The Happiness of Blacks

I stumbled across a blog today called Traditional Catholic Femininity.  Obviously, I’m not exactly in the target audience, but it’s hard sometimes not to read Rab Trads either to snigger or to wince at some of the silly things they say (and then harass your friends about how they dated for three years but the Rab Trads say they should have broken up after two).  But one post caught my eye not because of it’s over the top traditionalism but because it’s about a BBC article entitled Why are black poor Americans more optimistic than white ones?

The writer at TradCatFem confuses optimism with happiness and proclaims Blacks Are Happier Than Whites:

In a way, I am not too surprised. It makes complete sense and I shared this article, along with why it made sense, on my Instagram, Twitter and Facebook pages. Below is the response I wrote:

Because a lot of the black Americans tend to have strong family connections and they also tend to have more children.

Increased number of children leads to increased sense of purpose and community spirit.

Meanwhile, a lot of white Americans tend to have fewer children, ship them off to daycare while they build their careers in an endless pursuit of money, resulting in distancing between them and their offspring

When their children reach adulthood, many leave home and contact with the parents is very limited as they hardly spent adequate time with them in their early years.

Money and a career do not buy happiness. Long-term happiness and fulfilment is gained from family and building a legacy.

A couple important things come out about the writer in this post.  She’s black and she’s British.

Unfortunately, America has a worldwide reputation for being brash, hostile and arrogant, and I saw evidence of this in the response I received to the above article that I posted on my social media.

I wonder if Americans being hostile has anything to do with people unfairly stereotyping and attacking them…  Well, my impression of Europeans is that they’re snobs who think they’re better than everybody else.  So I guess we’ll call it even.

In response to someone who called the BBC report “fake news” she says things like:

3) your attempt to discredit it or me, by demanding to know if I live in America, even though it is very clearly a report from the worldwide respected BBC news tells of your ignorance

4) your insistence that you THINK you know better than the US scientists who conducted the research and BBC world news who reported it simply exposes your deep racism.

5) I suspect that you are white, which makes sense at your outrage that you are indeed NOT a superior race because here is scientific evidence that you are miserable.

The fake news comment may be a little silly (it’s hard to tell without context) but the speed at which she jumps to “racism!” is amazing.  It’s sad too that someone parading around how “traditional” they are accepts anything they read in the main stream news without a second thought.

She has another exchange:

PERSON: Interesting. Because in the US about 78% of Black children are born out of wedlock and almost 50% of their families are on public assistance. Only 19% of blacks have college degrees.

ME: Exactly. Education and money does not guarantee happiness

PERSON: No, money doesn’t make one happy. But neither does sin and irresponsibility.

ME: The overall take-home message was not whether or not their lifestyle choices are acceptable or not.

The take-home message is that family and community is what brings happiness.

And given America’s racial history, it kinda makes sense that the existing racial prejudice resulted in disillusioned black communities with little to no opportunities or motivation.

Example, here is the UK, black people do not have the problem that blacks and Hispanics have in the US.

Why not? After all, the UK and the British Empire had colonies in black countries.

The difference between us and the US is that we do not have racial prejudice to level that the US has. As a result, we don’t have the same rates of crime, violence, broken homes etc that exist in the US.

You honestly can’t blame the black community for the violence, broken homes, poor education etc

In addition, with all that the US blacks have had to endure through the decades, it is still commendable, that they remain optimistic and happy.

We all, black or not, US or not, could learn from this… retain an attitude of hope, joy, optimism and to focus on important things, even if our circumstances are dire.

As you can see, the two people who commented were both Americans, both white and both triggered by the Black angle to the story.

The focus of my comment was that family, not materialism, is important than materialism.

But they did not see that at all. They immediately honed in on the race angle, ignoring the most important part.

She ignores the comment on black illegitimacy rates and continues to repeat the same non sequitur.  What would be much better is if this woman had actually read the article she’s commenting on.  If, as she claims, whites’ unhappiness is caused by lack of family values and materialism, then why is this the case:

On this scale, black people are, on average, 1.1 points higher on the optimism scale than white people are. Black people on average score above 8, while the average for white people is 7.

The gap across poor black people and poor white people is even larger, at 1.4 points.

