This Work of Destruction is Not as Simple as You Think: The Slow Death of Christmas

In the days before 9/11, when Afghanistan seemed a world away, I remember watching a disturbing news story out of that nation. Those were the days of Taliban rule in that troubled land. In early 2001, the Taliban Government announced to a slumbering world, that they intended to destroy ancient Buddhist statues in the Hazarajat province of Afghanistan.

Despite the protests of historians, archeologists, governments of the West, and the United Nations, the Taliban took action to destroy the Buddha’s of Bamiyan.  These statues had been carved into high cliff walls during the 6th century.

However, the Taliban, as the new legal authority in Afghanistan, had decided the Buddha’s must be destroyed because their very presence in the land represented a gross affront to the rigid Islamism that the Taliban professed. More than 400 Islamic clerics agreed, classifying the statues as “against Islam” and thereby lending their support to the proposed destruction.

Initially, the Taliban attempted to destroy the ancient artwork by firing artillery. However, the statues looked back mockingly, and while damaged, the Buddha’s stood proudly. The Taliban information minister eventually stated, oblivious to his crassness, “this work of destruction is not as simple as you think.”

Finally in March 2001, the Taliban resorted to dynamite. Rigging the cliff walls with massive amounts of TNT, the Taliban blew up the Buddha’s of Bamiyan while shouting Allahu Akbar.

A gaping hole is all that is left after the Taliban destroyed the centuries old Buddha statues in Bamiyan Province, Afghanistan in 2001. (Photo Credit: SmithsonianMag.com)

I remember watching the footage of the destruction on the evening news. One moment the Buddha’s stood, testifying to the faith of an ancient land and the next moment there was nothing but a pile of debris and cheering Taliban. I seethed. My wife asked me, “What kind of people would do this?”

Indeed, what kind of people live to destroy?

***

This past May, I attended a conference in Alabama. Every day, when I pulled into the parking lot of the hotel I was staying at there was a Volkswagen Golf parked in the same spot. Affixed to the back of the VW was a fish with feet and the word “DARWIN” printed on the fish’s side. Perhaps you’ve seen one driving around your town?

The Darwin Fish was created by people intentionally trying to make fun of Christians.

[sharequote align=”center”]What kind of people do that? What kind of people mock someone else’s faith?[/sharequote]

The fish symbol, called the Ichthys, is an ancient symbol of Christianity, tracing its roots to the first century when the early church lived under the severe and savage rule of Rome. Christians of the first century adopted a simple symbol, the Ichthys. To hide from the persecution of Rome, Christians would mark their tombs and meeting places with a simple fish.

Modern Christians affix that same fish symbol to their automobiles, stationary, businesses, etc. For Christians, this ancient symbol is part of their heritage. It is also a tribute to those Christians of the early church, who suffered and persevered against a government that despised them; a government that would do anything to destroy Christianity.

Just a symbol? Yes, but an important one to people of the Christian faith.

But take a drive around your town and you will see routine desecration of that symbol. There’s the aforementioned Darwin Fish, the Gefilte Fish, a fish with the SATAN printed on its side, a fish rocket ship, etc.

Photo Credit: DarwinFish.com

On that trip to Alabama, as I pulled into the same parking spot at my hotel, my colleague, a Christian like me, took note of that VW with the Darwin Fish affixed to it, and asked me a simple question: “What kind of people do that? What kind of people mock someone else’s faith?”

Indeed, what kind of people live to destroy?

***

This week, I’ve been making merry with my family as we prepare to celebrate the Christmas holiday. While decorating my living room the other night, I took note of the evening news which  had a report about a group of atheists who were suing to include a Festivus Pole, made out of beer cans, next to a nativity scene in some American town.

Festivus, for those of you who aren’t fans of the television program “Seinfeld,” is a fictitious parody “holiday” created by the writers of that popular series. It was a funny episode. The Festivus Pole has since been adopted by American Atheists to mock the faith of Christians; using the first amendment as their legal authority to attack and degrade nativity scenes.

The Nativity Scene is an ancient tradition of the Christian faith. It is reported to date to the year 1223, when Saint Francis of Assisi displayed the first Nativity in honor of his faith. As a reminder to those who shared his faith, that Christmas was something to be cherished and revered.

Does that mean that everyone must celebrate Christmas? Of course not – many across the globe ignore Christmas every year. It was simply a reminder to those of a like mind, that they shared something special; a faith in a loving God.

Chaz Stevens from Deerfield Beach, Florida talks to the media next to his Festivus pole made out of beer cans in the rotunda of the Florida Capitol December 11, 2013 in Tallahassee, Florida. Stevens display was intended to counter the religious Christian Nativity manger also on display. Photo Credit: Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images

Am I saying that confused people can’t have a Festivus Pole? No. But when you take a sitcom parody and turn it into your opportunity to attack the faith of your neighbors, I am left asking myself: What kind of people do this?

Indeed what kind of people live to destroy?

***

“If I could work my will,” said Scrooge indignantly, “Every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!”

I suppose there will be many lawyers, and lawyerly types, who will want to have a protracted argument about the rights of people to display Darwin Fish and Festivus poles. Yes, that is all well and good; just as there were many (some 400 plus!) clerics who would explain in explicit detail why the Buddha’s of Bamiyan must be destroyed.

But decent people know better than that. And decent people everywhere are left pondering, “what kind of people do this?”

Indeed, what kind of people live to destroy?

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