|Just Say No?|
A few points that Mr. Dan Barker, an evangelical turned atheist made in a recent blog, Atheists Like Christmas Too, bear pondering.
By usurping a pagan holiday, long celebrated “for millennia,” the church is principally responsible for the recent upticks of culture conflict Mr. Barker believes. O.K. Perhaps the church erred in adapting its celebration of Christ’s birth to the Roman culture. Would the public celebration of the birth of Christ in March be more palatable to atheists?
No – not if the celebration is anywhere but private or church property.
And I recognize this as just might be the new normal.
Americans should not burden each other with Christmas trees in our senior centers (The Daily News), or Charlie Brown’s Christmas Special. What’s next? No Christmas cookies? While I am not nuts about Christmas trees – I love that crazy jazz ensemble behind that cartoon! And Christmas cookies are a long-time guilty pleasure.
Now, I may be reading between the lines, but I have a hunch the real issue that Mr. Barker wrestles with is not the church’s imprudent appropriation of pagan revelry, or our cheek to use public funds or property for what is clearly a religious conviction. I believe it is the church’s assertion that God entered human history as a man – and a man on a mission. That mission puts us all under an unhappy conviction that Mr. Barker describes clearly:
To us nonbelievers, the nativity scene is a ridicule of human nature. We are all damned sinners who need to be “saved” by bowing down to the baby in the manger who grew up to become a king and dictator who threatens us with eternal torment if we do not submit like slaves to his authority. A popular Christmas carol claims that Jesus came “to save us all from Satan’s power while we were gone astray.” Believers might see a cute baby in a manger, but most nonbelievers see a reprehensible put-down of humanity.
And that expressively condenses the real conflict – if God gave His Son to die in my place, so that I might have peace with Him, then I am not the basically decent person I like to think I am.
Moreover, Mr. Barker believes “[w]e are not sinners or slaves.” And that America is “ . . . a proudly rebellious country that fought a divisive Revolutionary War to get rid of kings and lords, establishing a nation that disestablishes religion.” Leaving aside for a moment the truth about who we are, the above is such a condensed description of how and why we fought Great Britain – and so compresses the establishment clause -- that Mr. Barker muddles years of colonial and national history and two documents, The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. (Wiki in the Establishment Clause of the Constitution)
The history of Christmas and unraveling the origins of so many beloved traditions could keep us busy all year. And taxpayers should not have to foot the bill for displays of symbols of anyone’s religion, or non-religion – Mr. Barker has a point.
How then do Christians commend their God to folks like Mr. Barker, who states:
We atheists love this time of year like everyone else, and we actually know what we are celebrating: the rebirth of the sun, not the birth of the son.
These are interesting times, indeed.
Praying that in this season, especially, we keep extending the invitation to the Table, winsomely and wisely – it’s no private party! (2 Kings 7:3-20)
Cheer Up and sing with me, friend!-->