The holiday gauntletWritten by Eric McGlade | | email@example.com
Forgive me for playing Scrooge here, but I am always amused, and sometimes put off, by what stokes the passions of people around the holidays. Of course, there is the whole “Black Friday” thing. When I was a younger man, I used to get up early and go to these bizarre store openings, not to shop, but to get preaching material … and the free doughnuts that various businesses would provide. I would get enough, (preaching material, not doughnuts), to last me into Lent.
Then there is all the righteous indignation out there generated by those who think the PC (politically correct) crowd has gone too far. You know the stuff, the so-called “war on Christmas” guys you hear on talk radio and Fox News who are always up in arms over some alleged slight of the baby Jesus. I understand now the latest of these manufactured dramas is that of the rumored renaming by our obviously “Marxist and anti-Christian” president of the White House Christmas tree to a politically correct “holiday tree.” Of course, none of this has happened. I am certain that the Obamas love the baby Jesus as much as any other first family that has occupied the White House … perhaps even more than some.
The fact that some people believe that Christianity, by far the largest religious group in America, is being oppressed by the concern that we respect people of other faiths in our public conversation boggles my mind. Growing up, my mother taught me that what is being defined today as PC is nothing more than having good manners. Our Jewish friends have a great tradition in Hanukkah. Kwanzaa, though in relationship to the ancients is the new kid on the block, seems like an ennobling tradition. Our Muslim friends have a legitimate claim as well on the calendar. How is honoring that diversity disrespectful to the Christian faith?
What truly amazes me is what many of us religious types don’t get upset about. So many of us will go to the mat over the alleged renaming of a tree, but ignore the fact that America will spend
$450 billion on Christmas this year. AdventConspiracy.org reports that if we were to siphon off just $10 billion of that to address water-borne illnesses, the lives of 1.8 million people would be saved every year. Where is the outrage about this addiction we have to consumerism? We will fuss and complain about having to share our holiday with other traditions, but ignore the fact that 16 percent of us cannot get health care because of pre-existing conditions.
When that number reached 5 percent in Switzerland, people literally demanded an end to the market based practices that caused this. (“The Healing of America” by T.R. Reid). Where is the outrage on this lack of concern for what Jesus called “the least of these?” While many will dispense with quaint homilies about Jesus being the reason for the season, we are expanding this war in Afghanistan, and expecting less than ten percent of our population to shoulder the burden of this sacrifice, while transferring the costs to future generations. Where is our outrage over the injustice found in this?
It seems that so many of our religious impulses today have been shaped by marketers and cheerleaders. The grand traditions of the ancients that shared substantial visions of swords being beaten into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks … of justice rolling down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream … of the wolf lying down with the lamb … have faded so much from our consciousness that we are left to the conventions of our own petty appetite for consumables and silly debates on the nonsense of what to call the community tree.
The world is a seriously broken and wounded place and deserves better from those of us who claim to live life in faith. The ultimate object of our faith and affection deserves better. A little less manufactured outrage and a little more reasoned concern would go a long way to getting us from sword to plowshare and spear to pruning hook. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Have a great Kwanzaa or whatever faith tradition excites your passions and brings you meaning.
Eric McGlade is a United Methodist minister who lives and works in Bowling Green.
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