A Santa Claus God for a Santa Claus Culture
Did the September 11 terrorist attacks change Christmas? Miroslav Volf thinks they should.

"Maybe life should not go on as usual, at least not in the way we celebrate Christmas," Volf, Henry B. Wright Professor of Theology at Yale Divinity School, wrote in Saturday's The Dallas Morning News. "The fires that melted the Twin Towers exposed powerfully the fragility of our lives. Faced with death, we glimpsed what otherwise tends to remain hidden from sight: the ultimate meaninglessness of a consumerist culture."

In a culture where Christ's birth has become an occasion for getting, Volf wrote, God is reduced to a Santa-figure who is "all ears to hear every one of our wishes with an infinite bag full of gifts."

But, Volf argues, Christmas is the celebration of the birth of an infant who showed God's love in a mission that ended in cruel death.

"What baffles us is that someone would give his life for a cause," he wrote. "That does not fit our Santa Claus culture with its Santa Claus god. Our key values are freedom and possession—my freedom and my possession. Most of us don't live for anything larger than ourselves. We cannot fathom dying for anything, except maybe to protect our freedoms and possessions. "

Life is only meaningful when we turn from ourselves and live for God and neighbor, Volf argues. Maybe after September 11, Christmas is a reminder of that.

But the first Christmas after the terrorist attacks may have been changed in other ways, too. Newsday reported that the holiday was also a reminder of pain this year. Grief, sadness, and guilt overshadowed Christmas joy.

"Going out and celebrating, spending money, it seems you're ignoring all those people who have died, who are suffering," ...

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Launched in 1999, Christianity Today’s Weblog was not just one of the first religion-oriented weblogs, but one of the first published by a media organization. (Hence its rather bland title.) Mostly compiled by then-online editor Ted Olsen, Weblog rounded up religion news and opinion pieces from publications around the world. As Christianity Today’s website grew, it launched other blogs. Olsen took on management responsibilities, and the Weblog feature as such was mothballed. But CT’s efforts to round up important news and opinion from around the web continues, especially on our Gleanings feature.
Ted Olsen
Ted Olsen is Christianity Today's editorial director. He wrote the magazine's Weblog—a collection of news and opinion articles from mainstream news sources around the world—from 1999 to 2006. In 2004, the magazine launched Weblog in Print, which looks for unexpected connections and trends in articles appearing in the mainstream press. The column was later renamed "Tidings" and ran until 2007.
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