Posted in

The Party Culture

One sign of the decadence of modern culture is the manner in which we observe national and religious holidays.  Our holiday festivities are evidence of what I call a party culture.

A party culture has little or no historical or spiritual sensibility and is devoted to hedonistic pleasure.  The responsibilities of work, family and citizenship are viewed as hindrances to the pursuit of pleasure. Thus holidays lose their historical moorings and become days off from work and other burdensome tasks and opportunities for unrestrained sensuality. At the same time a society that is not primarily dedicated to the tasks of life—labor, rearing children and action for the benefit of one’s society, the worship of God—will cease to prosper economically.  There won’t be the wealth upon which a party culture parasitically depends.

Furthermore, a party culture views self-control as a problem, even a sickness.  It understands freedom as lack of restraint and thus cannot see that the pleasures can become enslaving.  The party culture leads to the need for increased stimulation and resulting addiction to the particular pleasure “drug” of choice.  The freedom of a person of character who has control of his passions is a completely foreign concept.

Finally political freedoms, which paradoxically depend upon internal restraints, must be curtailed by society in order to impose the discipline needed for it to function.  At the same time the human will to power leads to rulers who are all too eager to seize control and establish dictatorships in the name of preserving society.

An example of the influence of our party culture is the seemingly innocuous practice of shifting the date of the holiday’s observance to a Monday or Friday in order to give people a long weekend.  This is fine for holidays such as Labor Day that have no connection to a specific historical event, but when Independence Day is observed on a day other than July 4th we lose the association with the events that led to American independence from Great Britain.  We forget the words of our nation’s founders. “With a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

Christmas, even among Christians, is even worse, and I’m not talking about how “Happy Holidays” has replaced “Merry Christmas” as a greeting.  Christmas carols, which narrate the gospel story, are sung less and less in churches.  At our local church only a very small minority of families read the Christmas story.  Often large churches that have worship on Saturdays as well as Sundays will cancel Sunday services if they happen to fall on Christmas day.  The justification that I have heard for this is that Christmas is about family; so they did not want the church to interfere.  Fellow Christians, Christmas is not primarily, even secondarily, about family.  It’s about the birth of Christ, even granting that Christ was not born on December 25th.

Party culture is not limited to the United States.  In much of the British West Indies Emancipation Day, the celebration of the end of slavery in the British Empire on August 1, 1833, is celebrated as August Monday.  There are huge parties with heavy drinking and increasingly lewd dancing called twerking and grinding.  Ironically it is often associated with Carnival, but there is no real Lenten season in a party culture.

What can we do to free our holidays from the grip of a party culture without losing the joyous communal feasting and celebration.  Here are some suggestions.  I’ll start with Independence Day, since this post was provoked by an announcement concerning 4th of July festivities here in Topeka.

Independence Day:  Read the “Declaration of Independence” as a family.  Although it is not that long, one could select just a sampling of the specific grievances.  Reading it could lead to discussions of our current political state, whether the American colonies cause was just or whether civil liberties can be sustained without a religious foundation.  Have a time of prayer for our nation.

Christmas and Easter:  Read the narratives of Jesus’ birth and resurrection as a family and pray before any opening of gifts.  We as a family use to enjoy acting out the narratives. These are great opportunities to make sure that our children hear the good news of salvation.  Pastors preach on these texts and insist that the songs of worship focus on these themes.

Memorial and Veterans Day: Talk as a family about the wars our country has been involved in or relatives or friends who have served or died in war.  Mention the historical roots of Veterans Day in the armistice that ended World War I.  These could lead to intelligent discussions about the justice or injustice of war.  Prayers of thanksgiving and intercession for our armed service personnel are certainly appropriate.

Thanksgiving: Relate the story of the pilgrims of giving thanks to God for a bountiful harvest after so many died due to the deprivations of a harsh winter.  Read Abraham Lincoln’s “Thanksgiving Day Proclamation,” which combines a deep sense of gratitude to God with a profound awareness of national failures and the need for repentance.  Give thanks to God before the meal.  Celebrating in this way reminds us of the many ways in which we have been blessed by God, that the earth is his and not ours and that there are others in need whom we should remember.

These are just a few ideas.  I’d be glad to hear more from you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *