by Tom Donelson, Senior Fellow
It is said every year, commercialism of Christmas is bad. Personally, I do not buy into the philosophy that somehow giving gifts is evil. For many, Christmas is representative of the greed that consumes Modern day America. Somehow to participate in Christmas is to be materialistic, missing the reason for Christmas, the birth of Christ. Christianity is far from hostile to business and Jesus warned us against greed, he showed no hostility to business much less businesspeople. When Bob Crachett wanted to add an extra piece of coal to the fire, he was turned down.
Charles Dickens writes about Scrooge’s home, “It was a low fire, indeed nothing on just a bitter night. He was obliged to sit close to it and brood over it before he could extract the least sensation of warmth from just a handful of fuel. The fireplace was s an old one built by some Dutch merchant long ago and paved all around with quaint Dutch tiles designed to illustrate the Scriptures.” Scrooge lived in an antiquated house and spent little to keep his home warm. Money was a scorecard to show his success and he denied himself the pleasure of his wealth for Scrooge selfishness applied to himself. Charity begins at home and if you are not willing to share with yourself, you most likely not be willing to share with others.
Christian thoughts fuel a thriving free market economy, for business depends upon truth and moral behavior. Without trust, a market economy cannot function. Contrast Scrooge with his nephew Fred who spends Christmas and enjoys the gaiety of the holiday with his wife and friends. Even Crachetts enjoy Christmas on Bob Crachetts meager salary for even the meager savings are no object in rejoicing the birth of Christ. For Scrooge he lived a life more amoral than moral as the ghost Marley reminds him, “Mankind should have been our businesses.” A successful businessperson needs to serve his customer, or he will not be successful.
Christmas represents the universal message of peace and forgiveness, and you do not need to be a believer in Christianity to buy into these virtues. “A Christmas Carol” is a story of giving and receiving, of redemption and reclamation. The spirits seek to reclaim Scrooge immortal soul and reform the previously selfish man, whose only thoughts never exceeded beyond his nose. It is at Christmas that we give ourselves to others. It is the season we give each other gifts to show significant others, for your friends and for our spouses and children. Jesus’ birth was a gift for humankind, we can never pay back. Three kings arrive from the East with their own gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh for their new King. Christmas is the symbol of unconditional love and giving. A former manager once warned me that when lovers or friends begin to keep score, the relationship is soon over. Giving should be unconditional if you love someone and you should be appreciative when receiving gifts from others. Giving is a form of showing love and how much you value friendship with others. The world would be poorer and not just materially without Christmas.
As for Scrooge, he was redeemed. He learns his lesson well as Dickens writes, “Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all and infinitely more and to Tiny Tim, he did not, he was a second father. He became as good a friend as good as master, and as good man as the good city ever know… it was always said of him that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any possessed the knowledge.”
His change is what Christianity represents. He begins to invest in his business as he allows Bob Crachett to add more coal to keep the office warm and raises Crachett’s salaries. Christianity is about second chances, third chances, fourth chances and unlimited chances. It is about giving and receiving. Christianity represents those qualities as we seek love and forgiveness from those who are closet to us. As the prayer Our Father, “Forgive our trespasses as we forgive who trespasses against us. “As Christian, we can never repay the debt of our Father as he sent his only Son to destroy the power of Sometimes, we can repay the debt of others given us in. the past. We can share our bounty with others including those who are closet. Scrooge finds out that Charity begins at home and seeks the forgiveness of those who are closest to him. As he redeemed, he finds out that he becomes a source of good for that closet to him and to his community. He lives and because he chose the life of charity, so does Tiny Tim.
Ebenezer Scrooge is considered a nasty man who has hatred for humanity. Yes, there is a modern aspect to Scrooge personality that is close to the modern life many live today. The man lived a spartan life even at his home. He kept his own office cold and used minimal coal to keep the office warm and refused to add more coal when his employee Bob Cratchit asked if he could add any more.
