Christmas Goes Viral: Festivus for the Rest of Us
Everything is a caricature of itself now, and entertainment is king. So Christmas in America is when we all get to return to our childhood fantasies, beyond sugar plums and into consumer gluttony—or not. If Thanksgiving morphs simple thanks toward God into thanks for the goods, then Christmas goes beyond celebrating the birth of Christ into celebrating the birth of consumerism. It doesn’t have to be that way.
George Costanza’s dad on the old ‘Seinfeld’ series made alternative celebrations official, but I’m starting to warm up to the many ‘orphan’ events that now spring up around this time of year to give the rest of us some reason for the season: simple social camaraderie and spiritual communion, nuclear family optional. ‘Nuclear’ can sometimes be dangerous, after all.
Christmas—and Christianity—is not alone in pushing their holidays to absurd viral proportions, though. Other countries and religions do it, too. Anyone who’s gone to Thailand for the Songkran water fest (read: ‘water fight’) is witnessing the modern spectacle of what started off as a simple dousing of water as a symbol of renewal. And I hear that the daylight fasting that occurs during Islamic Ramadan says nothing about what happens after dark. This is cultural neoteny, the evolutionary regression to childhood (in biology, literally the decreasing age of reproduction).
Some people think I’m anti-Christian, but nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus (along with Plato and Einstein) is one of my favorite figures of human history, his Sermon on the Mount (and their dialogs and thought experiments) at the top of the list of mankind’s, and the mind’s, finest artifacts. Yes, I think Christian love is lacking as the entire basis of religion, but not unimportant. And yes, I distrust Christianity’s hand-maiden Capitalism, not to be confused with free enterprise. Early Christianity outlawed usury (credit at interest), after all, as Islam does to this day—not Judaism.
But I won’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. I only want Christians to consider other alternatives and the possibility of collusions, not collisions, with other religions. It shares common origins with Islam and Judaism, after all. From those common origins, cultural evolution took different paths: Judaism toward strict prohibitions regarding pork (we all know what pigs eat); Islam toward strict prohibitions regarding sex, alcohol, women—and pork (no connection); Christianity toward strict prohibitions regarding—not much.
People are offended when I relate the stories of pornography proliferating in Christian lands, but don’t blame me: I’m just the messenger. It’s true. For better or worse, the whole world knows that Christian girls are easy, haha. And that’s fine; why not? Other places deal with the same natural needs by resorting to prostitution, masturbation, hypocrisy, and double standards for men.
The same is true with alcohol. Whether as a result of our European or Christian backgrounds, the West is a culture of alcohol. Temperance movements are an anomaly. Jesus drank; how’s that for a role model? As with sex, that’s no problem for me, as long as it’s in moderation. Unfortunately, that’s often not the case, especially with the most vulnerable victims: inexperienced youth. Ever been to the full moon party on Thailand’s พะงัน aka Koh Pha Ngan ?
Over and over I’ve seen Christian villages in Africa drunk promiscuous and disorderly much of the time, while neighboring Islamic villages are sober hard-working and industrious. It’s important for Christians to know that this is the source of much of Islam’s disgust of the West. They see a degenerate culture of sex and alcohol. They’ve got a point. Some call it ‘freedom’. Others call it ‘sin’. Then there’s the money factor. Then there’s Christmas.
“So this is Christmas. And what have you done?” (John the Redeemer) Maybe you feel like frolicking in the goods, but I don’t, not when kids are dying at the hands of poorly trained police, and many more dying in mass murders by our own ‘mentally ill’. Or is it modern consumeristic society that is ‘mentally ill’? Is it really a natural fact that we should be burning petroleum to race around in beastly machines, and killing our planet in the process? I hope not. When I see rooftop gardens on every skyscraper in Manhattan, then we’re in my America. Welcome to Babylon. Merry Christmas.