Emphasis mine.  Poor people don’t have as much money.  They aren’t the ones going to college.  Education and money is not causing them to be more pessimistic than blacks.

I don’t have any problem whatsoever with the claim that blacks are more optimistic than whites.  The problem is why.  Is there a reason for blacks to be more optimistic… or is that whites have a reason to be more pessimistic?  Oh, wait, the BBC article answers that too:

While disadvantage and discrimination still exist, minorities have been making gradual progress in narrowing gaps with white people in terms of their education, wages, and life expectancy.

Some of this is because of concrete gains made by those communities.

But much of the improvement is due to the relative decline in the incomes and status of poor white people – a trend associated with the hollowing-out of blue-collar jobs, which are decreasing in both number and stability at the same time as the market for high-skilled labour continues to prosper and grow.

Again emphasis mine.

TradCatFem can sit over there on the other side of the ocean and squawk about Americans being hostile and racist, but she knows nothing about this country.  Blacks and other minorities are enjoying perks and benefits denied poor white people.  Poor whites are being told that they’re evil, racist, and useless people who should die and get out of the way.

Meanwhile, those black American communities and their value on families?  Black mothers are unwed more than 70% of the time.  How is this having “strong family connections”?  They don’t stay with the same man either.  In what way is it good for black children to have a dozen half-siblings and never know their fathers?  Black girls talk about getting a new baby-daddy just so they can get bigger welfare checks.  Isn’t that materialistic?  They don’t have kids because kids are a blessing from God, they have kids because Uncle Sam is forking over the dough.

As a traditionalist Catholic, TradCatFem ought to be ashamed of herself.  What she says about white Americans is uncharitable at best and calumny at worst.  She holds up black Americans as an example of things that they don’t do and expects the rest of us to learn from that.  What the majority of black Americans have is not family, it’s not community.  It’s immorality and degradation.  And it has absolutely nothing to do with how “happy” they are.


A call to repentance?

This is the time of year when many Christians are focused on repentance.  The liturgical season of Lent is observed by Catholics, Orthodox, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Methodists and even some evangelicals.  Lent is an ancient church observance and relatively widely practiced.  One would think in a mixed group of Christians it would be acknowledged at least somewhat.

The day after Ash Wednesday, the traditional start of Lent, I attended an event for Christian homeschoolers.  The leader’s introduction speech was a bit… disappointing.

In the opening remarks, the leader started talking about how broken our world is and how troubled people are, how hurting and confused, and invoked “the recent celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day” as a day of “repentance and unity.”  She proceeded to quote MLK about “hate cannot drive out hate” and “only love can drive out hate.”  After going on like this for some time (and none of this had anything to do with the reason this group was meeting in the first place!), she tacked onto the end mentions of God and His love being the only solution to the world’s problems.

MLK Jr. Day had been past by about a month.  Ash Wednesday was just the day before.  It was a stretch to be turning the introduction into a speech about racial justice (without actually coming out and mentioning “racial justice”).  It was a little more understandable that she also talked a great deal about Valentine’s Day and LOVE considering that holiday had shared a date with Ash Wednesday this year.

I have heard this woman speak several times before and knew that when given a platform, she has a tendency to talk too long about her own interpretations of Scripture and throw in vague references to current events with mushy Christian sentiments that could be interpreted in various ways.  I’ve often suspected that these references were leaning liberal but they weren’t explicit enough to pin down for sure — not explicit enough for other attendees at these events, whom I know to have much stronger “conservative” leanings, to be upset with her.

Probably she belongs to a denomination that does not observe Lent, but speaking to a Christian group and talking far more about MLK than God or Scripture is odd.  And calling MLK Day a “day of repentance” really gives her away..

My tolerance for this sort of thing has greatly diminished in the past few years.  The sad thing is that in a way what she said is true — depending on how you interpret it.  We are called to repentance for how we might have wronged others and to reconciliation with our fellow man.  But she left out the most important call to repentance and reconciliation: to God.  Also important is the need to focus on one’s personal failings and responsibility, things one could actually work to make amends for and to change, not some real or imagined wrongs committed by one’s ancestors or race in the distant past or even present.  Nothing that MLK Day is about has anything to do with ME personally.  I have never personally wronged any person of color.

