Not Your Average Christmas Videos

This Christian puppet-show takeoff on Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” wins the 2012 Reiter’s Block award for best holiday video. Hat tip to John Shore.

What’s that you say? You didn’t know there was a Reiter’s Block award for holiday videos? Well, send in your suggestions and maybe you will win fabulous prizes. Or eternal damnation. Depends on the video.

In case you’re more in the mood for a Blue Christmas, I’m re-posting this video by The Pogues. There’s a certain kind of sadness that one can enjoy in New York City, and “Fairytale of New York” expresses it perfectly.

Poem by Donal Mahoney: “Christmastime in America”

Herod…gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:

“A voice is heard in Ramah,
weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.”

(Matthew 2:16-18)

Surrounded by sentimental images of babies in mangers, we forget that the Bible sets the Christmas story as a small but brilliant point of light against the darkness of the world. A world where the murder of children still threatens the peace of our homes, schools, and hearts.

Do we dare take time to grieve? I’ve been frustrated and saddened by the rush to politicize the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the instantaneous explosion of Internet debate about guns and mental illness, the finger-pointing and Facebook-unfriending of those who disagree with our preferred solution. Anger gives us an illusion of control. But God in Jesus didn’t come as a gun-toting (or spear-carrying) security guard. This poem by Donal Mahoney reminded me of the lines from “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear”: “And man, at war with man, hears not the love song which they bring; O hush the noise, ye men of strife, and hear the angels sing.”

Christmastime in America
by Donal Mahoney

You see the oddest things
at Christmastime in America.
The bigger the city,
the stranger the sights.
I was driving downtown
to buy gifts for the family
and enjoying bouquets
of beautiful people
bundled in big coats
and colorful scarves
clustered on corners,
shopping in good cheer
amid petals of snow
dancing in the sun.

One of them, however,
a beautiful young lady,
had stopped to take issue
with an old woman in a shawl
picketing Planned Parenthood.
The old woman was riding
on a motor scooter
designed for the elderly.
She held a sign bigger
than she was and kept
motoring back and forth
as resolute as my aunt
who had been renowned
for protesting any injustice.
Saving seals in the Antarctic
had been very important to her.

On this day, however,
the beautiful young lady
who had taken issue
with the old woman
was livid and screaming.
She marched behind
the motor scooter and
yelled at the old woman
who appeared oblivious
to all the commotion.
Maybe she was deaf,
I thought, like my aunt.
That can be an advantage
at a time like this.

The letters on the sign were huge
but I couldn’t read them
so I drove around the block
and found a spot at the curb.

It turned out the sign said,
“What might have happened
if Mary of Nazareth
had been pro-choice?”
Now I understood
why the young lady
was ranting and raving
and why the old woman
kept motoring to and fro.
At Christmastime in America
people get excited,
more so than usual.

When I got home
I hid my packages
and told my wife at supper
what I had seen.
I also told her that if Mary
had chosen otherwise,
I wouldn’t have had
to go shopping today.
That’s obvious, she said.

Reiter’s Block Year in Review: 2012

Greetings, loyal readers! It’s time for our annual roundup of the best books, blogs, and other big events of 2012. As usual, the books listed here are ones I read this year, not all published this year.

The Big Event:

Best Parenting Book:

Marc Weissbluth, Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child (2005)
Do you know why I have time to write this blog post? Because the Young Master slept 15 hours last night! Dr. ZZZ, as we call him, makes a good case that many behavioral problems seen in infants and young children are really just signs of overtiredness. The doctor tells you how to spot early signs of fatigue in your baby so you can put him down for a nap before he gets too charged up with adrenalin. If the big book is putting you to sleep, Weissbluth’s Your Fussy Baby is a quicker read that covers the same basic principles for infants 0-4 months.

Best Children’s Books:

Stephanie Burks & Kelli Bienvenu, While You Were Sleeping (2004)
This picture book makes me cry every time I read it to Shane. A lesbian couple get the phone call that a birthmother has chosen them to adopt her newborn boy. (I do wish the birthmother appeared as a character, but perhaps that would be too complicated for this age group.)

Anna Pignataro, Mama, Will You Hold My Hand? (2010)
A gentle, poetic picture book. Mother Bear reassures her child Sammy that she’ll be there through all their adventures. Similar to The Runaway Bunny but not so triggering.

Sandra Boynton, Happy Hippo, Angry Duck (2011)
Whimsical board book helps children learn the names for different feelings, and that it’s okay to have them. Bad moods don’t last forever. Good training for little Buddhists.

Best Poetry Book:

Nancy White, Detour (2010)
This poetry collection explores the breaking apart and remaking of a woman’s identity in the middle of her life, through a son’s birth and a painful divorce. Subject matter that in a lesser poet’s hands would be merely confessional here takes on a haiku-like precision and open-endedness, intimate yet unbounded by the confines of one person’s experience. This feat is accomplished through White’s use of the second-person voice and the way she narrates major events obliquely, through peripheral details described with quiet beauty. (Full disclosure: Nancy taught English at my high school, though I wasn’t in her class.)

