During the Christmas season, does America’s infatuation with icons of the past, old Christmas movies, and cheesy Hallmark movies tell us something about ourselves? Maybe something positive? Does it reflect our yearning for a kinder, gentler country? I believe it does, and here’s why.
My attitude about Christmas movies is conflicted. On the one hand, I can’t get excited about the annual repeated parade of the same old classics, and I am repulsed by the tripe that passes for new Christmas releases. On the other hand, I often watch both screen categories during the holiday season. There is just something about those simple stories that gives me to a feeling of goodness and a respite from the real world. The high ratings these movies get indicate that many in our society are yearning for the values of small-town America and days gone by. Why else would millions sit for hours in front of a TV watching a poorly written, low-budget movie with amateur actors in totally predictable plots? It’s always about someone from the big city who goes to a small town and falls in love with someone who already has a love interest. The screen writers all use the same plot and just change the names and venues. Yet, people are driven to these movies because of the void in their hearts that longs for the authenticity, simplicity, and unconditional love characterized in the stories. They need to reconnect with the more peaceful, more civil, and simpler times when America was, well, just better.
Americans in general want to return to a time of goodness. Maybe it should be described as a time of godliness. We see our nation moving in a direction contrary to our ideology, yet we are caught up in the mainstream and can’t seem to escape. We find consolation in retreating temporarily to more meaningful times of the past. Realistically, those times were not as good as our memories of them, but they were heavenly compared to today’s social culture. So, how can we be influenced by these movies to become more like them–to reverse the present political and societal mess and return to better times? Cultures only change as individuals change, and we can only change one individual–ourself. To borrow a concept from Mark Batterson, author of The Circle Maker, we can draw a circle around ourself and change everyone in that circle.
I am very concerned about the lack of civility, disrespect, animosity toward others, and absence of personal sacrifice that characterize America today. There is little I can do about it other than pray and make sure I’m not contributing to it. So, with God’s help, I’m going to continue striving to be more like the people in those Christmas movies. I hope you will, too.