12/24/2009                                                                                       View Comments

If You Want to Enjoy Christmas, Avoid the Toxic Christian “Message”

by Marlene Winell

The full-blown fundamentalist version of the “Christmas story” is truly pernicious. In the last couple years, I’ve thought about the imagery of Christmas (the child archetype) and the traditions we all enjoy which can be separate from Christianity (See previous articles). This year, I read a piece by Billy Graham called “You can know the Christ of Christmas,” and was reminded of all that is wrong with this religion, and how it can taint so much about life. I felt so sad reading this because as a humanist, it seems so wrong to denigrate who we are as human beings.

His article was all about how hopeless the world is and how helpless and sinful we are. According to him, the Christ child is great news because of the dark horrible world that needs saving. He says repeatedly that all our human efforts will fail miserably because we must have help from outside ourselves.

Graham writes, “Christmas emphasizes the glorious truth that salvation is provided apart from us, that into this sin-cursed world came One whose supreme mission is to save sinners...

“The evils that curse the world are the consequences of hearts deceived by the devil and separated from God. Thousands of human schemes for social and political improvement will ultimately fail because they do not deal with a person's basic disease.

“Many have preached about the Sermon on the Mount as though that in itself is a sufficient dynamic to bring in a new world order of peace and goodwill among men. All the religions of the world say, "Do good; do good," but they do not give us the power to do good. One of the failures of many church leaders is their refusal to believe that our deepest problem is sin.

“Without God we cannot put the world right, because we cannot put ourselves right. It is beyond us to put away the sin in our own hearts. We cannot save ourselves, let alone the whole world.”
I much prefer to be positive about who I am and have faith in all of us to work together to make the world a better place, here and now.
If that weren’t enough, Graham goes on to say how exclusive the good news of Christmas is: “This hope that was given to those shepherds on that first Christmas morning is available only to those who believe.”

Have you ever noticed all the Christmas hymns that are about a Savior born to all mankind, i.e., to save the world? “Unto us a son is given,” etc. We are all supposed to rejoice because the Savior has arrived. But it’s quite a hoax when you think about the rest of the Christian deal, according to the fundamentalist view. First of all, salvation depends not on God’s “free” gift, but on your individual acceptance of it. This involves admitting your depravity and being sorry; otherwise it won’t work.

In Graham’s words, “This Christmas, many people believe that Jesus is the Son of God, without any change happening in their lives. They have never repented [...] Many people ask, ‘Why doesn't this revolution happen to more people?’ It is because millions of professing Christians are strangers to the genuine, saving faith that means coming to the end of ourselves, to the end of our self-reliance and self-righteousness, and then trusting absolutely in Christ for forgiveness and for moral and spiritual renewal.” (A weird side note here: The ministers and U.S. Congress members who had the recent “praycast” in Washington against health reform went on in their prayers with the words, “we are at the end of ourselves.”)

Secondly, the world doesn’t seem to be saved either! By the looks of things, “mankind” is worse off than ever, since that momentous night in Bethlehem. According to Graham, this too is our fault: “The world's primary need today is the Savior, salvation from sin. Failure to recognize this fact and receive God's remedy for sin is the reason why mankind has failed to prevent recurring wars and revolutions in the world.”

Yet the fantasy lives, despite any evidence, personally or globally. Graham says, “The Christmas angels praised God and proclaimed peace on earth. It was by and through Jesus Christ that peace was to come to the earth.” Notice the language, “was to come.” Until we screwed it up, I guess.

Yet, according to Graham, “Christ is God's great Christmas Gift to the world: ‘Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!’ (2 Corinthians 9:15, NIV).”

Now the Billy Graham Evangelical Organization is making its focus the Second Coming of Christ. Jesus coming as a baby didn’t really work so this time God must be serious. Graham issues dire threats in another article as well as telling believers not to be terrified.

He writes: “Today the only bright spot on the horizon of this world is the promise of the coming again of Christ, the Messiah. We can’t go on much longer morally. We can’t go on much longer scientifically. The technology that was supposed to save us is ready to destroy us. New weapons are being made all the time, including chemical and biological weapons.

