It is becoming one of our new Christmas traditions – well-funded atheist organizations spreading holiday cheer through billboard campaigns like this one declaring the Christian faith to be a fairy-tale. A significant part of the atheist strategy right now is to throw around phrases like “fairy-tale” without much argument but a lot of emotion and condescension. It is assumed that the Christian faith is nothing more than something made up for children and simple moralizing like an Alice in Wonderland or Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Once a person matures they learn that what they were taught was simple and hilariously false. It is time to move on. At least, that is how the atheist story goes.
Given how the term is so lightly and accusingly used in these kinds of campaigns, I wonder if anyone involved has done their homework. I am inclined to say they have not. “Fairy-tale” in this kind of use is a slur, not an accurate portrayal of a piece of literature, such as the Bible. Fairy-tale is a well documented and seriously studied literary category, so surely someone has paid attention to it and compared it with the Christian story. One of the differences between fairy-tales and the Christian faith that is simple to see if someone takes the time to see it is the historical rootedness of the Christian story. These were real people, real events, and real effects of the divine in our world. Fairy-tales are not. At even a cursory glance, the charge of “fairy-tale” simultaneously falls flat as untrue and diminishes the credibility of those who make the charge. If they want to call the Christian faith a fairy-tale, at least they could do a little bit of work.
There are a few who have made their careers studying what we lightly call fairy-tales. Some of them became convinced of the truth of the Christian faith. One man even called it the fairy-tale that came true. C.S. Lewis’ academic career and writings, which long outlasted his tenure, are not well known among evangelicals, but deal extensively with Medieval literature, mythology, and fairy-tales. One of the western world’s leading experts on what fairy-tales actually are came in contact with Christianity and became convinced of its truth.
Part of the beauty and power of the Christmas season is that we celebrate the moment when divine truth and Being entered human history to make God known and life with him possible. Christmas endures all the onslaughts of consumerism and atheism because it is true. The truth may sometime lie beneath a pile of slurs and propaganda, but it remains. Christ came to earth, was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, willingly died on the cross, and then defeated death.
And it is shockingly true that we can still become a part of the Christmas story when we walk and live in Jesus Christ.