Some Grinch-y Rhetoric by Venessa Schade Bowers

This time of year always produces something of the blues in me. Part of that is because of the change in weather. Regardless of originating from Cleveland, Ohio, or perhaps because of it, I am not a fan of cold weather – lack of sun, high winds, ice, and freezing temperatures – not my thing. Let’s just say that living in place where the temperature is close to 80 degrees on this Christmas Eve is a lovely thing.

A larger part of my winter blues though, has to deal with rhetoric. For the last 30 some days, I’ve watched, read, and listened to politicians, celebrities, and the general populous spout raging rhetoric about “Keeping Christ in Christmas,” announce yet another “war on Christmas,” feel insulted by the phrase “Happy Holidays,” and are blatantly questioning of the patriotism of anyone who does not hang holly on her door and sing carols this time of year. So, at the risk of offending even more people, I intend to do a few things with this writing. The first, is to examine the dichotomous nature of saying in loud, ringing tones that “Jesus is the reason for the season” while behaving in a way Jesus never did. The second, is to locate the history of Christmas in its socio-political context to explain the aforementioned rhetorical shift.

If you are someone who believes that Jesus Christ is in fact, your Lord and Savior, let me ask you some questions. If you worship him, and you are tied to living your life in a way that resembles, even loosely, his life, why are you yelling at me about your belief? Why is it that if I do not believe exactly what you believe, or practice the way you practice, that I am sinning? Why judge others?

In my understanding of sacred Christian texts, Jesus never did that. He loved people who others shunned; the whores, the drunkards, the gamblers, and the thieves. He demonstrated compassion and empathy toward them. He did not debase the poor, the homeless, the “less than godly“ – in fact he warns his followers: “that which you do to the least of my brothers, you do to me.” That’s a pretty heavy statement.

Have you fed the hungry this winter? How about donating coats, clothes, and blankets to homeless shelters? No? Huh. Maybe you just didn’t have time.

What about showing compassion to others? A little empathy? A little kindness? Not really? Well, Christmas is tomorrow, so you’ve got a chance to put Christ in Christmas.

Have you told the truth? Have you loved? Did you let someone go ahead of you at the grocery store because she had a crying child and only diapers to purchase? Or did you look at her with a frown of judgement that she “could not shut her kid up?” Yep, I thought so.

And speaking of judgements…did you judge someone for not being a Christian? Did you judge somebody because they are not “American?” Did you judge someone who is living in poverty because they are just lazy? Did you judge someone because they are smarter than you? Or less educated than you? Has more than you? Has less than you? Has children? Doesn’t have children? Is ill? Is healthy?

Because seriously? If you want to keep Christ in Christmas and you’ve done any of these things, as most of us do, you are preforming rhetorical hypocrisy – in other words – you say one thing, then you do what you want, and shame others for doing the same. This is what we see in our politicians who scream that there is a war on Christmas. Pontificate on Christ being a Conqueror. Damn the regions of the world with fear mongering and then, claim the mantle of Christianity. That’s the second piece here – the socio-political aspect of Christmas. December 25–Christmas Day–has only been a federal holiday in the United States since 1870. Think about that. It has only been recognized as a federal holiday for 145 years and since then it been an economic endeavor of staggering preportions.. Pretending otherwise, is just false.

Test it out:

How many presents are under your tree? Really? Right.

How much did you spend this year? This is being touted as the best shopping year of the last several – you know we boost that economy by buying things we don’t need for people we don’t like so we can fit in with the shopping cults. “Oh did you see …it’s on sale!”

Are you going to sit around the tree with family who has been abusive for your entire life and try to buy their love with just the right gift? Are you going to charm your wife to forgive your infidelity with new diamonds – oh, go ahead and forget that some people lose limbs getting those diamonds out of mines for you. Are you going to win you child’s love by purchasing a bike that they cannot ride on your street? Are you going to get just a little too drunk to deal with the pressure of the “Season of Giving?”

Ok – I know what a lot of you are thinking. “What is WRONG with her?!?!?” Honestly, nothing. But I struggle with this rhetoric – The consumptionistic rhetoric cloaked in religion.

Be a consumer. That’s awesome. Be a Christian. That’s awesome, too.

But if you have no intention of behaving in the way that Jesus did, or even attempt to behave in a kind and empathetic manner, then shouting that He is the reason for the season, especially on your Facebook page or Twitter feed that are filled with rants about the “others” that are hateful, is just silly. Who are you trying to convince that you keep this holiday sacred? Because it’s not me. And I’m willing to bet it’s not you either.

So, by all means, let’s put Christ in Christmas. I will if you will. Let’s work this year on loving each other more fully. Supporting each other more truly. Treating each other with kindness and compassion. And while we are working on that together – I will pray that regardless of your faith, any gods you worship bless and keep you in this New Year and that you find peace and joy in your life. That’s really all any of us need.

Bright Blessings.

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