How to win the war on Christmas

The war on Christmas is real. Some Christians suspect that the “war on Christmas” is just a symptom of a “war on Christians”, and they might be right. Christians are being mislead who is really behind it. There’s been a lot of propaganda to blame it on Muslims, in order to foment a war between Christians and Muslims that the Muslims are favored to win. Actually, it has to do with your own ruling class who set up the confrontation. Except for Wahabists in Saudi Arabia, and among them only the leadership—a tiny minority—the vast majority of Muslims worldwide don’t care if Christians celebrate Christmas. There are problems in Pakistan too, but that’s largely due to Saudi Arabs who ended up there after waging jihad in neighboring Afghanistan. They’re the same ones who blew up the Buddhist statues in the Bamiyan valley, so don’t feel too singled out.

Contrary to propaganda you might have heard, the Islamic Republic of Iran does not persecute Christians or interfere with their religious observations. Here’s a traditional Christmas celebration in Iran, broadcast by the state television network:

You can find more of them from private sources, so it’s not “Potemkin Village” propaganda.

Aleppo, Syria, has a large Christian population. Their Muslim neighbors don’t stop them from celebrating Christmas, only Saudi-backed ISIS did that while it occupied the country. Aside: please notice the colors on the flags, and compare them to the colors you see on flags in the institutional media. You are constantly being lied to regarding what really happened there. Your ruling class secretly sponsors ISIS; one of their objectives was to wipe out religious and ethnic minorities from Syria and Iraq in order to placate the xenophobic Saudis and ostensibly stabilize the region under Saudi rule.

It would be strange if Buddhists generally were offended by Christmas, given that typical Buddhist practices include training themselves not to react negatively to their experiences, and practicing empathy. Buddhist-majority countries like Thailand typically tolerate Christmas celebrations by Christian minorities.

There are some Hindu nationalists who resent religious minorities, but not a critical mass of them to impact Christmas celebrations in Goa and other Christian enclaves of India.

The Chinese government is repressive, but Chinese culture per se has long been fairly tolerant of many different religious practices, usually casual and often mixed together. In some parts of China Christmas is fairly jolly and more ostentatious than in the USA.

As far as I can tell, even most atheists don’t object to a secularized Christmas that many of them choose to celebrate. That might be a problem in itself since it displaces the actual religious holiday, but the two can certainly co-exist to the extent that practitioners are mindful of secularization and commercialization of their own practices. In other words, nobody’s forcing Frosty the Snowman on you.

Regardless of widespread tolerance for Christmas among most non-Christians, it’s pretty obvious that there are some influential people and groups who find Christmas distasteful. Instead of wallowing in self-pity, or groveling for acceptance of your holidays, I suggest a much different approach. One that might actually improve the situation. But first, bear with me as I put the situation into perspective, which has a lot to do with how the situation actually came into being.

Imagine a society in which:

  • Christians are mostly peasants or low-skilled workers.
  • Christians are not welcome at 1st or 2nd-tier universities, regardless of grades or test scores, especially not if their religious affiliation is easy to spot, such as if they graduated from a Christian high-school. It’s worth noting that in the Soviet Union, the lack of welcome was explicit.
  • If they do get in, they’ll keep their religious affiliations quiet.
  • There have been instances of professors harassing students for their Christian beliefs, and in a few cases, they’ve been expelled.
  • When Christians do become prosperous, they usually stop observing, and possibly even become hostile to their former affiliates.
  • Christians are relatively sparse among the professional classes compared to their numbers in the general population, and other-than-Christians are much more heavily represented relative to their numbers in the general population.
  • The few professionals who are Christian tend to keep quiet about it, out of fear or shame.
  • Aside from appearances for the sake of pretending to have something in common with average people, the political and ruling classes are almost entirely non-religious, and the highest of their ranks are almost entirely atheistic.
Showed up in an Afroamerican church with a photographer, then handed story to publicist, while exploring feasibility of political campaign. What do you think?
Photo courtesy Presidência do México (Flickr) via Wikimedia Commons

All of these bullet points are or have been true in various times and places. The ruling classes in most of the western countries have been usually been somewhere in the range between casually practicing but not particularly devout, to profoundly atheistic, for some centuries now. Scholars have noticed that some of them used formulaic God-talk in public speeches, but rarely or not at all in private letters. There have been some notable exceptions, but that’s just it, they were exceptions. Nowadays if anything the rule has fewer exceptions.

The Christlich Demokratische Union Deutschlands is a blatant fraud; the party marketed itself as Christian as a trust-building measure in the aftermath of WW2. This is a secular party actively replacing the Christian population of Germany with Muslim immigrants and shutting down or secularizing traditional public displays of Christian culture.

It’s also worth noting that the religion which the rich and famous and the political classes no longer practice is often something other than Christianity. These days a lot of them have pedigrees that never included any Christians.

What I am trying to get at is

Christians are an underclass in most countries where they live. More to the point, increasingly they are an unappreciated and even unwanted underclass. It has long been an illusion that the people in charge are like you and care about you and about the same things you care about. It doesn’t make sense to simultaneously accept an inferior role AND complain about losing the culture wars to post-Modernists and neoMarxists; things are going against you because you don’t run the system, you take orders and contribute to your own demise.

That’s an observation intended to be helpful, not critical. Some Christians have a sense that they should be an underclass, like the kinds of people that Jesus ministered to. If that’s the case, they have no basis to complain about the war on Christmas (or Christians), which explains their passivity. Regardless, that’s the basis of your war on Christmas. Your ruling class is overwhelmingly non-Christian, and furthermore, even the ones whose ancestors practiced Christianity are ashamed to associate with you.

If Christians believe that they should be poor, it turns into a self-fulfilling prophesy. You will never become prosperous unless you seek prosperity. You’ll never seek prosperity unless it occurs to you to do so.

Are Christians obliged to be poor, according to the gospels? Here are some Gospel stories and references that have been (mis?)interpreted that way:

  • The story of the rich man and Lazarus
  • The story of the rich man who congratulated himself for his abundant harvest and planned a life of luxury and ease, only to “lose his soul” that evening
  • The saying that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven
  • Jesus telling the rich young man to sell all his possessions and give the money to the poor

Calvinistic sects of Christianity tend to have the opposite idea: they tend to believe that wealth is a sign of God’s favor. One peculiarity of Calvinistic Christian sects is that they were early to ignore the Biblical prohibition on lending money for interest. As a result, they were early participants in the banking industry and therefor capitalism generally. One specific Calvinistic sect adhering to Dominionism goes further and asserts that Christians should actually take over and become the ruling class. (This is a lightning-rod for outrage, but to me seems no worse than the ruling class that actually is being the ruling class. You’ll report to one boss or another, and it’s to your advantage to report to a ruling class that is at least somewhat similar to yourself).

The result was not, however, Christian domination of wealth and finance but instead, former Christians abandon their religious practice wholesale as they become wealthier and obtain formal education from what are now overtly anti-Christian universities.

Often it turns into a strange cycle:

  • Poor people are more religious, and have more children, than rich people.
  • Some of them become rich.
  • If so they abandon religion.
  • Sometimes they devolve into coke-snorting party animals (ie, more present-oriented).
  • They stop having children, or sometimes if they do have any, they revert to poverty after the family wealth has been squandered.
  • They are replaced by formerly poor and religious people who repeat the cycle.

The full cycle usually takes several generations: grampa worked hard and put his children through college, dad got rich, son was lazy wastrel who lived off dad and then his inheritance, great-grandson (if any) grows up fatherless and impoverished.

Similar cycles occur among other religious sects, including ones that don’t embrace poverty as a virtue. It probably has to do with a correlation between religious practice or belief and present versus future-orientation, but the correlation is segmented:

  • Specific Christian sects that emphasize that your fate is a result of Divine action, instead of your own choices, tend to be present-oriented and tend to stay poor.
  • Other religious sects, Christian or otherwise, that emphasize more of a sense of conscientiousness and responsibility, that give their adherents reasons to look forward to rather than fear the future (ie, death), tend to be more future-oriented, produce better performers, and often accumulate wealth and education.
  • More generally, wealth is strongly correlated to specific religious affiliations. Zoroastrians aka Mazdayani are some of the wealthiest people on earth per-capita. Reform Jews include the highest concentration of billionaires worldwide. Hindus in the USA have the highest per-capita income but I suspect not net worth. I’m the other way around; high net worth but modest income. Lousy at finding compelling reasons for other people to give me money except when they make the mistake of taking the other side of a wager in asset markets.

