By Stanley Campbell
“The little baby Jesus don’t like killing, no matter what the reason for,” paraphrased from “Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven” by John Prine.
Jesus spoke more about helping the poor than any other issue, except maybe love. We might always have the poor with us, but we better feed, clothe, shelter and visit them when they’re sick and in jail. Or we might wind up with a group of goats sliding into hell.
That’s the real war on Christmas.
Those who purport to be Christ’s biggest defenders are leading it. Fox News and the right wing of the Republican Party demand we say “Merry Christmas” instead of “happy holidays.” Meanwhile, they attack health care for the poor and give tax breaks to the rich. They want to war against Muslims, stone homosexuals and put everybody in jail.
Wolves in sheep clothing’s, that’s what they are. By righteously “defending” Christmas on paltry charges, they pillage Christ’s real message of love and forgiveness.
They are anti-Christ. Jesus asked us to love one another, and that’s a simple request, but one that gets lost in the shuffle of God made man, rich vs. poor, taking out the Taliban and developing (versus destroying) God’s green earth.
First, let me say I am no theologian. What I surmise is my conjecture; I have a faith that Christmas is the light returning to the world, and that light is love.
Because the earth goes around the sun at an angle, we lose solar energy and get real cold during winter (Australia’s now enjoying summertime). Our ancestors saw the sun descend in the sky as Dec. 20 approached, and were relieved to see it rise again. That’s the real miracle of light returning to the world.
Almost every religion has a festival this time of year, and the Christians celebrate the returning sun’s light and the Light of the Son of God returning to the world. It’s a great story! One that has been usurped by a jolly merchant selling doodads and gewgaws, usually made by Chinese child labor strapped to their workstations.
Jesus was miraculously conceived and born in Bethlehem with only 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 still lived with his mother.
Jesus gives us good ideas for living. You know the basics: love one another and treat each other as you’d like to be treated. He didn’t like rules about diet, when to go to church and to rest or work. When rules keep us from helping one another, obey the spirit, not the letter of the law.
He warned rich people to give their money to the poor. He repeated that point many times, but you won’t hear it on evangelical TV.
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 to treat people fairly, not like pieces of meat or a plaything. “If someone wants your coat, give them also your shirt.” Don’t hit back, but “turn the other cheek.”
I’m not sure where the militarists get off claiming they have God on their side. Jesus was a pacifist. He was a troublemaking, in-your-face pacifist; telling you (and Peter, his main apostle) to “lay down that sword, ’cause you’ll probably poke your own eye out.”
I think that when (or if) Jesus returns, the right-wing conservatives are gonna try to string him up again. And that’s the great part of the tale: Jesus shows us that evil cannot kill good. That some things are worth dying for, and we shouldn’t be afraid to stand up and say what’s right.
You know, there are as many ways of looking at the life of Jesus as there are denominations in Christianity (there’s even more because some viewpoints were excommunicated, exiled, tortured, stamped out and disappeared. Tell it to the Coptics.)
But there’s some things we should agree upon: Jesus suggested not judging your neighbor, taking everything with a grain of salt, helping the poor and healing the sick. He asked us to love one another. When someone says “happy holidays,” please respond lovingly.
Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.
From the Dec. 15-21, 2010 issue