Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Creche Wars: A Pax on Both Your Houses

In my neck of the woods, there's a bit of disagreement about seasonal displays going on.  Deep in the Virginia exurbs, the mighty metropolis of Leesburg sits in all its strip-mall, big box glory.   But before Leesburg was an exurb, it was a modestly-sized town, one that had a long-standing tradition of having a Christmas tree and displaying Nativity scenes on the courthouse lawn celebrating the Christmas season.

Back in 2009, following concerns that this might violate the separation of church and state, the tradition was shut down.   Both the Christian Nativity and solstice display...were removed.   There was outcry, of course, and much concern in the community that a beloved symbol had disappeared.

So the tradition was reinstated last year, with a caveat: anyone could display whatever they wanted, on a first come, first served basis.

And so there were displays put up.  Some were creches and nativities.  Others, though?   The Pastafarians came out with a repurposed creche image, in which the Infant Flying Spaghetti Monster was featured prominently, along with garden gnomes and other absurdist miscellany.   There was a Luke Skywalker display, put up by those who celebrate Life Day, I guess.  Atheists put up their own tree, upon which affirmations of vigorous godlessness and condemnations of the general stupidity of the faithful were placed.

This year, the conflict continued.  There was a display by a local artist, of a crucified skeleton Santa--a symbol of the way in which consumerism has consumed the season, or so the artist declared.  Many locals were troubled by these things, to the point that the skeleton Santa was pulled down a few times by Angry People.

Hearing about this squabbling, I find myself wishing that the Christians were being more Christian, and the atheists were being more rational.
For the Jesus folk, Brothers and Sisters, take a deep breath.   Particularly with the Skywalker stuff and the Pastafarians.  I mean, c'mon.  Some folks are just silly, and struggle with the hyper-seriousness that can pervade this season.  Christianity is a powerful, robust, and millennia-old faith, and is not going to be undone by some goofballs being random.  The most gracious response to this is...grace.  Smile.  Show that you aren't spiritually shallow and easily aggrieved.  Those are not the marks of one who is governed by the Spirit of the Living God.  Show that we can handle it.

And the artist guy with the Skeleton Santa?  Ask him what he means.  Be open to listening.  If his beef is with the consumerism that has sunk its undead fangs into the joy of this season, then maybe he's not a bad guy.  And he might be under the impression that Christians are angry, bitter people.  

Disabuse him of that notion.  We best teach Christ by living Christ, after all.

For the atheists?  I know, I'm not on the Team, but consider the season.   This is the time to open up the critical thinking skills, and show that you understand context and perception.  It's the time to show that you grasp the spirit of the season.  You don't have to sing Silent Night if you don't want to, and you have every right to present your opinion in the public square.

But if you want that opinion to be heard, consider presenting the following slogans:   "Just Love People.  How Hard is That?"   "Be Kind, Because It is the Way To Be."  "Care for Everyone."  "Every Human Being Has Value."   Slap your atheist logo under those, and maybe folks will be a little bit more willing to listen to the rest of what you have to say.  They may not be persuaded, but they'll be more willing to listen.

As stressed as we all can be this season, and as easily as tempers can fray, that's not the point of this time of year.  So...give it a go, y'all.  Get along, eh?

It's both the Christian and reasonable thing to do.