Friday, December 21, 2007

On the subject of religious hypocrisy

Why is there such a big gap between what we say and what we do?

My wife is going to hate me for again using one of her best friends as an anecdote, but I can't help it. She's a living, breathing object lesson. This friend, an evangelical, had a conversation with my wife yesterday lamenting that Jesus is the "reason for the Season" (if someone says that to my face, I'm going to punch them in the neck ... or I would if I wasn't non-violent). In the same conversation she talked about how she's getting a thousand dollar gun safe for her husband and spending hundreds and hundreds of dollars on their already spoiled son. Plus, she complained that her husband probably wasn't going to get her anything good for Christmas.

In the later course of the conversation, my wife mentioned to her that we had tried to cut down on presents this Christmas and had given $400 to our son's school. Before you nominate us for sainthood for doing so, realize that we did it because it was smart, not because we're Warren frickin' Buffet. You can donate to Arizona public schools ($200 for one person or $400 for a couple filing jointly) and get a dollar-for-dollar credit. This is way better than a deduction in that it is money directly off of your tax liability. Plus, you can direct into which programs that it goes. In this case, we told them to use it for any arts-based extracurricular activities.

My wife's friend said that sounded interesting but they just couldn't afford to do that ...... wah? This is the same person who 10 minutes earlier was talking about the thousand-dollar gun safe. For someone to say something like that with no apparent sense of irony is incredible. And, unfortunately, it is not rare. Talking out of both sides of one's mouth is an art that I'm having less and less patience for. Being "Christian" seems to be more about a political movement than a religious one. The bible is selectively touted to justify your prejudice but ignored when it comes to the passages about caring for your neighbor and the poor.


On leaving one of my clients this week, she commented "Merry Christmas ... I AM going to say "Merry Christmas" regardless of what anyone says." She had worked herself into a lather ... not at me, but at "them"." She'd obviously must have just watched the O'Reilly Factor or had received some action item e-mail from Focus on the Family.

This was another of those instances where I just wanted to scream. If I have one more person complain about the "War on Christmas", I may just have to renounce my vow of non-violence. Have you ever complained about someone saying "Merry Christmas" to you? Who has ever known someone who complained about someone saying "Merry Christmas" to them? No one. It's a nonexistent controversy. People can say "Merry Christmas", "Happy Hanukkah", "Happy Holidays", "go piss up a rope", whatever. It won't bother me, because I know, generally, that they are all meant as a kind greeting. But this lady, and others who are so weak-minded as to believe anything they hear, are using "Merry Christmas" as a rallying cry. You'd think they were blacks marching in Alabama in the 60's or were breaking down the Berlin Wall. They can't accept they are the pampered majority so they have to make martyrs out of themselves. But I didn't say any of this to the lady. It would have just reinforced her martyrdom. So, I just said, "Taqabbala Allahu minna wa minkum" and "Joyous Yule" ... OK, I didn't, but I should have.


I think if the true message of Christ was followed by Christians, you wouldn't have screwed-up stories like I just recounted. But people believe what they want to believe. If they don't want to be giving, they'll think up a way to justify that. If they don't want to be tolerant of other religions, of gays, of minorities, they'll think up a way to justify that. And there will be focus groups and pundits who will be more than happy to create controversies that reinforce their beliefs. Because they have a vested financial and egotistical interest in a stoked-up culture war. It's political, not religious. It's not about religious freedom - it's about freedom to shove your particular belief down everyone's throat. Why don't you worry about real injustices in the world instead of creating fake ones?

"That's the true spirit of Christmas; people being helped by people other than me." -- Seinfeld


Laura said...

Yep. This kind of stuff just gets me pissed too. There was a Roland Martin column on CNN where he was basically saying you can't take Christ out of Christmas because Jesus is the reason for the season. About half the comments (including mine) were corrective - that Jesus probably wasn't born in December and that many cultures in the Northern Hemisphere celebrated the "season" with trees, and candles, and lights, feasts, and songs - loooong before Christmas. Oh, and that Christmas was never really a high holiday for Christianity. Most of them ended with the same thing you said - I haven't met anyone who gets pissed off at Merry Christmas - but that wishing someone a Merry Christmas if you know for a fact that they aren't Christian and you're just throwing it in their face - is just plain rude.

So that gives me hope that many people have their heads on straight regarding this issue.

There was a great headline in the Onion the other day about how only the poor are lucky enough to experience the true meaning of Christmas because all the rich people are too busy buying gifts and going to all their fancy parties that they're missing out... :D

dbackdad said...

I saw that Roland Martin article too. It irritated me as well.

That's true about the poor experiencing the true meaning of Christmas more. Growing up, we never had a lot, but the folks always made it special not by buying extravagant gifts but by the things we did.

Shawn said...

Merry Christmas and stuff!

shrimplate said...

The reason for the season? I thought it was because the earth's axis is tilted.

Happy That!

Sadie Lou said...

Merry Christmas, Lance!
Wish your family a Merry Christmas for me too! Oh, and about the content of this post--the reason for the Season used to be pagan and...well...I guess the church wanted in on that gig so they got together and transformed Christmas into "Jesus' Birth".
Which is a fine enough time to celelbrate the birth of our Lord--but it's not the real reason for the season for most folks.'s the same story with Easter.

dbackdad said...

You too Shawn.

Shrimplate -- lol. Jewish Atheist just had a post to that same effect: Don't Forget the Reason for the Season!!

Merry Christmas to you too Sadie! It's always awesome to hear from you. I try to visit your craft blog at least once a week even if I don't comment. It's cool just to see what's going on with you. Hope you and the family had a nice Christmas.

I certainly don't mind anyone celebrating the religious connotations of Christmas - my own wife and kid certainly do. But, I believe everybody has the right to celebrate it in their own way and take out of it any significance they want.

wunelle said...

Yeah, I'm irked that, for some anyway, under the guise of spreading goodwill the holidays are ALL about making sure a specifically Christian message is put forth. All of the hackneyed xmas songs on the radio are either pointedly about Jesus or, if they're not, then it's an attack on xmas.

The phrase "Jesus is the reason for the season" comes to seem like a form of intellectual terrorism: "Don't even THINK of figuring this out for yourselves!"


CyberKitten said...

Likewise no one has ever been annoyed at me wishing them Merry Christmas....

...and speaking of which...

Merry Christmas!

shrimplate said...

Thanks for the link. I hadn't yet seen it.

Axial Tilt certainaly explains the peculiar angle at which my spouse set up our holiday tree...

dbackdad said...

CK -- Merry Christmas to you as well.

SP -- lol.

The holidays have put a kink in my already spotty blogging schedule. We've been gone for a few days but I'm back in the thick of it tomorrow. Will try and post my year end top 10 movies(just saw I am Legend and Enchanted) plus post some travel pics.