And They'll Know We Are Christians By Our Love...
I don't often speak of my faith on this blog.
My relationship with God is very private, very personal. I have struggled with my faith for more than ten years - a struggle that began on a sweltering morning in July of 2001, at the funeral of a friend who died far too young. I can pinpoint the moment that my unquestioning faith left me - it was the moment that his widow, only 27 years old and holding her infant daughter in her arms, read aloud a letter her husband had written her only a few days before, on their wedding anniversary.
At that moment my belief in a just God left me, I think I would almost describe it as a physical loss. Something, some part of me, the part that was able to BELIEVE without question, without pause, the part of my heart that held on to the idea that there was love and reason in the way the universe was ordered - was pulled out of me. I have been trying to find it ever since.
When, only a few months later, we faced the collective nightmare of September 11, followed by the very personal nightmare of my grandfather's death at the end of November 2001...the tiny bits of faith left in my soul were dashed against the rocks of despair.
This is not to say that I no longer believe in God. More to say that God and I are no longer enjoying the cozy relationship we once had. Possibly I am not speaking to him right now. These are my issues, I know, and issues enough to fill a whole book by themselves. They are not the point of this post, though. It's a lot of background to schlepp through, though, but I am getting to my point.
In the last few days on Facebook, there have been a number of people posting this (and I quote, including the obnoxious screamy caplock feature):
I DO NOT CARE IF THIS DOES OFFEND SOMEONE…THIS IS WHAT I BELIEVE…I AM SICK AND TIRED OF EVERY YEAR WHEN CHRISTMAS COMES AROUND; THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO WANT TO TAKE CHRIST OUT OF CHRISTMAS BECAUSE IT MIGHT OFFEND SOMEONE…WELL, HOW ABOUT ALL OF THE CHRISTIANS?...WHAT ABOUT OFFENDING US BECAUSE YOU ARE TAKING OUR CHRIST OUT OF CHRISTMAS?...CHRIST IS CHRISTMAS!...IF YOU AREN'T CELEBRATING CHRIST THEN WHY ARE YOU CELEBRATING?...CHRISTMAS IS ABOUT THE BIRTH OF OUR SAVIOR!...CHRISTMAS IS ONE OF A FEW HOLIDAYS LEFT THAT CELEBRATE "MY" CHRIST!...LEAVE "MY" CHRISTMAS ALONE!...AND TELL EVERYONE MERRY CHRISTMAS, NOT HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!...RE-POST IF YOU’RE NOT ASHAMED!!and I'm not...and I will add an AMEN to that!!
Okay, I'm not even going to touch the fact that much of what we celebrate as Christmas has its roots in some very ancient paganism, because that would be sort of like complaining that the Japanese borrowed curry from India and then declaring that it's irrelevant that Japanese curry is superior. (And friends, let me tell you, if you have ever had a bowl of the true perfection that is Japanese curry rice, you will be behind me on this - Indian curries may be delicious, but Japanese curry is a little piece of heaven. And it is no less heavenly just because the original spices came from somewhere else.)
I like Christmas. I like Christmas trees and Christmas presents and Christmas carols and Christmas cookies and Christmas dinner and I love Santa Claus and that unique smell of Christmas morning that is tangerines blended with pine cones and cinnamon.
I love to sit in church on Christmas Eve with the lights turned low, and the candles setting the stained glass windows on fire and the low hum of Silent Night and that feeling, for a brief, fleeting moment, that God and I are maybe, just maybe, on a first name basis again.
So, it's ridiculous and offensive to me that the above rant is making its way around my facebook wall. I'm not offended for the reasons the people posting it imagine I'm offended. I am not offended by Christ.
Christ, and Christmas, are about hope and joy and peace and love.
What Christ and Christmas are categorically NOT about is figuratively smacking your friends and family in the face with a ridiculous holier-than-thou rant about taking Christ out of Christmas.
In fact, I would venture that the above referenced rant goes a long way in taking Christ out of the lives of people who encounter it.
I am the last Christian who should be giving advice on effective evangalizing (see above history vis a vis, me and God) - but I can say with 100% certainty that creating a vortex of douchebaggery is the wrong way to go about it.
I am not ashamed of Christianity (although I will admit that I have, on occasion, considered not calling myself a Christian anymore, and calling myself "follower of a guy who got nailed to a tree for suggesting that we should be nice to eachother" - mostly because of people like the author of that facebook rant, who make me feel quite certain that we have NOT been reading the same sacred texts...but it's a bit longwinded. I'm not sure it would catch on as a religious movement.)
I do say Merry Christmas, but I also say Happy Holidays. And Happy Hannukah. And Happy Diwali. And Happy New Year. I would probably wish a pagan a Blessed Solstice but I don't know any actual pagans, but I certainly wouldn't spit on their holiday. It's not my style.
What are other people celebrating if they aren't celebrating Christ? They are celebrating what humans have needed to celebrate for millenia - they are celebrating the LIGHT that shines in the DARKNESS. The light that calls out from the bleakness of the endless snowy cold and dark, the hope that the sun will return.
And if they are greeting me with hopes that I, too, will find light in the dead of winter - I will accept those cheerful greetings and I will not greet them with the hatred that is embroiled in the sentiment above.
I know I have spoken often about my grandfather, and his music, and the ways in which his music still speaks to me, still reaches out to me, and comforts me when I am sad.
And he used to sing a song called, "They Will Know We are Christians By Our Love" - and I wish that I could bring him back and have him sing for the hateful creature who wrote that rant. But since he's unavailable, and since I cannot pinpoint the hateful creature, I will just leave one of the pertinent verses here, in the hope that it will bring a little bit of light to the darkness.
We will work with each other, we will work side by side
We will work with each other, we will work side by side
And we'll guard each one's dignity and save each one's pride
And they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
They will know we are Christians by our love
Have a Blessed Advent.