Culture: December 2011 Archives

Christmas dissent

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Brian Ervin, former reporter (and a darned good one) for Urban Tulsa Weekly, has started a blog called, and his first entry asks some tough questions of his fellow Christians about Christmas:

Jesus said, "Anyone who loves their father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for My sake will find it."

So when we say "Christmas is all about family" as an alternative to the commercialism that typifies the season, does that really honor Him? Howler monkeys and hyenas and wolves have "family values" all on their own, quite apart from any Christian influence.

When we celebrate this mish-mash of customs and obligations we call "Christmas," do we really do it to worship Him? Or is it just that these are a part of our cultural security blanket, and we do it out of childhood nostalgia or a sense of obligation to the people who inculcated those customs?

Julie R. Neidlinger has had her fill of Christmas, American style:

Church, which should be a place where the never-ending nails-on-chalkboard noise slips away, becomes its own monster. Pressure to be festive and solemn and then festive and then introspective at church services, as jerked about by worship leaders and sermons and well-meaning folks leaves me nothing but angry. This last Sunday, the sermon was wonderful and just as I began to mull it over in the difficult place in life I find myself, it was wiped from usefulness by a rendition of the Chipmunks Christmas song and wanting hula hoops because I guess Christmas is about the kids and we can't possibly leave the service without choking down something upbeat.

Don't miss that link in the above quote. It leads to Julie's account of a Christmas eve megachurch service that seemed to miss the whole point.

My own Christmas eve church experience this year (also at a megachurch, with the relatives we were visiting) began with clips from Rankin/Bass holiday specials, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street, It's a Wonderful Life, Jingle All the Way, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, and, of course, A Christmas Story, displayed on the big screen in an endless loop until it was time for the Christmas concert to begin in earnest. Yes, concert -- the worship leader and his family, amped up so we couldn't hear the singing of our fellow audience members, and the lights down so we could keep our focus on the family at the front. ("What would Christmas eve be without the [worship leader's] family?" asked the senior pastor rhetorically. An actual worship service, perhaps?) And this was what they called the "traditional service."

There was one almost traditional touch: At the end, we sang "Silent Night" as candlelight spread through the audience, along with the sickly green-yellow glow of the glowsticks they gave to the small children (liability issues, presumably).

Finally, here's an interesting story about Christmas eve traditions from a religious group that doesn't observe Christmas: Slate: Benyamin Cohen: Holy Night: The Little Known Jewish Holiday of Christmas Eve. Seriously. It's about Jewish traditions that evolved from the 1500s or earlier, in the face of persecution, on how to keep oneself safe and holy on the Christian holiday.

MORE: Here's another Jewish Christmas tradition via a photo posted by GaelGreene on Twitter. The sign in the photo reads:

The Chinese Rest.
of the United States

would like to extend
our thanks to
The Jewish People

we do not completely
understand your dietary

But we are proud and
grateful that your GOD
insist you eat our food
on Christmas.

Happy Holidays!

Roundup 2011/12/28

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I got some potpourri for Christmas, so here's some potpourri for you -- an assortment of interesting articles from the last couple of weeks.

nov. 2004 006_edited
Photo by Lathyrus on Flickr

Warner Todd Huston: The newspaper typo that began NORAD's tradition of tracking Santa on Christmas eve in 1955.

James Lileks invites you to peruse a collection of Christmas ads and other ephemera from the '50s and '60s.

During the run-up to Christmas, Tweets of Old featured Santa letters published by newspapers a century or so ago on its Facebook page. One of the sweetest:

Dear Santa Claus,

I am not going to ask for much this Xmas for there are so many little girls and boys I know it would be impossible to carry them all lots of presents. Then you are getting old and I know it must be hard for you to get about.

I have a beautiful doll so please bring me a little bed for it, a rubber ball and just anything you have left after visiting the other children.

With best wishes to you and Mrs. Santa Claus, I remain.

Clyde Butler, Starkville, Mississippi, 1921

Gawker: The endlessly quotable Vaclav Havel (1935-2011): Havel was a playwright, dissident under Communist rule of Czechoslovakia, and the first president of liberated Czechoslovakia. *He had the media misfortune of passing away on the same day as Christopher Hitchens and Kim Jong-Il.) My favorite of the quotes listed:

"You do not become a dissident just because you decide one day to take up this most unusual career. You are thrown into it by your personal sense of responsibility, combined with a complex set of external circumstances. You are cast out of the existing structures and placed in a position of conflict with them. It begins as an attempt to do your work well, and ends with being branded an enemy of society."

