Re-Imagining Christmas

by Brad Nelson12/7/18

Christmas is too commercial. Check. It’s been all but outlawed in our atheistic “sensitive” culture. Check. And many who do try to celebrate at least the forms of it (if they are honest) see Jesus more as a health guru, the ticket to longer (perhaps eternal) life. Check.

We can doubt the stories in the Bible. We can say they are just more of the kinds of stories that people have always written for themselves to explain reality and to give themselves hope. That’s all fair enough. But let’s assume there is a Creator (a logical necessity given what we know) and that this Creator would want to maintain some kind of connection, particularly to try to uplift us out of our squalor (an idea completely consistent with the New and Old Testaments).

And what if, when that happened, we actually, as a race, abused and killed this Hand that was held out to us?

I think it’s easy to see Jesus as “The Redeemer” and perhaps forget that this wallpapers over the situation: God reached out to us and we killed Him.

Do you then suppose that God would be in a good mood?

The reality of this is usually obscured by calling it a “sacrifice,” is if God knew what would happen beforehand to his Son (a logical deduction, in my opinion, given human nature — or what it has become). And thus Jesus was never to be taken seriously in the first place as a loving reformer. His “savior” status is tacked on to bypass humankind’s central role in this tragedy.

But there was no sacrifice to be made if we had just said, “Gee, you’re right” and then welcomed Him with open arms and changed our ways.

I make no claim that Jesus isn’t the Redeemer. It’s certainly true that the human race is thoroughly corrupt and needs one. Its institutions that purport to be His instrument are in particularly bad shape right now, either having given themselves over to idolatry and self-importance or having turned religion into but a marketing plan aimed toward the self-esteem crowd.

But how many recognize these aspects? “Jesus” frequently becomes little more than another version of Deepak Chopra, there to sooth all our misgivings about ourselves — or a fancy healthcare plan for long life.

Instead, we need to face up to this. As a race, we have the blood of God on our hands. It is said that He kicked us out of His garden and later, having had enough, drowned all but a few of us like rats in order to start over. Perhaps if we wonder why God is so silent, we might think back to what we did last time He talked.


Brad is editor and chief disorganizer of StubbornThings.
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About Brad Nelson

I like books, nature, politics, old movies, Ronald Reagan (you get sort of a three-fer with that one), and the founding ideals of this country. We are the Shining City on the Hill — or ought to be. However, our land has been poisoned by Utopian aspirations and feel-good bromides. Both have replaced wisdom and facts.
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25 Responses to Re-Imagining Christmas

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    A friend (who is losing, or who has totally lost) his faith sent me a couple Neil deGrasse Tyson videos to watch the other day. (I know now, without a doubt, that atheism is about anger toward God for not fulfilling one’s wishes.) I watched a bit of each clip but I’ve seen this all before. It’s infantile stuff. I don’t know of a Christian anywhere whose view of the universe is shattered because they find out that the cause of twinkling stars is atmospheric disturbance.

    This saddens me more than angers me. But I do get angry seeing atheists spread their bigotry and misinformation. Whatever one thinks of Christian theology, nowhere does it depend upon the idea of the created physical universe behaving as in old with magical fairies and gods animating every nook and cranny. Christian theology is a marked break from this pagan worldview.

    This is why I continue to say that there are no honest atheists….at least I’ve never run into one. And people of faith, having long ago either caved to the pressure of atheistic deconstruction or who simply expect their beliefs to be as simple as what can be written on a bubble gum wrapper, have no defense in the face of this slander.

    Consider that the Pope is a fraud and that so many Protestant churches are little more than places to go to have your self esteem massaged or promises made to you that God will soon make you materially wealthy. There is little organized defense against this constantly dripping acid slander.

    Why my friend would gain comfort from watching this stuff is known to me. He’s got a religious kook of a wife who is constantly hitting him over the head with the Bible. She’s arguable mentally ill as well. The situation isn’t good.

    But it does sadden me to see people so easily fall for this snake oil of Neil deGrasse. His is a sinister motive and this should be noted.

