Category Archives: religion

Christmas Message: Keep Out!

Is this the world’s most odious hypocrite?

The pope is reported as condemning the commercialisation of christmas in his midnight mass.

Erm, right, Your Holiness.  So what is the purpose of the fabulously wealthy organisation over which you preside?  Aha, yes.  Amongst the catholic church’s responsibilities, you maintain the communion of saints: individuals you bless as exemplary role models.  There’s a saint particularly associated with Christmas: St.Nicholas brings gifts to children.  Isn’t that the very commercialisation you condemn?

OK, the original St.Nicholas’s gift of gold was to the three daughters of a nobleman.  I guess if you limit your gifts firmly to a tiny elite, you’re distinct from our modern inclusive commercialisation.  I guess his message to the masses is to know your place, keep your grubby hands off our tradition, and don’t expect your worthless children to share the privileges of their betters.

Evidently the Victorians were wrong when they gave us the modern Christmas as a season of goodwill.  The true spirit of Christmas is that embodied by the unreformed Ebenezer Scrooge when he denounced as a humbug the commercialisation inherent in an inclusive Christmas.

But hang on!  Doesn’t the Christmas story also tell of rich gifts to one particular child?  A child who, unlike St.Nicholas’s beneficiaries, was a humble commoner by birth?  Well, no: that’s not necessarily inconsistent either: it’s the giving, not the receiving of gifts that’s inclusive in that story.  Maybe a narrative root for the church’s own fabulous wealth.  And besides, the three magi aren’t saints: their gifts to a commoner may be commendable by Victorian or modern commercialised values, but they’re not actually blessed by the church.

Good.  He’s not a hypocrite after all.  Just so long as we don’t get distracted by misguided notions of goodwill to all, his position is perfectly consistent.  That is (of course) provided his message didn’t include inconsistencies that the headlines omit.