The holidays are in peril again this year.
It’s true. The war on Christmas is once again raging, what with Target employees deciding to say “Happy Holidays!” rather than “Merry Christmas” when consumers plunk down serious cash for their Christmas crap. How can we really keep Christ in Christmas when even the folks over at Best Buy have decided to ignore Jesus’s birth, what with refusing to mention Christmas in their holiday circular?
Don’t get me started on those government officials who have decided to plant holiday trees in state houses. They’re Christmas trees, people. And President Obama, choosing to wish Americans a happy holiday season? Obviously, he’s forgotten that this is a Christian holiday, and that the White House needs to acknowledge our national fidelity to the one and true God.
Clearly, Christmas needs saving, else the holiday slip into complete oblivion. And who better to do the saving than Kirk Cameron.
Yes, that Kirk Cameron, erstwhile star of the 1980s sitcom “Growing Pains.” If you’ve been following Christian culture at all—and what fully dedicated person of faith hasn’t?—then you know that Mike Seaver has grown up into a painfully dogmatic evangelical who has produced such classic cinema hits like “Fireproof” and “Unstoppable.”
Cameron’s new film endeavor, “Saving Christmas,” promises to put the Christ back in Christmas, to show us the reason for the season, to make sure we all recognize why we are celebrating this holiday to begin with. And that our celebration has nothing to do with sugar cookies, even though: dang. There’s nothing better than Christmas cookie dough.
There’s my problem, apparently, and every other Christian person, too, who has fixed her sights on something other than The True Meaning of Christmas.
According to Cameron, women have an extra special duty to make sure Christmas is awesomely Christ-like for their families. Except I think Cameron’s “special duty” is similar to those other special-but-different roles God has designed for women.
In a video published a few weeks ago on Cameron’s website, the savior of our culture’s certain slide into hell tells women that they bear the responsibility of making sure they are joy-filled, so that the Spirit of Christmas can be restored in their homes, and thus in the world.
According to Cameron, “If you are a mom, if you are a wife, if you are the keeper of your home, I want you to know that your joy is so important this Christmas. Because Christmas is about joy and if the joy of the Lord is your strength, remember the joy of the mom is her children’s strength.”
And now, I feel a little extra burden to be happy this Christmas: even when my kids fight over who gets to choose the Christmas tree, then disappear after decorating for only a few minutes. And when I have to step into a mall, the thought of which makes me feel hot and sweaty and impatient just thinking about it. And when I make Christmas cookies, and suddenly the boys show up, wanting a share of the dough I’ve set aside for myself.
Even then, I’m supposed to be joyful? Whew. Tall order.
Cameron tells us wives and mothers that we must sustain the joy in our home if we want Christmas to be saved at last. He says “Let your children, your family, see your joy in the way you that decorate your home this Christmas, in the food that you cook, the songs you sing, the stories you tell and the traditions that you keep.”
That seems like an overwhelming task, especially since my family rarely thinks “oh joy” when they taste the food I cook, if my sons’ faux barfing noises are any indication. (Interesting: it’s the same barfing noise they make when I try to sing along to the radio, too.)
In our home, at least, it’s not me who does the Christmas saving at any rate: I’m not the chief decorator, nor the keeper of holiday traditions. Those tasks fall to my husband, who revises and edits our attempts to decorate the Christmas tree once the boys and I go off to bed. He’s the one who has a particular way of handling Christmas morning, and has sustained the tradition of giving the kids pajamas every Christmas eve (even if, in our family lore, he gave his daughter the same ugly, itchy, tight-throated nightgown two years in a row: a tradition of its own kind, for sure!)
So I find Cameron’s message to mothers a little off-putting, as it seems so similar to other evangelical endeavors that burden mothers with the sole responsibility of nurturing their children’s spiritual well-being, of making amazing food, of sustaining a well-decorated home, of making sure everyone around them is joyful, even those for whom the holidays can be a less-than-joyful time.
Several years ago in The Oregonian, I wrote about the problematic premise of a “war on Christmas,” which suggests a cultural conflict where none should exist. Instead of berating stores and marketers for refusing to say “Merry Christmas” and insisting government offices display manger scenes, I argued that Christians should focus on what matters most in their Christmas celebrations: the birth of Jesus.
Cameron’s endeavor to “Save Christmas,” and his special exhortation to women sets our sights on something else entirely: On Cameron’s movie, certainly (coming soon to a theatre near you!); but also on the ways we continue to assume women should joyfully accept the roles delineated for them, rather than freely exploring what God calls them to be: at Christmas, and at any other time of the year.