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Life Arts    H4'ed 11/21/14

Deconstruct the Holy from the Festive Xmas Holiday?

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Message mahdi ibn-ziyad

I also confess that I have in many ways celebrated cultural Christmas, with my many Christian family members and friends without a focus on the birth of the Prophet Jesus or Isa as we Muslims call the great religious personality who was supposedly, but for many religious historians was probably not, born on December 25th.

Some non-Christians even get caught up in the shopping for gifts thing and will even give their own children and Christian friends or relatives gifts and invite them over for dinner at Xmas time to watch a football game. Or they will go to their Christian friend's house or party to join a Christmas Eve festive. Even in the public schools and public charter schools Christmas as a cultural celebration detached from its strictly religious motifs should be included as an activity that is open to all regardless of religious ideology.

But even the centuries of accrued pagan aspects of the Christmas festive have a religious quality given their origins in ancient, pre-Christian European religious mythologies (not the ancient Palestinian, Semitic and/or Ebonite Christianity of the first century). A theist religious tradition piled on top of other different pagan religious, polytheist traditions. After centuries, much if not all becomes fuzzy, less clear and hard to figure out.

But sadly, I arrive at a conclusion having no real clue as to how to imaginatively deconstruct the cultural from the religious in the Christmas festive. The birth scene of Jesus, the Wise Magi, Eastern Star, farm animals and shepherds and may evoke both a mixed religious and cultural comment. Though even here constant commercialization of this pastoral, nativity scene has taken a secular turn in the eyes of nominal Christian believers and non-believers alike. Many of the ardent Christian faithful, like the colonial Puritans in Boston and Plymouth and the much later Jehovah's Witnesses of Brooklyn's Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, see that the somber seriousness of the religious idea of Christmas has been damaged over time by a purely irreligious "cultural" and commercial appropriation of Christmas. Or more orthodox Christian religious purists see that Christmas as a sacred holy day, when viewed, theologically or historically, does not merit the attention that many of their co-religionists may append to it.

What to do about that problem has not been clarified among the Christian majority themselves. There is a love for religion that's balanced by a love for culture; a culture based on irreligious values of materialism and engineered by capitalist economic methods that tend make commodities of all things, including sacred religious holy days. Until such confusion is cleared up, the Merry in the dandChristmas festive will remain most important for a religiously diverse American public. The religious dimension of the sacred Christmas holy day will hopefully re-enter pristine religious settings where all seriousness to the birth of Christ will be granted by observant Christian religious devotees. Muslim devotion to the Muslim holy day of Eid al-Adha and Jewish devotion to their chosen holy days will also proceed within the borders of set devotional horizons and not in public spaces " unless, of course, the cultural aspects of those holy days can be constructed (by deconstructing the religious aspect) and presented as sanitized or secularized "Happy Holidays" that celebrate and wholeheartedly welcome diverse participation by all, but do no violence to other taxpaying people's religious beliefs.

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Dr. Ibn-Ziyad has demonstrated an abiding concern for racial justice, humanitarian and environmental issues and has been active as a member or leader (1988-present) in the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (Washington, DC), the (more...)
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