“Billy, do you know what ‘hypocrite’ means?”

19 December, 2008

Back in high school, I was in band, drama club, chorus and chess club (which was actually a D&D club (but we billed it as a chess club so that the Baptists (and the ones even more conservative than the Baptists) wouldn’t freek out)).  Of course, both band and chorus presented Christmas concerts (well, the band did my freshman and first sophomore year but the concerts were cancelled due to lack of audience interest).  The chorus also sang down at Harpers Ferry as part of thier old time Christmas programs.

I actually enjoyed these programs (although I came to hate (hate) the Bell Carol).  Part of it was that I sang first tenor (which means I got to sing the melody).  Part of it was that the songs were (are) fun.  Especially many of the English carols from the late 19th century.

My junior year, I had English class with a teacher who was slightly to the right of Dick Cheney.  She thought that Joe McCarthy was one of the greatest Americans of the 20th century.  She thought Ronald Reagan was too liberal, and that liberals were anti-Christian communists out to destroy America.  Her classes were always good for a laugh.

After the choral Christmas concert, she asked me, “How do you do it?”

“Do what?” 

“Well, I was at the Christmas concert last night.  You looked so Christian singing those carols.  How do you sing  about what you hate without feeling slimey?”

“First, I am a Christian.  I’m a Unitarian.  Second, that really is none of your business.  Third, I don’t hate Christmas.”

“Billy, do you know what ‘hypocrite’ means?”

“Looking at one.”

“To the office.  Now.”

Culturally, I am aa Christian.  I, and my family, celebrate Christmas.  I celebrated Christmas growing up.  We always had a huge tree, lots of presents, a big dinner, stockings hung on the piano (living in Park Service housing, a fireplace was an unrealized dream), the works.

This year, we are heading to Florida for a week to visit (((Wife)))’s family.  They will have a small tree (artificial (have you seen the price of a real tree in Florida?)).  We exchange a few gifts.  We eat lots.  We visit Merritt Island.  We usually spend a day or two at one of the Disney parks. 

Damn.  When I describe it like that, it sounds almost depressingly middle-America boring.

Anyway.  I am an atheist.  I am a cultural-tradition Christian.  Am I, as my right-wing fruitcake English teacher suggested, a hypocrite?

When I celebrate Christmas, I celebrate family.  I celebrate love.  I celebrate the possibility of peace on earth.  I celebrate the idea of tolerance.  I am celebrating the winter solstice (I like more sunshine (though, in Florida, it seems a little redundant)).

I am not celebrating the birth of a mythical saviour.  I am not celebrating god, God, or any gods.  I am not celebrating ‘blessings.’  I am not celebrating a Mithriatic wanna-be. 

Actually, the only reason I am celebrating family, love, and the possibility of peace at the same time that the Christians celebrate a Mass of Christ (not the fictional Christ’s birthday!) (which they celebrate at the end of December in order to steal various pagan winter solstice celebrations) is that my kids get time off from school this time of year.  If they both had a week-and-a-half off in early November, we’d visit (and celebrate) family, love and granola in early November.  Enjoying family at the same time Christians celebrate the zombie’s birth does not make me a hypocrite.  Enjoying some (some!) of the music does not make me a hypocrite.

So to my high school English teacher:  “Thpppt!”



  1. You’re not a hypocrite. The idiots who think Christmas belongs only to those who celebrate it a certain way, which increasingly includes chanting the correct mantra at everybody one meets, are the hypocrites. “Peace on earth and goodwill to men,” indeed. They’re doing far too little to extend either peace or goodwill to those who don’t belong to their club.

  2. Sso you think its ok to just change Christmas one of the three holiest days in the world to be just whatever you want? Christmas exists for one reason and one reason only. It is Jesuses birthday! There is no other reason and has never been no other reason to celebrate December 25. It is Christmas. Notice the first five letters spell Christ! You liberals do this to everything. Something is great. Something is wonderful. So liberals change it into something else and then tell the people who celbrate thre real holiday that they are wrong and that just is not right. Christmas is the birthday of Christ. There is no other reason to celebrate. Family, love, peace were all created by Jesuses birth. Celebrate for the real reason, or don’t celbrate at all!!!

  3. no christmas isn’t about jesus
    christmas is older than your religion

    in Scandinavia it’s jul (yule) no christ there

  4. mikko don’t let these liberal atheists who hate the one true oving God fool you. They write about yule or celebrateing Jupiter (who was Zeus) or Bacchus at Christmas time but there was never any celebration at the end of December until Jesuses birth on December 25. Then all the pagans and satan worshippers and God-haters took Christmas and tried to take it away from Christians who love and fear the one true loving God. The same thing is happening today. The God-haters atheists jews muslims and other satan-worshippers are trying to take Christmas away from the Christians by redefining what Christmas is. Christmas is and always was and always shall be the birthday of my and your savior Jesus Christ through the miraculous virgin birth and the miracle of His life. All must accept the love of the one true God and fear His righteous wrath or be damened for all eternity in firey pits of hell. May God’s love and forgiveness find you.

  5. …. Is a pretty good example of the folks who really only know about their religion and really don’t know much about that, if this isn’t a spoof.

    I don’t think you’re a hypocrite at all, (((BillY))). Xmas eve and day I will be pretty busy. Xmas eve I will be playing with a flautist I know at an evening service, and then another service at where my wife goes. I’m looking forward to that one, a lot of people there don’t like me and it’s always fun to provide them with something for free that they wouldn’t pay you to do and watch the looks on their faces.