I resent this sort of “Christian” manipulation: Well, don’t you want to love as God tells you to?  Ok, now feel bad about “racial inequality.”  And DO something about it.  Yeah?  Like what exactly?  As far as I can tell, these sorts of little speeches serve no purpose other than to induce “white guilt” and make us “understand.”  How this helps anybody I really can’t see.

I really don’t want to hate anyone.  If others would just leave my people alone and not try to destroy the country/world for my children’s future.  And if they didn’t hate me first, that would really help.

The Solution to Violence in Schools?

With the most recent school shooting in Florida, all the “gun-control” arguments will be rehashed on the news and by celebrities and politicians.  Maybe some proposed laws will be put forth.  Lots of crocodile-teary-eyed liberals yelling about republicans, especially Trump, and the NRA having “blood on their hands!”  Lots of exaggerating about the problem and prevalence of “gun violence” and “school shootings” in our country.  (See this article for a debunking of some of the claims: No, there have not been 18 school shootings so far in 2018)

Sigh.  Here we go again.

It is a tragedy that kids were killed.  What the shooter did was horrible and evil.  The grieving families deserve our prayers.  But how can anyone be genuinely surprised?  Or honestly, even feel much of anything?  The constant tragic, compassion-triggering news cycle has had the effect of making me un-shockable and compassion-numb.  Before anyone starts wondering if I’m secretly a psychopath, let me assure you that in real life I often truly feel for people I know and care about, even people I don’t know sometimes.  Their pain causes me pain.  I cry with them and for them.  But people I don’t know?  Not so much.  My ability to feel compassion over distant events and people has been exhausted by mainstream media manipulation and selective reporting and twisting of events to serve their narrative.  If you can’t trust the story-teller, you can’t trust the story.

While “gun-control” will be the focus of the day (or week, or month), with well-deserved side-notes about mental illness and psychotropic drugs, and maybe even a mention or two about “problems in our culture,” no one will point out the surest way to stop all school shootings.  All sensible and honest people know that even if you made all guns illegal, it wouldn’t prevent crazy and/or evil people from acquiring them and shooting up schools.  Murder is already illegal.  Schools are already “gun-free zones.”  The shooter at the Florida school had already been expelled and banned from campus.  Laws don’t discourage or prevent people from committing crimes as much as we wish they did.

President Trump seems to get that and appears to be referencing all those predictable attempts to “fix” the problem with gun laws.  From a statement he gave following the Florida Shooting (my emphasis):

Later this month, I will be meeting with the nation’s governors and attorney generals, where making our schools and our children safer will be our top priority. It is not enough to simply take actions that make us feel like we are making a difference. We must actually make that difference.

Since out-lawing guns won’t do it, what is the surest way to stop all school shootings? Abolish schools.  It would be more effective than “common-sense gun laws.”  That might sound insane to people who think the public school system is necessary and good, but it makes a lot of sense if you understand that the public school system is NOT necessary or good, and is probably impossible to “fix” (just look at the decades of legal attempts and massive amounts of money dumped into the schools with no positive effect).  It is ineffective at truly educating students.  It is out-dated and doesn’t train them to succeed in the current world or job market.  It is often just a tool of indoctrination for the liberal agenda.  And it’s a damned dangerous place to send your kids, even if they’re never victims of a school shooting.

As Vox Day so aptly puts it: Homeschool or Die.  After quoting a victim’s mother who blames Trump for the shooting, he has this to say:

While one has to make allowances for a distraught mother (assuming she is not a crisis actor, which is far from a certain assumption), the idea that the President of the USA can do anything to prevent people from shooting up schools is absurd. Why not simply have him ban poverty, drugs, and teenage pregnancy while he’s at it? It’s not like there is a law against murder or anything, right?

The truth is that there is only one solution to the problem of school shootings: homeschool.

Although not putting boys on psychotropic medications would probably help.

The way schools handle boys and frequently put them on medications (like Ritalin and an assortment of anti-depressants and anti-pyschotics) has been suggested as a possible factor leading up to school shootings.  But schools are bad for all children and cause plenty of problems that are less obvious than the “going off the deep end” school shooter type (which most likely have multiple contributing factors).  Unfortunately, so many parents still don’t understand this.

