Monthly Archives: December 2018

The really real message of Christmas

As I write this, I sit in the living room of the house where I spent most of my youth. My kids–adult as they are now–will be here in an hour. My parents are here. My extended family. It’s cold outside as it clearly should be at Christmas. There’s a fire in the fireplace. Very idyllic.

And this isn’t what Christmas is about. Christmas is actually about the birth of Jesus. It’s about God reaching out to be with us and to try to make it easier for us to be with him. And this is a wonderful message–whether you’re a Christian or atheist or neither.

We live in a world very short on grace. And I don’t mean the grace of dealing with adverticity with class.

I mean we live in a world where 140 characters is all you need to know about people. Where meaning is applied by the masses and context is immaterial. Where stupidity and hypocrisy are the sins from which there is no redemption.

But that’s exactly the message that we get today. It’s about love, to be sure, but a love so blind that it overlooks all, if we accept it. That’s the magic of Christmas.

It’s a love that’s hard, for some, to accept. And hard for all of us to extend, because the hurt is real when we’re disappointed. Because we’re finite. Because in order to love others, you have to take care of yourself.

This isn’t a call for us to love those who abuse us. But it is a suggestion, starting with me first, to step back before dropping the heavy hand of modern 140-character judgement on people.

They probably don’t deserve that break. I know I don’t. But that’s what today’s about.

It’s not about striving to be perfect, but doing your best. Rolling the dice every day and then showing grace to people who don’t deserve it, starting with the person in the mirror every morning.

Merry Christmas.

Intent matters

Because it’s Christma…holid…December, it’s time for the year-end tradition of getting your nose out of joint about things that shouldn’t be things. Merry Christmas v. Happy Holidays. Can we have a manger scene? Should that teacher have told those first graders the truth about Santa? Can we watch Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer? Can we sing Baby It’s Cold Outside?

The last question is a good one to frame the overall discussion. The song was written by in 1944 a man named Frank Loesser to sing at dinner parties with his wife. In 1944, the world was a different place. Women didn’t spend the night–and you can make the argument that this woman wanted to.

But she clearly says no, and has to ask what’s in the drink?

Both of those things are true, and through 2018 eyes, specifically after the #metoo movement, they’re kind of creepy lines.

But in 1944, what’s in this drink? was it’s own kind of in joke. Often there was nothing in the drink. Or just a normal amount of alcohol. But again, this was a time when a woman couldn’t say I want to jump your friggin bones right here on the living room floor as a warm-up exercise for what comes next? And although she says no, the last line of the song is sung in unison, between the woman and the man, indicating ultimate consent.

And yet, it’s 2018. It’s a time when women have to watch their drinks, when a good father tells his daughter (I told my son, too) that if you set down your drink, consider it gone and get another one.

In other words, does intent matter?

Frank Loesser and his wife didn’t intend to sing about date rape. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences didn’t think it was about rape when it was given an Academy Award in 1949. (Ricardo Montalban was one of the people who sang it. I’ll let Star Trek fans dwell on that for a moment.)

But let’s say you got roofied and someone raped you? It wouldn’t be unreasonable for you to feel accutely uncomfortable at the lyrics, in spite of intent.

It’s been 74 years since this song was written. Times change. Norms change. But intent doesn’t change. Frank Loesser’s song is playful and flirtatious. He wasn’t writing about male predatory behavior. To make the song about date rape makes him an apologist for date rape.

Intent matters.

Consider that, please, when someone says either “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” to you. Consider it when thinking about how awful Rudolph’s story is (it’s just a Christmassy version of X-Men, if you think about it).

It’s a lesson we have to keep in mind during each succeeding round of the culture wars.