I’m still working on my Christmas story. Like much of my writing, it has been pushed to the edges, though it’s also decided to be longer than I originally intended (6000 words, originally). It will probably end up at 8000-10,000 words. It’s a companion story to Order of the PenTriagon, so I do care about getting the details right.
In other news, I’ve run across the anti-Christmas Puritans after years of not hearing their voices. In the early days of the internet, they would have Bible studies via emails or old-school forums — and that was long after I left their physical culture behind. But I was still friends with some, and so I (or my husband) got their emails. Now they are on on YouTube…unsirprisingly.
It’s never just Christmas, of course. It’s puritanism in as many forms as can be excavated through historical studies, but with very little understanding of historical context — the kind of childlike understanding that leads people to the erroneous belief that everybody died by age forty back then, but applied to multiple layers of history.
Although broad-sweeping, this puritanism usually starts with nixing traditional church holidays and filling in the gaps with a quasi adherence to a patriarchy.* Female headscarves are an outward sign of this patriarchy, and I don’t mean the kind some Catholic or Mennonite women wear, as most of the traditional churches aren’t pure enough for the Christmas Puritans.
Do I sound harsh? I probably am bring harsh. Intentionally. I distanced myself from this culture because it was a joyless manifestation of Christianity. And then I watched from afar as the families following this path fell apart. And I mean really fell apart from adultery, divorce, or losing every material thing they’d invested in. In some cases, all three. So I tend to have a sinking heart when I see a renewal of young people following the puritan path.
It isn’t that they’re doing anything wrong. There’s nothing wrong with eschewing holidays or wearing headscarves. The problem is in the relentless pursuit of following a pure religion that causes them to forget that following Jesus must come from an inner place, not an outer one. That outer place is always raising the stakes: it’s not okay to just praise God; you have to use the appropriate Hebrew names. It’s not okay to read God’s word; you have to transliterate it from the Greek and Hebrew. It’s not okay to put your kids in private school; you must homeschool them so they’ll receive pure transliterated doctrine. You must not only follow the biblical dietary laws, you must grow or raise your food yourself.
Again, nothing wrong with any of this. It’s that it never will be enough to cover over that inner place of emptiness, darkness, or perfectiomism that threatens to eviscerate the gospel light of Jesus. That’s the saddest part to me, that a lot of people I knew walked away from their broken lives along with their faith. Yeah, they celebrate Christmas now, but it’s been divested of meaning for them.
Ultimately, it’s hard to live without joy and peace. Joy and peace contain reciprocity: they give you the ability to determine what is really important (i.e. God’s actual standard of holiness) and what is petty or unnecessarily burdensome, which in turn creates more joy and peace to pass on to others. The Christmas Puritans don’t have that to pass around. Consternation: yes. Dissatisfaction: yes, that too. I’ll take the joy of communally celebrating the birth of my savior, albeit on the wrong day and with benign pre-Christian traditions thrown in, over petty consternation any wrong day of the year.
*I call it quasi patriarchy because almost without fail, the woman is the driver in these families. They are large and in charge, forcing their husbands to submit to their form of religiosity…which involves patriarchy. If the results weren’t so devastating, I would laugh instead of weep.