I was recently horrified to witness a conversation between several Christian parents.  It went something like this:

Parent 1: Look at this example in the news about a teacher being beaten up by a student.  This terrible student behavior, disrespect for adults and lack of Christian morals in schools and in our culture is part of the reason we choose to homeschool our kids.

Parent 2: Oh, that’s just a rare extreme example given to stir things up.  Those sorts of things don’t happen here.  My kids are in the public school system and have great teachers!  They’re doing really well and growing up to be good Christian kids.  They have plenty of nice friends.  I’m sure they’re not being exposed to anything bad.  I’ve never heard anything from the kids about anything bad here [continues defending the public schools for some time & several other parents chime in with similar arguments].

My mental response: Ha! yeah… even if your kids end up with good teachers (and counting on that is like playing russian roulette), you have no idea what the other students are exposing your kids to and the teachers will never know.  And your kids might never tell you either.  Or they will, but it will be too late.

Just because you think your kids are having a good experience doesn’t mean that school isn’t a physically and morally dangerous place for kids to be.  I know a few things about the particular school system in which Parent 2 is placing so much trust.  Yes, it’s ok compared to some places and probably not as SJW infested as many, but I personally know several people working in the elementary schools whom I would not trust with my children, people who are gay, gender-confused, leading immoral lives and/or very supportive of these sorts of lifestyles.  I do not have children in this school system, and I know these things.  Why does no one else notice?  Or care?

Need another example of why you should take your kids out?  Jonathon van Maren writes for Lifesite News:

If the progressive Left can claim one cultural victory that is nearly total, it is their infiltration and conquest of the public education system. Public schools across the Western world—especially Canada, the United States, and Great Britain—now serve as purveyors of post-modern ideology, replete with “social justice” classes and sex education that is designed to mainstream a wide variety of alternative lifestyles. The latest news on this front is out of the UK…

“Announcing an ‘LGBT-inclusive’ update to all of its products, education giant Pearson has launched a guide to pushing ‘social justice’ activism in every part of the school curriculum…  

Organised by subject, the guide lists suggestions to ensure LGBT visibility across the curriculum, for example recommending teachers set questions which reference homosexual relationships in maths and science, and introduce terminology specific to the lifestyles of sexual minorities in foreign language lessons. One example given is to begin a question with: ‘Two women would like to have a baby together, and the doctor recommends they use In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF)’ …

In history lessons, pupils should “study the links between different social justice movements”, while art teachers are urged to “explore the way that art has been, and is being, used to effect social and political change, including LGBT equality, race equality and tackling climate change”…

There has been some backlash, of course—not that it will be heeded: UKIP education spokesman David Kurten stated that… “Maths should be about maths, it should not be about sexualizing children,” he told Breitbart London, warning the new textbooks will make it significantly more difficult for parents “to protect their children from the malign influence of left-wing identity politics.”


We can all expect the curriculums of public schools to change and evolve as fast as the LGBT Alphabet Soup is—and we can all expect parental protestations to be ignored.

If you don’t want your children to be indoctrinated, take them out of the public school system. It’s the only choice you’ve got.

An increasing number of parents are making that choice, and turning to homeschooling, perhaps for many of them for these reasons.  According to the National Home Education Research Institute:

  • There are about 2.3 million home-educated students in the United States (as of spring 2016). This is up from one estimate that there were about 2 million children (in grades K to 12) home educated during the spring of 2010 in the United States (Ray, 2011). It appears the homeschool population is continuing to grow (at an estimated 2% to 8% per annum over the past few years).

  • Homeschooling – that is, parent-led home-based education; home education – is an age-old traditional educational practice that a decade ago appeared to be cutting-edge and “alternative” but is now bordering on “mainstream” in the United States. It may be the fastest-growing form of education in the United States. Home-based education has also been growing around the world in many other nations (e.g., Australia, Canada, France, Hungary, Japan, Kenya, Russia, Mexico, South Korea, Thailand, and the United Kingdom).

