Tuesday 28 November 2006

10 Bad Reasons to go "Bah, humbug!"

Unlike some of the articles the GN crew write, I usually take time to read Scott Ashley's stuff. Not to say I agree with him much, but judging from past correspondence he's a polite and generous spirited fellow. Melvin Rhodes I avoid. If I wanted right-wing rhetoric and Gingrich quotes (oops, sorry Mel, I mean MISTER Gingrich) I could read WorldNetDaily.

Anyway, in the latest GN Scott has reworked an ancient article from Tomorrow's World (the WCG one, not the pallid imitation from LCG) on why reasonable folk should shun the seasonal festivities of Xmas. I could be wrong, but I believe David John Hill churned out the original version in the early seventies. At the time I was mightily impressed.

So here's Scott's updated Ten Reasons, with some impertinent personal comments attached:

(1) Christmas is driven by commercialism. Indubitably. But so is Mothers Day.

(2) Christmas is nowhere mentioned in the Bible. Very true. Nor is Independence Day, Queen's Birthday, Labour Day or Waitangi Day (feel free to choose whichever relates to your jurisdiction.) Oh, and nor is Mothers Day.

(3) Jesus wasn't born on or near Dec. 25. Agreed. Then again, those of us in the Dominions loyal to Her Majesty (God bless 'er) officially celebrate her natal day on a date other than her actual birthday. Is that a problem?

(4) The Christmas holiday is largely a recycled pagan celebration. Absolutely. But so are the Old Testament Holy Days. Agricultural festivals were deeply rooted in the culture of the Middle East, and versions of Tabernacles, Pentecost and so forth all had their parallels in older fertility celebrations: check out any half-decent reference work. If it was good enough for God to recycle those dubious events, what's the beef with Mithras' birthday? Plenty of precedent!

(5) God condemns using pagan customs to worship him. Yes indeed. But if you take a pagan custom (an agricultural festival in the Autumn perhaps) and retread it with new significance, then it obviously isn't a pagan custom any more.

(6) Christmas is worshipping God in vain. Um, no. Not unless you believe worshipping God with genuine motives is capable of being in vain. If you think that, then you've confused means with ends. Can honest, loving acts of praise and thankfulness ever be in vain?

(7) You can't put Christ back into something He was never in. This is just slogan splitting. "Let's put Christ back into Xmas" is a PR line, probably dreamed up by an American ad agency, and I agree with Scott that it's not a very good one. But hold it, what if we said "let's put Christ back in the center of our family life"? Sound any better? But Christ was apparently a bachelor who on one occasion snubbed his dear old mum and siblings (Mark 3:31-35.) Does that mean that the thought behind the saying is wrong? If people "regard the day" in the sense Paul speaks of, who's to say Christ isn't there for them?

(8) The Bible nowhere tells us to observe a holiday celebrating Jesus Christ's birth - but it clearly does tell us to commemorate His death. The Bible nowhere tells men to wear suits and ties to Sabbath services - but this doesn't worry Richard Pinelli overmuch. The Bible nowhere mentions Winter Sports festivals for teens, SEPs or talent shows. Setting Christmas in opposition to the Lord's Supper is sheer sleight of hand: the two go together quite nicely.

(9) Christmas obscures God's plan for mankind. Oh, come on. If the festivals so clearly portray "God's plan", how come Judaism seems to have missed the obvious? Anyone who thinks this argument holds water should do a little reading on the significance Jews find in their festivals. Regrettably, to quote Scott out of context, the COG festivals are "a hodge-podge of unbiblical customs and beliefs thrown together with a few elements of biblical truth." I mean, does even Scott erect a booth in his back yard to celebrate Tabernacles the Biblical way?

(10) I'd rather celebrate the Holy Days Jesus Christ and the apostles observed. Okay, first valid reason. It's a choice, a preference, and fair enough. However I'm not so sure you could argue that Paul continued to observe the Holy Days, but that's opening up a whole extra issue.

