WorldNetDaily Promotes War on Christmas

Every December WND runs a rash of articles railing against a supposed secularist “War on Christmas”. Now it’s February, however, WND has decided to promote a DVD collection which denounces Christmas and Easter as Satanic ploys to undermine true Christianity:

A Tennessee historian and author best known for his searches for the Ark of the Covenant – the box containing the Ten Commandments – is now challenging much of modern Christianity, claiming the traditional version of the faith has more in common with ancient paganism than actual biblical content.

…In his new book and videos, [Richard] Rives goes on a history-packed journey beginning with the creation of the world and Satan’s deception in the Garden of Eden, examining how worship of the sun god among ancient cultures influenced the worship of the true God of the Bible.

…He says the most important theme people will realize from his project is “that major components of traditional Christianity are actually pagan in nature and that they never had anything to do with Jesus. Educated theologians know that, and purposefully withhold that information.”

As ever with crank theories, there’s one overarching theme which is applied monomanically – in this case “sun worship” – and the claim that all the experts are conspiring to conceal the truth. Rives in fact “reveals” stuff which is well-known, and which “educated theologians” would doubtless be more than happy to explain to anyone who might bother to take an interest:

Easter is the name of a pagan fertility goddess. The believers that walked and talked with Christ observed Passover…December 25th is not the birthday of Jesus. It was the most important pagan birthday on the Roman calendar 300 years after the time of Christ…Sunday is not the Sabbath. Theologians substituted Sunday rest in place of Sabbath rest.

Etc, etc…But – so what? Sunday was chosen as the Christian day of worship because of the Christian belief in the Resurrection of Jesus – an eschatological “eighth day”. Christmas and Easter are Christian celebrations now (at least for Christians), whatever their origins.

And if you want to play the “pagan origins” game, why not apply it to Biblical religion as well? Although this is also a minefield of crankdom, it is uncontroversial to note that the Ark of the Covenant, which Rives has devoted so much energy to trying to find, is based on an Egyptian model and is rather conspicious for having two winged statuettes on its lid in defiance of the Second Commandment…

Appropriately, Rives’ magnum opus on the subject is entitled Too Long in the Sun. Here’s an extract, in which Rives shockingly reveals information that he discovered by consulting the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Seriously, though, the idea of the Saturday Sabbath and the emphasis on “Passover” doubtless appeals to WND editor Joseph Farah because it links Christianity more closely to Judaism. On one level this is admirable – Christianity began within Judaism and the historical Jesus can only be properly understood within the context of the Jewish traditions of his day. It’s also good to see Christianity shake off historic anti-semitism, despite unambiguous anti-Jewish rhetoric in parts of the New Testament. However, this re-assessment also serves other purposes – in its conservative forms, Christianity sees itself as the one true faith, but the idea of missionizing Jews seems in bad taste for a number of obvious reasons. Emphasising “true” Christianity’s closeness to Judaism allows the issue to be fudged to some extent. Within Christian Zionism, there is also often (as I noted here) a strong vicarious identification with the culture of Orthodox Judaism and with the Israeli right-wing; dropping Christian traditions in favour of Jewish ones feeds into that.

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