Sunday, December 23, 2007


It's snowing this morning, falling pretty thickly. The wind is picking up and whistling outside our windows. Two more days to Christmas, and I haven't finished wrapping presents. One present is still on route from a catalog sales company which shall remain nameless, because Patrick reads this blog.

I turned on the radio yesterday morning, which I don't usually do. It was set for KBEM, the station of the Minneapolis School District. Usually KBEM plays jazz, but Saturday morning is a a bluegrass program. I decided I didn't want to listen to bluegrass and turned to KSJN, Minnesota Public Radio.

Of course, this time of year KSJN was playing Christmas music.

I do not come from a religious background. My father was raised Unitarian, which always stuck me as odd. Why would an Icelandic immigrant family be Unitarian? But it turns out many Icelandic immigrant families were. They were too small a community to establish their own churches, and the Unitarian church was closer to the Icelandic form of Lutheranism than anything else they could find. My father slid away from Unitarianism as soon as possible. (I love the idea of a backsliding Unitarian.) When I knew him, his only interest in religion was in the art it produced.

My mother grew up among missionaries in western China. By the time she went to college, she'd had enough religion to last a lifetime, and a healthy dislike for hypocrisy and prejudice, which had been -- in her opinion -- rather too common in the missionary community. But she loved Christmas and was well equipped with Biblical quotes. She was especially fond of "it's harder for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven." She also liked to say, "We are put on Earth to help one another," which is not from the Bible, but is a good brief summary of many Biblical passages.

In any case, Christmas was a big deal in our house: the tree, the presents, Charles Dickens, who was my mother's favorite author, snow falling outside the big picture window in our living room, and especially the music.

Well, this year, when I turned to KSJN, I discovered I did not want to hear Christmas music.

I know exactly why this is.

The right wing's noisy claim to the Christian religion and every part of Christmas, including the pagan parts, has had an effect on me. Right now, I associate the holiday and the religion with them. I know there are many good people doing good work -- the Lutheran ministers and Catholic nuns and decent lay people that Patrick knows in his work. But right now, when I think of the religion, I think of the right wing.

Patrick just emerged from the bedroom, looking frazzled -- he's had a rough week, and wearing a tee shirt that says, "Don't be afraid to share."

I need to get out of this mood. If my mother could love Christmas after being raised among missionaries in the first part of the 20th century, I can love it here and now.


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