Havel wrote a 2004 column about Kim Jong-Il and North Korea under Communism, comparing the stories of North Korean refugees to the news from Auschwitz escapees that alerted the world to the reality of the Holocaust:

Today, the testimony of thousands of North Korean refugees, who have survived the miserable journey through Communist China to free South Korea, tell of the criminal nature of the North Korean dictatorship. Accounts of repression are supported and verified by modern satellite images, and clearly illustrate that North Korea has a functioning system of concentration camps. The Kwan-li-so, or the political penal-labour colony, holds as many as 200,000 prisoners who are barely surviving day-to-day or are dying in the same conditions as did the millions of prisoners in the Soviet gulag system in the past.

The Northern part of the Korean peninsula is governed by the world's worst totalitarian dictator, who is responsible for taking millions of human lives. Kim Jong-il inherited the extensive Communist regime following the death of his father Kim Il-sung, and has shamelessly continued to strengthen the cult of personality.

He sustains one of the largest armies in the world and is producing weapons of mass destruction. The centrally planned economy and the state ideology of juche have led the country into famine. The victims of the North Korean regime number in the millions....

Innocent North Koreans are dying of hunger or are closed in concentration camps, as Kim Jong-il continues to blackmail the world.

Now is the time for the democratic countries of the world - the European Union, the United States, Japan and, last but not least, South Korea - to unify under a common position. These countries must make it perfectly clear that they will not make concessions to a totalitarian dictator.

They must state that respect for basic human rights is an integral part of any future discussions with Pyongyang. Decisiveness, perseverance and negotiations from a position of strength are the only things that Kim Jong-il and those similar to him understand.

Let's hope that the world does not need any more horrifying testimony to realize this.

An Investors Business Daily editorial ponders the outpouring of grief by North Koreans at the death of Kim Jong-Il:

The world witnessed a grotesque spectacle Tuesday as millions of North Koreans mourned the death of the world's most odious dictator. It's a classic demonstration of the dehumanization of communism.

In the free world, tears would never be shed for a monster like Kim Jong Il, the megalomaniac who ruled North Korea with an iron fist for 17 years, leaving a legacy of man-made famine, a network of Gulag prison camps for free thinkers, and bone-grinding poverty for workers unlike any other place on earth.

But in a reminder of what totalitarianism does to human minds, thousands of North Koreans -- mostly soldiers -- loudly wailed at the death of the tyrant known as "dear leader." It's a reminder this nation remains an enemy state of highly damaged individuals who have no understanding of freedom, a worrisome thing in a nation of nuclear weapons and evil intentions.

National Review Online, Hans von Spakovsky: Yes, Virginia, there really is voter fraud, as demonstrated by recent convictions of city officials and Democrat operatives in Troy, N. Y., for forging absentee ballots:

As for the constant liberal claims that voter fraud does not occur, one of the Democratic operatives who pled guilty, Anthony DeFiglio, told New York State police investigators "that faking absentee ballots was a commonplace and accepted practice in political circles, all intended to swing an election." And whose votes do they steal? DeFiglio was very plain about that: "The people who are targeted live in low-income housing, and there is a sense that they are a lot less likely to ask any questions."

Heavy manufacturing is making a comeback in the US, writes Joel Kotkin, and Oklahoma City is 10th on the list of best cities for industrial job growth. (Tulsa didn't make the top 50.) And, by the way, we need more engineering majors to fuel this growth.

Maybe there's something to this notion of the Anglosphere: The five most charitable countries in the world in 2011, in terms of giving money, volunteering time, and helping strangers are the USA, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. Last year's top five were Australia, New Zealand, Ireland/Canada (tie), USA/Switzerland (tie). The ranking by the Charities Aid Foundation is based on the percent of the population that acts charitably, rather than the amount of charity. (Via Ace of Spades HQ overnight thread.)

Michelle Malkin: The Year in Obama Scandals -- and scandal deniers: Fast and Furious / Gunwalker, Solyndra, LightSquared, Carol Browner, the drilling ban, Obamacare waivers to cronies, voter fraud, and more.

Another Investors Business Daily editorial explains the light bulb ban (suspended for now) as another example of how regulation helps the politically connected big business at the expense of small business. (Via Michael Chamberlain on Twitter.)

Margaret Thatcher in the Commons on European monetary union (video). According to the description for this video, this speech on October 30, 1990, sealed Thatcher's downfall, betrayed by Europhile members of the Conservative Party, including members of her own cabinet, who had decided she was an obstacle to their dream of a single European state. (Anyone familiar with the evolution of the European Union and particularly with the way the ruling class in each country, from every party, ignore the objections of their countrymen to the loss of national sovereignty will understand the origin of similar fears in the United States of America.)

The American Bar Association punished a law school applying for provisional accreditation because officials spoke to the New York Times for an article about how ABA accreditation drives up the cost of a law degree. Time to bust up this cartel.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Culture category from December 2011.

Culture: September 2011 is the previous archive.

Culture: February 2012 is the next archive.

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