I became an agnostic at about 14, although my trip into agnosticism was more centered around considering the Bible nothing more than a book of morality tales. I chose to dive deep into study of other faiths instead – most importantly Buddhism and some New Wave teaching. I have always felt a certain level of spiritual connection to the world is healthy, and it has indeed helped me to overcome some really rough times.
As I grew older and a bit more critical of even those things which were critical, I started to study up a bit more on the GOD issue, and changed my mind about Christian teachings. I became a believer, but from the outside in. This gave me the opportunity to enjoy the scripture without the influence of a preacher’s interpretation. It gave me a picture of Christianity which is in many ways at odds with modern teachings. It also made me less worried about what everyone else was believing, realizing that the only thing that mattered was my relationship to GOD and not how, when, or why anyone else chose to go to practice.
One of the first things I discarded, as I became a believer, was the notion of Christmas having anything at all to do with Jesus. It wasn’t a conclusion that caused me strife, anger, hurt or any other type of negative emotion – it was just simply my final verdict on the matter.
Not going gaga over Christmas did not mean that now I needed everyone else to not go gaga over Christmas, though. If the conversation comes up, sure I will give my opinions and listen to counter arguments, but it is not something I lose sleep over. And this is where I look around me and get a bit perplexed.
On one side, we have Christians who feel they need to make Christmas the dominant holiday of the holiday season. On the other side, we have non-Christians and non-religious folk who want to be able to express their own vision of the end of the year. Who is right? Who is wrong?
First, a message to some hardcore Christians. Christmas is not going anywhere. You are free to enjoy it with your family and friends, listen to countless hours of Christmas music, and exchange all the nice gifts you little heart desires.
Second, a message to some hardcore non-Christians and non-religious folk. Christianity is the dominant religion in The West. Most people you meet are going to have some cultural background which includes celebrating Christmas. If you hear someone say “Merry Christmas,” to you, it is not out of their desire to convert you, but because they want to wish you a happy end of the year the best way they know how. Could they have said, “Happy Holidays”? Of course. But even non-religious folk say a “My God!” and “Amen” sometimes.
Words are important in society. They define a host of things in ways that can either put a positive or negative spin on them. But words can also lose their power, if the listener chooses to not allow them to control them. If a man were to call me a Nigger, I certainly wouldn’t want to befriend that man, but would that word kill me? His actions might kill me, if he believes so strongly in his words; but what is coming from his mouth, his opinion of me, does not carry lethal poison – no matter how hurtful it may be.
Every end of the year we have the same battle for words. The atheist who will get offended when a stranger wishes them Merry Christmas. The Christian who will get offended when the pagan says it’s Yule Time. The Jew will need to correct a Catholic who forgot about Hanukkah. Blacks will make everyone perplexed by wishing them Happy Kwanzaa.
While this offensiveness is gong on, I feel people are getting lost in the wording while missing the message. And that message is that for one little part of the year, as illusory or superficial as it may be, people seem to want to help each other, greet strangers, try to be a little bit kinder, and wish others a safe voyage into the New Year.
I rarely wish anyone anything come December, but if someone on the street yells out to me, “Merry Christmas!” I do not look at them with disdain, I don’t get offended, or pity them for still believing in a pseudo-pagan Holiday, I have no time for that. What I do is smile and say thanks! After all, whether we believe in Santa or not, he comes around every year on the 25th. And I do hope I can have a safe and happy day that day, which many call Christmas.
So, all I want for Christmas are the Holidays. I want people to rejoice in believing whatever it is they believe. Strangers, friends, family, and whoever else wants to can wish me happy Festivus for all I care, but just wish me something nice and I will smile back and wish you the same. I may even slip up and say, “Merry Christmas to you too.”
P. Ray – 11/13/2015