Clay Bennett (CTFP) manages, alas, to capture the spirit of Christmas, 2022, though I’d like it just as much without the Trump sign.
I don’t disagree: That side of the divide is definitely peddling hostility, no doubt about it.
Still, it is Christmastime, and I’m reminded of one of Confucius’s Analects, “I suppose I should give up hope. I have yet to meet the man who, on seeing his own errors, is able to take himself to task inwardly.”
I wish others would behave with more charity and honor, but I don’t think it’s a case of bothsidesism to suggest that this is a good time of year to look inward and take ourselves to task, if only for sins of omission, though failure to stand up is one of those sins.
And, if I may leap from Master K’ung to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, I’d note that he tried retreating from evil, forming a more righteous, breakaway church, before recognizing the moral requirement to confront evil.
John Auchter seizes upon the feast to remind us of the moral duty to respect others — which is different than “tolerating” them, a condescending act that diminishes their status — whether we’re talking about LGBTQ+ people in a predominantly straight world or non-Christians in a predominantly Christian world.
As for looking inward, it’s worth pointing out that People of the Book can all appreciate the spirit of Christmas, whether they accept Jesus as God or as a teacher and prophet. The Muslims have their Taliban, just as Christians have their own intolerant extremists, but both Islam and Christianity, at heart, place a major stress on charity, both the kind that distributes alms to the needy and the kind that accepts and embraces others.
A truly balanced life would combine retreating from hate and yet standing up to it.
Nobody said it was easy.
Juxtaposition of the Day
Here’s another bit of light at a dark time of year: You don’t have to accept the Nativity Story as historical fact in order to adopt it as a source of inspiration and enlightenment.
As cynics love to point out, there was no census being taken and shepherds would not have been abiding with their sheep in winter, and there are all sorts of ways in which the story, as history, fails to hold together. But the important question is this: So what?
Almost nobody’s history held together at that time, and I say “almost” only because Plutarch and Caesar were just beginning to write actual, factual history at that time, up to which point Thucydides had nearly stood alone in the category for 400 years. If you think Luke is unusual in weaving fact and fiction, jump up 300 years and read about Constantine, whose conversion experience is equally dubious.
Or consult Washington Irving on the life of Columbus and Parson Weems on the life of Washington, to which I would add that their fawning inventions are no reason to doubt that Constantine, Columbus and Washington were all real people.
Fable or fact, the story of a humble birth in a stable has inspired people for centuries, and neither Heller — who uses it to make a point about borders and nationalities — nor Murphy — who cites it as a reminder of the need to consider the needs of others — are plowing new ground.
What is certain is that believing the message is more important than believing the story, though I suppose those who insist on believing the story might want to think about how Joseph and Mary fled to Egypt with their baby, seeking asylum.
The New Testament would be a lot shorter if border guards had turned them back.
Can’t We Talk About Something More Secular?
Rich Powell taps into a Christmas tradition that makes my skin crawl, and good for that kid!
“Elf on the Shelf” began in 2005, but quickly caught on, which isn’t surprising, since we’d begun fingerprinting our children more than a decade earlier, at which point charlatans began capitalizing on Satanic Panic and Stranger Danger, promoting the glories of a safe life in a police state where everyone is marked and registered and under constant surveillance.
There was even, at one point, a proposal to insert RFID chips under kids’ skin so that their whereabouts could be tracked in real time, though that one didn’t get too far. Heck, we don’t even track billionaire’s private jets in real time, unless we want to get kicked off Twitter.
Anyway, “He knows if you’ve been bad or good” is only mildly creepy compared to control-freak parents who spend Advent moving this damn doll around the house to fool their kids into accepting Big Brother as part of their lives.
Juxtaposition of the Day #2
The pandemic is over, but there are places where you really need to mask up again. There are also places where you don’t, but it’s about viruses, not political beliefs.
And at a time of year when people gather from far and near, the particular stats where you live are not all that relevant.
There are better things to give your family.
Juxtaposition of the Day #3
I got my Christmas presents mailed at the start of the week and, according to their tracking numbers, they’ve all be delivered except for one, which is reportedly “in transit, arriving late,” but presumably not late for the holiday, only later than promised.
Lamb gets extra credit for quoting “We Three Kings,” given that they’re the ones bringing presents.
They were also in transit, arriving late, but I’ve got relatives from Mallorca, for whom the Three Kings sail into town on 12th night, which gives them plenty of time.
With at least some books, one hopes.
My family gets cartoon collections from me because I am a good and decent person. This may be the only time of year I demonstrate that, but that just makes it matter more, right?
And here’s another Christmas tradition. Gather the children!