Reflections on Competing Christmas Decorations
On my way home from work, I drove between two competing Christmas displays. On the right was a huge lit up Santa Claus and a 4 foot high snow globe showing gleeful children getting toys off of Santa’s sleigh. On the left was a lighted handmade sign reading “JESUS: The Reason for the Season.” Underneath the words was a hand-painted nativity scene.
My initial, kneejerk reaction was, “Ha, I bet those biblethumpers are really pissed off at having to look at that Santa and snow globe across the street! Hope it sticks in their craw!” Then I thought about it.
I know nothing about the people with the Jesus sign. For all I know, they could be Socialists or Greens. And even if they’re not, their sign is accurate. Christmas is, after all, the date most Catholics and Protestants celebrate the birth of the man they believe to be their Lord and Savior, and has been such since the days of the Roman Empire. The fact that I am not a Christian does not change that. Nor does it change the importance of the moral message attributed to Jesus of Nazareth, which, like most other religions, boils down to “Treat other people the way you would like to be treated if you were in their shoes,” and a few other good ones like “Quit your bitching and pay your taxes, rich man,” and “What goes around comes around.”
The house on the right gaudily reflects what all of us are bombarded with every year. Capitalism has seized upon a centuries-old tradition of exchanging a few gifts in memory of the three wise men and turned it into an orgy of consumption that does everything from enhancing one’s social status to maximizing profits for retailers and for the banks which hold consumers’ credit card debts. Dickens’ tale of Scrooge has been twisted from a cautionary tale of the greed and callousness of capitalism into a condemnation of those who either refuse to spend beyond their means or refuse to participate in Christmas at all simply because they don’t believe in it.
Finally, my own initial reaction to those two Christmas displays is illustrative of a bias, anti-religious in general and anti-Christian in particular, that one finds very common on the political left in America. Some of the same people who will defend the right of Muslims to build a mosque in say, Manhattan, will ridicule someone who outspokenly says they pray to Jesus without even asking them their opinion on, say, indefinite military detention. No, they’ll just assume the self-professed Christian is a member of the Religious Right who wants to convert or at least rule everyone else.
I recognize that many Christians did bring that attitude on themselves, but there’s all sorts of Christians out there, folks. It’s a mistake for anyone on the political left to go out of their way to alienate potential and needed allies. The teachings of Jesus are very politically progressive, after all.
To prove that point, ask yourself what Jesus would have done if he had been there when President Obama said, “Americans celebrate wealth, and they should.” He probably would have slapped Barry up the side of his pointy corporatist head.
crossposted at www.leftunderground.com