It’s tough to be Christian, when Christmastime comes,
What with Santa, and reindeer, and elves,
With other religions, or secular folks,
And people who think for themselves
The Christian religion has changed, over time,
And it makes us all anxious as hell,
When the season arrives, and it’s not just for us,
But for other religions as well!
My neighbors are having their holiday feast
And it’s making me angry to see—
Devoutly expressing their deeply felt faith…
But a different religion than me!
The Christian majority’s under attack,
When the holidays force us to share—
We need recognition that’s Christian alone;
Without it, we don’t have a prayer.
Oh, yes, Christmas is a tough time for believers, according to the New York Times’ Ross Douthat, in December 20th’s op-ed
Christmas is hard for everyone. But it’s particularly hard for people who actually believe in it.
Mind you, that depends on what your definition of “it” is. I love christmas, but I doubt that I believe in the same christmas as Douthat, or he in mine.
In a sense, of course, there’s no better time to be a Christian than the first 25 days of December. But this is also the season when American Christians can feel most embattled. Their piety is overshadowed by materialist ticky-tack. Their great feast is compromised by Christmukkwanzaa multiculturalism. And the once-a-year churchgoers crowding the pews beside them are a reminder of how many Americans regard religion as just another form of midwinter entertainment, wedged in between “The Nutcracker” and “Miracle on 34th Street.”
These anxieties can be overdrawn, and they’re frequently turned to cynical purposes. (Think of the annual “war on Christmas” drumbeat, or last week’s complaints from Republican senators about the supposed “sacrilege” of keeping Congress in session through the holiday.) But they also reflect the peculiar and complicated status of Christian faith in American life. Depending on the angle you take, Christianity is either dominant or under siege, ubiquitous or marginal, the strongest religion in the country or a waning and increasingly archaic faith.
Oddly enough, it doesn’t bother me at all that Douthat celebrates as he does, or believes as he does. But it does seem to bother him that I, an atheist, have a christmas tree, with christmas presents underneath it, and christmas cookies, and songs, poems, traditions, and the like, and not a bit of it dependent on Douthat’s notions of Christmas. And I suspect that, if he ever actually got the chance to read my blog, he’d have noticed if I had written “Xmas” instead of “Christmas”, but thought nothing of the odd term “Christmukkwanzaa”, since demeaning terms for other traditions are fine.
Yes, it’s tough to be a christian at christmastime.