“In Isaiah 66 we read that ‘the Lord will come with fire and with His chariots, like a whirlwind, to render His anger with fury’ (Isaiah 66:15).

“It has been 2,000 years since then. Why hasn’t He come? . . .The disciples asked the same thing, and Jesus said, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority (Acts 1:7). Don’t guess or speculate. We don’t know. It may be a thousand years from now, or it may be tomorrow. Regardless, the end of the world is coming for you the moment you die, and that could be at any time for any of us. We never know. What have you done to prepare for that moment when your heart stops beating?”

In my opinion, this is an amazing combination of beliefs – severe hopelessness about self and humanity paired with enormous hope for miraculous salvation, and complete responsibility for choosing correctly while having no ability or choice about accomplishing anything else.

I much prefer to be positive about who I am and have faith in all of us to work together to make the world a better place, here and now. Otherwise, we could be waiting a long time. Instead of being born again, let’s grow up and let go of hoping to be rescued. In helping people recover from toxic religion, I've found that the core aspect of healing is to recover self-trust.

When my son was little, I was explaining some Christian beliefs to him, including the notion of miracles. He said, “Well, I don’t know about that, but I would consider a miracle to be if a bunch of neighbors would get together and make a playground for the poor children.” I was pretty stunned but so pleased for this example of “out of the mouths of babes.” I still think we have a lot to learn from babies and children, and I’ll hold onto that part of Christmas.


16 comments:

webmdave said...

It cracks me up. All one has to do in a thread is mention the dreaded Jesus word and anger comes boiling out from others. Wow. I guess there IS power in that name...

webmdave said...

JEEEE-SUS!

Nope! Didn't do much. Nothing happened.

webmdave said...

Jon: "I am struck by the fact that you seem to believe that the world needs saving. I agree."

I'm glad you think so, Jon, because the alternative is the demise of humanity.

"I would argue that if you think of yourself in real, finite, mortal terms, then you really are thinking of yourself as just dirt and when you die you will resume the state from which you came."

Your argument is flawed. I most certainly do *not* think of Myself as dirt, but as part of an eternal continuum of life and non-life.

"I am confused as to how you think that valuing the failed efforts of your neighbors, ancestors, and other fellow mortals is going to be up to that challenge."

Again, Jon, your argument is flawed. Not all mortal efforts are failed; in fact, I see more successes than failures.

"What I do know is that I have seen thousands of people who have had their lives changed by a relationship with Jesus Christ (not an affiliation with religion)..."

Unsupported assertion: No evidence that 'Jesus Christ' is an actual sentient being with whom people can have a valid 'relationship'. Far more likely, the mortals in this alleged relationship have simply fallen in love with a myth and used their own imaginations to bring it to life.

The myth may very well be based on a real person who lived approximately 2000 years ago, but it's ludicrous to think that this person came back from the dead and is present today. If you feel otherwise, the burden of proof is on you.

I also contend that the doctrine of Original Sin and self-identification as "sinners" has psychologically damaged many believers and rendered them less competent at dealing with real-world issues.

Christianity has had approximately 1700 years to change the world. Trillions of dollars and countless man-hours of labour have been wasted on this supernatural shell game. If you truly do want to save this planet and its inhabitants, Jon, I suggest that you redirect your time and resources into more productive channels:

* Food and volunteer time to your local food bank;

* Cash, clothing and household items to crisis shelters for individuals trying to leave abusive relationships;

* A donation to medical research at your local teaching hospital;

* A couple of bucks for the young kid playing guitar on the street corner.

Any one of the above is vastly more worthy than any religious organization on this planet.

webmdave said...

David,
I love this....
"Life, with all its good and bad, is too random to do anything other than live it. It is too short to do anything other than enjoy it."

dt

webmdave said...

I am not anti-Xian either. I study religion and I have no issues with liberal and progressive Xians. What I do have a problem with is Evangelical Fundamentalist teachings. The Bible is errant, fallible, and most definitely inspired and written by humans, just like every other piece of fiction, as well as other religions. Even the Hindus admit their religious texts were written by humans. It is very naive and ignorant to think otherwise.

webmdave said...

"Our souls long for common wisdom, life experience, lessons learned...."

What do you mean by a soul and is there such a thing?

webmdave said...

