Merry $mas

December 22, 2010

Among other things, the Bible is all about refraining from idol worship. Ask fourth graders about their idols. Football players. Pop stars. Cartoons. Some anorexic chick on the front of Seventeen magazine.

How many would name Jesus as their idol? A few I suppose. You know, those poor Catholic school kids haunted by raised rulers and swirling wrath.

Who else? How many of you adults consider Jesus an idol? Is that your only one? What about those miraculous Spanx keeping you smooth in your Christmas dress?

I’m in a cafe listening to these materialistic but entertaining women discuss their diamond rings, their bags, etc. This isn’t anything new especially in an affluent part of the country (this isn’t as big of an issue in Mid-Michigan), but it’s hilarious because many of these women are the type of women who claim Christianity because it too is a symbol.

These women will park their Land Rovers in a church lot Friday or Saturday, walk their little designer boots (type varies according to region) into the lobby — excuse me,  first their husband or some other obligated man will open the door for them so as not to disturb the tall skinny latte in their right hands or the behemoth bags resting on their left forearms — rush into the prayer room or whatever it is, daydream during the service while sipping said latte and get the hell out before the dreadful “meet your neighbor moment.”

Perhaps I’m projecting myself on others but, according to the Washington Post, retail revenues are up 5.5 percent from 2009 this Christmas season and, at least where I come from, this revenue is supporting other idols — clothes, cars, engagement rings, vacations. Anything but Jesus.

I’m having a really hard time getting through the rest of the Bible so I need to grab hold of randomness like idol worship. The girl sitting across from me has on Nike with a big swoosh, a Mountain Hardwear fleece, a Droid and Fossil jeans. I hate when companies place their labels on the outside of clothing, but if I put my clothes on inside out today, same situation.

Unless I missed the glowing bulbs, reindeer holding birdhouses (?), santas and creepy nutcrackers snuggled in the manger with Jesus in the middle of the New Testament, every single person in this cafe is worshiping some anti-Christ idol.

My parents’ house looks like the North Pole. Every room, every blanket, every picture, every decoration replaced by something Christmas-like. It’s fantastic. However none of it has anything to do with Jesus. Admittidly, we’re not relgious. My dad went to Catholic school, an abusive and terrifying experience, but us kids are heathens.

My mom tried to give us a dose of Jesus (it’s his birthday after all), but it didn’t work. For a few years, she  kept this horrid painting of Jesus in the guest room. Eventually we convinced her to get rid of it. I literally couldn’t fall asleep with that sadistic Mona Lisa looking at me.

A few days ago, I asked my mom what happened to creepy Jesus. She said she didn’t know so I asked if she had anything other than the glittery angel ornaments my sister and I made when we were kids in any of the six of 11 first-floor rooms decorated for “Christmas.”

We searched. This is what we found. Upside down. Behind a ladder in the garage.

Out of respect I cleaned up the poor guy, righted him, but couldn’t do anything about the crack in the glass.

This is Christmas. Right? Obviously the commercialization of Christ is as old as the day is long but every year it blows my mind and I have to write about it especially because Christians are not supposed to worship other idols.

I have some idols, none of which have to do with Christ but so does everyone else so what happens to those Christians? Are they nixed? So American Christians don’t exist?

Well, at least we can be charitable during the season, think of other people and their hardships. I do it all the time. I mean, my heart bleeds for the guy sitting across from me. Here I am clicking away on a Mac while he clunks away on a TOSHIBA! I have no idea how the poor soul gets any work done.

Stopping Point: Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians

Ah, holidays. What could be better?

Holidays were created to celebrate dysfunction. It’s OK. All families are dysfunctional even the “normal” ones — it’s called denial. Don’t stress out about, enjoy it. You’re in good company. Jesus’ family was screwy too.

In the New Testament, four men give a version of the gospel. You can glean anything you want from any of them. I think Matthew is dry, Mark is dark and Luke is wonderful. His writing is interesting and he details good old family pandemonium.

Based on Luke’s account, the following characters likely attended a Jesus family holiday:

Elizabeth — An old woman who owes her unexpected pregnancy to an angel.

Zechariah — Elizabeth’s old, mute husband who sits in a temple to avoid confronting his wife’s “conversation” with the angel that prophesized her pregnancy.

