This is the sixth of a seven-part series, “Recruiting Alma the Younger” (see earlier essays exploring competing narratives of faith struggles, the pain of walking away, historical concerns, and The Church of Jesus Christ itself – along with the under-discussed effects of socio-political narratives on faith).
“I thought it was a bunch of mumbo jumbo. Crazy thing is… it’s true…All of it. It’s all true.” – Hans Solo, The Force Awakens
Upon stepping away from the Church of Jesus Christ several years ago, a friend of mine wrote publicly about his new feelings at Christmas time. In recounting a seasonal concert his family had attended, he remarked at how “transfixed” his young son was with the magic of the holiday event. Although this young boy still believed in Santa Clause, he no longer believed in God – following his parents’ lead.
After reflecting on that ironic contrast, my friend’s concluding take-away was this: “They’re just stories! Santa Claus. Baby Jesus. Elves and reindeer. Angels and wise men. Each as real or fictional as the other.”
No matter how engrossing any of these dramatic stories may be to us, he’s arguing that like Star Wars, they’re really just pleasant fictions – no matter what Hans Solo might think.
Each time I revisit the conclusion of this man I continue to love and respect, I feel the same thing: A sadness. For him. His sweet boy. And his whole family – especially during this season of the year.
If the whole thing – baby Jesus, angels, the cross and empty tomb – really was just “mumbo jumbo” or a captivating fable…would Christmas have any meaning at all – outside of, perhaps, a raw anthropological acknowledgment of inherent value in social bonding, human community and cultural myths that help all of that happen?
Transcendent joy? Peace on earth? Good will to men and women?
Some nice feel-good concepts, arising from enduring myths that would make Joseph Campbell proud.
As quickly as a child discovering who really left presents under the tree, the magic of this holiday season would vanish for me and many other believers.
But it doesn’t have to.Continue reading