Tonight will be the 50th showing of A Charlie Brown Christmas. I met my oldest friend Will in the 8th grade because of it. He had tape recorded the audio of the show and was typing it up because he wanted to do a production of it. Mostly, he just wanted to perform Linus’ big speech, “Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about.”
We did eventually get it performed and made $12 and some odd cents that we gave to the Optimist Society. I forget how it happened, but Charles Schulz’s secretary contacted us telling us that it was a copyright infringement and that if we did that again, we would need to license it. It was all done very nicely. But it does rather show the silliness of copyright: kids doing their own theatrical version of A Charlie Brown Christmas and giving the money to charity should not be seen as a threat to an artist’s livelihood. But that is a discussion for another day.
I rather liked it when I was a kid. Now all of those Charlie Brown cartoons drive me crazy. The voice acting is terrible. But there’s also something a bit too sweet about them. And then there is all the religious stuff. The interesting thing is that by the end of his life, Schultz certainly could not be considered a believer. Of course, many people try to push against that, because there was a lot of Christianity in his early strips. But whatever he was at the end of his life, it wasn’t a Christian — except perhaps of the universalist variety (and even I can consider myself one of those).
A Charlie Brown Christmas is incredibly heavy handed. It always reminds me of my aunt who used to say in a disappointed tone that we don’t remember the “reason for the season.” At the time, I didn’t really understand what she meant. I mean, I understood that she was saying that we should remember it was all about the baby Jesus. But I didn’t understand it in the full evangelical sense of the lament that Christmas should not just include Jesus but that it should be just about Jesus. I find it incredibly silly today, because if Christmas were just a religious holiday, no one would notice it. It be right up there with Flag Day.
The contrast in A Charlie Brown Christmas is between the commercialism represented by Snoopy and the “truth” spoken by Linus. And that truth is from Luke, chapter 2. And if it is really the reason for the season, it’s pretty pathetic:
It’s just the announcement of a savior. We are not talking the Sermon on the Mount here. There is nothing edify about it. And the truth is that by Christian theology, there is nothing special of Jesus’ birthday. In fact, among many early Christians, Jesus was just the receptacle for the Christ, who entered him at some later time — most often when he was baptized.
The big holiday for Christians should be Easter. It is Jesus’ death and resurrection that matters. Yet I never hear Christians complaining about the Easter Bunny and the commercialization of Easter. And I think I know why. Christians covet Christmas’ popularity. They want it for their religion. It isn’t about theology; it’s about PR. And it is sad.
But here we have 50 years of A Charlie Brown Christmas — nothing short of full out Christian propaganda, Yet we have to hear each year about the war on Christmas. Imagine the outrage that would take place if a single television show presented Islam in a similar light!