Advertisements



“It’s common knowledge that Christmas and its customs have nothing to do with the Bible” (updated)

reportcard.jpgSo, the good news is that for all of my handwringing about Greek this semester, it wound up being more of a bright spot on my transcript than I would have thought. It’s still a variety of “B” rather than a variety of “A”, but it’s a better variety than I figured possible, and it’s certainly not a variety of “C”. I’m still probably going to try to sit in on third semester Greek again next fall as a refresher (since, because of scheduling issues, I can’t take the fourth semester until next year), but the unmitigated disaster I was convinced was inevitable on Wednesday afternoon appears to have been nonetheless avoided.

unchristmas.gifThere’s an article in the Associated Press about Protestants who don’t celebrate Christmas (hat tip: Dr. Philip Blosser), and it provides an interesting overview of the history of Christmas celebrations in the United States. In a nutshell, Protestant America was at best uncomfortable with and at worst hostile towards Christmas until the 19th century, when it shifted towards being more of a secular, family holiday and less of a religious observance associated with Catholics. In other words, it was largely because it took on commercial aspects (at least according to this piece) that its liturgical trappings were tolerated. Still, despite this “domestication,” certain Protestant groups retain the objection into our own time:

Christians like the United Church of God reject the holiday [because they] say divine instruction, rather than culture and society, should determine whether the holiday is appropriate.

“It’s common knowledge that Christmas and its customs have nothing to do with the Bible,” said Clyde Kilough, president of the United Church of God, which has branches all over the world. “The theological question is quite simple: Is it acceptable to God for humans to choose to worship him by adopting paganism’s most popular celebrations and calling them Christian?”

I have to say, there’s a part of me that has absolutely no problem with this attitude. What reason do Christians who reject the liturgical calendar as a whole have to keep Christmas as an observance? Aren’t they trying to have it both ways? Here’s the follow-up question, though—do these same groups reject Easter? If not, why not? It seems to me they’d have to, to stay consistent.

Here’s what is, for me, the money quote:

[T]he mainline Protestant churches have learned to accommodate Christmas. But the change came from the pews rather than the pulpit.

Christmas benefited from a 19th century “domestication of religion,” said University of Texas history professor Penne Restad, in which faith and family were intertwined in a complementary set of values and beliefs.

Christmas became acceptable as a family-centered holiday, Restad said, once it lost its overtly religious significance.

At the same time, aspects of the holiday like decorated trees and gift-giving became status symbols for an aspirant middle class. When Christmas began its march toward dominance among holidays, it was because of a change in the culture, not theology.

“In America, the saying is that the minister follows the people, the people don’t follow the minister,” Restad said. “This was more of a sociological change than a religious one. The home and the marketplace had more sway than the church (emphasis mine).”

The minister follows the people, the people don’t follow the minister. The home and the marketplace had more sway than the church. That’s a mouthful, folks, and one that strikes me as bearing some real consideration.

All that said, I have to say I’d love for the guys at Get Religion to offer their thoughts on this story; I’m sure there’s a lot here I’m missing.

UPDATE: Fr. Stephen Freeman has some words which are directly applicable to the matter at hand:

…[T]radition is not only normal – it is inevitable… We cannot, without great violence, declare that there will be no traditions. This has been sought through the centuries by various iconoclast regimes (Puritans come to mind the easiest). But they never completely succeed. Today, the descendants of Puritans will seek Christmas trees whether they believe in God or not. The tradition is stronger even than the belief. But the tradition wasn’t given in order to destroy the belief, but to live it out.

Advertisements

3 Responses to ““It’s common knowledge that Christmas and its customs have nothing to do with the Bible” (updated)”


  1. 1 Phil Woodward 15 December 2007 at 11:19 pm

    It’s very infrequently that I think slinging Bible verses should settle controversies. But in matters regarding the Church calendar, I’m inclined to do a bit of verse slinging:

    “One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord.”

    Hey, everybody! Paul told us way back when that we don’t have to worry about this one! Really!

  2. 2 fatherstephen 16 December 2007 at 4:13 pm

    The difficulty, of course, lies not in Bible-reading, but in Protestantism, where each individual is reading his/her Bible and inventing Christianity as they go along. Liturgical Christianity is not a question, it is a given of Christian tradition, given to us by the Fathers of the Church who knew no other form of Christianity, as Judaism knew no other form of Judaism. Things such as the calendar (Paul is speaking specifically of observance of the Jewish Law not the Christian observe of Sunday, etc. and to use this passage as applying to Christmas, Easter, Sunday, etc., is a gross misuse of Scripture). These questions were long ago settled in the Christian faith, unless you have rejected the Christian Tradition (i.e. Orthodox Christianity) and feel it necessary or ok to be re-inventing the Christian wheel in every generation according to every cultural whim. In fact, there really is no authority given by God to change and alter the life of the Church as it was given us by Christ. There is not a level playing field, i.e. the Scriptures, which everybody can do anything with they want to. Of course, people can live their Christian faith in this way, but it is not living it in submission to the Christian faith as “once and for all delivered to the saints.” That one was given once and for all and never went away. New ones cannot justify their authority nor their changes.

  3. 3 Richard Barrett 16 December 2007 at 5:55 pm

    Bless, Father. Thank you for commenting here—you are always welcome!

    I once heard somebody say, “Looking at church history, it is clear enough to my satisfaction that Tradition has always been a clear source of authority. Trouble is, I have no way of knowing if that is clear enough to God’s satisfaction.” Unfortunately, that appears to be how many choose to see things. What I have trouble understanding is, if that’s true, then how do we reconcile Christ’s assurance that the gates of hades would never prevail against His church and that the Holy Spirit would guide the church into all truth?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s




Advertisements

Richard’s Twitter

adventures in writing alexander lingas all saints bloomington all saints orthodox church american orthodox architecture american orthodox music american orthodoxy Antiochian Archdiocese Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America Antiochians books byzantine chant cappella romana chant church architecture ecclesiastical chant ethnomusicologists ethnomusicology fellowship of ss. alban and sergius Greece Greek greek food greekness hazards of church music international travel tips ioannis arvanitis joe mckamey john michael boyer kurt sander Latin liturgical adventures liturgical architecture liturgical music liturgical texts and translation liturgy liturgy and life lycourgos angelopoulos medieval byzantine chant Metropolitan PHILIP militant americanist orthodoxy modern byzantine architecture modern greek music music as iconography my kids will latin and greek when they're newborns my kids will learn latin and greek when they're newborns orthodox architecture orthodox architecture is bloody expensive Orthodox choir schools Orthodox Ecclesiology orthodox outreach orthodox travel pascha at the singing school Patriarchate of Antioch Patriarch IGNATIUS IV Patriarch of Antioch publishing random acts of chant richard barrett in greece richard toensing rod dreher sacred music st. vlads st john of damascus society Syriac the Bishop MARK fan club the convert dilemma the dark knight The Episcopacy The Episcopate the only good language is a dead language this american church life travel we need more american saints why do we need beautiful music in churches?

Blog Stats

  • 217,052 hits

Flickr Photos


%d bloggers like this: