Thursday, December 21, 2006

Ho! Ho! Ho! Whatever

Alternate title: Beware Greeks bearing gifts

All this goodwill to men (and women) stuff has ol' Spotty thrown completely off balance. If it wasn't for the astringent slap of a column from Katie on the Christmas War, Spot might even be harboring some thoughts of a Christian and charitable nature. But when contemplating an avatar of the faith like Katie, such thoughts rapidly evaporate.

Katie's proposition today is that everyone should celebrate and say "Merry Christmas" because it has become a secular holiday and drained of religious meaning. Gosh even prominent atheists think so:
When an outspoken atheist such as [Richard] Dawkins says "Merry Christmas," we may be reaching a consensus. American popular culture has appropriated Christmas, as it has Thanksgiving, and drained it of religious meaning. So can Christian believers and nonbelievers share nothing this "holiday season" beyond family gatherings, feasts and a vague sense that "it's all too commercial?" Or is there something more substantial to the Christmas message that we can all celebrate together?
What does Katie think we can all celebrate? That the Baby Jesus was the original proto-democrat:
It's useful here to think back to what the world was like before the dawn of the Christian era. In ancient times -- from Egypt and Mesopotamia to Greece and Rome -- the idea of human equality was utterly foreign. Then the baby was born in the manger. The gospels say that there was no room at the inn, and that the news was first given to poor shepherds. Christ's birth was a glimmer of light in history, which became a tectonic shift whose consequences have changed the world.
Sweet Jesus soap on a rope! Spot's busy mixing up his special egg nog today, so he won't take the time to run this a-historical codswallop entirely to ground, boys and girls, but please just consider the following:
By the time of Aristotle (fourth century BC) there were hundreds of Greek democracies. Greece in those times was not a single political entity but rather a collection of some 1,500 separate poleis or 'cities' scattered round the Mediterranean and Black Sea shores 'like frogs around a pond', as Plato once charmingly put it. Those cities that were not democracies were either oligarchies - where power was in the hands of the few richest citizens - or monarchies, called 'tyrannies' in cases where the sole ruler had usurped power by force rather than inheritance. Of the democracies, the oldest, the most stable, the most long-lived, but also the most radical, was Athens.
This quote is from a web page article of the BBC. And until the Enlightenment (and maybe even after it), Christianity was used primarily as a political force to foster the idea of the divine right of kings--not exactly a precept of human equality. It was our Deist Founders who had had enough.
There are several things about Katie's column that frost Spot, but maybe this one most:
Jesus' teachings introduced a new idea into European history -- that every individual, no matter how lowly, has inherent dignity. This notion, and related ideas of equality and personal freedom, coalesced over the centuries to form the foundation of democracy. They fundamentally shaped America -- from the Declaration of Independence's "self-evident" truths, to Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, to Martin Luther King Jr.'s ringing "Letter from Birmingham Jail." [italics are Spot's]
Martin Luther King's letter, for those of you who may not remember, was written in reaction to the call by white clergy in Birmingham to end the bus boycott. From an earlier post by Spot:
You have to wonder what Gena Bound's ancestors thought about Christian justification of slavery and the apartheid system in South Africa, or maybe the efforts of the white preachers to get Martin Luther King, Jr. to end the Birmingham bus boycott, rebutted so famously by King in his letter from the Birmingham jail.
From the time that Emperor Constantine conquered Rome under the sign of the cross, organized Christianity has been all about the status quo. Spot wrote about this too, last year, in He's not the only reason.
What Katie is trying to do of course is to give credit to Christmas for western civilization. Right, Katie. Didn't the Baby Jesus also invent the printing press and the telegraph?
Happy Solstice everybody!
Update: Spot made a couple of small edits for clarity.

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