I sent your link to my list. This came in from a fellow who lives in south Africa. He's a good man. He gave me permission to forward to you. If you have time to correspond with him, I would be interested in being copied.
Sent: 12/24/2009 12:09:14 P.M. Eastern Standard Time Subj: Re: Pagan Propaganda: The Other Attack on Christmas Sorry, but Mr Duke is wrong on many points. It is well established (and has been for more than 150 years in a wide range of scholarship) that Christmas and Easter are "Christianized" pagan events (along with dozens of others, including Lent, "All Saints Day," and so on). I personally have studied this issue deeply and for some years and I'm satisfied with the provenance of the scholarship and analysis. I'm afraid he's a reverse-PC revisionist. This kind of thing does little for the credibility of the cause of Biblical Christianity.
No, I won't be responding to your friend, and this is for a simple reason. While he may be a "good" man, practically speaking (not theologically; Jesus said only God is good), I suspect that interacting with him would be like talking to a wall. After all, my article is sufficient to refute his thesis. And the fact that it didn't even cause him to question his beliefs one iota is quite telling.As for his assertion, just because he says he has "studied" the issue and that I'm wrong doesn't make it so. Many Muslims and atheists have studied the question of religion and say Christians are wrong, period. And understand that the tactic your friend uses to discredit Christmas is the same one many of these people will use to discredit Christianity itself. They will say that Mithraism involves a virgin birth, 12 apostles, a figure who died for our sins, etc. and that this means Christians just co-opted the Mithras story. What is the problem? All those assertions about Mithraism are false, it appears; they were made up out of whole cloth. And the same is, it seems, true of the idea that Christmas was influenced by Mithraism and/or other pagan religious beliefs. Of course, I'm sure your friend has his sources that say otherwise, just as the Muslims and atheists have sources that make those specious claims about Mithraism birthing Christianity. And just as your friend will never admit he could be in error, they will insist they're right as well. But do you really want to align yourself with people who use this tactic?
I also should point out that I received a very interesting email from a historian in Italy. He said that there is new research out of Israel, conducted by a Jewish source, indicating that Jesus actually was born on the 25th. If this is true, I myself was incorrect in one of my assertions in my piece. Is it true? I don't know, not any more than your friend knows about the historicity of his claims. The only difference between us is that I am mindful of Confucius' saying, "Wisdom is, when you know something, knowing that you know it; and when you do not know something, knowing that you do not know it." Of course, your friend would now probably say, "Aha! Duke is quoting a pagan!" I suppose nothing can be true if a pagan said it, even though pagans expressed certain truths that the Bible does itself.
At the end of the day, what is the reality about the history here? Well, Napoleon once said, "History is a series of agreed upon myths." I'm not quite that cynical, but we should note the truth behind his statement. The fact is that history (like the Bible and even the Constitution, as we, sadly, have seen) can be easily spun to fit an agenda. And it's especially easy with history because its book is the size of the world and contains innumerable pages, and many of those pages are very hard to read. That is to say, history is often very fuzzy; it's often difficult to ascertain what really happened at a given time. This is just another reason why it's silly — profoundly silly — when some people claim that we should dispense with almost 2000 years of Christian tradition in the name of some specious analysis of history, history which, mind you, these folks usually don't even know very well. Moreover, even if they did, they lack the wisdom to place it in proper perspective anyway.
And, really, if we are to be constrained by the reason God gave us, the anti-Christmas crowd simply cannot win this debate. Because aside from the fuzziness of history, there is the following point I made in my piece:
If we were to discard all things pagan, I should think we'd plunge ourselves back into the Stone Age. We walk on concrete, record our knowledge with letters, and designate our months with names originated/invented by the pagan Romans. We steer our boats with rudders invented by the pagan Chinese; make calculations with numbers invented by pagan Indians; and create computer graphics, medical imaging, and designs for buildings and bridges using geometry formalized by pagan Greeks. And much of our philosophy (and much of that drawn upon by early Christians, mind you) was generated by pagans such as Aristotle and Plato. Should we "go Taliban" and burn all their works -- and other books thus influenced? A pious Christian must believe that pagans could not have had the whole Truth, but only an ignorant Christian would believe they had no Truth.The point is that even if — and, again, there's no evidence it's the case — early Christians did co-opt a pagan festival, it wouldn't matter. The fact is that we celebrate Jesus' birthday on the 25th, not Mithras or Sol or anything else. As for any pagan "influence" that might exist to this day, my above paragraph addresses it. Much of what we have originated in pagan times. "A pious Christian must believe that pagans could not have had the whole Truth, but only an ignorant Christian would believe they had no Truth," and this is the truth. The early Christians did not come as a bull in a China shop, clumsily destroying everything that came before. They came to correct. If pagan traditions accorded with Truth, they could be retained; it was only when they didn't that they had to be discarded. This is simple wisdom.
What this means in practice is that if we have decorations with pagan origin, such as a Christmas tree, mistletoe, etc., there is nothing wrong with displaying them. All celebrations are attended with some kind of decorations. No one worships the tree, after all. It's just a pretty decoration.
Frankly, the whole thing is supremely silly. The sin here is wasting time initiating such a battle, which is what the anti-Christmas forces are doing (all in the name of a certain kind of prejudice, and I think it's obvious what it is).
I wish you a very merry and blessed Christmas and the best of new years.
© 2009 Selwyn Duke — All Rights Reserved