  2. Timothy Lane says:

    One book I read on the subject noted that Jesus had one basic message: the kingdom of God is at hand, so you’d better be ready for it at any moment. Obviously, his timing was a bit off, because 2000 years later the kingdom of God still hasn’t come.

    There is one interesting possible proof of the divinity of Jesus Christ. After his death, a growing movement of worshippers formed. Obviously, many at least had known about Jesus, so the movement can be considered proof that Jesus at least existed and preached.

    But even more, we know that many of his closest disciples were martyred because of their preaching. Here is the interesting question: Were they given the choice to recant and abjure Jesus, and thus go free? Given that the alternative was the hideous torture of crucifixion, only a totally deranged person would choose crucifixion over recanting — if Jesus weren’t really who he said he was. And those closest to him almost certainly knew, one way or another, whether or not he was.

    I don’t know what evidence there is that they ever really faced that choice. But if they did, especially if many of them did, then it would be strong evidence that Jesus was the real deal.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      the kingdom of God is at hand, so you’d better be ready for it at any moment.

      In the unofficial Gospel of Thomas (some of the “Gnostic” gospels) you get this idea that the kingdom of heaven isn’t necessarily a separate place but can be found (or joined to, or intuited, or felt, or experienced) in the here and now — especially by purging oneself of sin, selfishness, and ego.

      This is a very dangerous idea to the Church because it cuts them out of the loop. But it can (as it surely did then) lead people to making temples of themselves as we see them doing today.

      Thank God we can live without the restrictions on thought of the Catholic Church (although modern Catholics, in practice, are anything but free in this regard). But in their better days or moments, they could help guide people away from superficial navel gazing (and instead turn their eyes toward Karl Marx as a replacement, as is being done today).

      But it is an entirely orthodox idea that we can come to know God or become closer to God. And I don’t believe Jesus ever mentioned heaven as a specific geographic place. And it’s my belief that eternity is here to be experienced (not fully lived out…it is eternity, after all) in the now. Again, the saints wrote in language just like this. As long as they ended their chapters with obedience to Mother Church and her Sacraments, there was (is) wide latitude in different approaches to Jesus.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        The gnostics were basically intellectual elitists, convinced that only the superior few knew the hidden truth. You can see why this would be very popular today.

        The Catholics arguably adopted a similar mode of operation in practice — preaching in Latin to people who didn’t know the language. This is why they disliked vernacular Bibles (even martyring those who made or read them) — it enabled ordinary people to find out what the Bible actually said, instead of what the Church claimed that it said. (This is at the heart of Jonathan Swift’s weird A Tale of Tub.)

      • pst4usa says:

        Brad, I happen to be one of those that think that the Kingdom is now, and that we can choose to live in it or not. But I have a completely different view of eternity. Eternity in my view is out side of time, we will see the past present and future in the same way God does. In eternity, now is always.

        Merry Christmas to one and all.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          That’s a good distinction, Pat. Merry Christmas.

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          Even as a teenager, I had a gut feeling/belief that everything that has happened, is happening and will happen is taking place now. I did not thick about the theological ramifications involved until much later in life.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Were they given the choice to recant and abjure Jesus, and thus go free? Given that the alternative was the hideous torture of crucifixion, only a totally deranged person would choose crucifixion over recanting — if Jesus weren’t really who he said he was.

      Things like this are certainly central to Christian apologetics. The reasoning is that they must have seen something real in order to endure what they endured.

      That said, is Allah real because thousands of Jihadists willingly go to their death? If zealousness is proof, then there are a lot of things proved real. But zealousness doesn’t disprove things either.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        No one today knows from his own observation the truth of Jesus Christ or Mohammed. Their followers may have faith, but the original apostles had observational evidence. They actually knew the truth. The same would probably be true of some of Mohammed’s earliest followers, but there’s no indication that any of them were martyrs, much less that they faced the choice of recant or die a horrible death.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          but the original apostles had observational evidence. They actually knew the truth

          I think that’s a reasonable statement. And that depends upon if what they saw was written down accurately. I’m reading a book right now titled Into Thin Air. It’s an account of a spate of tragic misadventures on attempting to scale Mt. Everest.

