Bah Humbug

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By Doug Thompson

Some TV commercial proposes that I buy a Christmas gift for my mailman. I‘m not kidding.


It showed a guy dressed like a mailman and a line of other people at some lady’s door. They all expect a gift.
I am sure there a people who are very good friends with their mailmen, and have been for decades. Some people who are shut in may have no other regular visitor. Or maybe many people are just giddy with holiday cheer. OK. If they want to, they have every right to get him a gift. However, the obvious intent of this commercial is to purport that people owe a gift to everybody who provides a service, whether they know that person or not.
I know that American civilization depends upon consumers spending money we don’t have. Well, folks, American civilization’s doomed if they’re counting on me to go beyond my close family circle at Christmas.
This isn’t some rant about how materialism’s taking over the holiday. Let ‘er rip. I have kids of all ages. I can get any toy I want on a plausible pretext of getting it for at least one of the kids. I’m a material guy to whom the sweetest sound is the ripping of gift wrap.
I like my mailman well enough. I like my kids’ teachers, or most of them, anyway. I’ll tell you right now, however, that if there’s anybody outside my family who provides a service and to whom I’m going to give gifts to, it’s the guy who hauls off the garbage. Not the recycling, mind you, the garbage.
Clearly, the advertising folks are trying to drive up spending by creating a perceived obligation to provide a gift to anyone who has a casual or business relationship with you.
This isn’t marketing. This is desperation. Apparently, somebody besides holiday standbys like the  consumer electronics business and jewelers want in on the action. If this keeps up, I’ll be expected to buy at least a few post-it notes for everybody I ever met.
It has apparently not occurred to the producers of this commercial that the American public, by and large, is broke. The ghost of Christmas past says “Boo” every time we look at our credit card balances.
Christmas is for family. I’m going to spend my money and my time with people I love.  I’m going to give everybody else a heart-felt “Merry Christmas.” If that’s not enough for them, well, I feel sorry for them.
Many people feel lonely and unloved at Christmas. That isn’t going to be relieved much by a pen holder from some chain of office supply stores. It might be helped by a thoughtful card or note, something that demonstrates some real human connection and some insight and appreciation into who they are and a gladness that they exist.
Speaking of holiday cheer, you may have heard of the new “Left Behind” computer game. Christians can shoot people but avoid losing points by praying.
So much for peace on earth.
Now that I’ve had my fun, I wonder: Why can’t Christians get a decent game? We have “Ben Hur” and “The Ten Commandments” in the movies. Heck, we have “The Passion of the Christ.” There’s obviously a market here.
I checked “Left Behind” out at my favorite game review website, Gamespot. I’d advise anyone considering this game to start there. Even if you expect bias, be warned that reviewers found  game-stopping technical bugs. Some computer finesse was helpful just to keep the game running. The site review also said all the elements of a good game were there, just very poorly assembled.
Then I went to the game’s forum sponsored by the site, and found people who obviously wanted to love this game. They asked, very bluntly, “why aren’t there any good Christian games?”
The likely answer is that there are bigger markets out there, like people who like to drive or feel tough. But perhaps it’s the same reason there are no great Christian Icelandic sagas. A great story often needs a cast of characters. Christianity has, at best, four: The Trinity and Satan. Despite different roles, the Trinity only counts as one, since they are quite pure and unconflicted.
“Age of Mythology” is one of the best-selling games of all time. It’s loaded with religion — and a full panopy of gods: Egyptian, Norse, Greek and so forth. Perhaps Christianity’s core simplicity makes for a great religion, but a poor wellspring of win or lose entertainment.

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