Sunday, December 21, 2003

Weekend Reading


Some of this weekend's good reading has been put up on the web. (The usual rule seems to be that the articles I enjoyed the most are solely in the print edition. There appear to be angels in charge of that.)

In Touchstone, be sure to take a look at Calculating Christmas. An historian, William J. Tighe, argues here that those who say that the date of Christmas was taken from a then-current pagan holiday have got it exactly backwards. In fact, the declining pagan religion took the date of the expanding Christian Church's festival of Christmas for its own feast of The Unconquered Sun as a way to top its new rival.

Each year our local newspaper prints a letter-to-the-editor. Sometimes it is from the village atheist and sometimes from a very fundamentalist sola scriptura point of view. In either case, the letter delightedly proclaims that Christ was not born on December 25th according to some pamphlet or other the writer had read and we benighted souls are caught in a trumpery fraud. It always seemed to me that the proper response was "So what?" After all, my friend Maggie M. actually was born on December 25th but always celebrated on July 25th. That way she got her own birthday celebration all to herself just like her sisters. And Queen Elizabeth wasn't born on the third Saturday in June but that's her "official" birthday. Less chance of rain.

"So what" is still a good response but I look forward to making an additional point this year. Thank you, Professor Tighe.


In The Spectator last week the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster reflects on and affirms the reality of hell. Can you get any more politically incorrect in the ecclesiastical orbit?

In the same issue, a wonderful essay by the "appalled, horrified, angered, but never bored" Dr. Theodore Dalrymple on Reasons to be Cheerful. If you're a regular reader of his column you might think this choice of topic for Dr. Dalrymple to be, um, contraindicated, shall we say. But no. Very true and worth applying to one's own life; don't let the light touch mislead.

Then again, a man who came to interview me for a publication the other day pointed out that I was never bored. I hadn’t thought of that before, but it’s true: I’m never bored. I’m appalled, horrified, angered, but never bored. The world appears to me so infinite in its variety that many lifetimes could not exhaust its interest. So long as you can still be surprised, you have something to be thankful for (that is one of the reasons why the false knowingness of street credibility is so destructive of true happiness).

Indeed. Good stuff.