn’t sit on the couch shoveling chips into my mouth. I used the time to build myself up. And that is really what filling the well is about.