It is Christmas Eve - not that it feels like it with today's 80 degree weather - and in the lead up to today and Christmas Day tomorrow we have heard much bloviating (and money begs) from the "godly folk" about liberals' and "secular humanists"war against Christmas. These same folks will fill the pews either night or in the morning, consumed with self-congratulatory false piety while bearing hatred toward others. Most will never have a thought about "peace on earth and good will to men" unless they coincidentally sing the phrase in a Christmas carol. Meanwhile, many of us will opt to not join crowds in packed churches, yet we may likely give far more thought to the spirit of Christmas than the "godly folk" who seemingly are best defined by who they hate - which is virtually everyone who differs from they themselves in any way. The parable of the Good Samaritan is a lost concept on them. Two columns in today's Washington Post look at the members of the far right Christian crowd and their sycophants in the Republican Party who have done the most to make a mockery of Christmas and the Gospel message. Here are excerpts from the first:
They were refugees, fleeing for their lives from one Middle Eastern country to the next. As Matthew tells the tale, Joseph, fearing that the government had marked his newborn son for death, gathered up his wife and child and stole away by night across the Judean border into Egypt. And just in time . . . . a king named Herod, who’d heard some kid would one day become a rival king — proceeded to slaughter every remaining child in Bethlehem under the age of 2.[I]t’s clear that the authors of the New Testament intended to recount (for the believers) or compose (for the nons) a story that echoed the Old Testament’s concern for strangers, foreigners and refugees (“The stranger among you shall be as one born among you,” says Leviticus, “and you shall love him as yourself”), that foreshadowed Jesus’ teachings to care for castaways and the least among us. . .Who’s really waging a war against Christmas in 2015? Secular multiculturalists who, stealthily and nefariously, have somehow rendered Starbucks’s coffee cups a tad less festive? Or the self-proclaimed culture warriors on behalf of traditional values, who demand we leave refugees — even small children, as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) has made pitilessly clear — at the mercy of the latter-day Herods? Who condemn entire religions? Who fear and loathe strangers?It’s been a banner year for fear and loathing, xenophobia and racism. What has made the year genuinely ominous is the emergence of fictions presented (often, but hardly exclusively, by Donald Trump) as facts that legitimize a sense of both grievance and hatred . . .Fed by talk radio, Fox News and paranoid websites, millions of our compatriots dwell in a parallel universe of alternative realities. My colleague Dana Milbank has noted that the fashion among conservatives is to dismiss hard facts that clash with their alternative realities as “politically correct.”Such right-wing fictions have always hovered on the fringes of the body politic, but what has enabled them to go more mainstream is the sense of displacement — from their previous position as a majority race, a thriving class, a dominant religion — that is now widespread among the white working class Trumpites and the evangelical Christians flocking to Ted Cruz’s banner. The mission of right-wing media and pols has been to exaggerate some of that displacement (the threat to white America), play down other parts of it (the evisceration of blue-collar living standards by corporate America) and lay the blame for it all on minorities, foreigners, liberals, feminists, gays — you know the list.Enmities, and most certainly not love, have become the core of the right’s appeal and message this year, not just in the United States but also across Europe. . . . They are most surely at odds with the spirit of Christmas. Walls on the border, religious tests for admission, despising the poor — good thing Joseph and Mary didn’t have to encounter our modern-day defenders of the right as they scrambled from one country to another, desperate to save their son’s life.
The second column picks up this theme. Here are highlights:
This will not be the first or the last Christmas when the world mocks the day’s promise and when religion finds itself a source of violence, hatred and, among many not inclined toward either, a dangerous mutual incomprehension.
Killing in the name of God is not a new thing in history, and nothing does more to discredit faith.
[A]s Jonathan Sacks, the former chief rabbi in Britain , argues in his remarkable book “Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence,” believers must face the painful facts. “Too often in the history of religion,” Sacks writes, “people have killed in the name of the God of life, waged war in the name of the God of peace, hated in the name of the God of love and practiced cruelty in the name of the God of compassion.”
[R]eligion “is at its best when it relies on the strength of argument and example. It is at its worst when it seeks to impose truth by force.” And the strength of example must mean that those who preach religious peace and toleration should practice them. This is why the rank prejudice being shown against Muslims, usually for political reasons, is so destructive . . . .
[T]here is an important lesson in the Christmas story that, God willing, will be heard from many pulpits. “As we mull over the debate about refugees, let us remember the doors that were closed in the face of Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem,” O’Malley said. “We must ask our leaders to be vigilant and protect our citizens, but at the same time we cannot turn our back on so many innocent people who are hungry, homeless, and without a country.”
Eboo Patel, an American whose argument in his book “Acts of Faith” parallels the lessons from Rabbi Sacks and Cardinal O’Malley. “To see the other side, to defend another people, not despite your tradition but because of it, is the heart of pluralism,” Patel writes. “We have to save each other. It’s the only way to save ourselves.”
As noted, the husband and I will not be attending church services to mark Christmas. But I like to believe that our support of various charities and our efforts to see justice and equality meted out equally to all is in keeping with the essence of the Gospel message. To celebrate Christmas and Easter while patting one's self on the back even as the larger Gospel message is utterly ignored is the height of hypocrisy. Indeed, it is akin to the behavior of the Pharisees who Christ reportedly roundly condemned. Yet we see this hypocrisy and hatred towards others displayed daily by right wing "family values" organizations and Republicans prostituting themselves to the Christofascist.