The success of those who accumulate wealth and education erodes as first it’s passed along to generations that didn’t earn it themselves. They lose faith in future rewards, start becoming very present-oriented, and succumb to the temptation to pursue wealth for the sake of hedonism or power, and to assume or at least hope that hedonistic pleasures or power over others will lead to lasting happiness and fulfillment. Wealth is spiritually dangerous because it leads to temptations poor people don’t have to worry about. That’s what the Gospel is warning you about. Poor people don’t have to worry about cocaine addictions, high-maintenance mistresses, obsessions about money, or abusing their employees.

Poverty is not a virtue. The poor simply have fewer choices and temptations. If you’re impotent, chastity isn’t a virtue. Being virtuous is when you make good choices despite bad ones being within easy reach.

You could, as a conscious choice, pursue prosperity as a way of having choices and power to do good, without illusions that being rich will make you happy, or feel fulfilled.

Imagine:

  • Having lots of money in the bank and not spending it on reasons to be happy.
  • Being grateful for what you already have.
  • Saving money for opportunities when they happen.
  • Having money to have choices.
  • Doing what you want to do for a living, instead of what you have to do for a living. This will contribute far more to your happiness than “stuff”.
  • Leveraging your wealth for good. You could, for example, own a company that sells people products that improve their lives, employ people who need jobs, and treat your employees respectfully.

Now, how this strategy applies to Christmas:

  • Don’t buy stuff, from people who don’t respect you, with money you don’t have, for people who don’t want it, hoping they’ll reciprocate with feelings they don’t have.
  • If the beneficiaries of your gifts reciprocate at all, it will be with an ugly tie.
  • People love you, or not, because of the way they feel when you are in their lives.
  • Avoid giving wives, kids, or friends stuff. Give them your time and attention.
  • If you must give gifts for face-saving reasons, give small token gifts that will contribute to their enjoyment of life.
  • Preferably, things that aren’t bad for them, like candy or booze. Don’t give vices as gifts.
  • Don’t host extravagant parties.
  • Don’t buy gifts if you are already in debt! Tell your friends and family that you can’t afford gifts, because it’s the truth.
  • Don’t borrow money for gifts and entertaining! Don’t shop with a credit card!

Something I have heard is that the best gifts are things that people would buy for themselves. The problem with this theory is that they already do.

Even when they don’t, I’ve heard:

Don’t buy me anything. Give me the money so that I can buy myself exactly what I want.

People used to be ashamed to sound entitled like that, but they’re not anymore. Now we know what they really think.

Headline news:

An alarming number of shoppers are still paying off debt from last Christmas

Majority Of Americans Would Skip Holiday Gift-Giving, Survey Says

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — For many people, giving and receiving gifts are one of the big parts of the holidays. However, a new survey shows that 69 percent of Americans would skip exchanging gifts if their family and friends agreed to it. The survey, conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of SunTrust Bank, also showed that 60 percent of those surveyed said they would spend more time with friends and family if they didn’t have to worry about buying or making gifts.

Then celebrate Christmas in ways that are meaningful (that usually means “non-commercial”):

  • Take your kids to visit elders. Sing carols to them like people used to do in the old days.
  • Take a goodie-bag to a sick friend or relative.
  • Call or write to someone you know to be lonely. When people are lonely, there’s usually a reason, such as having little value to offer others in exchange for their time and attention. So you give them enough time to make a call or letter and expect nothing in return.
  • Be kind and respectful to someone you don’t particularly like.
  • Invite military personnel to your home for Christmas supper.
  • Or buy gifts of necessary items (eg warm cloths) for military orphans.
  • Dedicate your acts of service to the Divine.

It’s a win-win situation. Your lower-key Christmas will attract less unwanted resentment. It’s less expensive, so it doesn’t contribute to impoverishing you and thereby relegating you to a despised underclass. And you put the meaning back into it, to make it really a special time of year, instead of a disappointment that makes people grumpy and depressed.

Enjoy a safe & jolly CHRISTMAS.

Namaste! The Divine within me honors the Divine within you. I tell stories about lessons I've learned the hard way. Follow @KalkinTrivedi on Twitter.

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