There are many things over which the government shouldn’t have so much control or influence.   Education is one of them.  Choosing to homeschool could mean saving your child’s soul, and possibly life.


The Pro-Life President

Never-Trumpers and Liberal Christians (and even some supposedly Conservative ones) say that Trump isn’t really pro-life because “he’s an immoral jerk!” and “just look at how he treats immigrants!”  They are “upset” and “embarrassed” to have him supporting their cause since he’s actually “bad” or that he’s “just faking it to manipulate voters.”  (News Flash: he doesn’t have to live up to campaign promises; very few politicians bother.)  Despite their pathetic whining and oh-so-convincing reasoning, Trump just might be the best pro-life president we’ve had. 

I saw an intelligent comment about the President’s support of the Pro-life movement.  The gist of it was this: it doesn’t even matter if it’s just “lip-service,” the fact that the President of the United States is willing to reach out and put even verbal support behind the movement is no small thing, and when/if no president is willing to even pay lip-service to the movement, the moral compass of our country is no longer just severely damaged, but entirely gone.

It shows that there are enough people left in the USA that care, enough pro-lifers to be worth speaking to and for.

Plenty of people in the Pro-life movement are happy to have the President’s support and consider it a lot more than just lip-service.  Multiple organizations have lists of Pro-life victories achieved since Trump became president:

Pro-Life Wins During President Donald Trump’s First 100 Days in Office

The Pro-Life Agenda: A Progress Report for the 115th Congress and the Trump Administration

Donald Trump is the most pro-life president in American history

There is also widespread recognition that, in addition to the expected resistance and roadblocks created by the Democrats to delivering on pro-life campaign promises, Establishment Republican have been responsible as well.  Fr. Hodges, writing for LifeSiteNews, puts it like this:

From the start, it was clear that Trump may have exaggerated his abilities, but he really meant it when he said he was pro-life.

In fact, as so many other true conservatives have pointed out, the main obstructionists to an all-out pro-life, pro-marriage, and pro-family agenda sweeping the nation have been establishment Republicans already in position before the Trump juggernaut.

During his presidential campaign Trump promised to defend the innocent pre-born and his administration has followed through with many actions so far.  He recently gave a speech for the March for Life.  Following in the the footsteps of previous Republican (but not Democratic) presidents, he made a Proclamation of January 22, 2018, as National Sanctity of Human Life Day.

As one supporter put it, “Taken together, these statements and follow-up actions have defined him as the one of the strongest pro-life allies ever to occupy the White House.”


The Presidential Proclamation:

“Today, we focus our attention on the love and protection each person, born and unborn, deserves regardless of disability, gender, appearance, or ethnicity. Much of the greatest suffering in our Nation’s history — and, indeed, our planet’s history — has been the result of disgracefully misguided attempts to dehumanize whole classes of people based on these immutable characteristics. We cannot let this shameful history repeat itself in new forms, and we must be particularly vigilant to safeguard the most vulnerable lives among us.

“This is why we observe National Sanctity of Human Life Day: to affirm the truth that all life is sacred, that every person has inherent dignity and worth, and that no class of people should ever be discarded as “non-human.”

“Reverence for every human life, one of the values for which our Founding Fathers fought, defines the character of our Nation. Today, it moves us to promote the health of pregnant mothers and their unborn children. It animates our concern for single moms; the elderly, the infirm, and the disabled; and orphan and foster children. It compels us to address the opioid epidemic and to bring aid to those who struggle with mental illness. It gives us the courage to stand up for the weak and the powerless. And it dispels the notion that our worth depends on the extent to which we are planned for or wanted.

“Science continues to support and build the case for life. Medical technologies allow us to see images of the unborn children moving their newly formed fingers and toes, yawning, and even smiling. Those images present us with irrefutable evidence that babies are growing within their mothers’ wombs — precious, unique lives, each deserving a future filled with promise and hope. We can also now operate on babies in utero to stave off life-threatening diseases. These important medical advances give us an even greater appreciation for the humanity of the unborn.

