An America Where it is Always Winter, but Never Christmas
A decade ago, I don't recall "Christmas" as being such an issue. But these past 2 years, it is ridiculous to me, to deny that there isn't indeed a "war against Christmas" going on. (Do stop by Jack's Shack and read our back-and-forth).
Red poinsettias were banned from Ramsey County Courthouse in St. Paul (watch the ACLU go after that city's name!) Minnesota because someone found it to be a "Christian symbol".
Pittsburgh renamed the Christmas Season, "Sparkle Days". How preposterous is that?! Are they daft? Are they insane? Were they drunk on eggnog?
The Independent School District of Plano Texas banned red and green clothes from being worn at their school "winter break" parties. Nor were they permitted to write "Merry Christmas" to soldiers in Iraq.
In Rochester, Minnesota two 13-year old girls were suspended for wearing red and green scarves and saying "Merry Christmas" in a school video.
In Connecticut, a library refused to display paintings of Jesus' Nativity and Resurrection as part of a rotating display of local art.
In Queens NY, a school district that allowed a menorah and Islamic star & crescent, refused to allow a child to display a Nativity scene.
The Indiana University School of Law removed their Christmas tree and replaced it with a generic winter scene.
Hanover Township, NJ, the school district attempted to outlaw Christmas carols at school concerts.
In Maplewood, NJ, a school banned purely instrumental Christmas music.
Central Michigan University warned Christians that Christmas may be offensive within the workplace; but a similar warning was not issued to nonChristians for observances of their respective holidays.
A soldier before deployment to Afghanistan simply wished to hang an ornament that said "God bless America" on the Wisconsin State "Holiday" tree.
Also in Wisconsin, an elementary school there has eradicated all religious references from "Silent Night", replacing the time-honored song with winter weather-themed lyrics.
In Baldwin City, Kansas, a public school had a long tradition of having a member of the community come to the school dressed up as Santa to visit the elementary school children. That is, until the ACLU stepped in.
Resource: The ACLU vs. America
(I will continue to add links and examples in, as time permits)
I'm not much of a Bill O'Reilly fan, although I do watch his program more than on occasion; but in regards to his crusade to root out the Christmas grinches who are extracting Christmas out of Christmas, and replacing it with all things generic, I am completely on board with O'Reilly. (Incidentally....I found this "gotcha moment" worth a chuckle; in regards to this, though...I think that's an overreaction response on the part of offended conservative Christians).
The term "Holiday" is so generic, that "Happy Holidays" sounds like a generalization you could replace any of our national holidays with, when you think about it literally.
It's not that I find anything particularly wrong with "Happy Holidays" as a greeting. Growing up, I used it hand in hand as an alternative to "Merry Christmas", and in some cases, subsconsciously took into consideration, a person's religious faith, or lack thereof. But now I feel coerced into it. I'm now offended by the offended. There is nothing at all wrong with wishing someone "Merry Christmas". I say, just accept it in the spirit with which it is delivered. When people say it, the feelings behind it are a message of peace and goodwill; not of hate slapping you in the face.
One of the arguments I've seen put forth by atheists is in regards to the commercialism. They think so negatively, like a bitter scrooge, that they think of it in terms of avarice and greed. Practically-speaking, the commercial aspects stimulates money exchange and keeps our capitalist economy booming.
It is also the commercialism that allows a religious holiday to be accessible to those of us outside of the religious celebration. Christmas is celebrated universally all over the globe. And it is commercialization that has given us wonderful traditions and ornamentations of an otherwise solemn observance. I enjoy seeing block after block of houses in a neighborhood decorated with lights; I enjoy jolly ol' St. Nicholoas, the ambassador of Christmas and the embodiment of Commercialism.
It is commercialism that has given us some wonderful movies: It's a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, A Christmas Story, A Charlie Brown Christmas Special, Dickens' Christmas Carol, and all those claymations.
Certainly, honest Christians complain about the commercialism as well. That it takes away from the true meaning of Christmas. But did you know that complaints about the true meaning being lost amidst the commercialism has been going on for over 150 years? I don't think the commercialism is in conflict with the spirit of Christmas. Only the Scrooges and the Grinches see the negative side and not the positive.
Through the Wardrobe
This weekend, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe sees major nation-wide release; and I for one am excited to go see it. The Chronicles of Narnia were the Harry Potter books of my time. I remember the cartoon with great affection.
It amazes me that people's irrational fear of being exposed to religious allegory or their hostility toward Christianity will ruin any chance of enjoyment of such a well-crafted, enchanting story, that is at its very essence, a very positive story about good versus evil.
We live at a time in our history where we are hyper-sensitive of offending anyone, that we are held paralyzed by it.
