Thursday, December 31, 2009

Theocracy in the Making

For those who don't believe there is a theocratic agenda in the nation's capital, there is yet another book that needs to be read, though I doubt seriously those people will be phased by the content.

The Family is even more dangerous than it is un-American. The fact that these people want to create a system of laws that detail a Xian perspective puts them in the exact same category as the Taliban.

When people are convinced God is on their side, there is no evil they won't do.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Is the "War on Xmas" Over?

Maybe a better question would be: Was a War on Xmas ever declared in the first place?

There is an interesting article in the Canadian National Post that says the War on Xmas is now regarded as a mere forgotten street fight. Personally, I don't think there ever was any sort of "War on Xmas" but a misinformation campaign by the Religious Right to gain power, prestige &, yes, money from the masses so it can continue to manipulate the faithful for political gain.

Just my opinion, of course.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

I'm a Grinch

Yeah, I'm a Grinch. I admit it. And as soon as the tree/decorations/Taj Mahal decor comes down, I'll stop fuming --- until next Labor Day when Christmas starts all over again.

1. I can't stand having schedules imposed on me. I should be merry now? Not later? Not next week? Has to be right now? How about now?

2. I want everything to stay open all the time: like Vegas.

3. I remember when I was poor and how Christmas ground me down. "Honey, what can we charge with the maxed-out Shell card we got through borderline fraud? You think your mother would like the gift of 30 weight? Can we charge lottery tickets? Oh, look, honey, peach-scented candles at the Citgo are 3 for a dollar!"

4. The awful music. "Have yourseeeeelf aaaaa merry little Christmaaaaaaa--" BANG! There's your merry little Christmas you mooing, moaning, vowel-extending hambone. And I got one for you, too, Little Drummer Boy. Rum pum pum BANG! Hey, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Venison. BANG!

5. It's an entire season (money version) designed to rip us all off; buying things for people we don't like; with money we don't have; & making us feel guilty if didn't give away our future retirement checks.

6. It's an entire season (family version) centering on "being together." Oh, boy. What fun. Like I enjoy hearing Uncle Billy's story 40 years ago when he shot the poor neighbor kid who only wanted to borrow (i.e., steal) his new pellet rifle. Or the story about Aunt Shirley who didn't listen to the adults, ate too fast, got some food caught in her throat, & nearly died. Inspiring stories, I tell ya!

7. It's an awful lot of kid time. Plus, you have to be nice to them. And then you finally do lose it, and start chasing them around the house brandishing an empty Scotch bottle and screaming: "Dang it! If you kids don't give me some peace I'm gonna give all your presents to poor people!" Well, not really "yelling." But I do yell at the dog --- & I would like to give its toys away. I'd like to give the dog away too, but no one would take a fat beagle that sleeps all day.

What? That's just my family?

8. Watching the news reports about the crowded malls. Here's my news flash: Dollar General & the Citgo gas station have everything I need, at better prices, & I can be done with it all in an hour. After season sales are even better.

9. Reruns. Just when I really need them, my TV friends go away. In their place we get Christmas Specials that were crap thirty years ago too. We all know that Charlie Brown ended up an urban-outdoorsman (e.g., homeless) 15 years ago after the break-up of his disastrous marriage to Lucy, which was followed by a decade-long descent into depression and oxycontin addiction. So making us watch him with his little Christmas tree is just cruel.

10. And of course, shopping. Long, long ago I proposed a simple solution to my friends and family: everyone writes everyone else a check for $25 bucks. It all evens out: no winners; no losers. The whole thing is over in five minutes and we're not all stuck buying a bunch of useless crap no one wants, or receiving a bunch of useless crap ourselves. Over time we would reduce the size of the checks, finally eliminating them altogether and contenting ourselves with a simple "Merry Christmas." This, over time would be reduced to, "Yo!" and our long national nightmare would be over.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Some Xmas History

For some reason, people have some really strange ideas about Xmas. Some folks think it is a Pagan holiday. Others believe it to be a uniquely Xian event. Neither are true & both are correct. Fact is, Xmas is a relatively new event in the US, with the secular celebrations not beginning until just after the close of the Civil War & the religious celebrations not until the late 19th century. In other words, when someone says we've "always celebrated Xmas in America," they really don't know what they are talking about.

