While we are debating whether or not there is a war on Christmas, six Methodist churches here are uniting to sponsor “Blue Christmas, A Service of Worship for the Longest Night,” on Sunday, December 18, 2005. Then on Friday, December 23, 2005, you can attend “The Tree,” presented by the Highlands Fellowship, described as “a stirring candlelight service” to “honor the Living Tree of Christmas.”
What is going on here is not new, nor is it a war. It is an old custom sort of like borrowing from one’s neighbors or trying to keep up with them. To make it pretty simple to understand, just pretend for a few minutes that there are only two religions in the world, The Church of Us and The Cult of Them.
There are always more Themians than there are Usians. This is true in part because the Usians are clearly defined into named sub-groups (parties or denominations) that agree on the central Usian core beliefs but have small differences of understanding that separate them. Any single one (or any group) of these parties or denominations may at any time declare that any other Usian group is more Themian than Usian. This practice insures the plurality of Themians.
Themians, by contrast, are a solid block and do not separate into denominations. Because of this characteristic, they always present a threat to Usians, who see them as stronger, more organized, and more focused on taking over everything. Seeing Themians as a unified opposing block insures that Usians always perceive themselves as a persecuted minority.
In addition to their strong solid focused emphasis, which makes them practically invincible, Themians have an incredible number of holidays with parties and celebrations designed to draw borderline, disaffected, or young and foolish Usians into their circle of influence. This Themian practice and the Usian response to it have resulted in an alignment of holidays between Usians and Themians. The alignment occurs because the Usians, seeing their young going into the desert to worship Tamuzi or some such, design and establish a concurrent celebration of their own, drawing some of the more attractive and less offensive characteristics of Themian custom into their own practice. They do this in order to keep the Usian kids busy on Themian holidays and thus out of the clutches of Themianism.
This borrowing by Usians from Themians is disparaged by Usian purists and frequently produces disagreements that generate new parties or denominations. However, when the borrowed celebration has been around a while and the rough edges have been brushed and blended into the Usian lore so that it seems to have been present at the origin of Usianism, it is accepted by Usians who formerly criticized it.
One of my religion professors described this process as like the growth of an onion, which, while maintaining a central unchanged living core, grows and increases by adding layers to the outside. Thankfully I had zoology before I had this class, so I did not waste a lot of the genus Stinkus Delicioso searching for the core. It was not my first religion course either, so I also did not waste time telling the professor that an onion grows from the inside as the outer layers expand and thin. The onion has no relationship to this commentary. I just could never get it out of my mind, so I am trying again here to give it away. Take it, please. It was a gift to me, and it may serve you as well.
And have a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah, a Joyful Yule, Happy Holidays, or whatever you have at or around the winter solstice. Itís cold, and we need a few carbs and a little firelight. Be generous and smile at someone. Give somebody a present. Have a cup of cheer. Spend twice the money you have. Eat a lot of food. Go outside and look at the stars.
And by all means donít stress yourself out by getting offended at anyone. Bill OíReilly is so good at that we can just let him take care of it for all of us.
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