I love the sneeze!
Thursday, December 15, 2011
It was a happy day when Christmas transcended and became, in part, the Spirit of Christmas. We don't know exactly when it was. Perhaps it was that day in 1914 on the battlefields of France when the Christmas Truce occurred sans overt religiosity. Perhaps it was the time when "Happy Holidays" began to take hold simply because inclusion in the Spirit of Christmas was more important than the declarations of whom Jesus called the Pharisees:
"The scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not." (Matt.23;2-3 KJV)Whatever. The point is that Christmas DID transcend itself - morphing, if you will, into the embodiment of humanity: "Good Will Towards Men" - that being helping others to survive as best they can. For what is "Good will towards men" other than making sure your neighbor has enough to eat, to drink, to stay healthy, to... survive. What is it other than seeing that your neighbor is not oppressed and that his rights are protected and upheld? What is it other than helping your neighbor protect all the freedoms he has and help him achieve the ones he should have but doesn't? What is it other than making survival truly equitable?
"Good Will Towards Men" has no qualifiers either. "Men" means everyone. It means humanity. "Men" is not judgmental. "Men" does not classify. "Men" does not discriminate.
So the Spirit of Christmas, that part of Christmas that originated from something spiritual (The Creator, perhaps), that Spirit which permeated humanity a long time ago can be everywhere we want it to be, especially in ourselves.
There are those who negate our humanity and what it contains because they wish to control us. The "ownership" of Christmas, for example, is hotly contested these days by people whose beliefs are qualifiers: "Jesus is the Reason for the Season" narrows and quantifies one religious belief and states that it is the only identification we must recognize.
Control. It's all about control.
Luckily, trying to control the Spirit of Christmas is like trying to catch the wind and box it up, put a ribbon on it and keep it in a stronghold to be used only as one wishes. Oh, the Spirit can be dampened and weakened to the point that it seems never to have existed, but it is never completely wiped out. That's why we sometimes laugh at the folly of the Christian Right in trying to lay exclusive claim to it. They may be able to lay claim to Christmas, but not the Spirit of Christmas.
To remind the Christian Right of this fact it is sometimes necessary to chide them for their righteous arrogance and their lack of Spirit in the face of social injustice. To date, no one has done it better than Christ Hedges:
Were you there to halt the hate crimes, discrimination and violence against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and those who are transgender? Were you there when Matthew Shepard died on the cross? Were you there to halt the abuse and at times enslavement of workers in the farmlands of this country? Were you there to halt the murder of hundreds of thousands of innocent Vietnamese during the war in Vietnam or hundreds of thousands of Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan? Were you there to halt Israel's saturation bombing of Lebanon and Gaza? Were you there when Rachel Corrie died on the cross? Were you there to halt the corporate forces that have left working men and women and the poor in this country bereft of a sustainable income, hope and dignity? Were you there to share your food with your neighbor in Liberty Square? Were you there to become homeless with them?
Where were you when they crucified my Lord?
I know where I was.
The Final Chapter?
But dwelling on the lack of Spirit does little to propel the Spirit forward and grow, as it should, exponentially. What encourages and nurtures the Spirit is a combination of endless and all-inclusive hope, determination and compassion. Endless. All-inclusive. The Spirit should be meted out to everyone and everything on earth ...forever.
There should be no Final Chapter.
So it is with the Spirit of Christmas that I bid everyone:
Posted by DFV at 9:00 AM
UPDATE: Brookfield will close Zuccotti Park for Christmas (see below)
In the past 2000 years, there have been opportunities for Christianity to shine and be true to its original purpose: to help man achieve his best self and in doing so, connecting with God, his creator. If that sounds a bit Gnostic, well, it is. The reality is that early Gnostic Christians were a lot closer to the original Christian communities than today's Catholics or Protestants, and while many Gnostics believed in two Gods (good-spiritual and evil-earthly), their goal of reaching God through knowledge and good works was less of a divergence than the developing orthodox (which prevailed).*
All divergence aside, Christianity still had opportunities to show humanity its stuff: sometimes it was when a disaster hit and the Golden Rule came out in full force. I'm not talking about God's Ambulance Chasers here, but the Christian groups who genuinely helped by mucking out homes and burying the dead. Other times, it was in one man's truly compassionate spirit, like Father Damien who ministered to the lepers on Molokai.
There were also times, of course, where some Christians blew it: one opportunity - the AIDS crisis - was given short shrift by the people who cast AIDS victims out of their homes while they were sick and dying (yeah, I'm talking about you, Southern Baptists!).
Compassion was in short supply in many Christian communities. It was a time when "progressives" began to emerge in spite of all the self-righteousness. They did what little they could to foster understanding and acceptance and hope. They realized, of course, that they were very late (by the time the Episcopal Archdiocese of Los Angeles opened the first faith-based AIDS agency outside of San Francisco, 65,000 had suffered and died), but they joined a growing chorus of compassionate people and continued to grow in compassion.**
So now Christians around the world are given another opportunity to present the best and brightest aspects of Christianity: the Occupy Wall Street movement. And yes, some of them are performing admirably with emotional and even physical support, but a loud cacophony of naysayers against the movement has formed, a group who are disgusted with the idea of any humane, equitable economics.
"The Pope Is Now Left Of Nancy Pelosi"
The Vatican issued a statement two months ago that leveled the Christian Right like a one-two punch. It was titled Towards Reforming The International Financial and Monetary Systems In The Context of Global Public Authority and sent shock waves throughout Christendom for its blatant support of movements like OWS. It called for MORE government and MORE financial oversight.
The Vatican had seen its opportunity for a shining moment.
The word is out that Zuccotti Park will be closed around Christmas for "renovations". The tree (as you can see) is already barricaded from the obscene 99%ers. So it seems Christmas is indeed locked up tight in the arms of the Christian Right - which is only right, since they feel they "own" Christmas and they can do whatever they want with it, wherever they want to do it. But as we have seen here and across the country, the Spirit of Christmas is now with 99% of the country (and around the world).
OWS is giving Christianity another shining moment. Too bad the Christian Right won't take the hint - again.
NEXT: Transcending Christmas: The Final Chapter
*Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas has stated flatly that faith alone is necessary to get one to heaven, possibly negating the works of people like Clara Barton and Florence Nightgale. "Faith without works is dead," doesn't seem to be grasped by people like Jeffress.
** To date, there are still no AIDS agencies officially sanctioned by the Southern Baptist Convention - outside of Africa.
Posted by DFV at 8:00 AM