electra310: (rubbing alcohol)
[personal profile] electra310
Wow, it's been eight weeks since I updated, so I'm definitely overdue for a rant. First off though, merry Christmas, everybody! Hope you're all doing spiffily, and enjoying a time of good food, family and friends, or any combination of the above. Even if the world is going to hell, here we have another Christmas Eve, another night to admire lights and food, another night to be grateful for what we have.

I'm in Asheville for another Christmas, which has not become any easier for the repetition. I was doing well up until today. I really enjoy my in-laws, they're nice people with a lovely house and generous, caring spirits; spending time with them is generally delightful. But it isn't home, and something about Christmas here is terribly empty. I think that really slammed home this afternoon when, instead of the candlelight service my family in Freeport is attending right at this moment, we went to the Christmas pageant at the Unitarian church. It was very much like looking into the void and seeing it grinning and whistling back at you.

Don't get me wrong, I generally haven't got much of a beef with Unitarians. Most of the time I think they'd be better off giving up on the whole "We're a church!" thing and starting a non-profit charity organization, but I admire the good things they do for the community and their general message of being nice to each other. And I don't really have a problem attending religious services of other religions, even if I don't worship the same God, I can appreciate the reverence and the beauty even without believing. I have prayed silently to God during meditations that were not corporately aimed in his direction, and I'm fairly sure He doesn't mind.

Watching Unitarians put on a Christmas pageant, though, is rather like taking every fundie nightmare scenario of the War on Christmas and acting them out in real life. It isn't that they took the message of Christmas, peace on earth and goodwill towards men, and removed the religious context from them. I wouldn't mind that much. They actually took the Christmas story, Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus, acted it out with little kids in the best church pageant tradition, and ripped every trace of God or gospel or holy plan out of it. God wasn't mentioned once in the entire hour-long pageant, and no Bible verses were used. The angels were just passing by and saw a cute baby in a barn and decided to tell people about it. Jesus grew up to be a teacher. He wasn't the light of the world, every baby is, and we are, as human beings. A story that is the celebration of God's love for the world and his divine plan was twisted into a completely secular retelling of an "ancient legend," acted out by small children.

Surprisingly enough, the part that upset me most, I think, that they changed the songs, tearing them up and secularizing them into meaninglessness. I love Christmas hymns. They resonate with me on a level deeper than I can describe, the connection to family and to God that comes with singing those songs in church on Christmas Eve. When I sing Silent Night, it is an affirmation of faith that takes me back through every year I can remember, to countless Christmas Eve candlelight services with my family. When someone takes those songs and changes them, changes Silent Night so that Jesus is not Lord and no Savior was born, I'm going to take that fucking personally. Where is the Joy to the World if Earth hasn't received its king? The whole service was bullshit, sickening from beginning to end.

I don't believe that Christmas is only for Christians. It has a cultural meaning that is broader than any one religious group, and anyone should be able to celebrate it in a way that's meaningful to them. Peace on earth, goodwill to men, charity, generosity, fellowship, those don't belong to any one group, and the more play they get, the better. But dammit, the Christmas story, that's special, that's for Christians. You don't get to shamelessly co-opt that for your message about how angels should celebrate every time a baby is born and that's the true meaning of Christmas. I may respect the church's legal right to do so, but it's still morally wrong. And I'm not going back anymore.

All you lucky readers get my venom tonight because I did not unload it on my husband or my in-laws, in the interest of preserving family peace and unity. Given how difficult it was, this will be the last time. I am already planning the convenient headache for year after next. I just wish I could've figured out a way to finesse a real candlelight service at a real church tonight. My heart is back in Freeport with my family and my church. Even though we don't always agree, even though I think they're wrong on some things, they've got the big thing right, and that's what I wanted to concentrate on today. In a few minutes, when they're out of church, I'll give them a call. I want to make sure they're out of church by the time I call, because my mom doesn't always turn off the phone in church. That would be awkward. Anyway, Merry Christmas everyone!

Date: 2008-12-25 04:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] euphoric-goth.livejournal.com
I'm not sure what I am (though I lean towards agnostic) - I don't know if Jesus was the son of God, or just an inordinately wise man, or even a puppet whose persona has been twisted to serve religion. Whoever he was, however, he's influenced a lot of the Western World in the last 2000 odd years.

That aside, I agree with you; if you're celebrating Christmas, and telling the story of the birth of Christ, then add the frickin' hymns. Quite a few of them are beautiful songs, and I honestly don't see an issue in letting children know that religions other than the ones their parents subscribe to having beautiful art made in that name.

That said, Unitarians are supposed to be a universal house of worship for all religions, so I can to a certain extent understand not wanting to involve the Abrahamaic God. But then, why tell the story of Jesus Christ.

Tell you what, there's a Norwegian Radio/Theatre play called "Putti Plutti Pot og Jakten på Julenissens Skjegg", which is the story of a young elf who borrows Santa's magic beard and meets some other children. I've managed to forget most of it, but they do chase around Santa's workshop at one point, searching for the beard. Suggest that the Unitarian Church pick that one up and translate it. It'll contain the same nuggets of moral value they want to teach, and it'll piss off less Christians.

Merry Christmas, Cori.

Date: 2008-12-25 04:40 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] electra310.livejournal.com
Yeah, I certainly understand wanting to be a universal house of worship for all religions, and I can even respect that they might want to make themselves a non-offensive clearinghouse for all kinds of views. It's not like I don't struggle with all the parts of my Christianity, or understand why people might not want to subscribe to it. What squicked me out about their service wasn't that they weren't telling the story of Christianity, it was that they took the Big Story of Christianity and perverted it in the classic sense of the word, that of taking the meaning of something and completely reversing it. The Christmas story is supposed to be a story about God's relationship with mankind, and the point in history where he was most closely associated with mankind. This pageant eliminated God, eliminated that relationship, and told a story about the supremacy of man instead. Honestly, I would've been more comfortable if they'd put on a pageant that said Santa Claus went out and conquered the Martians through the magic of toymaking and lots of jolly laughter. That would've been hilarious, actually. Maybe I'll pass along that Norwegian story to my mother in law.

Date: 2008-12-25 04:40 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] electra310.livejournal.com
And also, Merry Christmas! I hope you have lots of presents and wonderful food.

Date: 2009-02-20 05:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alex-ogre.livejournal.com
Belated meery Christmas and general goodwill. I can also kind of agree with your point of view, though making religious stuff compatible with nonbelievers is the whole point of Unitarians isn't it?

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