Much has been made in recent years about the commercialisation of Christmas, and how the miracle of Christ coming to Earth in human form has been watered down or pushed aside in favour of fleeting material satisfaction. So as you cuddle up in your beds this Christmas Eve in great anticipation of the day to come, here's a little something from John Steinbeck to remind us that such worrying trends are nothing new.
In 1959 the USA had been shaken by the news that several of its most popular quiz shows had been rigged for many years - a subject that would later prompt the film Quiz Show, directed by Robert Redford and starring Ralph Fiennes. Steinbeck returned from a nine-month stay in Bruton, Somerset (near my neck of the woods) and was outraged at what he vividly described as "a creeping, all-pervading nerve gas of immorality" which was poisoning American society.
What resulted was a letter from Steinbeck to his good friend Adlai Stevenson, who ran for the Presidency three times between 1952 and 1960. Steinbeck's relationship with religion was a complex one, and yet this letter contains clear hints of a moral conviction which is comparable to many Christians. In one passage about Americans at Christmas, he hits the nail on the head: "Having too many things they spend their hours and money on the couch searching for a soul."
You can read Steinbeck's illuminating letter in full here. If you're left wanting more of Steinbeck, click here for a witty note he left for his doctor in the 1960s, or here for his falling-out with Alfred Hitchcock over the screenplay for Lifeboat. May God bless you this Christmas and thank you for supporting my blog.