          What makes the book notable is that the author was there at the time. Upon his safe return to America (he’s generally based in Seattle), he had written an extensive article for the magazine that he worked for. But he felt compelled to flesh out the entire story, particularly because the original story was so riddled with mistakes.

          And he said one reason for the mistakes is the lack of oxygen at 20,000 feet. He said it turns the mind into that of an adolescent. He notes one incident as an example. He says he was one of four people to witness an event and yet not one of them agreed on who was there or exactly what happened.

          So he went back. With help of the radio transmissions back-and-forth from the base station (and interviews with those not suffering from oxygen depletion), he was able to piece together much more of the story.

          And that’s sort of how I think about these stories from the apostles. It’s not that anyone is lying. But religious fervor can act very much like oxygen depletion. I’m not so sure how reliable the stories are.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            A very good point, but not necessarily applicable to the original apostles. Don’t forget that their reaction to the seizure of Jesus Christ was to panic, with Peter denying Jesus 3 times. Although they did replace Judas as an apostle, there’s no assurance the mission would have continued for long — until Mary Magdalene showed up to inform them of the amazing news she had.

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          There is a big difference between Christ and Mohammed. Christ is said to be the son of God, so the claims made about him are much larger than those made about Mohammed.

          Mohammed’s followers could claim to believe Mo spoke to Gabriel (as I recall) but they could not say they saw Gabriel speaking to Mo. So the measure of belief was different. If Mo had been willing to die for his belief, maybe it would have been more meaningful.

          It should probably also be noted that Mohammed questioned his own sanity at one time and Allah’s message changed drastically over the period that Mohammed claims he was seeing Gabriel.

          If zealousness is proof, then there are a lot of things proved real. But zealousness doesn’t disprove things either.

          It should be noted that Christianity rewarded those who were willing to die for their belief. Islam was more noted for rewarding those who were willing to kill for their belief. If they died while killing a kafir, so much the better.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            There is a big difference between Christ and Mohammed.

            Sort of like the difference between Mother Theresa and Genghis Khan.

            Christ is said to be the son of God

            One of The Big Three (Father/Son/Holy Ghost). God incarnate. Philippians 2:6-8.

            This is an impossible notion because we are our own gods particularly because “The Cosmos is all that is, or ever was, or ever will be.”

            These are notions distinct from the completely physical and logical (as is love, consciousness, and more). Interestingly, right here, right now, we have the freedom to explore these topics. We bring our doubt, our hope, and are reason to this subject.

            This is not something atheists can do. They have walled themselves into their little Scroogle-like boxes of “reason” and “rationality,” quite certain that they are their own gods (to the extent that anything can be a god). I like that we can think and write about this openly and with depth. That’s just not possible with fundamentalist atheists.

            And a great distinction regarding Islam.

  3. pst4usa says:

    An observation. (not so much about this post but on the subject). I was coming out of our local wallyworld and there was a young high school girl ringing the Salvation Army’s bell and as I dropped in a few bucks she said in a very pleasant voice, Happy Holidays! So I replied you mean Merry Christmas don’t you? She said no, we are only allowed to say that if some one says Merry Christmas first. So I had to ask her, what holiday are we celebrating when you say Happy Holidays, and who is going to provide the salvation that this Salvation Army is representing? She said I know, I am a Christian, but we have rules.
    So I guess this is the link to re-imaging Christmas. If a group that was clearly Christian cannot say Merry Christmas? How are we to recover?

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      If a group that was clearly Christian cannot say Merry Christmas? How are we to recover?

      I will have to check around here if this is a national policy or just for the snowflakes in the Pacific Northwest.

      But the answer to your question is likely, “we are not, but we need to go down fighting.”

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      That’s great man-on-the-street reporting, Pat. I’m glad you took the time to instruct this girl. I’m sure you gave her something worthwhile and useful to think about.

      And you’ve hit the very essence of my post: “So I guess this is the link to re-imaging Christmas.” For either large believers, small believers, or wanna-believers, the only way “forward” (if you’ll excuse the term) to Christmas is to separate* oneself from popular culture. That mass mind has gone plumb crazy.