“Today, citizens throughout our great country are working for the cause of life and fighting for the unborn, driven by love and supported by both science and philosophy. These compassionate Americans are volunteers who assist women through difficult pregnancies, facilitate adoptions, and offer hope to those considering or recovering from abortions. They are medical providers who, often at the risk of their livelihood, conscientiously refuse to participate in abortions. And they are legislators who support health and safety standards, informed consent, parental notification, and bans on late-term abortions, when babies can feel pain.

“These undeterred warriors, many of whom travel to Washington, D.C., every year for the March for Life, are changing hearts and saving lives through their passionate defense of and loving care for all human lives. Thankfully, the number of abortions, which has been in steady decline since 1980, is now at a historic low. Though the fight to protect life is not yet over, we commit to advocating each day for all who cannot speak for themselves.

“NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim January 22, 2018, as National Sanctity of Human Life Day. I call on all Americans to reflect on the value of our lives; to respond to others in keeping with their inherent dignity; to act compassionately to those with disabilities, infirmities, or frailties; to look beyond external factors that might separate us; and to embrace the common humanity that unites us.

“IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this nineteenth day of January, in the year of our Lord two thousand eighteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-second.”


Book Club from Hell?

I ran across an invitation for an “online community book club” and it sounds like more fun than… maybe a root canal?  The book club proclaims that it is:

focused on self-education surrounding issues of historical and modern enslavement, racial injustice and white privilege, and other similar topics that lead to a better understanding for the purpose of transforming race-relations. We will be reading “The Warmth of Other Suns,” the Pulitzer Prize winning book by Isabel Wilkerson about the epic story of America’s Great Migration from the perspective of three unique African American citizens.

I know nothing about their choice of book, but after a lead-up like that I have no interest in doing even a quick search about it.  The person behind posting about this book club is… wait for it… a white “Christian” woman.  And I thought Christianity had moved away from self-flagellation as a spiritual practice.  Oh how wrong I was.  It’s just taken another less-physical form (that’s probably a lot less healthy and spiritually rewarding).

Christmas; it never was a pagan holiday

Recently,  a Christian acquaintance told me that her family doesn’t celebrate Christmas at all.  How sad.  I felt sorry for her children.  I can understand trying to celebrate differently than the secular materialistic way that is typical in our culture (my family certainly does), but to skip it entirely seems almost disrespectful of our Lord.  This family does celebrate their kids’ birthdays; why not the birth of their Savior?  Along with Easter, it is a crucial Christian event.  The incarnation is vital to our Faith, a pivotal moment that changes everything.  We didn’t get into the why of their decision not to celebrate, but I suspect it’s similar to what I’ve heard before: Christmas is really pagan in origin.  But is that true?

I’ve never been bothered by this idea that the date for Christmas and several of its holiday traditions were, or might have been, co-opted from various pagan traditions.  Christ surely has the power to redeem and baptize anything.  Unless you’re Jewish, your ancestors were once pagan.  I don’t think the “it was once pagan, has its origins in paganism, therefore it is still evil and Christians should have nothing to do with it!” argument matters much.  I’d never bothered to do much reading up about it, but since it seems to matter a lot to some people, I thought I’d do a little research.  Just a little turns up some interesting answers, like this: maybe it was the pagans who were co-opting celebration ideas from the Christians, not the other way around.  It turns out that Christmas Isn’t Secretly Pagan at all.

The point is, it’s Christmas… The time of the year when we celebrate the miracle of the God of the universe being born as a tiny child! When we marvel at the incarnation and prepare for the glorious Second Coming! When we meditate on the mystery of God becoming man so that man can become like God! Or, actually, none of that. Since, as you’ve probably heard, CHRISTMAS IS SECRETLY A PAGAN HOLIDAY.

…or, at least, this is what you frequently hear from a strange, motley, seasonal coalition of atheists, Neo-Pagans, and fundamentalist Christians who seem intent on making sure that nobody (except maybe them) has any fun in December. The 25th isn’t actually Jesus’s birthday, it’s the Saturnalia! Or the Sol Invictus! Or… something (you can choose from a cornucopia of completely made-up December 25 celebrations if you’re one of the enlightened few who’ve seen the faux-documentary Zeitgeist)! When you put up a tree, you’re not worshiping Jesus, YOU’RE SECRETLY WORSHIPING SATURN OR WODEN OR THE SUN OR SATAN OR WOOD GNOMES OR LIKE THE BUBBLE GUPPIES OR SOMETHING.