Dickens describes his home, ““It was a low fire, indeed nothing on just a bitter night. He was obliged to sit close to it and brood over it before he could extract the least sensation of warmth from just a handful of fuel. The fireplace was s an old one built by some Dutch merchant long ago and paved all around with quaint Dutch tiles designed to illustrate the Scriptures.” Just like many of our modern individuals who are forever telling you to keep your temperature lowScrooge believed in the theory of excess population and as recent Human Progress article by managing editor Chelsea Follett showed that many still hold these views. She noted, “In 2019, for example, U.S. Senators, like Ed Markey (D-MA) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Representatives, like Jimmy Gomez (D-CA) and Susie Lee (D-NV), tweeted their support for a paper explicitly calling for the reduction of the world’s population. Also this year, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) questioned whether it is morally acceptable to have children and Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) endorsed population control. This past summer, in the country where A Christmas Carol is set, Prince Harry subtly suggested that children are a burden to the planet and that responsible folks should have “two, maximum.” This follows Scrooge own view, “If they would rather die, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”
A Christmas Carol is a rejection of that thought. The Ghost of Christmas present sits on a throne of overflowing food and his torch is shaped like “Plenty Horn” As Ms. Follett observed, “The Ghost claims he has “more than eighteen hundred” brothers, representing previous Christmases (again, the book came out in the year 1843). Upon hearing that, Scrooge’s mind, in true Malthusian fashion, immediately turns to scarcity. “A tremendous family to provide for!” mutters Scrooge. The Ghost then whisks Scrooge to a marketplace to show him this scene of Smithian abundance: There were great, round, pot-bellied baskets of chestnuts … There were ruddy, brown-faced, broad-girthed Spanish Onions … There were pears and apples, clustered high in blooming pyramids; there were bunches of grapes, made, in the shopkeepers’ benevolence to dangle from conspicuous hooks … there were piles of filberts … there were Norfolk Biffins [a kind of apple] setting off the yellow of the oranges and lemons … There were gold and silver, fish, set forth among these choice fruits in a bowl.” Contrary to the Malthusian view of population, Great Britain was beginning an industrial revolution that would allow this planet the ability to raise billions worldwide out of poverty.
When Scrooge inquired about whether the family’s ill child, Tiny Tim, will survive, the Ghost of Christmas Present taunts Scrooge by repeating Scrooge’s words back at him: “What then? If he be like to die, he had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.” Scrooge then begins to feel shame at having questioned the worth of “surplus” human beings.
Dickens optimism was based on the good nature of humans and Scrooge redemption was part of that optimism as he moved from a selfish life that business was a zero-sum game with winners and losers but never thought of expanding the economic opportunity toward a more charitable life in which he uses his wealth to expand his business beginning with his worker Bob Crachett whose salary was raised and added to his community through donation. His view in the beginning of the book, he would ask “are there no workhouses?” Scrooge viewed his obligation to the poor over after he paid his taxes. We live in a modern world in which many in government today prefer government solutions and a smaller charitable sector along with a smaller private sector under the whims of government edict.
As part of Scrooge redemption, he rejected the idea that his obligation to the poor ends with his taxes but instead he must be more involved as he becomes with Tiny Tim. As Charles Dickens concluded his book, “Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all and infinitely more and to Tiny Tim, he did not, he was a second father. He became as good a friend as good as master, and as good man as the good city ever know… it was always said of him that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any possessed the knowledge.”
Consider the optimism of Dickens, Scrooge believed in humanity and lost his bitterness to humanity. He used more coal (you know fossil fuels) to keep his office warmer and he delivers on his pledge to charity as he admits that there are some back payments due. The modern scrooges want us to be poorer, colder, and less of us. They dream of a day of a less populated planet that will be poorer. Scrooge, through the help of three spirits, rejects the modern-day Malthusians. Redemption of his soul led to a more optimistic Scrooge.
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Tom Donelson is a Senior Fellow at Frontiers of Freedom. He is the host of the Donelson Files radio program, and the President of America’s PAC. He is also the author of a number of books the most recent of which is “America at the Abyss: Will America Survive?” Tom is also one of the stars of the popular Frontiers of Freedom Weekly Report television program.