The religious underpinnings of Xmas go back to Pagan origins with all sorts of festivities & emblems, many eventually incorporated into the modern celebration. (Click here for a link that discusses some of the Xmas emblems we have today. Click here for a brief history on the religious aspects that have blended together to comprise our modern celebration.) When someone passes along the God spam that talks about all the representations of X that are in the Xmas tree .... uh, no. Not true. Someone just made that up & passed it along. (Here's a reference  that attempts to relate the seasonal emblems to Xianity, most of which are just bunk, since those emblems originated not with Xianity at all.)

We've all heard that the Roman festivals were eventually adapted into Xian celebrations under Constantine. True, Constantine needed the rising Xian population to fight his battles & the struggling Xians readily accepted the power that came from official endorsement. So the Pagan aspects became Xianized.

Through the middle ages, the Catholic Church expanded the Xmas celebration & other Pagan celebrations were assimilated.

Then came the Presbyterians. And the Puritans.

Finally, there came Cromwell.

The Presbyterians in Scotland & the Puritans (the same ones that came to America) completely rejected the celebration of Xmas. They called it a sinful & heretical idea that was nothing more than idolatry. In fact, Presbyterians in Scotland banned Xmas celebrations & those who observed the day were met with swift & severe punishment for their sins against God.
(Link.) It wasn't until the 1950s that Scottish Presbyterians removed the ban.

Cromwell became Lord Protector of England & with his Puritan forces banned the festival of Xmas in 1645.

Those same Puritans came the New World to escape the persecution of the Anglican & Catholic church, both of which celebrated Xmas. So when they came to America, Xmas was made illegal, with penalties imposed by the judge & the church, usually one in the same. The nativity, in particular, was believed to be the gross sin of idolatry. (Link)

So for most of the Colonies, Xmas was spent in work, not worship. (Link.)

Xmas was celebrated in a few areas of Colonial America, mainly where the Catholics & Anglicans had strongholds. Still, those were small & only religious in nature & were kept to the church, never spilling over into the community at large. In fact, George Washington even attacked a group of Hessians on Xmas day since he knew they would still be hung over from their celebration & the Patriot troops didn't regard Xmas as anything special, rejecting both Papist & English tradition. Even Congress was in session on Xmas Day doing the day-to-day work as normal. To the Colonists, Xmas was just another day.(Link.)

Like the rest of the colonies, Xmas in GA wasn't a big deal. The Congregationalist missionaries among the Cherokees at New Echota didn't regard Xmas with any significance, though the Moravians did make quite the party. (Link.)

In 1819, Washington Irving wrote The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon,
gent., a collection of stories about the celebration of Xmas in an English manor house, that were based on "ancient customs." It was all made up, of course. But the idea began to take hold & gradually people began to have parties & give gifts to the kids. Even then, there was no relating the birth of X with the secular event. It as just a few parties & a few kids' gifts "like they do in England."(Link.)

Mostly Xmas was just a sparse religious event among the few Episcopalians & Catholics. There would be a few nativity scenes in the Catholic churches & a special mass, but that was it. Until the Civil War, the overwhelming majority of Americans didn't do anything special with Xmas, not even exchanging gifts or going to church.

The Civil War changed a lot of things & Xmas was no exception. More people in contact with each other meant learning new ideas. The idea of a winter party gained some acceptance & soon the thought of taking a winter break from the long hours in industrial plants swept the nation. In 1870, President US Grant made Xmas, Thanksgiving, 4th of July & New Year's Day official Federal holidays to accommodate family time, all completely secular & all without pay. (Link.)
By 1893, all states & territories had followed suit & made Xmas a secular holiday. (Link.)

As Xmas became more practiced, the religious connotations emerged & by the 1890s, Xmas took on a uniquely Xian overtone in America. Still, there were two distinct celebrations: one religious & one secular, with all faiths & no faiths getting in on the parties.

It is interesting to note that prior to 1945, there are no Supreme Court cases regarding Xmas. None. It is not until after WW II ended & the erosion of Xian hegemony that people began to have disputes. After all, until the 1890s, Xmas wasn't even celebrated. During the next 50 years, the majority Xian faith adopted & adapted the Xmas season. Before long, those majority religious ideas were clashing with the secular ideas, other religious ideas & legal principles And that meant lawsuits. (Link to some legal info on Xmas.)

