Today we introduce a blog series called How the Grinch, I mean “How White Christian Supremacy Stole Everything.”
In the original design for this blog series, we had the Grinch representing white Christian Supremacy, but after seeing him (designed by the brilliant artist Bryony Dick), we realized that he is actually one of us. We are those who have learned some of our histories, who now remember out loud, the Pagan and Indigenous origin stories of the holidays that we love to celebrate as American and/or Christian holidays (aka “holy days”). We are those who understand how holiday narratives are beautifully spun to get us to buy more and more stuff to once again prove our love to those we care about. We are those who are unwilling to forget the atrocities committed in the name of seemingly good ideals, like love, gratitude, freedom, God…
We, like the Grinch, are told that we are just no fun to have at the holiday party because we ruin the mood. We are told that our hearts are small and diseased, that we take things too seriously, take things too far… But those things that we take too seriously and too far, we call those things our ethics, values, solidarity, honor, justice, morality… *LOVE*, if you will.
We hear over and over things like, can’t we just enjoy the meal…it’s just candy… it’s just a day for family… it doesn’t have to mean what you think it means… or what it used to mean… can’t you just let it go… for the sake of the family/the church/the nation/fill-in-the-blank-here… Think of the children, they say, as if *we* are the ones ruining the Christmas feast and gift exchange, as if we too didn’t love the ideas and traditions we were given before we knew the truth (I mean some of us didn’t love them, but many of us did)…
But there are certain things that we can’t unknow. Histories that none of us should be naive about, especially because we can do better now.
We *are* thinking of the children, including the younger versions of ourselves who were given false narratives about our histories and religions and our identities. We do lose some of our innocence as we learn about the sometimes disturbing, oftentimes violent histories of holidays and ideals we celebrate as a culture, or a nation, or as Christians. It is okay to grieve that loss, and the Grinch is one of the ways we can look at ourselves and feel empathy for that loss… even as we double down on our political and ethical commitments to know better and do better, as our beloved ancestor Maya Angelou taught us.
Most of the time it’s no fun being Grinch (well, for most of us), but we hope to bring a little bit of levity to the reality that we may often find ourselves as the voice crying for justice and integrity in the wilderness (or at the family supper table). We need to be clear about our commitments, well-informed about our histories, and honest in our intentions. And, at the very least, we hope that Grinch will go with you, as a reminder that we are not alone in this struggle.
There are so many acts of capitalism that not only represent but have become a stand-in for things like ”love” or ”gratitude,” so in this series we now see ourselves as the Grinch, who, because of his awareness of the reality of the world of capitalism, heteropatriarchy, colonization, systems of power, and white supremacy, can no longer celebrate holidays like Valentine’s Day with uninterrogated buy-in. We cannot innocently add our few dollars to the billions and billions of dollars that are spent each year proving acts of love. Romantic [heterosexual, monogamous, life-long marriage] love did not begin with God and Adam & Eve in a garden, but rather, it is a concept has been politically cultivated in recent centuries and continues to be used as a weapon of “morality” to prioritize certain kinds of relationships and withhold rights from others.
Much of the Western history of marriage has not had anything to do with romantic love. It began as a way to limit inheritance rights and marriage benefits to the wealthiest and most powerful men in Christendom.
So many of us are choosing a different path. We are going the way our ancestors knew, how our abuelas taught us, the way our grannies showed us, that it truly takes a village… and that our families are *never* just centered on two people in a romantic relationship. We strive to live in networks of support, communities of care that extend way beyond whoever we are having sex with at any particular moment. Who we are having sex with (or want to have sex with) or not is mostly a private choice, and should be mostly irrelevant to webs of love we build over our lifetimes. Our value is not diminished, and our love should not be diminished in any way when we are single or when we choose not to have children.
Self love also fits here, because as the Bible teaches us, we cannot love others well if we do not first love ourselves. As our beloved ancestor Audre Lorde and many others have taught us, loving ourselves in a world that is hostile to our very existence and caring for ourselves under systems of power that seek our demise are deeply political and revolutionary acts (in addition to teaching others how to love us well).
Maybe it’s rebellious, maybe it’s revolutionary, maybe it stems naturally from who we are. Most of all, it is the way we can live most into our beliefs and ethics and live as people with integrity. We no longer choose to prioritize certain forms of love, specifically romantic love, Disney princess love, love as solely valid between one man and one woman that ends in procreation and marriage (I’m sorry, it should be marriage and *then* procreation).
So on this Valentine’s holiday, let the Grinch remind us that candy and chocolate and roses and pretty words do not equal love (that’s mostly just capitalism).
Let us also be reminded that our queer families are chosen; that our beloved community is made up of our circle of friends and loved ones, and they are actually the ones who keep us alive (not capitalism); that our families are valid no matter their formation, and that our lives are precious.
Let us be the ones to remember the history of how Christianity has been stolen by imperialism;
…how the Church has maintained power with false narratives of love;
…how marriage has almost always been about power–political and social allegiances and not love or choice;
…how love and marriage have been and often continue to be a burden forced on women’s bodies with unequal expectations of care and service;
how laws based in Christian Supremacy, enforced by the State and upheld and socially enforced by the Church, have been used over millennia to keep inheritance and wealth in the hands of the elite;
…how secret loves have been scorned to keep lovers with same-sex desires apart;
…how marriage has been used to divide classes, how it has been used to withhold marriage rights from lovers who embody different races, and how love in Christianity often becomes synonymous with violence–physical, emotional, and spiritual;
…and worse, how love is used, even in the Bible, to justify harm and violence because it is supposedly punishment or for substitutionary atonement of sin or worst of all, as a necessary violence in exchange for eternal salvation… And even when it is (supposedly) executed by God, the violence goes unquestioned… under a banner of *love*.
So call us killjoys, call us the Grinch, but we will no longer accept heart-shaped chocolate boxes and call it love. We will no longer swallow the poison messages of white Christian Supremacy… even if they are floating in beautiful bubbles of champagne flutes. We will judge *love* like we judge theology. That which causes harm, pain, suffering, is violent, withholds basic human dignity and rights from anyone is bad love, just like it’s bad theology. Relationships centered on consent, respect, mutuality, care, and desire (sexual or non-romantic) that help us live full and abundant lives, we will call those LOVE. We will call those people our family, our loves, and we will celebrate all of the ways they choose and we choose to live life together or apart, in whatever configuration, for whatever time that love lasts.
Can we celebrate Valentine’s Day with roses and candlelit dinners and love letters? Sure, but we will not do it naively. We will not love unquestionably or give all of ourselves unconditionally. For some, that will make us the Grinch, but for many of us it makes true love all the sweeter.
This blog post is part of a series called How white Christian Supremacy Stole…Everything, where we’ll unpack some of the sticky feelings so many of us have around some of the US’s major holidays. The series aims to give a voice to us buzzkills who devote our lives to social justice and have a hard time not feeling like a grinch during every. Single. Holiday. You’re not alone in your grinchiness! Understanding what is harmful about a cultural phenomenon, or what doesn’t sit right with us, can help us identify how we want to reclaim our agency and observe those holidays (or not) in alignment with our ethics and beliefs. In that way, we hope this blog post feels like spiritual accompaniment.