Richard has just had a pre-Christmas gripe. Here is my moan: Round Robins. You know, those insufferably cheerful encyclicals containing descriptions of “our family’s life this past year”. They are becoming more and more common - particularly, I hesitate to concede, among ministers.
Why, for starters, are they invariably written by ministers’ wives? And why are these wives so nauseatingly fawning? Unless they are still on their honeymoon, no woman can love her husband that much. Does she really believe that the light shines in the darkness (I refer to that proverbial anatomical dark spot where the sun is in perpetual eclipse)? I mean the guy works more hours and performs more miracles than God. And even if her-indoors really does believe what she writes, does she really expect me to believe what she believes? If she does, she must think denial is a river in Egypt.
And what am I to make of these descriptions of annual domestic bliss that make Leave It to Beaver look like a scene out of Reservoir Dogs? And what do I care that Jennifer has got a distinction on her grade three piano exam, or that Johnny has got into med school? How refreshing it would be to read that Jennifer now has a tattoo of Lucifer on her forehead, and that Johnny has become a Jehovah’s Witness. And do the senders really think I’m going to save the staged family portrait? There goes another rain forest. Straight into the green recycle bag with you! (By the way, I’m ashamed to say that my own daughter is now a lawyer, while my son is in Dubai for a year in the sleazy world of advertising, though, Inshallah, he will soon be unemployed again.)
Finally, there are the salutations:
May the blah, blah, blah in the year ahead be a blah, blah, blah to you and those you love.
Yours in Christ,
Samuel and Susanna
It makes me want to send a card by return of post signed,
Yours in Nietzsche,
The word is kitsch. In The Unbearable Lightness of Being Milan Kundera explains that the original German word, “born in the middle of the sentimental nineteenth century” originally meant “the absolute denial of shit”. And that’s exactly what round robins are like - they have about them the artificial scent of bathroom air fresheners. The first Christmas, on the other hand, had about it the stench of horse manure.
There - that’s my gripe. If I’ve hurt anyone’s feelings, forgive me - and deal with it!
Anyway, I guess there’ll be a few less Christmas cards arriving at the manse this year. But the money you would have spent on stamps - give it to that favourite charity of the Religious Right: “Christians against Torture”.