The manger and the myth

Posted 11 December 2010 by

On Weekend Edition Saturday on December 11, 2010, there was a story about views about the Nativity of Jesus Christ on opposite sides of the Lincoln Tunnel. Atheists, on the New Jersey side, said “You know it’s a myth.” Roman Catholics, on the New York side, said “You know it’s real.”

I am trying to figure out how those are opposing views.

The issue is the meaning of the word “myth.”

There is one definition of myth that mostly equates it with a made up story to explain something. That makes a myth mostly the same as an Aesop Fable.

There is another definition that says a myth is a traditional story of ostensibly historical events used as an explanation. That means a myth is not necessarily false.

We can take a look at a historical figure American history to understand this, George Washington.

George Washington and the Cherry Tree

George Washington and the Cherry Tree

Without a doubt, the story about George Washington admiting he chopped down a cherry tree as a child is the same as an Aesop Fable. There is no evidence it really happened. It is meant to convey the importance of telling the truth to children.

When a child, we believe as a child. As an adult we need to grow up.

What about George Washington, the winter at Valley Forge, the crossing of the Delaware River, and the victory at Trenton against the Hessians?

George Washington Crossing the Delaware

George Washington Crossing the Delaware

There is no question that General George Washington was commander of the Continental Army. They spent a brutally cold winter at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. He led the Continental Army across the Delaware River in a successful surprise attack on the Hessians at Trenton on Christmas Eve. (Did anyone besides me notice that Washington did not respect Christmas Day as a holy day?)

But, it is very doubtful Washington stood up while crossing the Delaware River in a small boat, as he would have fallen in the cold water. It is certain that any flag carried with General Washington for this attack did not have 13 stars, as this flag was not in existence yet. In a truthful story, false elements have been introduced to prove a point.

I am not sure whether standing up in a small boat in an ice-clogged river is supposed to show bravery or stupidity, but I digress.

Nativity Icon

Nativity Icon

This process continues today. Remember what happened to the telling of the story of the death of Pat Tillman? There is no doubt that Pat Tillman was a patriot and worthy to be an example. He sacrificed a professional football career to serve his country. It does not make any difference whether his death was the result of enemy fire or friendly fire. Still, his death was airbrushed to look better.

So, to the atheists and Roman Catholics with the competing billboards, I have an answer for you.

Yes.

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