“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?”
“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!”