      [*Large doses of Bing Crosby are recommended.]

  4. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    A very good point, but not necessarily applicable to the original apostles. Don’t forget that their reaction to the seizure of Jesus Christ was to panic, with Peter denying Jesus 3 times.

    Central to this story is the credibility of the apostles and the subsequent accuracy of what has been handed down to us. One thing I agree with in regards to an atheistic creed is that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. It’s a shame, really, that we must drift along on the fumes of things purported to have happened 2000 years ago. The upside is that this event occurred, if it occurred, before today’s fake news was predominant.

    Let me frame my thoughts, 1 Timothy StubbornThings, by presenting two articles, neither of which you need to read because I’m sure you already agree with them: Christian Mega-Star Singers: Tell the Truth on Homosexuality [Lesson: authentic Christianity is offensive] and Father Jenkins Doesn’t Seem to See the Problem [Lesson: the Catholic Church is thoroughly corrupt — Neumayr’s article would serve as well]

    Heaven knows the Gnostics had their faults. But their main problem in regards to “orthodoxy” is the idea that a person could know God without benefit of an institution. Well, you can’t run a gigantic and lucrative organization if people can just think what they want to think.

    Here we can (at the moment) think what we want. I think it’s reasonable to doubt the Apostle’s stories. But at the same time, if what happened really happened, their stories would always sound unreasonable. And there is no easy way to make them sound reasonable today so distant from those events.

    I suppose no wonder then that many substitute environmentalism, Leftism, the Prosperity Gospel, and a whole lot of other things. It’s because authentic Christianity (if we take the Gospel as gospel) is not only offensive, it puts duties and restrictions on a person. Perhaps this is the most offensive aspect of the entire project in the context of today’s “me me me” self-obsessed self-esteem credo.

    I was talking to my newly-unborn atheist friend just yesterday. He’s the one that sent me that (to my ears) dishonest Neil deGrasse video. My friend was (now) totally offended by the notion that there is a God with moral laws who makes judgments. Okay, I know the fuller story. He’s got a kook wife who can’t go 5 minutes without breaking the 4th Commandment. She’s judgmental and the near perfect stereotype of a closed-minded Christian fundamentalist.

    Both are chasing emotional needs. I understand that. This isn’t about logic, reason, or even theology. And that’s why when talking to my friend, I was aware that he wasn’t listening when I told him that whatever you now think of Christianity, the atheists are only ever giving a dishonest straw-man argument. Nothing, for instance, in the Jewish or Christian belief system is in opposition to the idea that stars twinkle because of atmospheric disturbance. deGrasse, too, is chasing chimera because of some inner emotional beast that he is trying to quench. But my friend believed — was wholly enthusiastic to believe — the atheistic lie that all ideas of God and religion are based upon “god of the gaps” arguments. That is, all theology stems from purporting a god for what otherwise can eventually be explained by science as a “natural cause.”

    He was not listening when I unmasked this slander. Although I admitted that plenty of Christians were ignorant and believed comic-book versions of their own faith, nothing in Christian or Jewish theology is centered on the “god of the gaps.” Theirs is a logical theology that nature is not god, that God created nature and stands outside of nature. This, I told him, is also almost surely why science itself took off. It ushered in a mindset whereby we could look at nature and try to find the Creator’s hand and genius in how things worked. There is nothing to solve, no logic or reason to uncover, if fairies make the stars twinkle on pure whim. But knowing the regularity of how things worked was a separate matter. Knowing that lightning comes not from Thor but from an electrical discharge disproves pagan Gods but is not in the least contrary to Christian or Jewish theology whereby an intelligent God sets up this entire system.

    But emotional needs are different from intellectual content. And this aspect is highly relevant. People will believe anything (whether atheists or theists) if it suits them. But that doesn’t make it true. (No does it necessarily make it untrue.) Sorting through all this logically and reasonably is almost assuredly a fool’s task. But I often am a fool, so there.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      As someone pointed out here a little while back (speaking of the Bible as a whole), the Gospels are hardly boastful about the people who wrote them (or supplied the material that the writers put down). This makes them a bit more believable. We know that some such Christian beliefs appeared early enough that various Roman historians mentioned their existence. So does the Talmud, I gather.

