I had the page The 12 days of Kitschmas on the Ship of Fools web site bookmarked as a fun link to share. I mean just look at this stuff. But today for the first time, I clicked on the Christ vs. Kitsch link on that page, and discovered it's a pretty powerful read. For anyone who is offended by "strong language", I should forewarn you that it has some of that...
THE PROBLEM WITH KITSCH is not readily apparent because (by definition) the treatment of what is considered unwholesome takes place off stage. Think of those Nazi propaganda films of beautiful, healthy children skiing down the Bavarian Alps. Nothing wrong with that, is there? Of course there is. For this is a world that has been purified, where everything nasty or troubling has been eliminated. The logical conclusion of kitsch, argues Kundera, is the ghetto and the concentration camp – the means by which totalitarian regimes dispose of their shit, variously construed.
This is tied in with Christmas later in the article by describing how shocking and unsettling--how "profane" the story of the incarnation really is...
Even many who felt the attraction of the Christian story believed this was going too far. Convoluted ways were sought to mitigate the offence. Christ was not really human or Christ was not really divine. Others created a firewall between the sacred and the profane within the person of Jesus himself. For the second century Gnostic, Valentinius, Jesus "ate and drank but did not defecate".
I haven't read church history for some time, but I am aware that the debates about whether Jesus was fully human and/or fully divine went on for centuries, but it never occurred to me that people speculated about whether or not Jesus went to the bathroom. (Although I have mused to myself from time to time, wondering how easy or difficult the Christ child was to potty train.)In any event, I recommend the whole article, but will include the concluding paragraphs here as food for thought.
The problem isn't that Christmas has become too materialistic – but rather that it isn't materialistic enough. Kitsch Christmas is another way of uncoupling the divine from the material, thus spiritualizing God into incapacity. I am not being a killjoy attacking the kitsch version of Christmas. Three years ago, my wife gave birth to a baby boy. The labour ward was no place to be coy about the human body and all its functions. The talcum-powdered unreality of kitsch childbirth cannot compare with the exhaustion, pain and joy of the real thing.
Sunday, December 11, 2005
Posted by Renee in Ohio at 2:51 PM