21 December 2005: Peace on Earth

Peace on earth bad for business

It must be tough being a conservative this time of year. Even tougher, I suppose, to be a libertarian conservative. All those liberal values being expressed and promulgated everywhere you turn—you know, joy, peace, and love. Not that they’re taken very seriously by some who mouth them, you understand. Witness, for example, the unusually high decibel level from the religious right about how liberals have been waging war on Christmas. One would think that just this one time, they would get off the war thing, but you got to keep the dough rolling in.

By now you may be aware of the “history of Christmas,” but if not, I am happy to “enlighten” you. For the first four centuries of Christianity, Jesus’ birth was hardly a consideration. With its rise to dominance in the Roman Empire, a sound strategy had to be implemented to insure free-spirited pagans would stay on board. So, essentially the Christians tagged the Nativity to December 25, thereby joining up with anthropomorphic cultures that had already deigned that day to celebrate the “return of light.” The light motif, especially the rebirth of it, would prove itself to be universal, due to it being the first day after the solstice when daylight was perceptively lengthening.

The ancient Zoroastrians had longed honored the birth of their savior Mithras, the god of the “unconquerable sun,” on December 25. Roman legionnaires brought the cult back to Rome, which tied in nicely with the established Roman celebrations of Saturnalia and Juvenilia from whence we get the tradition of giving gifts to children. Prior to Roman traditions developing, Greeks celebrated the birth of Apollo, their Sun God, as well on December 25. Along the way, ancient Norsemen developed the tradition of finding the burliest tree—their Yule Log—and lit it afire. It took about 12 days for it to burn, hence the 12 days of Christmas. Christians saw fit to co-opt that period, the end of which they marked with the arrival of the Magi bearing gifts—see Juvenilia above—to honor the Child Jesus, as well as other “pagan” practices such as stringing holly and decorating evergreen trees, which were then called neither Christmas nor holiday trees, honored for their magic in remaining green throughout the “dead months.”

In America, ancient Chacoans in northwest New Mexico, along with as other indigenous cultures, marked the solstice as well. In fact, they seem to have constructed the only calendar that accurately correlated both the solar and lunar celestial winter events in one site. It has been dubbed the Sun Dagger, but I digress.

Ancient folks were wiser than we moderns in that they decided that waging war in the bitterly cold month of December was both uncomfortable and impracticable. Perhaps that is the reason it came to be known as the “Season of Peace.” Modern man—not woman—understands, though, that wasting the winter in not waging war would be a financial disaster. Waging war in Iraq, on the social-welfare state, on terrorists, on secular humanists, on illegal immigrants, on gays, on liberated women, along with other assorted battlefronts has not resulted in sufficient bloodletting, thus the war on liberals for them waging war on Christmas.

According to the Pope though, it’s not the liberals that, after all, have been waging the war on Christmas. Much to the agitation of libertarian conservatives, who seem to find meaning in life only through the dollar, Pope Benedict, playing the role of a wet blanket for American consumption and greed, says it is materialism that is the assassin of the Spirit of Christmas Past. Wars of the world. Perhaps, that’s the reason we intuitively and literally want to snuggle up aside that archetypal blazing Yule Log. It provides a haven from them.

I still can remember old Father Eddie from my boyhood Catholic school days railing about the choral refrain being not “peace on Earth and good will to man” but “peace to men of good will.” Maybe he had it right, and that’s the reason we cannot find peace. Not enough men of good will, and, besides, we simply don’t want it. Be bad for business. Nonetheless, the rest of us progressive-minded ones still hold on to our wistful dream of peace on Earth, even though it wouldn’t bode well for Halliburton and the rest of the military-industrial complex, as President Eisenhower labeled it.

Be that as it may, I love it when I am wished a Merry Christmas by a Christian, a Happy Chanukah by a Jew, or a warm and peaceful solstice by a pagan or other Earth-based spiritualist. No matter your tribe or spiritual tradition, it all means the same—peace on earth and good will to all—to men of good and of bad will. My wish for this season and for 2006 is that we live to witness an outbreak of peace in our lifetimes. In that spirit, I would like to say thank you to you, my readers, and wish you all, of good or bad will, a Merry and Mirthful Mithrasmas, not that I am betoken to Zoroaster, but it is a delightful mouthful, especially when said with a mouth filled with M&Ms.

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