It seems there’s nothing we enjoy more than a good ol’ fashioned religion in the public square debate here in Rhode Island. And, once again, WPRO has come for The Tree. Due to the un-Christian manner in which so-called “Christians” behaved last time, Governor Lincoln Chafee has declined to host a tree lighting ceremony.* I think this is sort of lesson: if you want something to continue, don’t behave like jerks during it.
Personally, I’m weary of the whole damn thing. Okay, obviously, it’s a Christmas tree. People ain’t exactly throwing fir trees up to celebrate the Fourth of July. But the whole issue is surreal. John DePetro crashes the 2011 lighting singing “O Christmas Tree”, not realizing that the song itself is a repackaging of a completely secular song, “O Tannenbaum” (lit. “O Fir Tree”). “Keep Christ in Christmas” they say, but no one is complaining that the word “holiday” has ceased to mean “holy day” and instead just refers to any old day off.
Secularization isn’t just something you can use when it’s convenient. It’s not alright to declare a crucifix a perfectly secular monument to the dead of all creeds, but say that a tree can’t stand in for the celebration of a host of religions. The doublethink here is astounding.
A fir tree by any other name would smell as sweet. I’m sure that Mr. DePetro and his adherents would be horrified to learn that in Russia the tree was almost completely secularized under the Soviets. Laugh to yourself at the idea of these folks crowning their trees with the Red Star of communism for Novy God. But there you go, a symbol depends on the eye of the beholder. I mean, the Vatican didn’t even have a tree until 1982.
Here’s the great thing about Christmas; even an atheist like me can celebrate it (and atheists & non-Christians have been for years). Some people hate the stress of the Christmas season, but the whole idea of it has really affected American culture. There was a good point made by Hank Green of the Vlogbrothers about the holiday shopping season; yeah, it’s sort of symbol of rampant consumerism; but can you really get angry at people for wanting to go out and buy gifts for people?
This is the most altruistic part of the year, between Thanksgiving and Christmas. People get all dopey and cheery, all the music starts to be happy and kind of sappy. I mean, people get annoyed because things are too nice. That’s a pretty sweet problem to have.
I kind of don’t want to end this with a downer thought, but here it is: maybe conservatives are losing because they get worked up about things like what a tree is called and not worked up at all when someone says something terrible about rape, the poor, or anyone not white. Sweating the small stuff, ignoring the big stuff.
*Update: It was announced that Governor Chafee will in fact continue with the tree lighting as normal, and the tree will remain a “Holiday Tree”.