By Stanley Campbell
I was surprised to receive nasty telephone calls about my last column. It appears the “war on Christmas” has some fanatical adherents. One person was so flustered, he blamed “liberals” for every problem since the Civil War, even slavery.
I drew the line there. The ownership of human chattel is one of the most cherished beliefs of early conservative capitalists. Why purchase a fine 17-year-old man (or woman) only to have the federal government confiscate your property? I bet there’s still some Mississippi banks that have the loss of their chattel investments on the books, and hope to someday reclaim them.
As I related last week, I sometimes get invited to sermonize. Last Sunday, it was the Unitarian Universalists of Rockton, Ill., who let me into their pulpit! I shared my understanding of the Christmas story:
First, let me say I am no theologian. What I surmise is conjecture about what Christmas means to me and maybe some part of the church (small “c”). I think that, somehow, the essence of God had been divorced from this earth long ago by human rejection. The sin of Adam & Eve (wanting knowledge, sex, eating an apple, disobedience?)—I’m not sure, but it was apparently an affront to the Almighty, and only a great sacrifice would heal the rift.
Jesus was miraculously conceived, and born in Bethlehem with poor shepherds and rich foreign scientists taking notice. The child was like any wiseacre ahead-of-his-class kid. At 33 years of age, he apparently still lived with his mother.
Really, I think Jesus tried to give us good ideas for living. You know, the basics: love one another; treat each other as you’d like to be treated yourself. Rules about diet, when to go to church and rest or work are meaningless, especially when they keep us from helping and healing.
He warned rich people to give their money to the poor (he never said to tithe to a church, but to share with those less fortunate). Jesus was a stickler about being honest and true. I don’t think he ever said anything about being gay. But he did ask us not to treat people like pieces of meat or a plaything. “Love God and one another.”
“If someone wants your coat, give them your shirt also.” Don’t hit back but “turn the other cheek.” So, I’m not sure where the militarists get off claiming they have God on their side, when Jesus was such a pacifist. He was a troublemaking, in-your-face pacifist, and telling you (and Pete, his main apostle) to “lay down that sword, unless you want to die by the sword.”
I think when Jesus comes back, the right-wing conservatives are gonna try to string Him up again, just like the conservatives of His day. And that’s the great part of the tale: Jesus showed us that evil cannot kill good. Some things are worth dying for, so don’t be afraid to stand up to things you think are wrong.
There are as many ways of looking at the life of Jesus as there are denominations in Christianity (even more, because some viewpoints were excommunicated, exiled, tortured, stamped out and disappeared).
But read the four different versions in the Bible, and you get to a few conclusions:
Jesus spoke more about helping the poor than any other issue, except maybe love. He asked us to love one another. Jesus doesn’t like killing, no matter what the reason. You’ve got to help the poor.
He also suggested don’t judge your neighbor, at least too harshly, and to take everything with a grain of salt. Merry Holy Daze!
Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.
From the Dec. 23-29, 2009 issue