Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Bad Witness to the True Meaning of Christmas

It was December 21st and MrsDarwin and I were standing in the local branch of our bank, getting a cashier's check for more money than I like to think about so that we could go close on our new house. These things take time, as people don't normally come in and asked to cut large chashier's checks, and as we were standing there I gradually became aware of an increasingly loud conserversation between an elderly male customer and a teller at the other end of the counter.

"I'm very offended," he announced. "Very, very offended. And do you know why I'm offended?"

"Why sir?"

"Because I am a Christian and when I look around here four days before Christmas I don't see a single Christmas decoration. Do you know how long I've been a customer here? I want to talk to your manager."

At this juncture I ceased half-paying-attention and began full on spectating, since in the customer service hierarchy dealing with a shouting customer ranks higher on a manager's list of priorities than signing off on the large cashier's check of a quiet couple holding a sleeping baby, and thus we wouldn't be going anywhere until this fellow was dealt with.

The manager attempted to smooth things over, pointing to a few red bows and fake evergreen that decorated the branch, but the man would not be pacified.

"Those aren't Christmas decorations," he declared. "Christmas is a religious holiday. It's about Jesus. And I don't see a thing in here to show that it's happening this week."

Further attempts of the manager to placate got nowhere, as the fellow demanded, "Look up my account. Look how long my wife and I have been banking here and how much money we have with you. If you don't care about Christmas I'm closing out my account and taking my money elsewhere."

At last, the manager apparently decided that reasoning wasn't getting anywhere, so he took his soon-to-be former customer off to one of the side offices while one of the tellers brought out a bill counting machine in order to fulfill the customer's request that his money all be withdrawn, "In large bills." Our spectating ended, as the manager signed off on our cashier's check as he passed, and so we were able to leave shortly thereafter. As we passed the closed door of the glassed-in office, I could see the man still gesticulating and talking inside as the manager nodded in the pained way that those tasked with taking care of disgruntled customers do.

As we drove off, I couldn't help feeling depressed about the whole spectacle. Though a nominally Christian country, at least as the polling data goes, people who are in any way serious practicing Christians are increasingly a minority in our culture, and as such ripe for being understood primarily based on their loudest representatives. That one of these should be a man angry that the local branch of Chase didn't have religious Christmas decorations on display seemed, if anything, a way of making people more averse to Christianity rather than the contrary. Indeed, if I were to list the difficulties that Christianity faces at this time, the failure to be endorsed by J. P. Morgan Chase does not seem high on the list.

Though as the saying goes: You can pick your friends, but you can't pick your family. This goes as much for brothers in Christ as for blood relatives.


Rebekka said...


Melanie Bettinelli said...


Anonymous said...

I used to get worked up about the "Happy holidays/Merry Christmas" issue and such, but now?

I don't care.

I mean, I do, but I think we as Christians witness far better to non-believers by living happy, Godly lives than by preaching stridently.

Nobody asks the fat person who is always talking about being on a diet how to lose weight. The one who attracts attention is the he who has lost the weight quietly, without bothering anyone else.

(And yes, I know weight loss is not the best example to use because fat <> bad, but it was the first thing that came to mind and I wanted to free up my hands so I could eat my butter-laden butternut squash.)

JMB said...

I agree. Chase is a bank, a commercial enterprise. If my church didn't have Christmas decorations up, I'd be worried. But my bank, I don't really care.

theresa said...

On a related but maybe tangential note, this year I noticed that some people we know who are of different kinds of professed beliefs and religious practice or lack thereof, but all very sort of culturally mainstream, have felt comfortable going back to saying merry Christmas on their family photo cards. It didn't lead me to suspect that anything had changed but that the cultural mainstream had realized more people get worked up about being wished "happy holidays" than do about "merry Christmas."

Unknown said...

Maybe the manager of the bank was Catholic and was observing the Advent season, which is a penitential season. Catholic churches don't decorate for Christmas until right before the first Christmas Mass.