Saturday, December 10, 2011

War on Christmas?!?!

So, in this article, I openly voice my negative opinions about Christianity. Don't continue reading if this is going to be upsetting you. My criticisms are not of the teaching of Jesus, which are a very beautiful thing, but of more political Christianity an the rather awful things people have done while invoking the name of Jesus over quite a few centuries. My attempt is to separate things that humans do in the practice of Christianity from the things that Saints and Avatars do. I believe Jesus is one of the very greatest sages of all, but that some of what is done to worship him is violent and petty. There are many people who are like me, who grew up in childhood as Christians, but have walked away from that label because of some of the connotations that are implied. I know that most Christians are warm and loving people. My issue is not with these people, but the power that some dogmatic churches wield over them.

Back in the days when I had a TV, I remember watching a story on MSNBC about how FOX News had whipped people into a frenzy be declaring a "War on Christmas." It showed Bill O'Reilly, Scott Hannity, Glenn Beck and their other politicos railing about how people were purposely saying "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" in yet another display of hatred toward Christians at a time of their most important holiday.

Now, I know that the show on MSNBC was in a 'war on FOX News,' so maybe they did not generate this whole thing, but they did, indeed fan the flames.

I remember several things coming to mind: First of all, wasn't Easter the most important Christian holiday? And second, what about all the other people who celebrate holidays around this time? Wasn't it also Hanukkah time, and Kwanzaa? And didn't the Christians place Christmas on the Winter Solstice to replace a number of major pagan holidays celebrated by those horrible Barbarians rather than celebrating Jesus' birthday in the summer, when he was actually born?

Apart from the very obvious connections between FOX News and corporate America, which profits in the millions as people frantically stress themselves out to buy presents for everyone - often putting themselves in even greater debt to get Uncle Fred another token he doesn't really need in order to diminish familial dysfunction, there are a number of other thoughts coming to mind as the whole "War on Christmas" thing reigns its ugly head once more.

Granted, my views of Christianity are very esoteric. I have enjoyed studying A Course in Miracles for many years, which interprets Christianity from a point of view very much like Buddhism, and I have been engrossed for a while in the commentaries of The New Testament by Paramahansa Yogananda which interpret the text from the point-of-view of Hinduism and Yoga.

These interpretations have brought about a renewed respect from Christianity, which, like many, I had lost respect for due to my feelings that much of the practice of Christianity was not in line with its teachings.

Christianity, as I understand it, boils down to the idea that God is Love, and that we should have love for all people and living things. This I believe and respect greatly. However, much of what is done in the name of Christianity, politically, seems to be not at all loving. Year after year, religious leaders are involved in tremendous scandals, stealing from and violating their parishioners; I am criticized for not believing in the 'one true religion;' remember The Crusades? The Inquisition? and so forth. There seems to be a disconnect between what Jesus said and what has been done by those who worship him. As Woody Allen said in "Hannah and her Sisters" - "If Jesus were to come back now and see what is being done in his name, he just would't be able to stop throwing up!"

The esoteric teachings I mentioned about have allowed me to separate my feelings about much of modern Christianity from its true roots, which are really a very marvelous thing. I have come to accept Jesus as a very enlightened master who has attempted to open up our hearts. As Buddha opened the mind, and Krishna showed the paths of yoga, so Jesus has shown the power of love.

I was reading a book on Christianity by Swami Kriyananda recently, and he made some excellent points:

Kriyananda pointed out that there is a difference between Christianity and Churchianity. Churchianity is religion based on the needs of administrators who have a need to control people and raise money, and so forth. He points out that the Saints in Christianity have widely been ridiculed, discredited and abused by the church during the time they are alive and in direct touch with God. Then, usually many years after they die, people petition the churches, based on material miracles to make them Saints, and then shrines are open to them and people can pray directly to them. But during the time they are incarnate, they are shunned from telling people of their direct experiences with the divine and teaching what is probably a very true understanding, in many cases, of Jesus' teachings. He further points out that churches have made attempts at every level to suppress science whose proofs undermine the churches claims. Most of the Eastern religions are very enthusiastic about looking at science, and have made no attempts to suppress or cover up scientific findings. It is very disturbing, in this day and age, for members of congress to be reading The Bible on the floor of the senate as their rebuttal to scientists sharing discoveries about climate change, as just one example. Many of the Eastern religions modify their interpretations of faith to match the science, rather that refute or modify the science to try to fit into narrow, dogmatic models.

Why cite a Hindu Swami? Most people don't realize that for many Hindus and Yogis, Jesus is considered one of the major deities. Often pictures of Jesus adorn Hindu homes.

