Letter: 'Merry Christmas' isn't everything

Dec. 27, 2013 @ 12:05 AM

Editor,

(During the Christmas season) Mountain Press readers are treated to tales of persecution from our fellow faithful, who are not rendered the appropriate religious salute. These ostensible Christians object only to the inconsistent presence of the moniker “Christmas” upon the collective self-engorgement of retailing into which Christmas has morphed, not the irreligious gluttony itself.

We are told that an omnipresent display of outward piety is the mark of righteousness, not whether our actions either warrant or are conducive to a “Merry Christmas,” let alone to His will being done on Earth. We are diligent in swearing upon the gold of the big-box altar.

This smallness contrasts sharply with our wealth, power, and lack of substantive grievances compared to those of our ancestors. Herod’s search and destroy mission can be remembered only if the offended squint closely enough at today’s intolerably generic postage stamp or store greeting, and so they do. In truth, the infant Christ’s new existential threat is suffocation under an ocean of plastic distractions and spiritually toxic advertising. Of this we hear not a whisper of dissent from our cultural guardians, whether from a Mountain Press letter-writer angered by the lack of conspicuous Christian iconography, or the adjacent ghost-written Bill O’Reilly columns, dripping with confected outrage.

These are the symptoms of a sick culture that is attuned to taking offense, not taking responsibility. A culture that needs, for its fossilized self-definition, to feel persecuted, no matter how awash in wealth and privilege we become, so distant from those first Christians with deadly serious challenges of identity, survival, and salvation. The powers we have attained in the interim demand spiritual and moral maturity, not petty cultural brinksmanship. Whether we take seriously our capacity to nurture or destroy one another and the Creation is the measure of whether we honor and sanctify what Christians believe is the divine entrance into human form, not whether we pronounce a magic word.

Jim Steitz

Gatlinburg