It’s been a while since I felt the term “Christian” was an adjective I wanted to apply to myself. Despite my best efforts, that word has come to connote to me many more negative attributes than good, even though I know few, if any, of those attributes are things I would consciously associate with Christ. I’m referring to more than just the rampant, increasingly shrill, and occasionally vulgar anti-gay bigotry emanating mostly from people styling themselves conservative Evangelicals, too. A few of the other attributes that involuntarily come to mind when I hear the word “Christian” are provincialism, group-think, anti-intellectualism, and cultural-fascism. I know people who do call themselves “Christian” and who I personally like, but they are increasingly few and far between.
I haven’t gone into a church this Christmas as, in most churches, I feel the most I could hope for is to be merely tolerated. I know there are exceptions to that norm, but I just haven’t been interested in the needle-in-a-haystack process of seeking them out. Christians, I, for one, am not interested in an extension of your tolerance. Keep it. “Tolerance” simply means not doing anything bad, like a verbal or physical attack, to people you don’t like. While I would appreciate their decision to not heckle or shoot me, I’m not interested in going to someone’s house to break bread with them if my presence at their table is merely “tolerated.” Ask yourselves, would you be interested in that? In my opinion, life is too short and too precious to waste on people who only suffer themselves to endure my existence. I am fortunately still welcome at my home and intend to celebrate Christmas with my family tonight, but I know of many who aren’t.
Shifting gears slightly, it’s also worth noting that Christmas is primarily a commercial holiday in the U.S., as it has been almost since the Founding of the Republic. From a young age, kids come to understand that, at Christmas-time, love equals presents. In other words, children are taught both by their families and by society at-large to know they are loved and affirmed when people spend money to buy them things. That money-spent-equals-love mindset is often carried over into adult life too, as parents buy “love” for their children because, subconsciously, they know that’s how love is supposedly expressed at Christmas-time. For people on the economic margins, you can see how Christmas can be inordinately stressful as they struggle to afford presents to demonstrate love for their children.
Furthermore, and most damningly, Christmas gift-buying is part and parcel of a larger consumerist culture fueling an economic engine that wantonly wastes the Earth’s precious and dwindling resources and contributes to poverty in nations outside the First World. In economically poor countries, the impoverished masses often work for dismal wages in deplorable conditions to supply the wealth of cheap goods that the global consumer class (which includes me and, probably, you reading this) has come to expect. Those jeans, appliances, and beauty products you bought on sale? The odds are quite high that they were made in a sweatshop, or in an unsafe factory, or by a mother with children making less than $1.00 a day, or by a child whose single mother is too sick to work. If the wealth of the rich is built upon the poverty of the poor, then what more than oblivion can the rich hope to deserve? If these facts do nothing to stir your conscience and spur you to reexamine your consumer habits, then I don’t know what will.
At any rate and without any further qualification, I want to wish everyone a very happy holiday. Whether the holiday you celebrate at this time of year has already passed, is today, or is still to come, I hope it is full of laughter, happiness, love, and much quality time spent with the people you care for. For my fellow LGBTs, if your family has rejected you, then I ask you to remember that friends are the family you choose. If you know an LGBT who is without a family and a meal to share, consider inviting him or her into your home. I also hope that, from this point on, everyone will give serious consideration to foregoing the purchase of gifts at Christmas-time, or to finding creative ways of giving gifts that don’t further the poverty that capitalist globalization has helped to create. How beautiful would it be if, instead of buying new things, we were simply grateful for what we had. Also, I encourage you to demand change from governments and corporations that have merely answered our incessant greedy calls over the years for ever-cheaper goods. If nothing else, vote with your wallet. Buy goods from companies and cooperatives who have demonstrated real social responsibility. If you’re thinking, “Why bother? I can’t change the world,” yes, you’re right. No one person can change the world, but we can change ourselves and, by our actions and words, potentially inspire and encourage others to do the same.