THE GRINCH WHO REJECTED CHRISTIANITY, ACCORDING TO HIS NATURE
When I was but a lad, come Yuletide, the family and I would pack into the living room and watch our favorite Holiday Specials. We’d fire up the grand old RCA TV with the twist of a small knob, then rotate through the channels by use of another, much larger knob. A third or fourth knob was sometimes needed to adjust the picture. This was the Great Age of Rabbit Ears, and a knob was how you tamed and tightened the antennae’s wild, streaming signals. You knobbed left and you knobbed right, until at long last balance was restored to the picture.
I don’t know the science behind how electromagnetic television waves are tethered to and manipulated by knobs. Doubtless it’s fascinating stuff, and well worth investigating. Especially for those pursuing careers in Knobology. Regardless of how it was accomplished, much was done with knobs in those days. Knobs were the very height of user interface technology. But knobs were much more than just twisty-turnies on our favorite modern conveniences. They also revealed social status.
The best middle class families had the best and most numerous knobs. You could tell whether a family was doing well or struggling to get by, simply by counting the number of knobs on their television sets. With more knobs you could make subtler adjustments in picture quality. And these subtle adjustments could rocket your TV viewing experience from real humdrum to a real humdinger.
That’s the kind of power knobs had. Not only were they functional, but they also performed as status symbols. So much so that manufacturers started putting out models with knobs that had no purpose. They were merely decorative. And while twisting them was somehow satisfying, the disconnect from any end result made doing so feel a bit shameful, a kind of masturbation. Buying a set outfitted like this was considered déclassé, though. Ill-bred, common, gauche. Families who owned TV’s with functionless knobs were often whispered about.
Of the Holiday Specials I remember, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas stands out most. It was top-notch entertainment. Not having seen it for many years, I still remember the plot. For me that says a great deal. I only vaguely remember the storyline of that stop-motion spectacular Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and only recollect some small thing about a poorly received Christmas tree from A Charlie Brown Christmas, and how a speech by Linus on the nativity of Christ redeemed the drooping twig. There was much rejoicing afterward, as I recall.
Regarding the Grinch. He is a tall, green troll. He lives on a mountaintop overlooking a town called Whoville, of which the residents are called Whos. They are not human beings precisely, but close to being so. We recognize something of ourselves in them. We are given to understand these creatures rather enjoy the Holiday Season. If it weren’t so, why would they go about decorating their homes and town with lights, wreaths, strands of Fir, tinsel, and other miscellany associated with Christmas? They also spin trumtookas, bang on gardookas, and eat of the rare delicacy “roast beast.” These are clearly the actions of enthusiasts.
The Grinch is a consummately disgruntled character. The easy, naïve joy of the Whos distresses him severely. Dr. Seuss, the physician responsible for the children’s book the cartoon is based on, does not provide easy answers about the source of the Grinch’s foul disposition. He merely speculates: are his shoes too tight? Is his head incorrectly screwed on? More plausibly to the author, was the Grinch’s heart simply two sizes too small? The questions are posed only to go unanswered.
Fascinating, isn’t it, that we are offered physiological explanations for the Grinch’s personality? Smaller heart, greater orneriness. Most storytellers feel compelled to provide easy answers to address their antagonist’s villainy: child abuse, or some traumatic event out of which a character’s wickedness grew. Though we can’t rule out psychological trauma in the Grinch’s past, Seuss encourages us to at least consider biology.
From there we can have a great deal of fun speculating. For example, on the Grinch’s poor diet. Is he deficient in certain regulating nutrients? His entire endocrine system may be imbalanced. Or perhaps his bedding is thin and uncomfortable, depriving him of a good night’s rest. Over a period of time, sleep deprivation could make him prickly.
Most telling, though, is this business about the Grinch’s heart being two sizes too small. This is biology as destiny. If this is true, the Grinch has a congenital heart condition, which is the sole source of his misanthropy.
It is understood these days that a great deal of what we think of as acquired traits are in fact an expressions of our DNA. Perhaps the Grinch’s father was quarrelsome, and his grandfather too, according to their genes. We can then say that the Grinch has no free will, no personal choice, in regards to his feelings about Christmas. He simply despises the celebration, in accordance with his nature. He could no more love Christmas than be two inches taller.
Given that they celebrate Christmas, we must assume that Whos have a conception of Christ. It would likely not be the Christ we are familiar with; but rather, a Christ that looks and behaves in a way appropriate to the Whos themselves.
This is not so radical an idea. Certain theologians have long suggested that Christ, being a universal savior, would logically appear to other sentient species in the universe in a guise familiar specifically to them. Just as he would not have appeared to us as a little green man, so he wouldn’t appear on a planet of little green men as an Earth-evolved simian. The very important message of redemption would be at risk of being lost, misunderstood, or distorted. Jesus would do best by walking among them in their own form, eventually suffering their little green equivalent of crucifixion.
Can you imagine then, these sweet, saucer-eyed Whos, and their Who savior, ignobly nailed upon a big Who cross? Who-Jesus might have moaned: “Father, forgive these Whos, for they know not what they do! Who-who!”
It’s no great leap to assume what the Grinch fundamentally disapproves of concerning Christmas is not the merrymaking as such, but that the whole to-do is undertaken to commemorate a creed that, in his eyes, doesn’t merit the kind of warm, celebratory response the Whos so eagerly demonstrate. He may consider the Christian message itself as something harmful, grotesque and rotten.
The famed German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, having grown tired of the intellectual debates about the truth or untruth of the Christian theology, proclaimed: “It is no longer our reasons that refute Christianity; our bodies physically reject it.”
Nietzsche was suggesting that while it’s all well and good to debate the logic or illogic of Christianity, what will finally ring the creed’s death knell will be based on purely physiological grounds. We will stop arguing whether the creed can be factually true or untrue. We will instead take honest stock of it and proclaim it a religion unfit for healthy and bountiful beings.
We might survey history and see why it may have been necessary during one of humanity’s long, dark periods of spiritual sickness. Yet we will abandon it as we evolve, grow and mature, having finally understood it as making sick what is healthy. When we are well again, having regained strength and vigor, we will create new gods and new religions, appropriate to spiritually healthy, confident, and life-affirming beings.
If one is confused about Christianity being thought of as something other than a message of hope and uplift, other than the “Good News,” consider what believers are compelled to affirm as true. That an elect exists, and these elect will go to Heaven, while all others are consigned to Hell. That statistically, at least some of the people you know and love with end up boiling in a lake of eternal fire. That an all-seeing being of infinite mystery has us under constant surveillance, and is taking register of all our deeds, is a distressing reality to live under. We must compare ourselves to others, finding ourselves superior, for the fear of Hell nags constantly, and we at least want to convince ourselves we’re more deserving than some other poor soul. It is chiefly this dynamic that makes Christians so judgmental and ready to damn others, despite Christ’s message of “Judge not, lest ye be judged.”
Christmas is a holiday season promoting love, generosity of spirit, and universal brotherhood, its foundation — it’s reason for the season — a creed eternally pitting one human being against another in a contest for the limited space in Heaven. The religion of love really one of hate.
It is this, I think, that the Grinch chiefly hates about the holidays. Not due to any reasoning: his body physically rejects the doctrine.