Kirsten,

Please define "find their center".

It has about as much semantic content as "seek the lord's will" does, and transmits no meaningful information.

I am not poking fun with this remark, just find such sayings useless and so like the maxims and sayings of the religious shamans and priests Vagueness is useful to them as they seek to fleece you while hiding the vacuity of their message. Seeking higher goals than that, do we not need to leave their practices behind and transmit information, not nonsense, between us?

Peace,

David

webmdave said...

Hi Kirsten,

I find the trick to becoming what you want to be is to first accept what you are. Accepting that I have a selfish nature stops me battling with it and equips me to deal with it.

"Does being an ex-Christian require you to be ANTI Christian? Is what is right for you necessarily right for everyone?"

I am not anti-christion", but I am strongly anti-christianity and see no benefit in it or any other organized religion that attempt to focus human activity and attention on beings for whose existence there is scant or no evidence. Having seen and suffered the damage that the christinsanity causes, I will add my voice and actions to the battle to discredit it, its roots and its practice.

"I bet there is something in your life that serves a similar purpose - you just don't go worship it in a church on Sundays"

Sorry Kirsten, you lost that bet. There is nothing in my life that I follow with any religious devotion. Life, with all its good and bad, is too random to do anything other than live it. It is too short to do anything other than enjoy it. Having cast off the pernicious requirements of xianity, I am not about to wrap myself around with another belief system. I do not have weaknesses that require validating; I have weaknesses that require overcoming, accepting or both.
I canot agree with you that xianity can ever be a positive choice. It has its roots in the need of a Roman emperor to create a new religion to prop up his failing empire and continues to this day as a means of control and income-generation. The solace and comfort it purports to provide are illusory in that they do not have the foundation that is claimed for them. When my mother expresses her belief in god, it is merely an expression of hope that she will one day meet up with her husband, my father, upon her death. Her belief and hope do not rest on anything more than a desperate hope and desperate people are too easy to target and take advantage of, as xianity and other religions have done through all history.

"I don't agree with what they believe, but I see it working for them."

It may work for them, but only to the same extent that spreading your body when skydiving will slow you slightly. The reality of gravity and a relatively static earth will son combine to impress their power upon you. So much time, energy and intellectual and emotional effort is wasted upon religious activities, yet the combination of a wooden box and a six foot deep hole still awaits us all (other burial customs notwithstanding).

Free of the nihilism of self-loathing that xianity (and others) preaches, or species could now be cured of so many diseases and other ills. Xians do not realise that by ascribing god to everything they do not understand ensures that we never leave the dark ages.

I put it to you that not ridiculing them and their beliefs is NOT a measure of humility; it is, perhaps, a measure of tolerance. I am no longer prepared to stand by and watch the damage their beliefs cause grow any more, and if ridicule is an effective weapon in my arsenal then I shall employ it as and when opportunity and need arise.

Peace,

David

webmdave said...

We need humans to get serious about saving ourselves. We need those in government to stop mock-fighting each other in stupid power plays that do nothing to better the lot of their constituents and get serious about trying to solve the world's problems.

We need religious leaders to stop worrying about keeping an entire segment of the population from having the same rights as the rest of us, and to stop using all their money to build monuments to themselves, and use their power for good. All the money they are able to collect would be better spent for education, medicine, clean water, etc.

And the rest of us should stop spending our time and money on the church and go out and volunteer in our communities on Sunday mornings. Think of all the good that could be accomplished if all the money and time spent on our religions would go to helping others!

Many of us on this site are already doing that. Bill and Melinda Gates are doing it in a HUGE way. Why don't you?

webmdave said...

I'm with Mriana. We do not teach fairy tales of Greek myth as truth. We know all along that they are fiction as we are reading them. We do teach that these Greek, Roman, Native American, Norse, etc. myths were once believed to be true.

Now, if we can get to the point where we teach christianity as myth, we'll be in much better shape.

webmdave said...

The best line in this post was:

"I've found that the core aspect of healing is to recover self-trust."

I think this nails down the basic problem created my fundamentalist messages. In building a case for Jesus as the hope of mankind, the value of our worth and humanity is severely warped.

