A holiday message sent out by the GOP’s Reince Priebus (whose name remains the most unpronounceable in the land) the outgoing RNC Chairman and incoming chief of staff, demonstrated that not only does he consider America to be a kingdom ruled by Christians but also evinces a 2nd grade understanding of theology.
“Over two millennia ago, a new hope was born into the world, a Savior who would offer the promise of salvation to all mankind. Just as the three wise men did on that night, this Christmas heralds a time to celebrate the good news of a new King. We hope Americans celebrating Christmas today will enjoy a day of festivities and a renewed closeness with family and friends.”
When criticized for the use of the word “king” in his message, which some took to be a sly reference to his boss, Donald Trump, Preebus (we’ll just go phonetic here on), tweeted back:
“Christ is the King. He was born today so we could be saved. Its sad & disappointing you are politicizing such a holy day.”
Of course his original message was sent to an inherently political group, the Republican party, so let’s not pretend that a religious message to a political party is somehow not inherently political.
Now, scholars of all stripes and most well-read Christians understand that Christmas as it has been taught to us over the centuries is filled with wonderful traditions, myths and what might be called “pious fictions” — that is untruths that have inspirational value but which are not to be taken as literal truth.
As every child above Santa-Claus-age knows, the historical figure known as Jesus was not born on Dec. 25 — or at least the day is no more likely than any other day, and actually less likely due to the cold, rainy weather during the Jewish months of Chislev and Tebeth. (And of course the Jewish calendar had no month of December anyway.) The date was selected to specifically co-opt the birthday of Mithra, the pagan god of light. In 325 CE, Roman emperor Constantine re-assigned the meaning to the birthday of Jesus.
As to the wise men or magi (astrologers), the gifts, the Star and the rest of that elaborate claptrap, all we know from Matthew is that “wise men from the east” arrived. No less a figure than the Archbishop of Canterbury tells us, “Matthew’s Gospel doesn’t tell us there were three of them, doesn’t tell us they were kings, doesn’t tell us where they came from.”
Although most scholars regard the entire story of the wise men as completely spurious, if there were such a visit, considering the very muddled time frames of the gospels, it would likely have been a year or two after the birth. (Remember that Jesus could not have been born during the reign of Herod the Great and the census of Quirinius.)
Finally, the Preebs may wish to consider that Christ is only king to those who are Christian.