Most years, I usually am the one to purchase my father’s Christmas cards. I peruse several stores, search for beautifully crafted cards, a hint of gold foiling, a message neither too short or long. But this year, it was much more difficult process. Nothing stood out. And there is criteria I keep in mind that entails both my father’s and my tastes. Never will I bring him a card that says ‘seasons greetings’ or ‘happy holidays.’ He registers those automatically as non-religious. The artwork must portray a Christian theme, whether abstract, literal, pastels or rich stereotypical holiday hues is of no importance, but do not expect him to mail cards that do not depict at least an infant Jesus, Mary, or the three wise men. The message is of equal importance. One liners never suffice. Those with several paragraphs or biblical verses test the attention span too much. The words must be precise, but contain the message my father would give. And typically, a reference to Jesus must be a part of that, even if it’s limited to the pronoun, capitalized ‘He.’
This year’s search was particularly trying. I went to seven stores, none too pleased with the finds. The oddest part was the ones I least liked were at the two Christian bookstores I went to (yes, I go to them sometimes. Great places for gifts for Christian friends. And no, I don’t burst into flames upon entering the store). The craftsmanship of their card vendors was either tacky or too childlike and the messages were almost always at least three paragraphs long. Neither the artwork or the succinct verses that seemed like a truncated sermon packed into a tri-fold card were poignant to me. I was surprised that my final purchase came from Dillard’s. A classic art piece of the nativity scene with carefully outlined foiling and with a traditional message of Jesus as the gift, his love a miracle, and may the joys of his love fill all…something along those lines. Yes, this is a card my father would love and like envisioning his friends and family opening and decorating their fireplace mantels and sofa tables.
In the first Christian bookstore, I almost started laughing aloud. The thought had crossed my mind at how odd it is that a borderline Atheist is shopping for Christmas cards for her father to mail. And I’m giggling silently as I’m walking through Veggie Tales and rosaries.
At the second Christian bookstore, I quickly was ill impressed by the selection and decided to amuse myself with the cliff note styles pamphlets they offer on various topics from Atheism VS Christianity, Why only Four Gospels?, 100 Things to Know When Dating, and so on. I was ‘informed’ that the meaning of life for Atheists is “nothing,” yep, that’s what it said. Since Atheists don’t have a god, life has no meaning. What Atheists did they question for this pamphlet? They left out that perhaps meaning of life isn’t limited to a relationship with a deity, that that element isn’t needed in the equation for knowing the meaning of life. Also, that the majority of Atheists are also Humanists, and derive meaning of life into human actions that revolve around helping others, the earth, and so on.
In the pamphlet detailing the development of the Bible, it conveniently left out the Council of Nicea, which basically determined the Christian canon. These destroyed texts were touched upon in the “Why there are only four Gospels” pamphlet, which stated that the other gospels were not included in the canon because they didn’t have ‘reliable’ eye witness accounts of Jesus’ life and actions. My response to this is that none of the writers of the New Testament witnessed Jesus during his life. The Gospel of John is not written by John the Baptist. In fact, the texts weren’t written down until at least a hundred years after Jesus’ death. The Gospels are named because of a person/disciple listed within the first several verses. Even the Gospels stories don’t line up exactly, especially when John is included, there are drastic differences. What the pamphlet should say is a council convened to determine what was “Christian,” a handful of people determined this, and then ordered for the destruction of all previous and then current texts because with that decision, those texts went from “Christian” to heresy. Burn baby burn. So, that is why the Gospel of Judas, the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Mary Magdalene and others were excluded. Not because they weren’t reliable accounts, jeez.
Besides, I would automatically distrust a source that somehow manages to shrink centuries of history, thousands of pages of text, complex theological arguments, and so on into a several page pamphlet with pretty pictures taking up 25% of space. It’s a bit absurd, and I’d hope people would question that, but as I’ve learned, anything quick and easy seems to be the route people choose.