Your entire religion is founded on a pile of LIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIES!


If you actually dig into the primary sources from the era of early Christianity, you’ll find no evidence at all that Christmas was “stolen” from pagan solstice festivals, and at least some evidence that the exact opposite occurred. Everyone living today may think Christmas is the ripoff, but it’s actually the original…

There are two pagan festivals that are usually pointed to as the origin of Christmas, but the evidence for both is pretty thin. The first choice is usually the Saturnaliathe Roman celebration of the god Saturn, which does pre-date Christmas, but leaves one big, gaping hole in the plot: the Saturnalia kicked off on December 17 every year, and only went up to the 23rd—so if Christmas began as an attempt by Christians to co-opt the Saturnalia, they were literally two days late to the party. Telling people to fast when their friends are partying and then party when their friends are nursing hangovers makes for a lousy way to ease the transition from paganism to Christianity, if that was the intent.

The other usual suspect is the Sol Invictusthe “Feast of the Unconquered Sun,” which looks like a better choice at first, since it did actually take place on December 25. The problem with the Sol Invictus, though, is that literally no one celebrated it until Roman emperor Aurelian instituted it in A.D. 274, and Christian references to Christ’s birth falling on December 25 date all the way back to the early A.D. 200s. So if anyone was stealing holidays from anyone, you pretty much have to conclude the pagans were stealing them from the Christians.

The reality is… there is plenty of evidence that the selection of the date was nothing other than a good-faith attempt by early Christians to discern the actual date of his birth. Sources from the early Christian era show a great deal of debate among Christian thinkers over the most likely day for the nativity, and while a lot of the reasoning is fairly convoluted, none of it acknowledges anything the pagans may or may not have been doing. In brief, the reasoning that appears to have won the day goes like this:

  1. It was generally agreed that Jesus died on March 25. (Because there were half a dozen competing calendars in the first century A.D., it’s hard to say that with a lot of certainty, but there it is. The second-most-popular choice for the date was April 6.)
  2. There was a popular belief in first-century Christianity and Judaism that all true prophets died on the same day they were conceived. This meant that March 25 was also the date of Christ’s conception. (This is why, for those of you following the liturgical calendar, the Feast of the Anunciation falls on March 25, unless March 25 falls in Holy Week, in which case… never mind.)
  3. Adding nine months to March 25 gets you December 25. (Then, mostly because of the March 25 / April 6 controversy, Epiphany, which celebrates the arrival of the magi, was set nine months after April 6, on January 6, as a sort of compromise…)

So there it is. Convoluted, sure, but not “stolen from the pagans…” And even if you don’t buy that particular explanation for the date, you still have to contend with the fact that there’s no evidence at all of early Christians plotting to co-opt pagan holidays. So, if that’s the case, how did we arrive at the “everybody-knows” factoid of Christmas being a re-purposed pagan festival?

As usual with questions like this, the answer turns out to be “Englightenment-era Protestants just making stuff up.”

The idea that Christmas is OMG SECRETLY PAGAN comes not from first-millennium sources, but from Paul Ernst Jablonski, an 18th-century Calvinist theologian and amateur historian who (like all good Calvinists) was looking to discredit the Catholic Church. Without citing any real evidence, he just sort of asserted the stuff about Christmas being a re-skin of the Sol Invictus and called it a day. A lot of people—including some Catholics—just took him at face value on this, and the rest, as they say, is pseudo-history. But, as popular as Jablonski’s ideas managed to get, no one has ever been able to cite any real evidence for them.

None of that is to say that Christmas didn’t absorb any pagan customs (of course it did—just like Hanukkah has absorbed some Christmas-y customs), or that Christians were the first people in history to bring trees inside and cover them in sparkly things…

There are even more reasons to be found as to why Dec. 25 was set as the date to celebrate Christ’s Mass such as how the date can be tied to Zechariah’s serving in the Temple and the subsequent conception of St. John the Baptist, and that early church fathers such as St. John Chrysostom (c.344-407) were certain that Dec. 25 was the date of the Nativity and referred to historical records in Rome as proof (since destroyed by barbarian invasions of Rome).  See more here and here and here.

