John Calvin Joins The Ranter in the War on Christmas

NEWSFLASH: The Ranter has declared war on Christmas! Or at least Bill O’Reilly and John Gibson and the other genius right-wingers at Faux News believe that liberal, left, secularists like The Ranter have declared war on Christmas. I hate to disappoint, so I have created a “Make war on Christmas, not Iraq” bumper sticker. Joining me in this anti-crusade is John Calvin, the famous Reformer of Geneva, father of the Puritan movement and one of the original soldiers in the war on Christmas.

Many commentators have written to note that Christmas is alive and well (or ill from a case of acute commercialism, actually, but most Christians and atheists agree with that assessment as well unless they happen to be retailers). There is this little document generally known as the Bill of Rights that says that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The United States is built on principles that protect minorities from the tyranny of the majority. For some reason, these right-wing Christians seem to be unable to project into the future and ask whether they would be comfortable in a twenty-third century America that has converted overwhelmingly to Mithraism (The Ranter predicted if first) and mandates installation of Mithraic grottos and bull slayings on the lawns of the city halls and in the halls of the courthouses of America. The separation of Church and State is not a war against Christians, it is primarily intended for the protection of people of all religions, including Christians.

All of that is neither here nor there and it has been said a million times. More surprising to many Christians and atheists alike is that the great-grandfather of religious fundamentalism, John Calvin, was himself a soldier in the war against Christmas. Like most educated Christians, Calvin knew that the birth of Jesus did not correspond in any meaningful way to December 25th, and that it was in essence a pagan holiday that had been absorbed and coopted by early Christians. Calvin, however, went the next step in believing that only holidays specifically mentioned in the Bible should be celebrated. Essentially, this boiled down to holidays of the Easter cycle (Easter, Ascension, Pentecost, et cetera) as well as Sundays.

The war on Christmas was joined in 1537, when, under the influence of John Calvin, Christmas passed without celebration. Unfortunately, Geneva’s allies, the Bernese insisted on celebrating Christmas, Circumcision, Annunciation and a few other holidays and demanded the Genevans do the same. Calvin, refusing to give into Bernese demands, was exiled from Geneva and the celebration of Christmas reinstated. When Calvin came back to Geneva in 1541 after a period of exile, he began militating for the abolition of the non-Biblical holidays. In 1545, he achieved limited success in seeing the feasts of the Circumcision and Annunciation suppressed, but the war on Christmas was a tougher fight. Finally, in 1550, Calvin managed to get the Genevan authorities to outlaw Christmas and to mandate that communion would be celebrated only on Sundays, and not on “superstitious” pagan dates like December 25. Indeed, on Devember 25, 1550, the city council sat for business as usual, the courts were in session and businesses were all open under penalty of fine. Calvin, as usual, gave his weekday sermon on a book of the Old Testament and noticed something that upset him: there were more people in church than on a typical weekday. A committed soldier in the war on Christmas, Calvin boomed from the pulpit:

I see more people than usual at sermon today. And why? It’ s Christmas day. And who told you? It seems so [to be a holy day] to poor beasts. There’ s the fitting label for all who came to sermon today in honor of the feast… But if you think that Jesus Christ was born today, you are beasts, indeed, rabid beasts.

Once again, I am compelled to agree with Calvin and declare that Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and John Gibson are, indeed, rabid beasts. As such, I join Calvin in the war on Christmas. Amen!


17 Responses to “John Calvin Joins The Ranter in the War on Christmas”

  1. Do you mean anyone other than David? Apparently, no. On the bright side, you won’t have to worry about angry religios leaving hate-filled Comments.

  2. TheRanter

    Yes, other than David, since I guess he obviously came here! In any case, yes you’re right, better to have comments from logic-choppers than head choppers.

  3. I don’t mean to get on the case of Best Buy, but I won’t buy at Best Buy this Christmas. Instead, I’ll say “Bye, bye!” and sing my new song, protesting their decision to ban Christmas greetings from their ad campaign:

    Best Buy Inn
    words and music by Dr. BLT (c) 2006

  4. Well, that’s your call. Personally, I would like to boycott any store that plays “I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus” because it is musically offensive.

    Face it, Christmas is a holiday that is 100% about consumerism. It has no theological standing, as Calvin notes, since it is not mentioned in the Bible and does not correspond at all with the birth of Jesus. If people are going to push a Biblical agenda, I’m just asking them to do like John Calvin and abolish Christmas.

  5. Um, can you cite where Calvin approved of holidays of the Easter cycle (Easter, Ascension, Pentecost, et cetera) ? In his Institutes somewhere? Someplace in his Commentaries perhaps? Please let me know.

  6. Hard to believe Christmas is already around the corner. I am ready for some Thanksgiving turkey though.

  7. John, the source is as cited above (Supplementa Calviniana, volume 5, sermons on Micah, p. 172, lines 20ff, translated from French by me). The original French is:

    “Je voy maintenant du peuple plus qu’il n’y a accoustumé d’avoir au sermon. Et pourquoy? C’est le jour de Noel. Et qui vous l’a dict? Il le semble aux pauvres bestes, car voila le tiltre de tous ceulx qui sont venuz aujourdhuy au sermon pour l’honeur de la feste… Mais si vous pensez que Jesus Christ soit né aujourdhuy, vous este des bestes, voire des bestes enragees”

  8. Bloody Hell! This is why I don’t converse with conservatives.

    1. The “link” is in the citation. That quote is from something called a “book” an object that once upon a time people in Calvin’s era read. It consists of thin membranes called “paper” that are “bound” into said book. One typically needs to go to a place called a “library” in order to find these objects.

    I realize this is a stretch for many people.

    2. My English translation is in the text above. It is the quote you read when asking for the citation. The two sort of go together.

    3. It’s impolite to ask people for favors and then pay no attention to their responses.

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  10. Postcathaholic

    Hey…Christ Mass is a Catholic Holy Day. I am a Protestant Christian protesting Christ Mass. The day was usurped by unthoughtful protestants and should not be observed in the manner it has been or on December 25th, or maybe not at all. So PLEASE go right ahead and protest the removal of creches, etc.

    areas. And while you’re at

  11. Postcathaholic

    Sorry about the last two lines. I think my keyboard is possessed. LOL

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