December 4, 2017

Bathing in a Sonic Ocean of Dogma

Live Christmas Music at the Americana...
Live Christmas Music at the Americana in Glendale, California (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This post was originally written in 2006. In 2017, it was edited for clarity and to remove an outdated link.

This time of year, it is easy to feel bombarded by all things Christmas the moment one leaves one's house. Mine is one of the few houses on my street with no Christmas decorations. A few doors down, a neighbor has a full nativity scene in the front yard. Downtown, I encounter "official" Christmas decorations purchased with government funds. Every store I enter features decorations and music. Ah, that Christmas music. Song after song about Jesus and his divinity, with occasional mentions of Santa Claus for the kiddies.

Andrew Bernardin at A Daily Dose of Doubt (update: link no longer active) asks whether he is the only one offended by what he describes as an "involuntary audio bath in dogma." No Andrew, you are certainly not alone. I'm not sure if "offended" is the best label for how I feel. For me, being offended generally includes some element of surprise (i.e., I can't believe they are doing such and such). In this situation, I don't have this reaction. I have come to expect the pervasive noise pollution each December. So what terms would I use to describe my reaction? I'm probably somewhere between "annoyed" and "disgusted" (depending on the level of blatant Jesus content) when encountering this celebration of superstition.

Andrew does an excellent job of describing his thought process when the music strikes his ears. For example, he tries to reassure himself that the Jesus music comes from an understandable human desire to celebrate tradition.
I attempted to temper my feelings of having my ears and beliefs violated with this line of reasoning: It's just folk music. They're telling stories about folk heroes.
Andrew then remembers that lives have been ruined - even lost - for the crime of not believing in the phenomena described by these songs. He realizes that many people today think less of him for not believing in them himself.

Like Andrew, I would prefer that all the Christ stuff be kept out of the public sphere, whether it is December or any other month. I recognize that this is an unrealistic expectation. When a business chooses to play this music, they are catering to the majority of their employees and shoppers. As long as their competitors are doing the same, I'm not sure anybody can question the soundness of this decision. However, by catering to the wishes of the Christian majority, they run the risk of alienating non-believers and non-Christian believers.

I do not do much retail shopping, and that does not typically change in December. Other than trips to the grocery store, home improvement stores, and a few less frequent outings, I'm usually able to meet my minimal shopping needs online. Much like Andrew, I try to avoid the businesses that can be counted on to play the most Jesus-centric music this time of year. If I wanted to go to church, I would do so. I'd prefer to shop without being bombarded by religious nonsense. What I hadn't considered until reading Andrew's post was going the next step and letting the businesses I avoid know why they are losing my business. It isn't a bad idea.