The Christian fundamentalist would say, "But humanity as great value! God the Son left heaven and became a human and died for all mankind! That gives up great value in God's eyes!"

But the value of humanity is the intrinsic worth that comes from within. Fundamentalist Christianity tries to derive human worth from an external source - God.

Left alone, the shift in that dynamic is warped and misplaced. But fundamentalists not only minimize the intrinsic value of the human. They verbally bash and "stomp" on the humanity of the hearer, trying to totally destroy our sense of worth and efficacy. It's the equivalent of shooting someone six times when two shots are sufficient to take someone down.

Billy Graham is one of the most respected fundamentalist evangelists of the 20th century. He has a way of sounding compassionate and sincere, but his message is nonetheless destructive and disparaging of the most vital resource humanity has available: the human spirit!

webmdave said...

I have no issues with learning about myth, but I do have a problem with teaching that the Bible is history and should be taken literally.

webmdave said...

Definitions of religion: #1 a strong belief in a supernatural power or powers that control human destiny.

#2 an institution to express belief in a divine power.

In your examples, you confuse religion with things that sometimes become obsessions or neuroses.

I'd say that most of us on this site object to religion because of the great harm it does to people. I, personally, feel sorry for those still stuck in religion because it is so limiting to a person's potential for education and fulfillment, and is guilt-producing and fear-inducing.

I've been through it and do not wish it on anyone.

On a grander scale, religion incites people to do things they would never dream of doing without it--and I'm not talking about anything good. People hate, kill, restrict the rights of others, keep women "in their place", and take money from people who can ill-afford it--all in the name of god.

So, sorry. Religion gets no pass from me. And the religious--well, I think they all would be better off using their own intelligence and judgment instead of relying on a 2000-year-old misguided guidebook.

webmdave said...

I'm all for educating ourselves, only with the realization that myths and various religions have always been a part of the human experience and are currently part of most people's education.

Should we stop teaching kids about Greek/Roman Gods and Goddesses? We know fairy tales are not real, but should be stop telling them to our children and forego the wonderful lessons and life teachings they effortlessly convey?

Myths, gods, goddesses, fairy tales, morality plays...they are all part of our human heritage and we can learn so much from them - especially from other cultures and traditions. We are deprived of so much wisdom and life experience when we insist that science can answer every single type of question. Our souls long for common wisdom, life experience, lessons learned....

They are expressions of the human heart, much like the study of architecture, music, theatre, painting. Do we RELY on artistic works? No, but we can certainly experience them and learn what it is to be human through them - and myths are no different.

webmdave said...

"I no longer struggle with selfishness...." Really? Wow. That is really very hard for me to believe. But I am happy for you.

I get what you are saying about serving the impossible ideal and how that can make it all so much harder due to the self-loathing and the inevitable failure.

However, do not forget that people make religions out of lots of things - not just Christianity, or any organized sect. People can make cleanliness a religion, or having a perfect family life, or being safe from any and all dangers, ot never going in an airplane, and it goes on and on. It is in the nature of human beings to latch on to something to feel safe, whether it be religion per se, or something that gives a similar feeling of safety. I bet there is something in your life that serves a similar purpose - you just don't go worship it in a church on Sundays. If not, good for you, but that is very rare.

I am not saying that it is good that humans do this, and I do think that religion is particularly confusing because it validates this weakness which is in all of us. But, at the same time, I think you all are thinking too simplistically. Getting rid of Christiantiy - for people who are not perhaps as strong as you - might well lead to any number of other neuroses which just handle the guilt in a slightly different way, and perhaps more destructively.

I guess I just wish some of you might consider the possibility that, for some people, for where they are in their life's journey and their present level of maturity, Christianity might be a positive choice, on the way to something even better.

Does being an ex-Christian require you to be ANTI Christian? Is what is right for you necessarily right for everyone?

For the record, I am not a Christian either, so you don't have to preach to me. I am just a little more hesitant to condemn others who choose differently. In my job, I see many wonderful people who are Catholics, doing wonderful things. I don't agree with what they believe, but I see it working for them. I used to privately ridicule them and their beliefs and now I am more humble.

webmdave said...

I think educating ourselves is more important than relying on superstition.