Actually, I'm not fussed about Xmas. Those carols in the stores drive me nuts. But I recollect Xmases past when, as a kid, the extended clan would gather, the smell of pine needles in the house, the excitement of waking early on Xmas morning, shelling pea-pods as my part in the feast of home grown produce accompanying a roast meal, the pulling of Christmas crackers and the cautious consumption of Xmas pudding drowned in custard and cream (cautious because there were "thruppences" buried in that thing and you could break a tooth!) Pagan? C'mon Scott, get a grip.


Anonymous said...

As a Catholic friend of mine says, we don't need to just put Christ back in Christmas -- we need to put the Mass back in Christmas. ;-)

Anonymous said...

I've never understood the significance of Halloween and Christmas being "pagan". I grew up in the WCG on Saturday and a different protestant church on Sunday. (Two parents, different beliefs.) I heard all the rhetoric about paganism but all I knew was that Halloween allowed me to dress funny, act goofy, and score some candy. Christmas often meant visits with grandparents and presents and decorating a Christmas tree (although not in my parents' house). I can see no way that God can be unhappy with the spirit of those holidays as we celebrated them.

The COG argument to that, I think, is that my thoughts are not God's thoughts. Fair enough. Perhaps he has some (to me, not understandable) reason why I should not participate in those holidays. Does he hold my lack of understanding against me? It's interesting to me that COGers (at least in the past) portray God so much more viciously then he is portrayed in the Bible itself. Where did this come from? Read the Old Testament. For every plague and "kill every one of them" order there are pages of exhortation to justice and mercy, and enormous amounts of grace. As I've said in the past, I really don't think the God portrayed in COG tradition and theology matches the God in the Bible. It's a corrupted picture of God.

Douglas Becker said...

What's the big deal?

United isn't a real church, it just plays at being a church.

Actually the UCG is just a social club [albeit one which provides salary and pension for its Church Corporate Executives].

xMas is the time of year for the Winter Games in the UCG. Without it, United would have to fall back on just having the Feast of Tabernacles for the people to rise up and have fun....

Anonymous said...

Well, I think Xmas (in today's society) obscures Christianity similar to how the law obscures grace. At least the law served a purpose and had a function, unlike the questionable celebration of Jesus birth. I believe Xmas clouds Jesus Christ by parading meaningless eye candy and obligatory gifting to the average American. Still falls into "vanity of vanities" for me.

Anonymous said...

Xmas, like any of the feast days are a reason to eat, drink, and be merry. It is what mankind has always done!

Both started out as special days for the groups participating. But like anything, they evolve into something quite different from the original idea.

Xmas pagan? Yes.
Feast days pagan? Yes.

Everything is pagan on the earth! In the past, man used religion to explain away the unknown. As man evolved in the intellectual sphere, science began to explained what religion attempted to.

The whole idea of religion seems to be most laughable at best. Granted, everyone wants answers to the big questions that we all have, but having a faith in one idea and hard facts for the same, which are you to embrace?

The answer reveals much about the COG'ers and the intellectual processing that moderates their conclusions!


Anonymous said...

Firstly, I did not like the GN 'cover' for the christmas article, it was a rehash of the old WCG ho, ho, hoax ad that was used on the TV and in the PT. For anyone trying to get the attention to teach others that Christmas is not scriptural by being offensive, well, they must really be out of it.

I cannot understand how a church that teaches love so much could continue the rash approach to something that many cherish, although it is not a proper holiday.

Comparing the Son of God to the Queen, mum and others though, Gavin, is off target to say the least.

In another area, God calls the Holy Days, his days. He was giving them to Israel, he had them to give. If the argument that God revealed his days to man from the time of Adam were true, then maybe the pagans paganized the true days and not the other way around. Even if the 'world' kept those days around the harvest, that in no way implies that God took pagan days, like the church did three hundred years after Jesus.

Did Paul keep the days? Read acts. Did Polycarp or Polycrates? Read the fathers.

Alan, you said you, "never understood the significance of holloween....being 'pagan.'" I guess the early church would agree to people dressing up as witches, ghosts, skeletons, wrecking things, having hell nights, begging for candy....what does any of that have to do with God?

