I was raised a Christian. In my town, there was no other choice. We had three flavors of Christians: Straight Protestant (which was me, Presbyterian); High Anglican (also called Episcopalian, no crucifixes but incense and stuff); and Catholic (where God knows what went on).
I had a few Jewish friends, but I had no idea they didn’t believe in Christ. The topic never came up. I didn’t really believe either, certainly not in the whole resurrection thing, but I pretended because my mother wanted me to.
I did love Christmas. Easter was a big nothing, and Presbyterians didn’t do the Annunciation and all that craziness. But Christmas, with a green tree inside the house and presents under said tree and tinsel and large decorative stars and wreaths and mistletoe and Santa and chimneys– it was all darned jolly
And carols! They were the first music I ever heard. I loved the hush of “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem” and the excitement of “Joy to the World.” “Silent Night” was as bit of a bore, but “We Three Kings of Orient Are” — whoosh.
It includes the line, “sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying, sealed a stone cold tomb.” A vivid death-wielding carol; maybe as little Papist, but sung by a bass in a huge dark church, it brought goosebumps every time.
Cold tombs aside, I never thought about the lyrics much. Sure, come let us adore him, whatever. I am not opposed to heaven and nature singing. If that little drummer boy wants to rum-pa-pum into next week, vaya con Dios, I say.
I still celebrate Christmas every year. My in-town family comes for breakfast and presents, and we make merry. That infant in a manger is not mentioned once.
It’s not clear to me why I need to decorate the house with geegaws meant to replicate the ur-Norwegian landscape, but I do it anyway, because tradition.
The commercial aspect of Christmas has been dismaying forever. The whole Black Friday orgy of consumerism thing seems almost transcendentally dopey. And I am not immune from up-gifting, because I do want to show my love and what’s better than a BRAND NEW CAR. Or at least outerwear imprudently purchased. What does that have to do with laughs around the waffles? Not much. I’d like to stick to handmade oven mitts, but probably I’ll use Amazon instead.
Lately the church itself has been getting in my face quite a lot. I understand that all Christians are not hate-drunk bigots, but too many of them are. They are involved in campaigns to harass gay people. They stand by smugly while their co-religionists terrify women at health clinics.
Worse, they seem to be at the forefront of the stupidity movement. They don’t care for Darwinism, climate change or the Big Bang theory. They say hateful and ignorant things about Jews, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, Mexicans — any group that is not them. Now those damn wretched terrorist Syrians want to resettle in Our Country and destroy Our Way of Life with, you know, hummus and IEDs.
I am not a Christian. I am an atheist. The things I liked about Christianity — peace of earth, treat every person as you would be treated — seem to have been lost. I used to sing a hymn called “Onward Christian Soldiers.” Seems like too many people are taking the lyrics seriously. It’s no longer a battle for the souls of men; it’s about the bodies of men, and raining destruction upon them. “Let’s carpet bomb them,” Ted Cruz says. Ted Cruz is the darling of the evangelicals. Yeah, the peace-on-earth people.
The church militant is scary. It wants to destroy the world I live in and replace it with a hypocritically pious theocracy filled with rules about how to run your life, particularly your sex life. They’re sex-crazed, and not in a good way. And they’re taking over the middle of the country like a plague.
Hide the kids! The zombie hordes are coming.
Last night there was a knock on my door. I opened it and saw no one. Then suddenly from the sidewalk: “Oh come all you faithful…” It sounded like an order. Suppose he’s not adorable. What then?
The carolers were silhouetted against the street lights. They were bundled up against the cold. They looked menacing, rising up like warrior-ghosts. I waited out the first verse. I yelled “thanks” and began to close the door.
“Come, join us,” someone said.
Did I want march through the night, flashlights waving, forming a melodic mob, demanding that each household drop what they were doing and come and adore the Christ child? Because he’s holy? I did not.
The singing continued. I inched back into my house. When they came to “word of the Father, now in flesh appearing,” I closed the door. I want to deal with ineffable in a kindlier way, thanks so much. And go away.
But still, I am a generous blogger, and I come bearing gifts. Be of good cheer!
Photography by Tracy Johnston
Marketing, tech and general wonderfulness: Michelle Mizera