Friday, December 9, 2016

Is Christmas Pagan?

So over at Renew America, one Gina Miller (not the woman who sued the UK to try to prevent the Brexit being implemented, as far as I can tell) has an article up proclaiming loudly that Christmas is not pagan or 'holiday' (sic). Let's take a walk through this together, shall we? (I'm quoting the whole thing below, in the interests of not wanting to have anything taken out of context. I'm sweet that way.)
Each year around this time, in Facebook posts and elsewhere, we are certain to be lectured by well-meaning Christians on the "sinfulness" of celebrating Christmas. Their arguments can be persuasive. "In the Bible, God never told us to celebrate Christmas," they say. "Christmas has its roots in paganism," they say. So that must mean we're just dupes celebrating a pagan ritual when we ignorantly think we're gratefully celebrating the birth of Jesus. Who wants to celebrate what God never told us to celebrate and which supposedly has its roots in paganism? Not me! But are those things really true?
Since Mrs. Miller doesn't actually link to any examples of people saying this, it's difficult to suss out whether this is actually happening. It would have been nice, and unfortunately without something specific for her to be chewing on, this has the look of a straw man. Fortunately, Google is a fine mistress, and I was able to quickly find a few examples of the question of whether or not Christmas is Pagan, from good, upstanding Christian ministries and groups; should be easy to find the sorts of Christians that Mrs. Miller is talking about, right? Let's take a quick look:
I can’t think of anything more pleasing to Christ than the church celebrating His birthday every year. Keep in mind that the whole principle of annual festival and celebration is deeply rooted in ancient Jewish tradition. In the Old Testament, for example, there were times when God emphatically commanded the people to remember certain events with annual celebrations. 
This much we know: Before there was December 25, there was January 6. As early as the second century, Christians celebrated Jesus' appearance at the Jordan and his baptism by John on January 6. Some time later they expanded this festival to include Christ's appearance at birth. Christians called it Epiphany, or manifestation. So the meaning of the first Christmas was not pagan; it was a celebration of the Word manifest in flesh.
We're not celebrating a pagan holiday because the pagan holiday was the saturnal and we're not worshipping the god of Saturn, or whatever the content was.  We are not doing that.  If you listen to the words of the song "Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree," the original was written with the Christmas tree being a type of Jesus Christ.  You look at the words and the gospel is in the words of the Christmas tree.  So this is not a Christmas tree that we're putting in our house as an idol to some tree god, or something like that.  No, this is a tree that we are using as a cultural expression that can be invested with religious meaning for the Christian.  
Oh, hmmm... Maybe it's not so easy after all.

Heh... I'm just having a bit of fun; I do know there are Christians out there who don't like Christmas and condemn it as Pagan. But they're not the majority, by a long shot. And in fairness, they're not complaining about the holiday; they're complaining about the trappings and customs that have been attached to it (more about that later). But finding pro-Christian stuff was a lot easier. Goodwife Miller continues.
While there is no specific instruction in the Bible to honor or celebrate the birth of Jesus each year (and no, of course we don't know the actual date of His birth), neither is there any prohibition of it.
REALLY??? Is a committed conservative Christian actually making an argument that, "if it's not specifically prohibited in the Bible, it's okay to do"??? 'Cause I'm very sure there isn't any "thou shalt not commit abortion" or "thou shalt not have gender reassignment surgery" or "thou shalt not have sex wearing a Pikachu costume" passages in there.

The Bible says this is okey-dokey!