Today, Santa is the premier secular Xmas symbol, first appearing in 1821 & widely accepted by 1897 with the classic, Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. That did it. When kids expect presents, they get them & the modern secular Xmas was born. Today, Xmas begins a few days before Thanksgiving & lasts until the final college bowl game sometime after New Years. Of course, Xmas is celebrated all over the world in its secular form, in all nations & of all faiths. Yes, even in Muslim nations, the secular Xmas is celebrated.

The religious aspects of Xmas have certainly changed over the years. Xmas used to be viewed as sinful & something unholy by most Americans. Nativity scenes even 150 years ago -- would get you thrown in jail & kicked out of the church. Today, things are much different ... well, maybe not in some parts of the nation. Say anything about separation of church & state & ... whew.

No matter how one worships or chooses not to worship, it is entirely a matter of conscience & conviction, a right protected by the Constitution. Yet, we would be greatly amiss to say that our nation has always celebrated Xmas. That is false. Xmas celebration is a relatively new phenomenon, only having been around for roughly 110 years or so, & even then with many different meanings than what we ascribe today.
For some more info on Xmas traditions & their history, here's another link.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

My Favorite Xmas Songs

It's just not Xmas until I've heard these two songs ... of course, this ought to tell you a lot about my twisted personality.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Annual Xmas Rant 2009

Don't get me started on Christmas! Bring the boxes up. Unpack the boxes. Untangle the lights (that takes a couple of hours). Plug 'em up. They don't work. Spend another hour trying the find the screwed up bulb. Give up trying to find it. Go to the store & start cussing because they don't have the same type of lights this year. Of course my wife wants the lights on the tree to all be the same so I spend $25 on new lights. Go home & one of the kids will step on the string, breaking some of the bulbs. Not enough replacements. Go back to the store & they don't have any replacement bulbs. Buy another string plus one string for spare. Go home & get the ladder out. Cuss again because my hands are turning blue in the cold. Plug 'em up. Blow a fuse. Can't find the flash light because the kids/wife have used it & didn't put it back. Get the power back on. Start putting up the millions of things wife has collected over the last 20 years. Watch her cry when she breaks a couple of 'em. Fusses at me 'cause she is in a bad mood over taking so long & broken ornaments. Kids are starving. Run & get some fast food & spend another $20. Get home & finish the decorating. Put on the Christmas music & wife wants to take pictures for "memories." No film or batteries. Go back to the store for both. Store doesn't have either. End up buying 2 disposable cameras. Fume some more. Get home & everyone has eaten everything, including my dinner. Take enough pictures to compile a National Geographic pictorial for a year. Wife fusses at me for being grumpy --- spent the entire Christmas budget in one day, starving, & smoke coming out my ears. Dog & cats get in the tree. Tree falls over. More broken ornaments. Use bungee cords attached to the stair railing to secure the tree. Wife cries some more over more broken ornaments. I retreat to my desk to get away from the very tired but wound up kids. Wifey yells because I have to put up the now-empty boxes. I put up the boxes. Family sits around & admire the decorations. I'm still fuming. Take Pepto. Sleep on the couch.

Don't get me started on Christmas!!!!!!!!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Only in America

While I'm sure Larimer County, Colorado, Sheriff Jim Alderen's 3rd annual Apparently Annual Politically Incorrect Christmas Tree Trimming Party was meant to be partly tongue-in-cheek & partly a serious commentary, the good constable may have actually done everyone a favor by being inclusive this year.

According to Coloradoan the sheriff has decided to invite atheists and agnostics from the Colorado Coalition of Reason to be part of the event. That means that along with the overtly religious displays of a nativity scene & a menorah, the Coalition was allowed to display a sign wishing love, illumination and celebration for all during the Winter Solstice. To make matters even more inclusive, a spokesman for the group encouraged attendees to dialogue in order to understand each other's beliefs.

That is, amazingly enough, the thrust of what religious liberty is all about: gov't is not to give any faith a Most Favored Status. All groups get the same treatment from the gov't that represents all people.

Perhaps other gov't entities could learn a lesson from this.