    Xmas day will be busy for me as well. I am a member of a hobby mariachi band. There is a new but fairly large Hispanic community here and there is a baptist church which many go to which will be having a day long activity and celebration and our group will be playing throughout the day. The different traditions of the places the folks are from will all be touched on and it will for me simply be fun and satisfying as well to do something for someone I like. No, I am not Hispanic, either.

    My own birthday is 25 December and I’m not supposed to know it, but those people, most of whom I’ve never met, will have a cake for me and I will get to swing at the pinata while blind folded. Entertainment, I guess, since I have a very screwed up sense of balance to begin with, will be blind folded, and spun around. After that, turn me loose waving a stick around. This promises badly…I LOVE IT!

    It is not hypocritical to wish people you like well or help them celebrate their joy … voluntarily, I’ll qualify.

    My father’s birthday was 7 January (‘Old’ Christmas) and as I said mine is, in fact 25 December. Every year that I can remember, this one included, I have been told that a birthday like mine is an “insult to god”. It is presumptuous to have the same birthday, and such an act (presumeably of divine lese’majesty)should be punished here and now, and will be certainly punished in the hereafter.

    Sounds like buddies of …..

  6. i am an atheist and i live in one of the most secular countries in the world (Sweden) (fred phelbs really hates us) 🙂

  7. Am I the only one who thinks the nameless … is certifiable and should be locked in an institution with a bunch of head doctors and armed guards before he hurts someone?

    Okay, probably I am. But his (or her) brain is definitely dysfunctional. Maybe held underwater too long at his baptism? Maybe hit in the head too many times in childhood?

    And did any of these … kinds of people ever go to school and learn English grammar and spelling?

    A mind is a terrible thing to waste, but the Christians seem to make it part of their creed to destroy the critical faculties of human minds.

    As always, I shall be forever grateful when this ridiculous holiday is over. I’m sick of the constant whine from the media about the poor merchants not making their quotas.

  8. I’ve actually been struggling with that issue this season. For the first time since realizing I was an atheist I am singing in a choir. It is (nominally) a civic choir (led by a church choir director at his church and including 95% religious music).

    I love singing; I love the work and emotion I put into it. Most of time that’s enough for me, but every once in a while it pisses me off that apparently I can’t enjoy myself without having crammed down my throat bull**it made up by an institution I seriously dislike.

    I wish there was some way around it…

  9. Chappie: I view Christmas as a family celebration. No way is that hypocritical. Glad you agree.

    …..: The early church placed Christmas (the Mass of Christ) on December 25 in order to displace Saturnalia and Jule celebrations. It was a very effective tactic to just say, “You’re celebrating at the right time, but not about the right thing.” At no time did the early church claim it was Jesus’ birthday. That came much later. Please read more than one book. And you will find few ‘god-haters’ or ‘satan-worshippers’ here. Why would any of us hate or worship something which does not exist?

    Mikko: Welcome to my blog. Glad you could stop by. A celebration around the winter solstice makes more sense the further north you live.

    Sarge: Sounds like a fun holiday. I play trumpet and have always admired the light full sound of mariachi style trumpet. And happy birthday, Sarge (a little early).

    Mikko: Then again, Fred Phelps hates anyone who is not a member of his family.

    Ric: As for ….’s mind, who knows. But I’m glad the conversations are through comments, not live. Obviously, Ric, you need to go and buy your cats some diamond collars. Help the poor merchants, y’know.

    Kate: I’ve learned to just accept the cognitive dissonance and enjoy the music I enjoy. Handel’s Messiah, The Little Drummer Boy, Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer all have something going for them. Gregorian chants, though incredibly religious, are both beautiful and enjoyable to sing (for me — (((Wife))) can’t stand them). My way of dealing with it in chorus was to pretend I was singing in a foreign language, ignore the words, and enjoy the melody and chords. It worked for me.

  10. Kate, do what makes you happy. Sing and enjoy, don’t worry about it.

    I go to Bluegrass jams and a good half of the music is gospel. So what? I always have a great time and my banjo and fiddle technique have come a long way because of it.

    Our civil war band plays both xmas music in season and we play for church services at reenactments. I’ve arranged most of the music, direct it, it is part of what’s done for the group. I confess that I get a big charge out of how many times the rather fundy pastors tell the young folks in our group that they should be glad that they’re around me, a fine example of a christian man. Most of the kids can avoid braying with laughter in their faces now, they can make it about fifty feet before they start laughing.

    I need music, just about any music, and if you deprive yourself you’re not doing yourself any favor. If you like the people in the choir and the singing, that’s all you need, my honey.

  11. I second Sarge. He said it much better than I.

  12. Thanks for the words Sarge & (((Billy))). I’m fine with it for the most part-it’s just sometimes I think about it for a second and it throws me for a loop. But the singing more than makes up for it.

  13. Kate, look at the showing of “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas”. The author was not a christian, yet he wrote quite an opus, I think. He speaks of “christmas”, but it seems the definition is open. It celebrates in the main (my take at least) kindness and generosity. And both of those commodities, as demonstrated by …. are scarce as rocking horse shit. That’s the way I try to view what I di on xmas.

  14. Sarge, I have always loved the Grinch (the animated one (I refuse to watch the new one)). It speaks much more strongly about celebrating the connection between people than of religion.

    Plus who doesn’t love Max the dog? 😀

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