Untimely Observations

The Abolition of Christmas

A concerted effort is currently being made by some cultural dissidents to expose the wide-ranging campaign undertaken by our betters to expunge all aspects of Christ from the holiday of Christmas, and what's more, to eradicate all aspects of Christmas from the gift-exchanging season of late December. In fact, this "war on Christmas" has been ranging for decades, epitomized in the numerous instances of newly renamed "holiday trees," corporate-mandated salutations of "happy holidays" or "season's greetings" instead of "merry Christmas," and forced removals of manger scenes from public places.

It is quite true, as Samuel Francis has recently pointed out, that the campaign against Christmas is a mere skirmish in the more widespread war against the West. Christmas is, after all, a Christian holy day, and Christianity is the spiritual foundation upon which Western civilization was built; hostility toward unabashed celebration of the birth of Christ does indeed spring from a hatred of all things Occidental. But it is a bit more complicated, and more bizarrely perverse, than that. For the war against the West is largely being waged by ... Westerners.

We are hastening our own demise by embracing the idea that it's tacky to believe in Christmas, or, at least, to be too open about about our religion in public, in front of "those who might believe differently." But it isn't representatives of opposing religions who are spearheading this movement against Christianity. Instead, it is mostly nominal Christians — that is to say, Christian Westerners who have lost the faith of their fathers but occasionally step into a church to witness a relative's funeral or a friend's wedding — who want to remove the baby Jesus from the proverbial inn and banish him to the proverbial manger.

For those folk, their very cultural identity (white, Western, and at least historically Christian) is a source of no pride but only endless embarrassment; they will do whatever they can to distance themselves from their heritage. Ironically, in so doing they are only embracing what it means to be a white, Western, nominal Christian in the post-modern 21st-century Western world. In their very diffidence and opportunistic self-loathing (opportunistic, since being anti-white, anti-Western, and anti-Christian is the only way to exhibit oneself as a "respectable" person these days, if one is white, Western, and of Christian heritage), they increasingly embody the debased, degenerated disposition of their own kind. They personify the suicide of the West.

One aspect of the anti-Christmas movement, however, hasn't yet received much attention. To understand what motivates the negative attitude toward commemorating the birth of Christ (an attitude which, of course, disingenuously disguises itself as mere scrupulous regard for "pluralism"), we must both know what Christmas is "all about," and what, by contrast, our culture is increasingly "all about."

Boiled down to its essence, Christmas is "about" the birth of a baby. A most extraordinary baby, it is true; a baby who is God, no less. A baby whose conception came not of an earthly father. In spite of his divine lineage, however, Jesus as an infant appears to have no special powers. He is just as helpless as any other newborn. He is dependent on his mother for sustenance, and, being born in a stable with "no crib for his bed," as one children's Christmas hymn notes, he must have protection from the elements or else he will perish. Another hymn, recently written, movingly speaks of Jesus as "a child" who "shivers in the cold." These descriptions, based on Gospel accounts, do not sound much like a child whose true identity is the Only Begotten Son of the all-powerful Creator of the universe. If Christmas is true, if Christ was God, then one grasps that there must exist a subtle, more profound reality behind the obvious.

The birth of Christ, the incarnation of God as man, is held by Christians to reinforce the dignity and value of every living human soul, living and dead, born and unborn. Contra the pagans, who saw some lives as of great value but others as expendable and lacking in worth, the Church held to the doctrine that all human life is sacred, being created in the image and likeness of God. In a divine irony, the doctrine that sided with the weak and defenseless against the strong and powerful eventually won the day. The God who was born outside among farm animals and who died as a common criminal in a particularly excruciating and humiliating form of Roman capital punishment managed somehow to vanquish the wide pantheon of Roman gods, who, had they actually existed, would never have dreamed of either coming into being or perishing in so lowly — so human — a manner. Against all odds, the mighty Empire of Rome fell to the baby who shivered in the cold at birth and writhed on a cross at death.

Today, in the post-modern, post-Christian West, we have slipped back into paganism. As King Herod slaughtered thousands of children in an effort to prevent the emergence of the Jewish Messiah, so today millions of babies are martyred by "choice." Within such a cultural trajectory, it isn't hard to grasp why so many in the West today want to abort, as it were, the celebration of the birth of God. For the baby Christ, so fragile in Mary's womb and hardly less so upon his emergence moments later wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger, reminds us of that which we would rather forget: every incarnated human being is conceived by divine intervention. The lives God has given to us are not ours to dispose of at our convenience. Father forgive us, for we know not what we do.