Put Up or Shut Up

Upside Down Christmas Tree

As Advent approaches, the Injustice Gamer notes the increasing commercialization and concurrently decreasing observance of religious holidays.
But the celebration of religious holy days and festivals is largely a foreign concept, especially when one looks at the family problems of the day. When kids start seeing all the problems of Christmas and Thanksgiving in coordination at both mom and dad's houses, and want stability instead, the concept is undermined. Yes, further than the materialistic nature Christmas has taken on more and more.
Since family has been destroyed as a concept for many, there's the attractiveness of celebration with friends. And while holy days are indeed appropriate to share in feasting, they've already been poisoned in many minds and hearts. And Halloween in the minds of the nones has nothing to do with faith, after all, it's been associated with witches and horror for ages in pop culture.
One reason why Postmoderns need to perpetually denigrate superior medieval culture is the fact that not only were holy days taken more seriously in the Ages of Faith, there were more of them. Peasants in the Middle Ages enjoyed many more days off than contemporary cubicle slaves.

But of course, we can't mention that since Big Brother needs his tax revenue--the welfare state being another consequence of Christianity's decline in the West. (See the destruction of family above.)

For those who don't understand why Halloween overtaking Christmas as the most popular holiday has major cultural implications, consider that Christmas' prior claim to the top spot is itself an aberration. After all, the holiest day of the year is Easter, not Christmas. Yet most people--even most Christians--are ignorant of this fact.

As renowned folklorist Joseph Campbell observed, myths are how a culture explains itself to itself. And no, Campbell didn't mean "myth" in the Postmodern sense of "falsehood". He was thinking more along the lines of Lewis.

Religious rituals like holidays are how the lessons and spiritual nourishment contained within myths are applied to people's daily lives. Cut people off from the rituals, and you get cultural death.

You might object that Americans still participate in public rituals associated with secular holidays. But that's like saying everything's fine even though there's no more water because there's plenty of New Coke for everyone.

Put another way, there are two Greek words for time. Kairos is sacred time, liturgical time; time that touches eternity. Kairos is when the transcendent touches the mundane and thus when myths break through into people's lives.

Chronos is sequential, earthly time. When you're waiting in line at the DMV, stuck in traffic, or watching television, that's chronos. It's concerned only with the here and now.

What's happened in Western culture is the wholesale denial of any experience of kairos to vast swaths of the population. Even when people think they're keeping the old rituals--buying gifts, throwing big dinner parties, etc.--most of their holiday experience is stuck firmly in chronos. That's by design.

Alfred offers some suggestions for how to revive Christendom's dying traditions. His last point in particular resonated with me for obvious reasons.
We are seeing well written novels come out that respect faith, and "Christian" movies are starting to get the need for less insular audiences as well. Who's missing? The commentators and populizers. But I don't think it's for the same reasons quite as conservatives. Some may be due to ignorance, some due to a rejection of portrayal of sin, which is lying to ourselves. We are fallen, and have redemption only as a gift.
And I have seen many push the idea of reading only old books, and the superiority of old art, etc. But the problem there is, if they won't help with supporting the new works, the restoration they desire will never happen; art needs funding. You want to replace modern garbage with real art? Put up or shut up. Enough with the navel gazing superiority.
Luckily, I'm well placed to offer readers the perfect chance to put up.

Nethereal - Brian Niemeier

I couldn't put Nethereal down.


  1. If you don't mind something of a tangent, I think it's worth pointing out that it's not just, or even primarily, the decline of the family that's led to the modern welfare state, and the Christianity whose decline led to it is specifically Catholic Christianity. This can be seen very clearly in the English schism.

    In short, prior to Henry VIII's little fling, care for the poor in England had come from two main sources: the monasteries, and celibate priests. These were supplemented by various guilds (not just the large trade guilds; many small ones existed for purposes like putting on a particular religious play, maintaining a shrine - or even just a candle in front of an image - to a particular saint, and they all took care of the families of deceased members, as well as their souls, in the form of masses said and alms given) and bequests. All almsgiving was spurred on (as documented by Eamon Duffy) by a belief in purgatory. These means were successful enough that many wills were beginning to take care to instruct that the alms of the deceased should be given to "worthy" poor, since some folks were apparently doing quite well for themselves by going around as a sort of career mourner/beggar.

    Then came the schism. Not only were the looted and abolished monasteries no longer available to care for the poor, but the new owners drastically raised the rents on their lands, frequently driving the tenants into penury. Further, the priests instead of being free to care for the local poor were often as not struggling to support families. Belief in purgatory was never entirely extinguished, even among the schismatics, but was heavily discouraged and sometimes outright forbidden. Guilds were abolished or fell into disuse, alms left in wills gradually dried up, tithing and alms put in care of the priests decreased, and many foundations, chantries, guilds, etc. had the funds set aside for the care of souls in both alms and mass stipends simply confiscated.

    Throw in a few civil wars and conflict with both France and Spain, and by 1601 Elizabeth had little choice but to enact the poor laws to try and stem the tide. Note that this was all LONG before the widespread dissolution of the family we see in our own day. Though inroads were being bade even then, and this dissolution does, of course, make things even worse.

    To bring it back around to holidays, almsgiving was only a secondary purpose for most of the institutions which took care of it. The primary jobs of the monks and the priests were prayer and sacrifice, manifested most visibly in the feasts and fasts of the liturgical year. Especially, as you noted, Lent and Easter, the harshest fast and biggest feast. "Seek ye first..."

    1. I don't mind at all. In fact, your comment is quite salient.

    2. Hrodgar
      An excellent overview of the English situation. I'd add that Henry's precedent created a matrix that was repeated in Spain albeit for diffenrent reasons.In Spain the agricutural question domunated everything in the 19th century. By then the Church and the monasteries held a huge amount of land that wasn't cultivated and so by liquidating thw monasteries and freeing up the monks would stimulate the industry.
      But it was a total failure. Bastiet who was there at the time explained qhy and has been vinsicated by modern historians.

      Given the parity between 5he liberals and Carlistas, it was impossible to reform or to roll them back. So Spain was stuck with a growing social problem that wracked the country right up to the civil war and has sort of returned with the de jure declartion of the Catalan republic in October.
      In sum, Henry's precedent exposed the state is both incompetent and venial in caring for people ( cf the VA hospitals in the US or the protection of children in Quebec) and the cronies always enrich themselves cheaply and become an ebola type malady
      The challenge is how to fork and replace?