Jason Mankey, a fellow blogger on Patheos and a self described Pagan, to review "Good Tidings and Great Joy: Protecting the Heart of Christmas."
Jason is a very kindly fellow, and I think he really tried to approach the task with an open mind.
Did not last long.
Here is a smattering of his observations:
After a quick one and a half page history of Christmas Governor Palin writes:
” . . So fast forward a few years and jump over to a different continent. ‘Christmas’ became an American federal holiday in 1870 when President Ulysses S. Grant signed a bill the House and Senate had already overwhelmingly passed. In this country, our federal holiday does not honor the agricultural gods of Rome or the pagan rituals of the winter solstice. Here in America, Christmas marks Christ’s birth, a moment of unquestioned historical, cultural, and religious significance. (This is revealed in the actual name of the holiday: Christmas.)”
There are several problems here, and the biggest is a complete lack of context detailing why Christmas became a national holiday in 1870. As a holiday, Christmas slowly grew in importance throughout the 19th Century, and its growth had nothing to do with Jesus. Christmas exploded in popularity due to secular influences. One of those influences was literary. The popularity of both Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and Clement Moore’s A Visit From St. Nicholas played a large role in spreading the holiday, but neither work makes a mention of Jesus’s birthday. The impulse to “sell stuff” also played a huge role in creating our Modern Christmas. If Christmas had always been this hugely important thing about Jesus, wouldn’t it have been a holiday long before 1870? Don’t tell me that my boozy great-great-great-great-uncle was the first Christian with the willpower to proclaim Christmas a national holiday.
Jason is also stunned to find that not only does Palin attack gay marriage, she also attacks anyone who does not agree with her viewpoints.
” . . .This is frequently where liberals and conservatives part ways . . . . Liberals tend to believe people are good, and institutions like the church or the traditional family are actually oppressive . . . By contrast, conservatives tend to believe that people aren’t that great to start with. And without faith and family to guide us and reinforce values that often go against our selfish desires, we’ll drift towards our own destruction.”
I have never met a liberal who argued that families are “oppressive.” Some of the people I know most dedicated to family are politically liberal. There’s also the innuendo that liberals can’t be Christian.
All in all the book serves as a crash course in Palin's venomous character, that Jason apparently had not been completely aware of before reading the book.
In another section of the book Palin makes the assertion that “there’s a relationship between Christianity and a healthy civilization” that almost resulted in me spitting coffee all over myself. Was civilization “healthy” when the majority of Europeans worked as serfs? How about Christian Europe before the Renaissance when science and reason were dirty words? (Come to think of it, we seem to be headed back to that era.) How about when people were being burnt at the stake for witchcraft in the name of Christ? Slavery was healthy? All of that happened in an era when nearly everyone in Europe was a Christian. I’m not going to blame all of those problems on Christianity, but if those are healthy societies I’d like to see the sick ones!
Palin’s scorn for atheists almost feels like blood-boiling rage on occasion, and the idea that a person might do good just for the sake of doing good seems alien to her. At one point she states that “”The logical result of atheism is severe moral decay,” an assertion not supported by anything I’ve ever read or come across. I’m confused as to what she thinks these atheists are going to do to society.
Confusion and bewilderment plagued me throughout Good Tidings, especially during the bits about “The War on Christmas.” There is no war on Christmas, and the only wars on Christmas have generally involved Christians going after Christians. Christmas is bigger than ever, it’s practically inescapable, and if someone says “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” they aren’t secretly honoring Satan under their breath. Christmas is one of the “Holidays” being referred to, I don’t think anyone believes it’s being left out. Perhaps the Palin family doesn’t celebrate the New Year?
At this point Jason is fairly seething, and in the end he does a really good job of summarizing just how Palin gets the entire point of Christmas wrong.
I’ve always liked to believe that The Holidays are a time to celebrate our commonalities instead of our differences. This is where Mrs. Palin and I disagree most on the subject of Christmas. For her it can only be a celebration about the birth of Jesus, and anything else diminishes the holiday. What Palin fails to understand is that the “reason for the season” varies from person to person. If Christmas is just about Jesus for you, that’s fine, and I think that’s beautiful. But I don’t understand why anyone needs what’s in their hearts to be affirmed by Target or Wal-Mart. Aren’t those the last places a Christian wants to see Jesus? Did I miss something in the Beatitudes about Jesus endorsing cheap plastic junk from China? It seems as if Palin wants society to fill some sort of role as religious teacher. If she truly cared about the family and the home, wouldn’t she want those institutions to teach those values?
Of course for all of us here at IM none of this comes as any surprise. After all we know the darkness and hatred that hides in the heart of Sarah Palin.
However it is interesting that the book she is currently marketing to soften her image with anecdotes and family recipes, is in fact serving to inform previously uninformed people as to just how hateful and divisive of a person she really is.
Only Sarah Palin could write a book about Christmas that makes people want to protect the holiday....from her.
To read more of Jason Mankey's review just click here.