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Christmas as a Flavor

The absence of posts nearly all month has been due to the fact that we´re traveling in Mexico, taking a real moon of the honeymoon and enjoying lots of figurative honey. There´s lots to write about, but one thing I wanted to say is that traveling at Christmastime is the best way to enjoy the holiday, in my opinion.

Christmas is like a spice — it´s something better enjoyed as a flavor, as an ingredient among many others. When you´re at home, you have to take Christmas as the whole damn meal for over a month, and I´m not so captivated by the holiday that I want to make it 1/12 of my year (or more, if you count Christmas displays in stores that go up the minute the trick or treaters go to bed).

What Christmas also lacks is a sense of the gift economy. When I was reporting the tongues story, I saw Dwight McKissick give a sermon on the meaning of the gifts, drawing on Paul´s letter to the Corinthians, as the first of a series of sermons in preparation for Christmas. (By chance, that´s also the letter in which Paul goes on at length about spiritual gifts, including speaking in tongues.) I wish McKissick and others also brought notions of the gift economy into their discussion. The notion of Christ´s sacrifice as a sumptuous potlatch is interesting to think about, and it may also go some way to explaining why people become so transformed as born again Christians: entering the gift economy and a symbolic order based on a gift economy is a shock, particularly when one´s only known symbolic orders based on market economies.

What is also curious is how the gift economy offered by churches depends on a market-based exchange, which is one of the main tools by which it threatens to taint the purity of the gifts. The other place is at the limit between logos and pathos. The next time a Baptist preacher calls you a postmodern fool, call him a mere entertainer. That will stop him cold.