General CBF

Lessons from the Grinch

By Kristan Pitts

Christmas is approaching!

With the Christmas season comes yuletide carols, mistletoe, artificial Christmas trees, and our favorite Christmas stories and movies. During this season, my friends and family often read our favorite Christmas stories and enjoy movie marathons of Christmas films, both new and old. Each year, when people begin talking about their favorite holiday movies and stories, after I share, people often look surprised.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss is my favorite holiday story (2nd to the Nativity story of course).

How the Grinch Stole Christmas features so many precious lessons! There are several iterations of the story; my favorite is the 2000 film version starring Jim Carey.

In the 2000 rendition, the standout character is Cindy Lou Who. Throughout the film, Cindy Lou is challenging the status quo and her community to extend radical hospitality to the Grinch. Following Cindy Lou’s journey throughout the film can serve as a tool to teach Christians, especially those with power and privilege, three keys on being better allies to marginalized communities:

  1. Challenge traditional narratives by leaning into curiosity and build relationships with people across difference.

    Cindy Lou Who encountered a story of the Grinch when her brothers came back into town distressed telling the townspeople of Whoville that they had met the Grinch. The townspeople were shocked by Cindy’s brothers’ statement. Their remarks also invited criticism from the Mayor, Augustus Maywho, because he didn’t want people talking of the Grinch, “the One Creature that hated Christmas.”

    Instead of buying into the narrative that Mayor Maywho gave, Cindy Lou began to inquire on her own. She sought out to have her own experiences with the Grinch.  She even built a relationship with him despite the obstacles she had to overcome.

  1. Seek to gain knowledge and understanding of power and privilege, then seek to understand their connections between all forms of injustice.

    To better understand why the Grinch lived in exile on Mount Crumpet, Cindy Lou conducted interviews with the townspeople to learn about his story. She met with his mothers and his classmates to hear all the different perspectives. From this, she gained a more rounded view of what led the Grinch to leave Whoville, and she could begin to counter the false, limited narrative of the Grinch’s relationship with Whoville.

  1. Take a stand against injustice through social action.

    Social action can take many forms. Cindy Lou demonstrated this at many points. Her first action was asking her father, “Why won’t anyone talk about the Grinch?” Her second and most courageous act was nominating The Grinch to be “Holiday Cheermiester,” an act that was disrupting a tradition that only benefited Mayor Maywho.

This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Since his “I Have a Dream “speech we have made progress. However, we still have a long way until the dream he envisioned comes to pass in its entirety. In his “Dream Speech,” Dr. King said, “There are those who are asking… ‘When will you be satisfied?’” And to answer that question, he goes on to say that we won’t be satisfied as long as there are issues of injustice. Dr. King gave the Dream Speech in 1963, and 55 years later the problems he was trying to address are issues that people are still advocating for today.

This Christmas season, I invite you to watch “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and reflect. As we consider the systemic injustices that are facing our communities, may we learn from Cindy Lou’s examples of how to better be allies to marginalized communities.

In true Seuss fashion, I will end with a rhyme: To better live out our faith we must shift the paradigm. Thoughts and prayers are significant and need no subtraction. But we need more than ideas and prayers; we need Christian social action! To answer the call, the must is, to stand and act with the those on the margins to dismantle systems of injustice.

Kristan Pitts is a CBF Leadership Scholar and first year Divinity student at Wake Forest School of Divinity. She is a native of Greenville, S.C., and a member of First Baptist Church of Greenville.

2 thoughts on “Lessons from the Grinch

  1. Love this, especially the rhyme at the end! May Christian social action continue through us; may we evangelicals be KNOWN for it again, as many Baptists were a century ago.

  2. Yes, quite. Here’s what I learned about the Grinch:
    Scrooge and the Grinch are characters in films who hate Christmas and their characters are very much disliked/despised BOO! HISS!

    We watched the Grinch (Jim Carey) and noted that the grinch was raised by lesbians and was a bit neglected as a child (they left him outside in a cot all night whilst they had their Christmas debauchery: cackling, drinking, butt-slapping and partner-swapping! The grinch was ‘a nonconformist’ and he was ‘solving the problem of world hunger without telling anybody’ (sounds like a christian if you ask me!) when the Grinch was challenged about ‘what is the REAL meaning of Christmas?’ he barked ‘VENGEANCE!’ ahem ‘Presents!’

    The Grinch was gradually exposed to Christmas more and more and he hated it because he saw that it was all about the materialism, however when the little girl main character (Cindy Lou) also disliked materialism (although clearly lived in it) they had something in common.

    Skip to the end, the Grinch is busy disposing of everyone’s christmas stuff and Cindy turns up on the pile of stuff he is about to launch into the abyss. She wins him over because the people are singing and joining hands in a circle around the christmas tree (despite their recent losses).

    The grinch then falls in love with Christmas through the people coming together despite the grief of the loss around the worship of the tree; the message I took home was that there is more to christmas than presents; it’s about WORSHIP of not-God. Jesus is rarely ever mentioned nor depicted in Christmas films.

    And interestingly, it was the character who took a ‘materialism is bad, but there is some good in christmas’ philosophy (a very much prevailing view by literally anyone on the street) who was the one that convinced the grinch to participate, despite his staunch anti-christmas stance.

    Which ties into the statement about ‘VENGEANCE!’ Who’s vengeance? I believe this is a disclosure statement and it might well be about Satan’s revenge against God to draw worship away from Him.

    The Grinch is an unpleasant mis-characterisation of a Christian that says no to Christmas, he is disgusting, creepy, smelly, a hermit with yellow eyes and teeth. He is the opposite to the ‘beautiful people’ the Who’s of Whoville. I noticed the Grinch was a keen inventor and engineer; highly intelligent then.

    We the public have been socially programmed to dislike those who are anti-christmas, like it or lump it, as early on as the Muppets Christmas Carol and who knows? Probably earlier. This is another example of social programming, to naturally dislike the one that says ‘I don’t celebrate’.

    Yes there is a pagan and Roman Catholic back-drop to the creation of Christmas, yes there is a biblical precedence to not worship God like the heathen nations do (Deut. 12:4, Jer.10:2) yes God wants us to focus on the finished work on the cross by His Son, yes there is a biblical precedence to not focus on birthdays or the birth of Christ but rather, A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of birth.

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