Tessa Bledsoe, a former Carmelite monk (she prefers monk to nun) commented that Christianity became sick early on. This sickness came about during the time that the church was 'organized' around 400 AD, after being an illegal, mystical faith in the Roman Empire prior to the time they embraced it. They embraced it on their own terms, however, creating the notion of heaven and hell in order to control people (Pope John Paul II commented that this was true, saying that heaven and hell were not real places, but were simply states of mind, shortly before he died.) Over the centuries, Christian churches have become big, big, big business and have exerted extreme power over their own believers and those who choose not to believe.

So, summarizes my rift with popular Christianity. These are my personal problems with  Christianity and just to state why I have trouble calling myself a Christian. I do, however, fully respect the right of anyone to believe in any faith they choose, so long as that faith does not interfere with my right to believe in whatever faith I choose... but therein is some of the problem - a lot of Christians do not respect my freedom of religion.

Above is a commercial Rick Perry is running in Iowa. This reflects the attitude that I find offensive about Christianity. He makes derogatory remarks about gays in the military, brings up the whole idea that there is a war on Christmas, and promises, as president, to defend Christianity. He, like Michele Bachmann, has gained much mileage in the political arena from the whole notion that Christianity is under attack and that Christians are victims of such vial hatred. Furthermore, don't his remarks imply that if he is president, he will erase the line between religion and government?

The very first clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution is "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Given this, the type of campaigning I see makes me nervous. I don't care about political candidates sharing their religious views, but using this in any way to campaign, or to belittle others is against my very core.

There are still millions of Americans who believe that Barack Obama is a Muslim, and being a Muslim necessarily makes him a terrorist. There are many who do not support Romney and Huntsman due only to the fact that they are Mormons. (I do not support Romney, either, but it is due to his political beliefs, and I could care less if he is a Mormon, or anything else...) There are many who support Perry and Bachmann purely because they are fundamentalist Christians. This is all Medieval thinking. It is also sad that much of this hatred and misunderstanding of Islam and Mormonism is perpetuated by people who think of themselves as Christians.

This is the light under which the "War on Christmas" was created.

The argument of the war on Christmas is that people are saying "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas," because Liberals have made people so afraid to express what they really mean - which is to say that Liberals are anti-Christian. I believe that to be the subtext of this whole statement.

So, I have expressed my views of contemporary, dogmatic Christianity above, and I am also a Liberal. So, am I anti-Christian? No! Not in any way. I object to the external pressured of Christianity to force itself upon others. I object to the conceited contention that Christianity is the 'one, true religion.' I object to the historical taking of peoples' lives in the name of Christianity.  I also know that none of these things are even alluded to in the New Testament or gnostic gospels, which, as I have stated above, I have been studying, but from an esoteric standpoint.

I believe that there are many, many paths which a person can take. Many don't even involve a spiritual life. For those who chose a spiritual path, there are many - there is no one that is cut out for everyone. Even within Christianity, this is evident, as there are a multitude of Christian paths, from the very dogmatic, to the very liberal, and from the very fanatic to the casual. And I respect everyone's path. If it involves Christmas, then Merry Christmas!! I, personally, will choose to use the term "Happy Holidays," because I believe it honors all the many faiths that celebrate a holiday this time of year. I also mean it to honor those who have no faith and celebrate no holiday at all.

As far as a holiday, it is a good time of year to have one. After all, most people get a few days off of work, the years are changing, the shortest day is arriving, and soon the sun will be coming back, and this makes a lot of people happier. It is good to take time out to celebrate something at different times of the year, even if what you are celebrating is that you do not believe in anything and you have every right to that.

If you would like to say "Merry Christmas" to me, go right ahead. Then I know why this time of year is important to you, and I respect that. I probably will say "Happy Holidays" to you when I respond, and I would expect that you respect that in return.

The world is wonderful because of our differences. I love to talk to people of all faiths about why they believe the way they do. I have met many, many wonderful Christians, and it was from them that I learned many of the criticisms I made about Christianity - yes, there are many Christians who are critical of Christianity.

Whatever your beliefs, I wish you happy holidays. I don't say that to declare a war on anyone's beliefs, but, instead, to admire all peoples' beliefs.

And now to end with a little comic relief. Here is a parody of the Rick Perry Ad:


  1. Hear ye, hear ye! Happy Holidays to You! In celebration of YOU!

  2. Best Wishes for the Holidays and New Year! Thanks for the writing - I agree with your comments.
    Dave Lyon

  3. Good rant Richard!!!

    One other fairly fine point and some quick comments... I seem to remember that most of the iconography and many of the holidays utilized by "organized" Christianity were stolen / borrowed from Pagan traditions, so who's really stealing what from whom?

    Seems like, as much as anything, Christmas is just another shameless marketing ploy to benefit organized religion and the business community. Once again, style wins over substance. Best to have a fully functional spiritual life and a genuine, authentic relationships with friends and family year round, making every day a holiday!!!

    But then again, I'm a Liberal too and you know how we can be.

    May every day be a holiday for all of us and may all of our relationships be genuine and authentic!!!