Am I wrong to hate Christmas?
Maybe I’m wrong to hate Christmas.
I do worry about this being taken out of context. You can picture the right-wing tabloids’ headlines: ‘Muslim comedian rants about beloved Christian institution.’ So let me be clear: I hate Christmas because I think Jesus – the guy whose birthday it is – would hate it too.
I don’t dislike the day itself. I love a spiritually-oriented excuse to catch-up with family and friends and celebrate the life of one of the most significant people to have ever lived. I just can’t stand the spectacle that precedes it.
I hate London’s Oxford Street, draped in garish lights, looking like Mecca during Hajj. I hate competitions over which company has the most emotionally manipulative, debt-teasing, stress-inducing TV advert. And I hate being relentlessly reminded of all this from early October.
21st century hyper-techno-capitalism’s deformation of Christmas has as much to do with Christianity as a piss-up and a hog roast has to do with Ramadan.
Some might disagree. Perhaps the roots our dismal economic system can be found all those years ago in Bethlehem; you could argue that giving birth in a manger because all the inns were full was an early teaser for the business model that ultimately came to fruition as Airbnb.
From our contemporary perspective, Jesus’ life makes more sense too: not the son of God but a social media influencer (advertising-speak for a famous person), building one of the most reputable brands known to man with only 12 followers (including one troll).
You can imagine the passive-aggressive Twitter banter between him and Pontius Pilate: the latter happily retweeting ‘Nazareth First’ videos of ‘Christian tries to disrespect Roman emperor, gets crucified – EPIC FAIL’.
The lesson of Jesus’ life is that retweets mean so much more than followers. It’s all about reach, as any social media guru will tell you. And Jesus has reach; you can’t argue with that.
Maybe Jesus would’ve been OK with the consumer capitalist overload that accompanies his birthday each year. My conservative friends think he’s one of them: although he had humble origins as a carpenter’s son, he soon got on his bike – and ended up walking on water.
He then had the entrepreneurial spirit to establish a globally franchised, multi-level marketing operation, with major shareholders in Rome, Canterbury, Athens and Moscow and branches around the world.
But the more I think about it the more I agree with my lefty friends, who think Jesus was a socialist. Not only because he believed in non-traditional families structures and fraternized with sex workers and the marginalized, but because he was big on healing the sick, establishing the Judean NHS with a single touch.
And let’s not forget, he kicked the money lenders out of the temple, saying, ‘My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.’ It was basically the opposite of a government bail-out. I’m sure the money changers would have preferred it if the Temple Bank of Judea was allowed to continue to trade, having been propped up by the taxpayer.
Within a week of turning the tables on the bankers, Jesus was dead. It’s almost as if capitalism killed him off. Perhaps there’s a warning from history there for another JC who’s expecting his moment in the sun next year.
Help us keep this site free for all
New Internationalist is a lifeline for activists, campaigners and readers who value independent journalism. Please support us with a small recurring donation so we can keep it free to read online.