Interestingly, there really is a concrete Biblical prohibition on one cherished Christmas custom:
2 Thus saith the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.3 For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe.4 They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.
But as for using the literal words of the Bible as a guide to what one is and is not allowed (or compelled) to do, I'll leave it to Jed Bartlet to have the final word:


But I digress. Gentlewoman Miller continues...
Further, when you read the Gospel accounts of the birth of Jesus, it is clear that heaven and earth celebrated that miraculous event. Can you imagine the breathtaking awe felt by those humble shepherds at the sight of the multitude of heavenly host praising God on that powerful, wonderful occasion?
Well... no. Your Bible does say:
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
So a bunch of angels appeared in the desert, and the shepherds looked around and said "WTF just happened?" but nothing about heaven and earth celebrating what happened. Again, since Mrs. Miller doesn't provide any passages to back up her assertion, it's hard to tell. Maybe she's thinking of Luke 19:40 (which has nothing to do with Jesus' birth, by the way)???
I can think of nothing more worthy of annual remembrance and celebration than the birth of Christ, alongside the celebration of His resurrection from the dead (the supposed "paganism" about which we are also lectured by those same well-meaning Christians. "The root word for Easter is the name of a pagan goddess!" they say). These events are part of the Gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Well, the word Easter does come from the Old English word Eostre, which was, according to Bede, a Heathen goddess. So... yeah. That's probably why different languages have different words for things, and many languages call Easter a variety of different words related to the Hebrew word for Passover, "Pesach". English being a Germanic language and all...

But I think this is at the heart of the problem with Mrs. Miller's article. She is confusing the complaints about customs, language, dates, and the like, with the significance of the holiday in the Christian religion. Legitimate complaints about those things don't necessarily mean they are complaining about the Christian symbolism associated with the holiday.
I submit to you that the truth is the opposite of these assertions of paganism. The claims that the pagan rituals in which Christmas (and Easter) supposedly are based pre- date Jesus' birth, earthly ministry, sacrifice and resurrection from the dead are wrong. Nothing "pre-dates" Jesus. He is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. He is outside of time, because He is before time. All things were made by Him, and without Him nothing – nothing – was made. He is God. His willing sacrifice to save the world was set and planned before the dawn of time and creation of the world.
Well, that's a nice (and conveniently self-serving) theory, but just saying it's so doesn't make it so.

Fortunately, we have history, and archaeology, and historiography, and all the other branches of science to tell us that yes, things did happen prior to 4 BCE, when your savior-god was supposedly born. Time being linear (even if events do move in great cyclical patterns), are you actually saying that Satan literally has the power to see the future?

Let's see a quote stating that in your Bible. Somewhere near the back, maybe?


Dame Miller continues.
All pagan (satanic) rituals, "holidays" and celebrations throughout history are nothing more than cheap imitation knock-offs of the Real Thing. Satan has always tried to set himself in the place of Jesus, to be the object of worship. Before being cast to earth, he tried the same thing in heaven. To this end, he has created myriad false religions and rituals, from blatantly pagan to sneaky, fake "Christian." Not only are these designed for Satan to soak up men's worship, but also to deceive men and keep them from coming to a saving knowledge of Truth found only in the Word of God.
Except, of course, that there were religions before Christianity. Heck, there were religions before Judaism, which is the spiritual basis for Christianity. Unless she's saying that Satan founded the Egyptian religion millennia before there even was a Jewish or Hebrew people? Or perhaps he was responsible for Neanderthals worshiping the skulls of animals, or burying their dead with horns? Because that's religion, too, and it way predates that sorry patchwork you call a faith.
In so many different ways, since the fall of man in the Garden, the devil has deceptively imitated and mocked Christ's ministry and message, even before they played out in time. So, no, the celebration of the birth of Christ – that we call Christmas – does not have its roots in paganism. It's the other way around. Satan has always stolen the ideas he has from Christ's truth, and then he twists and perverts that truth into lies and grotesque wickedness.
So... Satan can see into the future. And then arrange things so that he can create things that presage that future, but... not. Gods, this is as absurd as Satan planting fossils in the ground, or arranging photons in space so they happen to hit the Earth at exactly the right instant so as to give the illusion that the universe is more than six thousand years old. And Yahweh lets him! Her god is either a sadistic fuck who enjoys seeing the humans he supposedly loves being conned, or, well, not quite what he's been cracked up to be.