The Paul Harris Guardian article mentions that Phillip Pullman, a fantasy author and harsh critic of the books, says of them:
"they are stories of racism and thinly veiled religious propaganda that will corrupt children rather than inspiring them."
"Lewis's books portray a version of Christianity that relies on martial combat, outdated fears of sexuality and women, and also portrays a religion that looks a lot like Islam in unashamedly racist terms."
Ok...he's obviously had one too many Turkish delights....As to the first quote, I read these books at an age when I was still in grade school; yet I was astute enough to pick up on the Jesus parallel and Christian elements, without knowing a thing about C.S. Lewis, himself. Guess what? It didn't harm me; nor did it convert nor corrupt me.
As to the last part of the second quote, my answer is: so what?!
I could care less if there are parallels between Islam and say, Calormen (can't remember if that's the right country), and that Calormen is treated as "the other". I remember consciously thinking about this when I read A Horse and His Boy. For some reason, I was sensitive and aware to the fact that it was East versus West (I think I was probably around 10 years old). But it did not bother me in the same sense that playing cowboys and indians didn't make me more racist toward Indians; or playing WWII didn't make me more hateful toward the Japanese. Reading about a fantasy country that bore striking similarities to Persia and Arabia did not make me feel animosity toward Middle Easterners. I think that sometimes we don't give children enough credit for having a discerning mind.
When "The Last Samurai" and "Dancing with Wolves" came out in theaters, who did you, as a viewer, feel sympathy toward? When you left the theater, did you come back to reality, or were you stuck on hating white, imperialistic Americans? The real racism in movies like that is the need to have a white protagonist be the star of the film, where Tom Cruise is a better samurai than the natives and he, as a foreigner, still gets the girl.
Go and enjoy visiting Narnia (Christian allegory and all)....a land under a spell such that it is always winter, and never Christmas; that is, until the coming of Aslan.
And have a Merry Christmas!
I was supposed to see the movie on Saturday, but was as impatient as Edmund was for Turkish delight. So Friday, I snuck off to The Bridge in LA and caught a 10am matinee showing. I avoided long lines and parking hassles, but found myself trapped in a theater filled with a few busloads of school kids on a field trip to see Narnia. Well, it turned out not to be such a bad experience. The children were relatively well-behaved and respectfully silent once the movie began. It was also interesting to note what parts of the movie got them excited. There were a few applauses; most notably when Aslan was resurrected. I also remember cheers when Edmund was saved and at the end when the 4 children were crowned; and once more, when the movie ended. The kids helped me remember what it's like to see and appreciate cinema through a child's eye lens. From an adult perspective, I don't think the movie is perfect. But I really have nothing to complain about. The overall production of it, script adaptation, and casting was well-done. Part of it did feel a bit wooden or rushed; but I was still able to be captivated by the screen-telling and the emotions that it was attempting to convey. Much of its heart, as it is in the book, lies in the relationship between the 4 children. In the book, I was always enthralled by the nature of Edmund and how the traits that were making him villainous in the beginning, matured into those of a hero in the end. I remember watching a news magazine show, like 20/20. And in it, parents were taking their "problem" kid- that one bad apple in the bunch- to see the expert. The kid was a bully, a loudmouth, misbehaved, was unruly, disobedient, etc. Well, the experts warned against just flatout stifling the kid's personality as undesireable. They explained that this is the same kind of kid, who if nurtured properly, will mature to be the one who stands up to the school bully; who isn't afraid to speak his mind; or who will recognize and resist child predators in sheeps clothing. Well, it just reminded me a bit of Edmund who achieves a transformation and redemption after undergoing his harsh treatment at the hands of the White Witch Jadis (and after laying off the enchanting influence of her Turkish Delight!).
And what child cannot identify with Lucy? I think there are times when every child wants to be believed and taken seriously. Even though the professor only has a small role in this movie and in this novel, he is most endearing in that he, an adult, is willing to believe Lucy, even when her siblings are in doubt. Part of it, of course, is that you get the sense that he himself has had his own adventures in Narnia; but the other part is that of an adult that is willing to take children seriously and not casually dismiss them as having an over-active imagination.
What I really appreciated about the film was that here is an epic-style movie (hopefully one of seven!) that is fit for family viewing. The battle toward the end is well done and bloodless. I thought this was in good taste; exciting without being gratuitous in the violence.
And I loved the appearance of Father Christmas, of course!
Finally, for you adults who find yourselves, like me, too lazy to go back and reread the books (or if you've never read them before), I recommend purchasing the unabridged audio collection. It features such voices as Michael York, Patrick Stewart, Lynn Redgrave, and Kenneth Branagh among others. I listened to Michael York read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe in its entirety and it dusted off remembrances of sentences long forgotten in the attic of my memories. C.S. Lewis has some remarkable ways of telling a good story. You should hear (or read!).