Identity Politics = children who are crying out to belong?

I’ve wondered about the connection between identity politics and un-met needs to belong and to be part of a “tribe,” a community, but I hadn’t yet followed that train of thought far enough back.

In The Primal Scream of Identity Politics, Mary Eberstadt provides as assessment of  identity politics and our culture that takes us back to the foundation: the family.  She examines several other authors’ analyses of identity politics (and our cultural climate) and concludes that while some have noticed important factors, no one has gone deep enough in their questions and conclusions.  The whole thing is worth a read.

“Mine! Mine! It’s mine!” The manifest panic behind cries of “cultural appropriation” is real—as real as the tantrum of a toddler. It’s as real as the developmental regression seen in the retreat to campus “safe spaces,” those tiny non-treehouses stuffed with candy, coloring books, and Care Bears. In social science, the toddler’s developmental “mine!” is called the “endowment effect”—the notion that humans ascribe extra value to possessions simply because they’re theirs. Some theorists consider it a subset of another human proclivity: loss aversion.

Maybe that cultural scream of “mine!” is issuing from souls who did have something taken from them—only something more elemental than the totemic objects now functioning as figurative blankies for lost and angry former children. As of today, less than 65 percent of American children live with both biological parents, even as other familial boughs have broken via external forces like the opioid crisis, criminality and incarceration, and globalization. Maybe depression and anxiety have been rising steadily among children and teenagers for a reason. Maybe the furor over “appropriation” unveils the true foundation of identity politics, which is pathos.

Did anyone really think things would turn out otherwise—that the massive kinship dislocations of the past 60 years wouldn’t produce increasingly visible, transformative effects not only in individual lives and households, but on politics and culture, too?

After all, it defies common sense to believe that the human surroundings during one’s formative years have no effect on the life to come. There’s also a library of social science, now over half a century in the making, tracing the links between fatherless homes and higher risks of truancy, criminality, psychiatric trouble, and the rest of the ledger suggesting that ripping up primordial ties hasn’t done society any favors. It’s all there, no matter how many of us have deep reasons for wishing otherwise.

One irony is certain. While identity politics has become an object of conversation in the left-leaning circles of Anglo-American and European political thought, deliverance from today’s disfigurations cannot come from the same quarter. The reason is simple. Not only identitarians but also liberals and progressives who are now anti-identitarian or identitarian-skeptical all agree on one big thing: The sexual revolution is off-limits for revision anywhere, anytime. It is their moral bedrock.

No-fault divorce, out-of-wedlock births, paid surrogacy, absolutism about erotic freedom, disdain for traditional moral codes: The very policies and practices that chip away at the family and drive the subsequent flight to identity politics are those that liberals and progressives embrace.

Then there are related family-unfriendly social realities that they also deem benign. Pornography, which once upon a time some feminists objected to, is now the stuff of their full-throated enthusiasm. Prostitution has been re-defined as the more anodyne “sex work.” And, of course, abortion is—in the unnervingly theological modifier applied to it by Hillary Clinton and many others on the left—“sacrosanct.” In the end, asking liberals and progressives to solve the problem of identity politics is like asking the proverbial orphan with chutzpah who murdered his parents.

Yes, conservatives have missed something major about identity politics: its authenticity. But the liberal-progressive side has missed something bigger. Identity politics is not so much politics as a primal scream. It’s the result of what might be called the Great Scattering—the Western world’s unprecedented familial dispersion.

Anyone who’s ever heard a coyote in the desert, separated at night from the pack, knows the sound. Maybe the otherwise-unexplained hysteria of today’s identity politics is just that: the collective human howl of our time, sent up by inescapably communal creatures who can no longer identify their own.

My very simplified conclusion after reading all of The Primal Scream of Identity Politics is this: maybe all the immature, hysterical acting out going on in this country really can be traced back to the destruction of the family or put more personally, mommy and daddy weren’t there to provide a stable, loving childhood.  Today’s adults were yesterday’s children who were spoiled rotten in many ways, but not given what they really needed to be able to grow-up into mature human beings.