Another point to consider is the fact that the world, currently under Satan's lordship, despises and reviles all things of God and Christ.
But wait. Isn't Mrs. Miller in the world, too? And of it, because she's got a physical form (I assume; otherwise how could she hit the keys on the keyboard?) Doesn't that make her a vassal of Satan?
Thus, we see Satan's war on Christmas, waged by his servants the God-haters among us. If Christmas was truly based in satanic paganism, don't you think the devil would be fine with its presence in the public square?
Oh, the "war on Christmas" canard. I was waiting for this one. How successful it has been, too. Why, the padlocking of church doors on December 24th has been a staple of our society for years. The postal service, pressed into service, routinely opens up cards throughout December, gainfully employing hordes of people with Sharpies to cross out the word "Christmas" and replace it with "Holidays". There's nary a mention of Christmas in print, or radio, or television.

It's almost enough to make you wish there were churches on every corner. But those were bulldozed years ago in preparation for the final assault on Christmas.

Christianity has a collective martyr complex, but in the absence of real persecution, they seem to feel compelled to invent it. "My cashier didn't say "Merry Christmas"! I'm just as oppressed as Christians who are killed in Somalia!"
Instead, we now see almost every major corporation aggressively scrubbing even the mention of Christmas from their businesses and advertising.
Indeed. Like A.C. Moore, Barnes & Noble, Bath and Body Works, Belk, Best Buy, Bronners, CVS Pharmacy, Dillards, Hallmark, Hobby Lobby, Home Depot, JC Penny, K-Mart, Kohl's, Lehmans, Lowe's, Macy's, Menards, Neiman Marcus, Rite Aid Pharmacy, Sears, Staples, Toys R Us, Walgreens, and Wal-Mart. All of whom appear on the "nice list" published by the Liberty Counsel.
It's irksome to see the ridiculous level this corporate purging of Christmas has reached. Having been in radio for 22 years, I've watched as the generic word "holiday" has slowly replaced Christmas in national radio ads. It would be silly if it weren't so devilish:
"This holiday, give the gift your sweetheart wants!" "Make your holiday cards special!" "Find all your holiday gifts in one location!" "Do your holiday shopping with us, and save!" "We have the perfect holiday gifts at prices you'll love!"
I know it shouldn't come as a surprise to squaw Miller, but there are other religions out there, that are just as legitimate, and legally protected, as hers is. And most, if not all, of them have holidays clustered around the winter solstice. Not to mention the entirely secular holiday of New Year's. And as the population of the United States (and the West in general) has slowly shifted away from Christianity to other faiths, or no faith, or a mushy "spiritual but not religious"-osity (ugh), the assumption that any given person will be Christian. Saying "Happy holidays" or advertising "holiday gifts" is simply safer for retailers who want to make the maximum number of potential customers feel welcome.
It's not "holiday." It's Christmas.
...and Diwali, and Hanukkah, and New Year's Eve/Day, and Yule, and Kwanzaa, and Saturnalia, and Zartosht No-Diso, and Festivus, and Korochun, and Hogmanay, and dozens more. Christianity is not the only religion out there, and retailers would be idiots for not wanting to reach out to the 30% of Americans who aren't Christian.
No one sends out "holiday cards." They send out Christmas cards.
See above.
No one does their "holiday shopping." They do their Christmas shopping. No one gives "holiday gifts." They give Christmas gifts. 
See above. Lots of midwinter festivals have gift exchange traditions. In fact, the tradition started with Roman Saturnalia and Norse Jól.
This is yet another example of the world doing its worst to obliterate even the mention of Christ – in this case, as it appears in the word Christmas.
No, this is an example of the world being inhabited by a majority of people that aren't Christian, and don't want to follow your insipid sexually repressive death-cult.
The giant corporations are glad to scrub Christmas from their advertising, but boy do they love to load up on national "holiday" ads in order to separate you from your Christmas cash!
Yeahhhhh, about that...

Christmas is not pagan, and it's not "holiday." It is part of the greatest True Story in the history of stories. How fortunate we are that God so loved the world! Jesus, stepped down from the glory of His heavenly throne and into the form of man. He was born into the world He loved so much that He willingly offered His precious, sinless life in place of ours, and all we have to do is believe and accept His free gift salvation.
Yeah, yeah. We've all seen The Little Drummer Boy. Your religion's midwinter myth has been shoved down out throats on national television for decades (how's that for being oppressed!). Doesn't make it true.


