Socrates, Santa and Spirituality
Oh look, yet another Christmas TV special! How touching to have the meaning of Christmas brought to us by cola, fast food, and beer…. Whod have ever guessed that product consumption, popular entertainment, and spirituality would mix so harmoniously? Bill Watterson, Calvin & Hobbes
Well, I was going to try to avoid the whole Christmas scene as it is already overemphasized and commercialized to the extreme. However, then this whole War on Christmas was waged and I just couldnt let it go. I dont think people are really rebelling against Christianity. I think people are just really pissed off at how much money they are having to spend on this one holiday and who better to point your anger and frustration at than the man himself?If Christmas in this country was truly shaped around religion, I could muster up a bit more compassion for such arguments as leaving the word Christ out of Christmas. However, in this beautiful country, along with just about everything else, we have taken most of the religion out of Christmas. When people say Merry Christmas in this country, we are not wishing Christianity upon the receiver with the humble reminder of the birth of Christ. No, when we say Merry Christmas, we are saying something to the effect of may you give your children all their hearts desires so they dont throw a temper tantrum on the one day you have off to watch football and drink alcoholic beverages made with raw egg yolks and cottage cheese. The secret message varies from person to person, but I can assure you that it has nothing to do with Christianity. Christmas is not about Christ, its about the big jolly dude in the red suit. I was watching an educational show the other day on television where the narrator was conducting an experiment to illustrate the level of education among our children. The experiment was conducted with elementary school kids who were shown a variety of portraits of significant figures in history to see if the children could recognize them. There were perhaps a dozen highly recognizable figures including George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Albert Einstein, Jesus Christ and Santa Claus. There was a 100% recognition rate of Santa Claus without any of the embellishments no red suit, no reindeer, just a head shot of a smiling dude with a fluffy white beard. There was about a 10% recognition rate of Jesus the traditional photograph of Jesus with a neat beard, long hair, soft eyes, glowing yellow light around his godlike figure, and clad in a long white robe and subtle crown of thorns. How much more obvious can you get? The children had no idea who Jesus was but the narrator could flash a photo of Socrates or Kenny Rogers and they would guess Santa. So what are we all so worried about? Its a name, thats it. The significance you choose to attach to that name is up to you.If Christianity is whats its all about for you, thats great, but begin your Christian efforts by showing your child a photo of Jesus on Christmas morning because that was just downright embarrassing.I will agree that Christmas is getting out of control as far as the gifts are concerned. The surveys vary quite a bit but Ive read that Americans spent anywhere from $500 to $1600 on Christmas gifts last year. One survey I read said that older Americans (age 65 and older) plan to spend an average of $700 on gifts, which is a bit higher for this age group than in recent years. Seven hundred bucks on average? Well, no wonder seniors cannot afford health care or prescription medication, they are hoarding their cash for Christmas. Who are they buying all these gifts for? Grandparents are supposed to give humble gifts knitted scarves that smell like Ben Gay, perhaps a fruitcake that you will sneak down the garbage disposal around the time Easter rolls around. Are grandparents out buying mp3 players and Grand Theft Auto video games now? What matters is not how bummed I am that I have no grandparents left to buy me that watch with a compass/altimeter/barometer that I dog-eared in the REI catalog, but that we are increasingly missing the point of holidays in general. It should be a time for gathering round the table with family and playing a good old-fashioned board game until your stepfather accuses the family of conspiring to cheat and begins to throw a tantrum like none youve seen from your kids on Christmas Day, your older brother mutters I dont need this, throws his monopoly money down and storms out to the local watering hole (the one scummy bar in town that draws quite a crowd on Christmas Eve), Mom begins to cry and you sneak off to watch an all-night Sex in the City marathon. Thats what the holidays are all about. What are we going to fret about next, saying Happy Valentines Day to those people who are relationship challenged? Scratching Labor Day because it may be offending to the occupationally challenged? It doesnt matter what you call it in this country, we are all just looking for an excuse to cheat on our diets and buy stupid stuff that we will be bored with by the time Boxing Day rolls around. Thats the American way. If Im wrong, Ill see you at church on Christmas morning where I can assure you, I do recognize the photo of the man in the long white robe wearing the crown of thorns. Im no dummy, I recognize Socrates, one of the greatest philosophers of time. Regardless of your personal holiday greeting preference, just remember the humble words of Christ himself, He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have. Or was it Socrates who said that? In any case, Id like to personally wish you all a Merry Christmas and wonder how much hate mail I will get for doing so.
E-mail Kerri McInnes (love or hate mail) at firstname.lastname@example.org
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