As some of you know from reading this blog, or seeing my rants on Facebook, I have given up on religion this past year. This was unfortunately a pretty easy thing to do for me as I was sick of the hypocrisy and general bigotry that most religious institutions offer. Even though we had found an accepting church, actions and comments by the minister left me feeling disenfranchised and wondering why I even bother. An interim minister at the church next door did a spiritual gifts inventory during her time at the church a few years back and I scored highest on Faith. This has been tough to reconcile lately, especially with Christmas coming. In the past, I got swept up in the whole religious aspect of it, lighting advent wreath candles and studying Isaiah for clues to the mystery of the coming Messiah.
Now, not so much. For me, it’s become Christ-meh.
I am usually the first one in the attic each year to bust open the storage area and haul out the holly, but this year, our poor tree sat lit but undecorated for over a week. Even my inner-Martha Stewart couldn’t budge my Grinch-like heart. I was wrestling with the notion of why I would even want to celebrate the birth of a man who has brought so much pain, death, and suffering to the world by the actions of His followers. I see the images of Him in the manger and hear the sweet songs sung by choirs, but all of that is over-shadowed by an institution that promotes hatred, bigotry, and selective salvation to LGBT people all over the world. Now don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Jesus, it’s just His followers I can’t stand.
If Christians just followed the words of Jesus, this world would be such a great place. The archaic laws of the Old Testament, so selectively tossed around and followed would be ignored and His message of hope and salvation could be the true focus of the church. Alas, this is not going to happen, and as we roast chestnuts, sing carols, and celebrate His birthday, a young man or woman is being told by their family and their church that they are going to hell for who they are and who they love and shunned by those that they call family. They are being told that they are less than perfect and have no place in society. Many will struggle with the issue of family during this warm and fuzzy Hallmark nightmare and will seek out other ways to fill the void created by their isolation. Some will even commit suicide.
So what is a newly minted Atheist supposed to do, especially with a bubbly five year old that is fully aware of all the trappings of the holiday? The answer is, he bucks up, puts up the tree and focuses on the secular side of the celebration. In the past, I have decorated our long foyer with a rather large nativity set being the focus. This year, it’s a snowman and snowflakes, (as a bonus, I can leave it up through January). In the past, we would gather as a family and read passages from the bible as we lit our advent wreath. This year, we’ll count down the days until Santa comes and focus on sharing and being good. One thing will remain though, and that is the spirit of giving. Each year we pick a family to help and we do so with the kids in tow. We buy toys and donate them to the Toys for Tots or the Angel Tree. Anna is beginning to understand the spirit of giving, and her desire for the toys is going away as she realizes that there are kids who go without on a daily basis.
But now, for me, it’s now easier to believe in Santa Claus than it is a Messiah. At least Santa delivers on his promises.