Mary — A young virgin who cannot figure out how she got pregnant. Gosh darn it. I hate when that happens. Wait a minute…

Joseph — A passive-aggressive young man who retaliates against Mary, his pregnant virgin bride, by wrapping her offspring in a blanket and dumping him in a wooden box.

Jesus — The only 12-year-old in history who sneaks out of his parents’ home to help people. An overachiever, he leaves home at 30, which is typical among intellectuals.

John the Baptist — A somewhat bossy old man who throws water at people.

Judas — A traitor.

Martha and Mary — Feuding sisters.

Unfaithful Servants — The thousands of people relegated to the children’s table.

I wish Youtube existed in B.C. I’m sure it would outshine the Griswold Family Christmas freak out.

The Hap Hap Happiest Christmas

*Disclosure. This contains an f-bomb. Sorry. Unavoidable.

Everyone has some tip about how to survive the holidays. They include; keeping alcoholics and drug addicts off the invite list; creating boundaries (good luck to you); making realistic choices; setting low expectations; committing to a four-day food coma; and viewing life as a series of absurdities.

Jesus says “…a family divided against itself falls apart,” which is a fancy way of advising families to stick together.

I, on the other hand, advise a light heart and saturated liver.

Strap in. The race begins Thursday.

Stopping Point: The Gospel According to John

If we walked among the prophets, there’s no way God would stand for such as thing as National Bullying Prevention Month, a lengthy, touchy-feely strike against bullying. On the other hand, God’s prophet Jeremiah would likely accept a position as National Bullying Prevention Month spokesman.

You see, at this point in the Bible, God was extremely upset with people for worshiping idols and ignoring him. As punishment, he vowed to slaughter them, smash them like jars full of wine, starve them and kill them with disease. His prophet, Jeremiah, the sweet, marrying kind, was devastated by God’s wrath and wept for the people, but was too afraid of God to go his own way. Because both were so extreme in their emotions, God appears to be a bully and Jeremiah the victim.

Unfortunately, we tend to focus on the extreme, which is why things like National Bullying Prevention Month exist.  Extreme instances of bullying are not a joke. These instances — 16-Year Old Muslim Beating; Four Teen Suicides in Ohio;  — are reprehensible and the people responsible for them should be severely punished. That being said, 21st Century America is overly sensitive.

There’s no reason to dedicate a month to something the everyone has experienced especially since those experiences are generally mild. If you’ve gone to elementary school or survived puberty, chances are you’ve been “bullied” or what we old fogies might refer to as “teased” and/or “made fun of.”

I have a fat face and when I was in fifth and sixth grade I was a tomboy and spent recess playing basketball with the boys. When I exercise, my round little ball face reddens. Unfortunately for me, side ponytails were the rage during my tomboy phase and after a particularly strenuous game, one of the boys told me the combination of my red round face and side ponytail reminded him of a cherry.

I’ve been made fun of for wearing a bolo tie and being a bookworm but my worst bulling moments occurred in junior. I was teased non-stop by a group of girls in junior high school. After I rounded out and switched social groups, they stopped teasing me.  One even asked if I wanted to be jumped into her gang. I’m not into teardrop tattoos so I declined.

I was never physically harmed like Ralphie in a “A Christmas Story.”

A Christmas Story – Bullying Clip

But, like Ralphie, I survived. We were kids. We got bullied. It happens.

Ralphie Loses It

If we’re going to start setting aside a months to recognize extreme situations, why not create a “National White Collar Criminal Roundup Month;” “National Political Accountability Month;” or “National Spend Less Than You Earn Month”?

Normalizing extreme situations is extremely dangerous. In between God’s threats and Jeremiah’s emotional breakdown, a reasonable outcome exists. But because the back-and-forth focuses on two extremes, it’s difficult to see the reasonable middle ground.

If we, as a society, could stop swinging between freaking out and not caring, we wouldn’t need things like National Bullying Prevention Month. We also wouldn’t cave to political wedge issues or overact to people who think differently than we do. I’m not one for ideals, but it would be great if we could just moderate. Everything in moderation.

This, of course, is coming from Little Mrs. All or Nothing. We’ve all got a little work to do.

Stopping Point: Book of Jeremiah, 31-52

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