For those well-meaning Christians who deeply believe celebrating Christmas is wrong, an offense to God, then for them, it is wrong. Let every man be convinced in his heart. But, for those of us who view it as the celebration of the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ, then let us celebrate it with joy and thanks to God.
And here, I think, is the fundamental disconnect, and why frau Miller would have been much better served to pick a few concrete examples, rather than the straw man she ended up arguing against.

On one level, I actually agree with her. The celebration of the birth of their savior-god is absolutely a Christian thing, and there's nothing wrong with Christians doing so. The date may or may not have been selected to coincide with a couple of Pagan Roman celebrations, but who cares? Christians can choose dates for their holidays like anyone else.

However, it should also be noted that modern (and historical) Christmas celebrations have accumulated enormous Pagan and Heathen customs over the years, many of which I've detailed (and will continue to detail) here on the blog as the Yuletide season continues. In fact, I hate to say it, but Jason Mankey has outlined the Christian and Pagan provenance of a host of modern Christmas customs and symbols, and done a very good job of it (I might quibble on the edges here and there, but it's a good piece overall). I daresay when people write against Christians celebrating Christmas, they're really referring to the Christmas trees, Santa Claus, Wassailing, drinking and overeating in general, commercialism in general, St. Lucia, Rudolf, Yule Logs, and on and on and on. And maybe they have a point, if one is so wrapped up in the Bible as to want to purge from one's life anything that doesn't come out of Leviticus.

The other problem with her analysis is the blind willful refusal to acknowledge that any other religion besides Christianity exists, let alone that all of them have holidays around this same time of year, that the United States is becoming steadily less Christian, even if she might not like that fact, and businesses want to try to sell goods to as many people as possible. It just makes sense to market to a full third of the population who don't happen to share her faith, even if "holidays" becomes a handy shortcut to do so.
Merry Christmas!
And a glad Yule to you, too.

Why end with this? WHY THE HEL NOT???

2 comments:

  1. I don't think she is denying there are other religions, so much as she is one of those that believes all religions that claim to be not Christian, are in fact the religion of Satan, in varying forms. I have seen this in other ways too, whatever we say we are actually devil worshippers, because there are no other Gods than the One True God, because all other Gods are actually Satan in disguise. Thus, all non-Christian religions are simply the same Satan religion with a few minor differences to make them seem real and distinct.

    It's one of the more amusing concepts among fundy Christians, right up there with the dinosaur bones being planted idea (which I read it was God planted the bones to test us, not Satan).

    Anyway, since all of our religions are actually just one Satan religion in disguise, this means all of our winter festivals are also just one winter festival with different names, designed to supplant the future/present/past birthday of the Saviour and lead weak minded Christians from the path of truth. Because all of our festivals are actually just one demonic orgy, this means "holiday" is an evil word when used as a replacement for Christmas.

    Which is even more amusing, considering what "holiday" actually means. Holy day.
    "Have a good holy day"
    "How evil are you to wish me such a thing?!?"

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  2. Oye Vey! This is so funny because I can also add this tasty little morsel to the pie: from the very beginning (late 1st century, beginning 2nd century CE) members of various Christian cults do NOT take advantage of being considered loyal members of the Roman Empire. The Pax Romana is a very, very important thing to EVERYONE (one of my specialities was Classical History). The Jewish population was given an alternative way to show its dedication to these values (they didn't have to worship the dead Emperors). When offered this same deal, the Christians basically spit in their eye and said, "Hell, no, we're not Jews. We want no part of them." They have ALWAYS been anti-semitic. I gag at them STEALING the Haggaddah for Passover now. This was taken as an announcement of treason. You can't trust them -- not even 2,000 years later. It has been shown that they lied in their Apologetics. Killing each other over niggling bits and pieces is just another mark in their evil column. (I say this even though I was originally brought up High Church Lutheran. I ceased to be Christian when I was seven.)

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