Anonymous said...

So where and when do we send our Holiday limericks, lines and lyrics in this year, Gavin?

Anonymous said...

"If the argument that God revealed his days to man from the time of Adam were true, then maybe the pagans paganized the true days and not the other way around."

That argument is not true. There isn't the slightest hint in the Bible that the annual festivals of Leviticus 23 were revealed to Adam, or to anyone at all prior to Moses. Nor was anyone ever commanded to celebrate those festivals but the Jews, the Israelites.

"Did Paul keep the days? Read acts."

Paul was Jewish. Paul also participated in Jewish vows. Read Acts. When was the last time an Armstrongist grew his hair long and then had his hair ritually shorn to offer his locks to a priest as a sacrifice?

"Did Polycarp or Polycrates? Read the fathers."

Not as far as we know. They did have a Christian Paschal observance on Nisan 15 (not Nisan 14 as is commonly believed), but nothing is known about them celebrating the Jewish feasts.

Douglas Becker said...

United people are getting out in the snow,
Their children playing games all aglow,
The Winter Solstice you see,
Is celebrated by the UCG,
But they call it something else so you won't know.

Anonymous said...

Armstrongites have never wanted to acknowledge the principle of overcoming evil with good, such as re-treading an ancient pagan celebration and making it Christian. They do not want to look at the current state of the celebration but they want to instead burrow back into history and discover a tainted genealogy and reject what is now because of what was back then. This, of course, is a form of legalism. They are unable to appreciate the substance because they are so pre-occupied with form - in this case, an ancient form.

This creates perplexing situations for some Armstrongites. At one of the WCG congregations I used to attend, the pastor and is wife did not wear wedding rings because they were pagan. I have been told by some Armstrongites that men's ties are pagan. And what about all the Armstrongite women who do not celebrate Christmas direction but becoming second hand participants by taking advantage of all of those Christmas sales? They rub elbows with Christmas shoppers and fuel the Christmas econmic engine with their dollars, but then claim that they are unsullied. As usual, the Armstrongites are debtors to perform the whole law, at least the law as they see it.

If we begin looking for pagan associations, they will be everywhere. But why should we let the pagans own our reality. We need to stake a claim and not waste our time examining ancient pedigrees and giving these connections more weight than what they deserve.

-- Neo

jorgheinz said...


Rewording the carol slightly,
let's all deck the halls with boughs of FOLLY and put on our GAY
apparel,as the text states.

Should we keep these days symbolic
By getting drunk and alcoholic?.
Christmas time has come around,
SIX-PACKS surely will abound.
Give to Christ , and in a hurry,
The end draws nigh as some portend,
So let them have a FINAL SPEND.


jorgheinz said...

Come,all folk and do not dream
Of Xmas pud all covered in cream.
Do the deed and grab a plate
And helpings three have you ate.
Without a vision people die,
Enjoy the double, whisky ply.
Let no killjoy spoil your play,
Santa still comes Xmas Day.


Anonymous said...

Check out Garrison Keillor's
"'T'was the Night before Christmas"

Dry humor from a recovering fundamentalist.

jorgheinz said...

On such a holy forum as this we cannot wish our friends transmissible greetings.

However, we can wish you a


Anonymous said...

Well, Scott,

Your list, as republished by Gavin, seems to be geared to those who aspire to become spiritual Jews. Nothing against the Jews and all, but I have my heart set on becoming a spiritual Negro! I figure that'll get me where I really want to be, which is to a state of being able to play better guitar in the Kingdom.

The Armstrongites will probably mob Moses and Ezekiel, or want to bask at the feet of Gamaliel. But, I'll be wanting to sit in on some serious sessions with Muddy Waters, Freddie King, or Earl Hooker.

So, maybe I should be celebrating Kwaansaa, and experiencing a foreshadowing of what it'll like to be a brotha in the Kingdom???


jorgheinz said...


I like "Anonymous",s idea of seasonal lyrics,limericks etc.

We should have a "competition" and email the "best" to those COG orgs most worthy of receipt of such.