      Note that Christian lore has Thomas the Doubter being martyred in India. How accurate this is we can’t say, but someone brought the gospel there.

      And it’s very important to realize that Judaism and Christianity, by having God create a universe with rules and operating as much as possible within them even when performing miracles, opened the door for theoretical science. Pagans and Muslims both had God or gods doing everything as the choose (hence the routine Muslim reference to “the will of Allah”), which left no room for figuring out the rules by which the universe operates.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        The Judeo/Christian God is not a god of caprice. The rest are.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          That also is reflected in his personal morality. Jesus was a far better exemplar than Mohammed. Yahweh, though he could be a vengeful God, was still a better example than Zeus with his many girlfriends (and at least one boyfriend).

          This came up in I, Claudius when Livia Augusta (having read the “Succession of the Hairy Men”, she knew who the next 2 emperors would be after Tiberius), got Claudius to promise to name her a god. (Caligula also made the same promise, but she didn’t trust him — rightly.) He admitted that none of the Olympian gods made a good moral example, but didn’t end up in Tartarus despite that. Livia knew where she would end up without deification.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            Yahweh, though he could be a vengeful God

            He certainly didn’t like it when the Sodomites tried to have his angels in Sodom. And you can’t really blame God for being angry about that. In fact, I think that’s what you learn about God in the Old Testament. He isn’t capricious, as Mr. Kung noted. But he’s not the fuzzy-wuzzy God portrayed today who is tolerant of everything and makes non-judgmentalism the highest virtue.

            The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is not the bloodthirsty Allah of Islam, but he can get royally pissed off when human beings sin. He is the God of judgment as well as love. The idiot Left takes one extreme. (Love is a value-neutral concept….should we love murderers?) And Islam takes the bloodthirsty other extreme.

            I mean, goodness gracious. We’ll never know the full complexity of God in our lifetimes. But he is being reduced to comic-book proportions by all sides. And as much as I hammer on the Catholics, they actually have much good theology and thought on the subject of balancing all this. They should use it once in a while as should we all.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        We can take a leap of faith and just enjoy Christmas because it’s a hell of a lot better than putting on a suicide vest and screaming allahu akbar. If we are to err, let’s err on the side of decency, charity, love, patience, humility….you know, that whole Paul thing. He didn’t mention Bing but nobody’s perfect.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Well, all times are one to God, so he certainly knew about Bing. But Paul was merely human, so he didn’t. I suppose Jesus did, but he wasn’t telling the apostles much about the future.

  5. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Dennis Prager has his usual “Say Merry Christmas” column. Prager writes:

    It was a Jewish-American, Irving Berlin, who wrote “White Christmas,” one of America’s most popular Christmas songs. In fact, according to a Jewish musician writing in The New York Times, “almost all the most popular Christmas songs were written by Jews.”

    National Review has Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s 1983 Templeton Address. I won’t put this on the must-read list. I think he’s a little narrow-minded. But given what he’s seen, he has a right to be. We could sum this up for our reconstituted Christmas as: If you’re an atheist, you’re aiding and abetting the Communists, no matter how “enlightened” you think you are, little ideological Snowflake.

    I struggle with my mustard-seed-size faith. But I’m absolutely aware that if you’re an atheist, you’re aiding and abetting Darkness. You’ll find some good nuggets in the article here and there. But I wonder if Mother Russia ever was the kind-and-gentle Christian Orthodox country that he makes it out to be in the past. And although I think religious observance is important, I don’t think we all need to live in a monastery.

    He’s not overtly saying that. But I think there is a narrow-mindedness sometimes from the very religious, especially when they turn their nose down on our free markets (“capitalism”) as some kind of root of evil. If I were in his position, I would call for a balance. I like my commercial goods. I just try to not make idols of them or find the meaning of life in them.

    Merry Christmas, by the way.

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