Friday, 31 October 2014

The Grinch puts his case

As all Dr Seuss fans, past and present, know; it was the Grinch who stole Christmas.

But there have always been oddball Christians, usually inheritors of thin-lipped, bloodless Puritanism, who have condemned the seasonal frivolities. Then there are literal-minded folk for whom Christmas is not so much frivolous in the Scrooge sense, but just plain pagan to the core.

Amongst these sects, the various Sabbath-keeping Churches of God stand out. Unlike Jehovah's Witnesses these bodies (there are a plethora of feuding variations) have substituted faux Old Testament Holy Days - radically re-engineered from their Hebrew roots - for the traditional liturgical calendar that includes Easter (pagan!), Lent (pagan!) and, of course, Christmas.

Selling an anti-Xmas message is no easy thing. It's a bit like making nasty comments about "Mom and apple pie". But it does serve a very real social function in putting real kinship ties under pressure (yup, that's 'Mom' and the extended family outside the faith community) and shoring up the fictive kinship bonds among insiders -  'the brethren'. No more exchanging gifts or taking the kids around to the grandparent's place on Xmas Day. No special Christmas meals, coloured lights, Secret Santa, decorations or greeting cards. Pagan!

(And considering today is October 31, let's not even get started on what these folk make of Halloween!)

So how do you put a positive spin on something like that? The current issue of Discern - published by one of the more hardline COG sects - tackles the task manfully.

Other competing COG ministries will very soon be joining in the yowling Grinch-like chorus if past years are anything to go by.

Of course much of the commercial Christmas experience is kitschy, and there's no doubt that a lot of people get sucked into a debt vortex by unnecessary seasonal expenses. And, at the risk of sounding like a Discern article, a lot of the religious trappings aren't much better. 

Kilough and Jones will make those same points, but that's not their chief beef with Xmas. They're against it in principle because they read the Bible like Auntie Ruby reads the assembly instructions for Ikea furniture. 

The thing is, those so-called 'biblical festivals' which Clyde and Erik champion have their roots in Near Eastern agricultural fertility festivals that pre-date the oldest parts of the Bible. They were adapted into Second Temple Judaism in the same way similarly colourful European customs were later reinvented as Christian celebrations.

And so, you've got to ask, why not eggnog? What's the difference?


  1. The condemnation of Christmas is just another opportunity for some folks to feel superior to all of those deceived pagans that inhabit this EVIL world! Some thoughts from someone who used to accept the arguments against Christmas observance:

  2. Back in the Seventies, I was sitting in the audience in the Field House just prior to the Feast of Tabernacles at AC Big Sandy when two rabbis from a synagogue in Tyler, Texas addressed the student body. The older rabbi was pretty traditional. The younger rabbi shocked me and I think many others when he stated that the Holy Days were pre-existing Canaanite festivals adapted for use by Israel. I don't think anyone wanted to hear that and it was dismissed.

    It is all a matter of degree as to how deeply you wish to participate in Christmas. Many dedicated WCG women would eschew any small hint of Christmas but would gleefully go out to take advantage of the post-Christmas sales. The fact is the sales were connected to and consequent from Christmas. They were differentiated from other Christmas observations only by timing.

    -- Neo

    1. I've come to the conclusion that all have simply reacted to the zeitgeist or prevailing conditions of their times, whether to go along with them, or to swim against them. Taxis, kinesis.