A Christmas Allegory (with apologies to fans of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” everywhere)

It’s finals week. The papers are in. Just one exam to give and one set of presentations to hear. Grades are due Tuesday. So naturally, it’s time for a blog post!

Image from schulzmuseum.org
Image from schulzmuseum.org

“Christmas time is here.” The opening line of the skating song from A Charlie Brown Christmas gets most of us reciting the whole thing through Linus’ speech (“lights please”) and on through the chorus of Hark the Herald Angels Sing.

It’s probably the brain-frying exercise of ending the semester but I started thinking of CBC as an allegory for a number of issues confronting the evangelical church in recent days. It’s not a perfect match, but we gave John Bunyan a wide berth on Pilgrim’s Progress, so stay with me.

In my allegory, Charlie Brown represents the evangelical church in the age of Christendom. He wasn’t sure what Christmas was all about and suddenly gets made director of the Christmas play. He doesn’t know anything about directing and nobody particularly wanted him to be calling the shots. But here he is and is committed to making a difference. Not just a play, but the best play anyone had ever seen. He tries to exert authority, but every time he turns around nobody is paying any attention. Even Snoopy mocks him. He’s sure he’s doing the right thing (sincerity is a big deal to CB) but it just doesn’t turn his way. He tries to get a nice tree and kills it. In the evangelical church, we found ourselves connected to power and whatever we do it turns out kind of messy.

Charlie Brown’s sister Sally represents the kind of celebration of commercialization that would make Sarah Palin proud (“I love the commercialization of Christmas because it spreads the Christmas cheers, the most jolly holiday obviously on our calendar.” ) She wants to make things easy on Santa by just asking for tens and twenties. Such a focus on outcomes would make any prosperity preacher happy as he shows off his big house (or houses) and “smokin’ hot wife” on his new reality show.

Schroeder represents contemporary Christian music. He is very, very, very, into his music. The crowd seems to love it and engages in their strange little dance at a moment’s notice. When asked by Lucy to play traditional music (jingle bells) he makes it strange and without meaning.

In my imaginings, Lucy represents every celebrity-and-power leader in the church. She thinks the play is about her — she quickly moves from script girl to the prime candidate for Christmas Queen. When her authority is challenged by Linus, she responds with her Five Reasons (which involves making a fist and threatening to punch him). She turns on Charlie when things don’t go her way (she doesn’t pull the football trick here, but we know how she enjoys belittling him). She’s willing to offer him advice without really hearing his concern.

Then we have the token gang. A coupe of diverse kids, the weird twins, Violet and Freda (sure to be evangelical authors in the future), and Pigpen. All of them represent what Scot Peck calls pseudocommunity. They aren’t really part of the big picture but they add the impression of complexity.

Finally, we get Linus. Linus represents what I wrote about in my last post as Faithful Presence. He stands apart from the others, asks somewhat prophetic questions, and when the moment was right decides to share his answer to what Christmas Is All About. Sure, his delivery is a bit dramatic and he could have shared more about his personal quest, but he maintains his poise. He’s the one who says “I never thought it was such a bad little tree” and it’s his lead that transforms the scrawny tree into the tree that Charlie Brown imagined all along.

I’d umpack stuff about Snoopy but that would just be pushing the envelope too far.

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