An Ex-Xian's Xmas 

Part Two: Twas the fight before Christmas

"Hypocrite! You don't want nothing to do with what makes Christmas so holy and rejoicy and such. But then you wanna a share in all the goodies what comes with it. Pick your side, Cope! You cain't not believe in the sweet cake o' Jesus, then eat it, too!"

"What're you saying, Red? That I'm a hypocrite for wanting joy and peace and cheer as much as any Christian?"

"That's just the tip o' the icicle, Cope. Tell me something, do you tinsel up a tree ever' year?

"Yes, I do. Or rather, my wife does. But I usually help her get it screwed straight into the ... "

"And you go out a'shopping for stuff what your family will get all wrapped up and ribboned come Christmas morning?"

"Of course I do. No way of getting around ... "

"And come Christmas Day, do you sit down to a big spread of delectables with your loved ones all there chowing down, and you feel all gooey and fuzzy 'cause you're all together?"

"Red, you know I do. Why wouldn't I want ..."

"Far as I'm concerned, that makes you like one of them fellers what sneaks into a wedding without knowing neither bride nor groom, then goes through the Swede meatballs and the olives like he ain't never seen food before."

"A wedding crasher?"

"That's right. Only you' re a Christmas crasher! You go around with a big Christmas grin on your mug, eating up Christmas grub and whistling your favorite Christmas tunes. But you got no good reason to be acting so Christmasy because you ain't got no Christ watching your back, Cope. You're just putting it on. You're just pretending."

"Actually ... mostly ... you're right, Red. I do put it on. A lot of it, anyway. I go along, pretending it's a special time, a special thing, because believe it or not, I want to think there's something special about being alive and being loved and feeling love for others, and I do it because I think that what we are at our best ... this marvelous frail miracle we have become in the black empty universe ... that it's worth throwing a big-ass party over once a year. Know what I mean? It's like a generic existential bliss and blessedness, grace and goodwill, and by God, it doesn't belong to just you Christians."

"See? This is 'zactly what I mean! You don't like us Christians, so ever' year, you kick up a dang war on Christmas just to irritate the pee-wadding out of us."

"Phooey! I'm not waging any damn war on Christmas, Red."

"Oh yeah? Then do you say 'Merry Christmas' when you drop a dime in the Salvation Army pot, or do you say 'Happy Holidays?'"

"Ah, let me think. I guess as a general rule, I say 'You bet.' Like, the bell ringer says 'Thank you,' and I answer back 'You bet.' I don't feel any need to make a grand declaration out of it."

"What you dropping money in that pot for anyways, Cope, if'n you don't believe in Christian charity?"

"Humbug crap! You can practice Christian charity without believing in the Christian part, Red. It goes to show how the Christmas spirit rises up from real flesh-and-blood human hearts. That it's not being dripped over us from on high like some kind of angel juice on a glazed ham."

"See? There ya go again! Angel juice? You don't call that waging a war on Christmas?"

"Let me tell you something. No one needs to wage a war on Christmas. Between the ever-expanding role of science in our culture and the ever-decreasing role of good sense among so many of your mouthier Christian leaders, my bet is that Christianity will dry up like last year's poinsettia, just from the exposure. Think about this, Red: A hundred years ago, before all the radio preachers and televangelists and Religious Right crusaders, there weren't more than a handful of Americans who would admit to being atheists. But now, we're up to about 17 percent. Get it? The more your preachers talk, the more non-believers there are. We don't need a war on Christmas. The whole thing is collapsing under the weight of its own absurdity."

"My Jesus ain't absurd!"

"Maybe not. But what got named after him is."

"I done changed my mind. I ain't giving you no present after all, Cope! You don't deserve no presents."

"Aw, darn. And to think I went out and got you something, just to show my appreciation for all the inspiration you've given me. But if you don't want to accept a gift from a hypocrite atheist Christmas crasher like me, I'll understand."

"You already got me somethin'? Wull, uh, truth is, I got you something, too. You like cheese, don't ya?"

"I think I know where you went. How many cheeses in yours?"

"Four. And two kinds of sausage. And mustard in one of them little bitty jars."

"We got one another the same thing, Red."

"Dang. I suppose we might as well just hang onto the one we got then, huh? That'd save on ribbon and wrapping paper."

"Do what you want, but I'm going to wrap mine up anyway. And I'll bring it over to you special. You know what they say ... about how it's not the gift that counts?"

"And when you come over, Cope. I'll see if'n we can't get through the visit without an argument breakin' out."

"Why, Red, you jolly old soul, you."

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