Best Novel:

Kathie Giorgio, The Home for Wayward Clocks (2011)
An abused boy becomes a recluse who lavishes all his human warmth on the clocks he rescues and repairs for his museum. But a disabling accident, and the arrival of an abused teenage girl who needs his help, compel him to reach out to his neighbors and learn to trust again. His storyline is interspersed with the stories of the clock-owners. Look for the sequel to this beautiful novel, Learning to Tell (A Life)Time, from Main Street Rag Publishing in 2013.

Best General Nonfiction:

Bernadette Barton, Pray the Gay Away: The Extraordinary Lives of Bible Belt Gays (2012)
Sociology professor examines how LGBT people in the American South survive the fundamentalist “panopticon”. Thoroughly researched but never dry, the book strikes a good balance between outrage and hope.

Best Memoir (tie):

Deborah Feldman, Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots (2012)
This gripping memoir recounts a young woman’s escape from her family of Satmar Hasidim, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect living in the Brooklyn neighborhod of Williamsburg. Feldman depicts a repressive, patriarchal community where women are deliberately kept uneducated and forced into abusive marriages. One quibble: the final section of the book felt rushed. Follow Deborah on Twitter for a feminist watchdog perspective on Orthodox Judaism.

Martha Beck, Leaving the Saints: How I Left the Mormons and Found My Faith (2005)
Do you see a trend in my reading habits? Part memoir, part religious history, this compelling, controversial book by a Harvard-educated sociologist describes the fallout from her recovered memories of sexual abuse by her father, a leading Mormon scholar. Her anger is leavened by compassion as she delves into the complicity of a secretive church culture in creating and shielding abusers with split personalities. Though the topic is a dark one, readers who accompany Beck on her healing journey will be rewarded with her account of her strengthened connection to God’s love and her own inner truth.

Best New Theoretical Framework for My Life (tie):

Judith Herman, Trauma and Recovery (1992, updated 1997)
This groundbreaking book shows the common patterns underlying private and public trauma, from domestic violence and child abuse to war and genocide, as well as the cultural conditions that determine whether such stories are shared or repressed. The Amazon blurb says it best: “The book puts individual experience in a broader political frame, arguing that psychological trauma can be understood only in a social context.”

Sylvia Brinton Perera, The Scapegoat Complex: Toward a Mythology of Shadow and Guilt (1985)
Jungian analyst interprets scapegoat themes in the family and society. As in Johnny Cash’s song “The Man in Black”, the scapegoat is a priestly yet despised figure who takes on the burden of others’ psychological dark side (or has it thrust upon them) in order to heal the social system. But this role, formerly expressed through public ritual, can be too much for mere individuals to bear. This brief but dense book discusses how to appreciate but also break free from one’s scapegoat characteristics.

Blogs You Should Know About:

Be the Change (Dianna Anderson)
Christian feminist critiques rape-enabling myths and other harmful beliefs about gender and sexuality. She has a good sense of humor.

Sarah Over the Moon
Another Christian feminist and survivor of evangelical purity culture who lived to tell the tale.

Ana Mardoll’s Ramblings
Ana wittily deconstructs pop culture for classism, disability prejudice, fat-shaming, and other forms of oppression. Some idols are toppled (C.S. Lewis) and some unexpected tales are championed (Disney’s “The Little Mermaid”).

Update on LGBT Clergy Photo Exhibit: New Way to Donate

I blogged recently about the Family Diversity Project’s “We Have Faith” initiative, a proposed photo exhibit about LGBT clergy, for which they were raising funds on Kickstarter. Since they did not meet their ambitious goal of raising $25,000 in 30 days, the funds that you pledged on Kickstarter (because I know you all did, right?) will not be paid out. But don’t worry, there’s another way to support this important educational project. FDP director Peggy Gillespie says:

On Wednesday, December 12, 2012, our non-profit organization, Family Diversity Projects will participate in Valley Gives Day. A project of the Community Foundation of Western MA, Valley Gives (is a one-of-a-kind 24-hour celebration of generosity and giving for nonprofits located in our area of Massachusetts. However, you can give no matter where you live.

Here’s the LINK:

We ask that you please visit our Valley Gives site to make your donation. If everyone who pledged on Kickstarter will move his/her donation to Valley Gives, great things can happen. You can either make your pledge on 12.12.12 (if you can remember) or better yet, GO RIGHT NOW andchoose the “schedule one for Valley Gives” option and schedule your donation for 12.12.12.Only donations on or scheduled for 12.12.12 will count toward the prize giveaways. We could earn an extra $10,000 if we get a lot of donations scheduled for that day.

Your donation will get to serve its original purpose – to support the WE HAVE FAITH exhibit. And most importantly, we are able to keep all the funds that are given as with Valley Gives, there is no “all or nothing” preset goal.


Each donation to us on Valley Gives means that we have a chance at cash bonuses provided by the Community Foundation (some are $10,000 or more!). This way we can receive the $10,000 we raised, and perhaps way more if we are lucky. We hope you will believe in WE HAVE FAITH enough to take this next step and transfer your donation from Kickstarter to Valley Gives.You will also get a charitable tax deduction as you will be donating to our non-profit 501© 3, Family Diversity Projects. You can visit our website for more information about all of our projects: