36 online
 
Most Popular Choices
Share on Facebook 47 Printer Friendly Page More Sharing
Exclusive to OpEd News:
Life Arts    H3'ed 12/24/22

Christmas: When Religion Is Capitalism and Market Is Our God

By       (Page 1 of 2 pages)   7 comments
Follow Me on Twitter     Message Mike Rivage-Seul
Become a Fan
  (54 fans)

Christmas Is So Commercial
Christmas Is So Commercial
(Image by Jamison Wieser from flickr)
  Details   DMCA

Recently I got involved in a debate about the relevance of religion. A fellow contributor to OpEdNews took the position that because its myths can be interpreted to support either right or left-wing political positions, the myths themselves are meaningless and so is religion itself.

Accordingly, the latter, he said, should be rejected entirely in favor of 18th century rationalism like that expressed by Thomas Paine. For my debate partner, a world without myth is a richer, more peaceful (!), less problematic one.

I can't get that argument out of my mind especially at this Christmas season.

The position in question ignores the fact of class struggle and that any document worth its salt be it the Bible, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, or the writings of Paine himself will be subject to conflicting interpretations by forces of the left and right. Far from rendering meaningless the documents just referenced, the conflicts only underline their importance and power.

Nowhere does that become clearer than in the cases of mythology, poetry, and art. No holiday better underlines the power of myth and the battle over its interpretation than Christmas.

Capitalism's Christmas

Of course, right-wing interpretations of Christmas have carried the day in America for well more than a century - perhaps always. I'm talking about the holiday's commercialization. It unveils the true religion of America. It discloses the fact that ours is perhaps the world's most prominent religious fundamentalist culture.

That's hard for many to see because America's religion is a masked capitalism that pretends to be secular. However, capitalism's God is real and all powerful. It's called Market. In the Freudian sense, it's a fetish - a human creation treated like a conscious subject with an infallible mind and will of its own. Market decrees who's rich, who's poor, who lives, and who dies. It directs our holy wars. For true believers to transgress its decrees for instance by advocating socialism is heretical and punishable by war, death, and excommunication in the form of economic sanctions. (Cuba is a case in point.)

Market's accompanying supporting myths are powerful too. All of them, of course are unprovable and unfalsifiable. They involve tales of a guiding "Invisible Hand," Natural Order, a basically competitive Human Nature, Bulls, and Bears, free markets, trickle-down, democracy, the richest country in the world, and "America as leader of the free world." No amount of contrary evidence can disprove such fairy tale convictions for Market's faithful. That means that despite protests to the contrary, it's all religion. It's all myth.

Even those who insist on "the reason for the season" routinely reduce the religious meaning of Christmas to maudlin reflections on cute babies, mangers, shepherds in bathrobes, and church services that do nothing to challenge capitalism, commercialization, and the God called Market. Popular Christianity's silence on the point ends up endorsing the whole embarrassing mess and its entrenched superstitions.

And so, Christmas is dominated by Market's epiphanies such as Black Friday, "shopping days till Christmas," special sales, plastic toys, meaningless gifts, and the deity's final decree whether the season was economically successful or a flop. It's all about Santa Baby, Rudolf, and Jingle Bells. Not a mention here of the Jesus Myth and its fundamental challenge to all of that.

(By the way, that the Bible's Christmas story is a myth says nothing about its truth. In fact, from time immemorial, humans everywhere have employed myth to express the deepest truths about life that would otherwise remain ineffable - arguably the most important ones that escape our five senses. They've used mythological markers like those appearing in the Christmas story - divine signs, virgins conceiving, angel appearing, special stars shining, sorcerers perceiving hidden meanings, symbol-laden gifts, dreams, evil kings, and narrow escapes.)

Christmas Truth

And so, what's the truth of Christmas? For those of us who recognize class struggle, as well as the truth and power of mythology, it's about:

  • A houseless working-class family
  • Living in an insignificant country (maybe like Yemen)
  • Under a hated occupying empire (certainly like the United States)

It's about:

Next Page  1  |  2

(Note: You can view every article as one long page if you sign up as an Advocate Member, or higher).

Rate It | View Ratings

Mike Rivage-Seul Social Media Pages: Facebook Page       Twitter Page       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in


Mike Rivage-Seul is a liberation theologian and former Roman Catholic priest. Retired in 2014, he taught at Berea College in Kentucky for 40 years where he directed Berea's Peace and Social Justice Studies Program. His latest book is (more...)
 

Go To Commenting
The views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.
Follow Me on Twitter     Writers Guidelines

 
Contact AuthorContact Author Contact EditorContact Editor Author PageView Authors' Articles
Support OpEdNews

OpEdNews depends upon can't survive without your help.

If you value this article and the work of OpEdNews, please either Donate or Purchase a premium membership.

STAY IN THE KNOW
If you've enjoyed this, sign up for our daily or weekly newsletter to get lots of great progressive content.
Daily Weekly     OpEd News Newsletter
Name
Email
   (Opens new browser window)
 

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

Sunday Homily: Pope Francis to Women: The Next Pope Should Be One of You!

The Case for and Intimate Relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene

"Cloud Atlas": A Film for the Ages (But perhaps not for ours)

Muhammad as Liberationist Prophet (Pt. 2 of 4 on Islam as Liberation Theology)

What You Don't Know About Cuba Tells You About YOUR Future

Sunday Homily: Pope Francis' New Song -- Seven Things You May Have Missed in 'The Joy of the Gospel'

To View Comments or Join the Conversation:

Tell A Friend