Dec 27 2009

A Christmas Carol

Jacob Marley's GhostToday, I finished Charles Dickens’ 1843 novella “A Christmas Carol“. I was familiar with the story before picking up the book (you’d be hard-pressed finding a Christmas-celebrant who wasn’t familiar with the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge). The story is as much a part of the holiday as Christmas trees, exchanging gifts, and vain attempts at skirting family drama for 24 hours. The holiday was also a time to find myself parked in front of the television, wrapped in a robe and blanket, flipping through UHF channels looking for something to watch. If it wasn’t “A Christmas Carol” (1938), it was often “Miracle on 34th Street” (1947); for some reason, I never saw “It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946) until much, much later. I could have gone out and enjoyed the snow but I never liked it much. The snow  always ended up melting in my boots or (if my brother was around) getting stuffed into my hood and down the back of my coat. None of which has anything to do with the book. In later years, I discovered the Richard Donner adaptation “Scrooged” (starring Bill Murray). Who couldn’t like the thought of stapling antlers to the heads of mice in spirit of Christmas?!

For those who are not familiar with the tale (how is that possible?) the story revolves around an old miser who after several visitations from the spirit-world (or possibly just a restless night?), is imbued with the Christmas Spirit.  What is the Christmas Spirit? Well, to Dickens at least, it’s having mercy on his readers and writing a story that comes in under 150 pages. Other than that, old Ebenezer is forced to remember what people used to mean to him and how he let that all slip away. Even if you’re a bit of a humbug about the whole Christmas thing, this story has a great deal to offer about choices, consequences, and redemption. Who wouldn’t be changed and/or humbled by the sight of their own weed-choked grave?

So, what message did I take from my first reading of this story? Never let life stray far from the reason that life is worth living, friends and family. It’s a sentiment that makes me gag on the one hand (that would be the 12 year old boy inside me) and makes me sit in silent agony on the other, as my imagination conjures the graves of all I have ever loved: past, present, and future.

“You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato. There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!” – Ebenezer Scrooge to Jacob Marley’s Ghost, Charles Dickens

5 out of 5

Dec 18 2009

Lies and Propaganda


“Jesus is the reason for the season”. I saw this message on a bumper sticker the other morning while driving to work. The sticker included a silhouette of the nativity crèche, an image familiar to most Christians and anyone else who has passed by a church (or city hall) around Christmas time. I must admit, the bumper sticker made me laugh. The reason for the season has more to do with axial tilt and the earth reaching perihelion, but I get it… it’s a cute rhyme, quick message, and it sticks in your brain (it stuck in mine). Propaganda and disinformation have been bedfellows from way back. If you can’t support your position, lie about it… repeatedly.

All propaganda has to be popular and has to accommodate itself to the comprehension of the least intelligent of those whom it seeks to reach” and “By the skillful and sustained use of propaganda, one can make a people see even heaven as hell or an extremely wretched life as paradise.” – Adolf Hitler, Christian <– see what I did there?

What bugs me most about Christianity (aside from the persecution complex) is the relentless campaign of misinformation. I use Christianity as an example, because it’s what I’m most familiar with… not because it’s any worse than the others. It’s also the most in-your-face religion that I encounter from day to day. Jews are only noticeable when they’re walking to the synagogue (doesn’t bother me a bit). Muslims don’t advertise in the United States for fear of attracting too much attention to themselves (no problems there). Hindus are pretty much invisible unless you spot their spots (it’s hard to find fault with vegetarians, more cows for the rest of us). But Christians stand on street-corners with 5-foot photos of aborted fetuses, stuff their holy books in hotel dressers (great coloring books btw), stand around in cemeteries with “God Hates Fags” signs, come to your door on Saturday mornings while your robe is hanging open and your hair is uncombed (“Are you guys here for my boxer-shorts check?”), keep shoving holy books under the hands of witnesses and elected officials (like a mass-produced piece of fiction is going to keep someone from lying? “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.“), erect 50-foot representations of torture devices (crosses) in roadside fields (would electric chairs be hanging in churches if Jesus had been put-to-death in the 1960s?)… I could on, but you get the idea. Everywhere I look, they are peddling a message created 2,000 years ago that they cannot defend because it’s indefensible (unless you count “faith” which could also support the divinity of Cookie Monster).

One response I’ve received is: “Do you really expect me to believe that the Church has been wrong for 2,000 years and that after all this time, you have the right answer?” No. The Christian church (and other religions, I have to imagine) haven’t been wrong at all. What they’ve done is perpetuated a convenient fiction, a lie… and they’re good at it. Priests are not dumb. Throughout history, priests have been some of the most educated people in the world (for centuries they controlled and throttled all learning in Europe). Many of them know the truth; they just have no reason to let you in on it. It’s like the De Beers diamond cartel. There is no shortage of shiny rocks but they have no reason on earth to release their choke-hold on supply. The Church is exactly the same, except that laborers aren’t smuggling Jesus out of South African mines in their asses. Christianity thrives off people believing what the Churches tell them. Today, it’s all about money. In the past, it was about money and power. These were powerful forces in ancient times and continue to be today. How powerful? They were powerful enough to create a religion that could fool and control the masses for thousands of years. Christianity wasn’t the first one and it won’t be the last.

History is a set of lies agreed upon.” – Napoleon Bonaparte