Friday, December 23, 2016

The Reason for the Season

One December day I was at a bank trying to invest a payoff from an educational institution that was happy to see me go (lesson learned: never start a rumor that the Dean of the Faculty harbors an unnatural fondness for mallards), and once the nice bank officer found just the right place for the funds to evaporate like the dew off the lawn, she gave me a big smile and sent me on my way with, "And remember! Jesus is the reason for the season!"

I object! We need to need to break this perennial verbal tic as soon as possible.

Before I give my reasons, I admit that some 64% of those who say or post this mean well. I think they're saying "Christmas isn't all about shopping and decorating trees. It's about the birth of Jesus."

Some 23%, on the other hand, say it to stonewall and marginalize people of other faiths or of no faith at all, to remind the humanists, the apostates, the Druids. the backsliders, the Jews, the Buddhists, the Muslims, the Confucians, etc., that by God, this is a Christian holiday and a Christian nation, so stop waging war on it, since you heathens and your ilk share the ultimate goal of . . . uhh, something! 

About 9% of these good folks, products of America's exemplary schools, claim that Santa and all the Frosty-the-Snowman and reindeer and jingle-bell and Christmas-tree malarkey are from the Prince of Darkness, one proof of that being "Santa" is an anagram for "Satan" (by that logic, of course, "Santa Clara" would mean "See-thru Satan").

The remaining 4% of Jesus-Reason-Seasoners are undecided as to why they say it and are awaiting the final debate between Joel Osteen and Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly (whose very name smacks of Xmas paganism) before finally not voting.

This is why it must stop:

1. It is offensive to Santa Claus, who I consider a metaphor or an allegorical figure, because no authentic septuagenarian that obese could possibly be as jovial and robust as Santa. No way. Instead, he represents the universality of gift-giving, no distance too great, no economic divide too deep, for all the little children, red, yellow, black and white, all precious in his sight, all deserve a yearly reminder of our love, with said gifts sharply focused on their individual desires.

2. Calling Jesus a "reason" takes some finagling with the translation of "the Word" as it appears in the poetic preamble to St. John's gospel: The Greek "Logos" can mean "reason," granted. But in his own words, Jesus overwhelmed such a limiting, quantitative notion as we now define it. Almost all of his sayings and parables are anything but reasonable.They tend to be pithy, oxymoronic, paradoxical, never stooping to the level of  logical proof.

So we shouldn't saddle him with "reason." So shut up.

3. Your use of "the season" reveals your misunderstanding or, in the words of a President I will miss sorely beginning Jan. 20, 2017, misunderestimation of Jesus' work and his gifts, and of the Divinity you have attributed to him. If Jesus had any say regarding the season, there would be no season, just year-round peace on earth and good will toward humans and animals, esp. donkeys, and there certainly is none of that.

I can't speak for him, of course, but I don't think he'd be bothered if you gave some sort of gift every day -- gift of a smile, a joke, opening the door for a pregnant woman (or man!) who is carrying one baby in her arms, another in her uterus. Generosity, compassion, solicitude -- these virtues recognize no seasons.

4. Your use of this jingle as a whole, which seems to have emanated from the lips of an intern on Mad Men or one of Macbeth's witches, trivializes, minimizes and therefore vulgarizes its intended (I guess) sentiment. It's not like you're trying to remind us of the "i before e" spelling rule or the months that have 30 days or what a red sun at morning means to a sailor. 

5. You are playing fast and loose and naively and presumptuously with the limitations of language. Emily Dickinson, John Donne, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Alfred Tennyson -- they all understood that even poets whose lexicon could not fit in a semi-truck-and-trailer lacked the language to describe That Which Is, the Ineffable, or, more accurately, _______. 

I assume it was something invisible and unspeakable that drew you to your faith in the first place. You can explain it to no one. Try it and your listener will find you either insane or annoying or both.

Consider this: When someone asks, "Are you religious?" what are they really asking? Do they want to know if you do something religiously, like go to church or trim your nails? And what do the words "Christian" and "Evangelical" mean now, today, as this dreadful year nears its close? Do they mean the same thing they meant in 1865 or 1945 or 1954? No. Do they tell us more about the danger of labeling than the efficacy of language? Yes. 

Next to nothing, maybe nothing, about your faith can be conveyed with language, only with actions. 

6. Finally, your cheesy doggerel is inaccurate theologically. Jesus is not the reason for the season. Even a casual reading of the gospels reveals that the "Christmas spirit," if such a thing exists, comes from some presence or awareness that felt so intimate, loving, forgiving, generous and healing, that Jesus referred to it as Abba or "daddy." It was this presence, it is believed, that set him apart, gave him the guts to act on it, to describe it not through jingles or lectures but questions, hyperbole, riddles, stories.

If the above is even somewhat accurate, then Jesus, sitting with his dad in front of a 4K TV screen at Chez God, must be shaking his head, no, no, it's not me, please shut up, I'm not a reason, it's not a season, it is Something Else that does not rhyme, that cannot be said at all.  

1 comment:

  1. I just finished reading a piece about an evangelical headbanger who runs an Ark museum in Montana. He claims he is a scientist. According to Dr. Science, dinosaurs co-existed with humans until the flood. God ordered Noah to prohibit any dinosaurs from entering the ark, because dinosaurs were homosexual. It's science! I am forwarding this work of yours to Einstein II, and I will second his reaction.

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