Quoth Neil Oliver:
I love Christmas … always have and always will. In every conceivable way, Christmas is light in a time of darkness and for many of us, that light has never been more welcome and so can’t come soon enough.
Especially since the festival is once again under attack by the joyless division. In line with what has become a tradition of the season in benighted Britain, yet another bunch of interfering, patronizing preachers of the witless cant of “diversity and inclusivity” have decided it’s their turn to take a pop at Christmas.
Just in time for the holidays, ads proclaiming, “Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness’ sake,” will appear on Washington, D.C., buses. The American Humanist Association will pay the $40,000 price tag.
It almost sounds good to “just be good for goodness sake.” Why do we need God to scare us into being good? Why can’t we just be good on our own for the sake of pure goodness?
As reported in the Associated Press, Fred Edwords, spokesman for the Washington-based humanist group explained: “We are trying to reach our audience, and sometimes in order to reach an audience, everybody has to hear you. Our reason for doing it during the holidays is there are an awful lot of agnostics, atheists and other types of non-theists who feel a little alone during the holidays because of its association with traditional religion.”
That campaign first reared its head fourteen years ago. I have no doubt that we’ll be seeing it again this year, along with other, similarly sour-spirited attacks on the feast that commemorates the Nativity of the Son of God.
These “non-theists…feel a little alone” – ? So we who believe must renounce our celebrations and wishes of Christmas cheer? Has Christmas not yet been secularized sufficiently for them? Or is it that they’d love to share the joy of us knuckle-dragging theists, but being in the presence of open displays of faith gives them a pain they can’t – or won’t – admit?
Perhaps you’re aware that there’s been a coordinated attack on Christian-derived celebrations and expressions of sentiment. The “Merry Christmas versus Happy Holidays” thing is the most prominent, but there are many others as well. The secularizers have become ever more relentless these past few decades. They want all remaining traces of the Christian faith not merely silenced, but anathematized and driven from public view. Many unbelievers who aren’t militant about it passively support them.
But why? “It’s exclusionary,” some reply. “It makes persons of other traditions feel bad not to be a part of it.” Who tells them that they can’t be a part of it? But others say “It’s judgmental. It castigates people for their weaknesses, their failure to be perfect.” Christians don’t hold themselves to be perfect; we merely hope to be rescued from our imperfection. And still others simply reject it as “a myth:” “A man born of a virgin, willingly embracing poverty to preach throughout Judea, accepting death by torture, and then rising from the dead? Absurd!”
My dear non-theist friends: Either it happened or it didn’t. If it did, as the available evidence has persuaded me, disbelieving it won’t make it untrue.
I’ve been challenged about my faith. “Why? Do you need to believe it?” It’s about as irritating as any non-injurious phenomenon I’ve suffered. Though I regret it, I must admit that a couple of such incidents have evinced rather uncharitable responses from me.
Such persons have a cockeyed conception of “need,” to start with. Need is personal and contextual, always. “Need for what?” should be the reply. “Are you asking how I consume it, or what I plan to buy with it, or what project I hope to incorporate it into?” Even when uttered in the gentlest tones, the riposte flummoxes the majority of irritants, which is itself a sufficient reason to recommend it.
(Digression begins: I’ve come to dislike the word need almost as much as the word should. “Why do you need an AR-15? Why do you need a Mercedes S550? Why do you need a wife…a home in the suburbs… a Newf… a lawn tractor…a five-computer network…a supercharged, chrome-plated, fully gurgitated, Escher-certified three-pronged blivet?” He who takes need questions seriously, rather than dismissing them with a grimace and a growl, has admitted a hungry predator to his life, one capable of consuming his peace of mind and eager to do so. My advice? Don’t. End of digression.)
But let’s imagine that your interlocutor stands his ground and presses the matter. He might not be hard of hearing. He might be worried. The possibility that you’re right and he’s wrong troubles him deeply, so he must prove you wrong, or at least that you’re inadequate by some standard. This is especially the case with persons who‘ve been persuaded to believe themselves more intelligent than others specifically because of their atheism.
Yet even the most resolute atheist will hear the “still, small voice” at some point in his life. God does all things for each of us, though not necessarily in the same way, at the same time, or under the same circumstances. Some only hear it in the final moments of their lives. Some hear it repeatedly, perhaps for days or weeks at a time.
And some only hear it when they’re with you or me.
Many a Christian is daunted by the certainty and self-satisfaction of the militant atheists. He shrinks before the challenge such persons represent, especially those among them who are of good repute despite their Godlessness. The Christian might say to himself, “What can I do? I’m only a man, one voice in a cacophonious multitude. As ill-equipped as I am, far better to keep silent than to tread dangerous conversational ground.”
I know the feeling. I’ve been there.
Time was, there were two older persons whose neighbors held them in high esteem. To their sorrow, they had never produced a child. Yet despite their years they had not given up hope. They prayed that that empty place in their lives might somehow be filled. And it was:
There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years.
And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course, According to the custom of the priest’s office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense.
And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.
And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings. And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.
And what a child John proved to be:
Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.
Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then?
He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise.
Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do?
And he said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you.
And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages.
And as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not; John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable.
And many other things in his exhortation preached he unto the people.
And many heard John and believed, though he was not himself the Messiah.
Who might hear you?
May God bless and keep you all. And Merry Christmas, of course!