December 25, 2013

FROM THE ARCHIVES : WE BAPTISTS GOT ALL THE GOOD SONGS:

Let's Have an American Christmas! (Peter Lawler, December 22, 2012, Big Think)

Our objections to the excessive commodification of Christmas remains basically Puritanical.  Our secularized Puritans sometimes display a hostility to the very idea of the religious holiday as offensive to our egalitarian identity.  But often the objection is softer and on behalf of a more Christian Christmas.  The evangelicals in my semi-rural county sometimes display signs saying "Christmas is a birthday" in their yards. And the objection to turning "Merry Christmas" into "Happy Holidays" is sometimes to the pointless hyper-commercialization Rand celebrates and Walmart promotes.

Our Puritans were against Christmas because it was un-Christian.  And our founders dissed it because it was un-republican and un-American.  It was a decaying English tradition unfit for our enlightened way of life, our new order of the ages.

The Christmas revival in the South was quicker and very antebellum.  The aristocratic southerners quickly became attuned to the gentle relational pleasure of traditional celebrations. And they lost Mr. Jefferson's hostility to what the Bible actually says about God becoming man by being born of a virgin.

We find another distinctively southern American form of Christmas in the "Christmas spiritual."  Most of these haunting tunes adorned with elegantly simple and profoundly Biblical words were written by slaves and collected after the war.  They were preserved and popularized through African-American churches and groups such as the Fisk Jubilee Singers.

Here is a good list of the top ten Christmas spirituals.  It has two flaws that I'm able to notice.  Where's "Mary Had a Baby"?  And "I Wonder as a Wander" is a white Appalachian Christmas song, which is also a distinctively American but somewhat different genre.

These spirituals typically had double meanings.  They indirectly refer to the coming redemptive act of being liberated from chattel slavery.  But they also, quite authentically, refer to the redemption described in the Bible, the redemption from sin and from our homelessness in this world.  Our African-American poets, at their best, showed us that neither form of "the theology of liberation" should stand alone.

So we might begin with them in developing our American criticism of Rand.



[originally posted : 12/23/12]
Posted by at December 25, 2013 5:31 AM
  

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