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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

The decolonization of Christmas

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It’s beginning not to feel like Christmas…and there was no typo there. That is exactly how it feels to a significantly increasing number of people.  It shows in many ways: There is only a token effort to set up Christmas finery when, decades ago, households outdid each other in adorning their homes for the holidays; less Christmas carols heard over television that incessantly blast us with the shouting and the screaming from the “biriteras” who are stupidly acclaimed as nightingales —hyenas would be more appropriate, decreased attendance at Aguinaldo Masses, confusion over whether it is still “politically correct” to greet others with a “Merry Christmas,” and the shameful eviction of Santa Claus from children’s stories and dreams as a danger to their fragile psyches.

My brother posted on Facebook: “Do not forget how it all began…” and he posted a picture of the Crib of Bethlehem.  I join him in that crusade to decolonize Christmas.  The reason has been wrested from Christians and forced from the womb of their faith with the thoughtlessness and arrant cruelty with which abortions take place. In our obsession with “political correctness”—not wanting to offend others of other faiths (and unfaith) and persuasions—we are reticent about announcing the Birth of Him who is the reason of Christmas.  And yet we have more than doubled the number of Muslim celebrations observed by the whole nation.  With that, I have no quarrel at all.  I am glad to celebrate with our brother and sister Muslims, but Christians should not begrudged their joyful remembrance of the birth of Jesus to Mary following the mysterious announcement by an Angel. Secularism and indifference to religion should not be forced on society and the intolerant should not be allowed to prevail.  If unbelievers loathe the sight of a creche, that is their problem.  They have to deal with their own myopia.  But to rid society of all symbols of faith, to consign the narratives to the tenderest moments of human history, and the noblest expressions of the highest of human aspirations to private discourse, behind the closed doors of one’s own home, and in whispers is to allow a society where the intolerant prevail.

Christmas is a story of utmost tenderness—and after all that the world has been through, the cruelty that has torn it asunder and crushed lives to the ground, the story of a Virgin entrusted to the care of a carpenter, giving birth to God’s son in the lowliness of a stable, while the heavens are rent by the song of the angelic choirs proclaiming the birth of a redeemer to shepherds— this beautiful, inimitable story has to be told once more, and the carols must be heard, to soothe our aching hearts and to fill our empty spirits.  The monied should be denied their monopoly of Christmas, and that means making the home and the hearth the seat of Christmas, not malls and shopping centers.  Decolonizing Christmas means refusing to make political correctness prevail over the choice of the human mind and the human spirit to believe.  Decolonizing Christmas means refusing the identification of tolerance with indifference towards one’s own persuasions, of plurality with tepidity in respect to one’s fundamental persuasions.

In fact, the terrible trail of mayhem and destruction that militant religion has unleashed proclaims two things: first, that religion is an insistent phenomenon because it is a basic human phenomenon, and that the path to peace cannot lie in the elimination of religion. Feuerbach and Marx thought that—and they were wrong, both as a matter of philosophical theory and as a matter of history.  Second, where religion allows itself to be colonized, whether by the market or by political correctness or by government or even by law, it asserts itself with a vengeance and can ignite the most explosive of sentiments.

Why the ox and the ass (the four-legged kind!) at the Manger?  In the Prophecy of Isaiah, we read that God accuses of his people of forgetting him, in shameful contrast to ox and ass that recognize their Master.  All is not lost, for as long as humanity knows where its heart is—and that is something neither market nor political strategy nor military might can neither calculate nor overcome!  A Merry Christmas to all.


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