The rains came and threw cold water on our shopping ardour, nay frenzy. They don’t call those downpours natural disasters for nothing – even if they don’t kill anybody, they can deprive people of the true meaning of life.
In the run-up to the deluge we’d been spending £162,000,000 an hour. But then the floodgates opened, and we suffered a grievous 9% slowdown. There’s weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth in hell, where Mammon lives.
But not to worry: out of what used to be called Christian mercy 16,000 shops will stay open on Christmas Day, injecting new energy into the pious worship of Mammon. And tomorrow’s forecast looks clement.
So hurry! The chance of a lifetime! Well, of this year anyway! Discounts on everything! Including, and this is the best part, a 100% reduction on the meaning of Christmas.
Churches stay open too, for old times’ sake, but their traffic is like a trickle compared to the mighty torrent in the High Street. Some have found a solution: eliminating God from their liturgy altogether and joyously advertising this ingenious marketing ploy.
This is the discount to end all discounts: Come and have a good time! Take the weight off your feet, blistered by sprints from shop to shop. No charge! You won’t have to ponder, repent, worship, even listen to those words no one uses anymore. Nor will you have to change your behaviour in any way.
Come in, sing a few popular songs in a Karaoke sing-along, kiss whomever you’re sitting next to (they may be ‘well tasty’, you never know your luck) – and then off you go again, pounding the pavements in search of the real deal.
Even intelligent atheists, some of them my close friends, are aghast, especially if they’re cultured as well. Perceptive people, they sense that this rampant materialism runs so contrary to our cultural, social and spiritual tradition that it’ll eventually spell a disaster even worse than a downpour drowning a good shopping opportunity.
The till, they say, is a poor substitute for the collection box. We all must take Christianity seriously, they say, even if no intelligent, cultured people can take Christ seriously. That way we can dump the outdated superstition while keeping all the good things: social cohesion, moral probity, spiritual content to our lives.
Such people are deceiving themselves so flagrantly that one realises to one’s horror that, whenever they approach this subject, their otherwise unimpeachable intelligence takes some time off.
The agricultural equivalent of their craving would to be sever the roots of an apple tree while still hoping to enjoy the apples. Nature doesn’t work that way. Neither does life.
Christianity was able to provide such good things as social cohesion, moral probity and spiritual content to our lives, while creating the greatest culture the world has ever known or will ever know, not because it was a clever way of keeping the masses in check.
It was able to do all that because it’s true. Or at least because most people believed it was.
Taking Christ out of Christianity will have the same effect on the religion as taking religion out of life will have on society: both will first degenerate and then die.
Unless my intelligent and cultured friends believe – in their viscera, not just their logical minds – that Christmas is the day on which God was incarnated to redeem our sins, Christianity won’t do them any good. Nor will it do any good for a society compulsively obsessed with conspicuous consumption.
A society obsessed with consumption will become consumptive. This is a disease for which no palliative treatment exists.
Intelligent people even wish one another a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year – prosperous, not virtuous or spiritual. They don’t even sense a contradiction there, but then I did say that their minds knock off for as long as it takes my atheist friends to ponder such subjects.
Christ didn’t come into the world 2013 years ago to make us prosperous. He came to die for our sins, thereby making us good enough to be saved. Hence our traditional greeting is an oxymoron or, if we move from rhetoric to music, an ugly, jarring, cacophonous discordance.
Oh, I know my atheist friends are too intelligent to believe any such superstitious nonsense. This isn’t what intelligent people believe.
They believe that a few sub-atomic particles created themselves out of nothing and then – chaotically, totally at random, by sheer chance – came together in a larger entity called matter and decided to live according to rational, clearly teleological laws.
Ex nihilo nihil fit? Nonsense. Of course something can bloody well come out of nothing, say my intelligent friends (they may not actually say it, but that’s the only thing their atheism can imply).
And that something is perfectly capable of organising itself – no outside help needed, thank you very much – according not only to rational natural laws but also according to aesthetic and moral ones. In due course, matter so rationally organised develops an irresistible rational urge to build cathedrals and write the music sung inside.
My cultured friends admire the architecture of the cathedrals; they love to listen to the music and even to play it. Sensitive souls, they detect the presence of divine reason behind these, but they can’t identify it as such.
As far as they are concerned, all those nice things began with a random, purposeless physical event. Yes, the world functions according to universal, rational laws. But that, to my intelligent friends, doesn’t have to presuppose the existence of a rational law-giver. Those things just happen, best not to think about it.
Those of us who do think about it must pray for those who don’t. For by denying divine intelligence they discount their own. If they don’t reconsider, eventually the discounted commodity will have to be written off altogether.
The only alternative is to put Christ back into Christmas – even if this means a smaller and less frantic traffic in the High Street.