I like your Christ, but…
How things change. When I was growing up, religious folks railed against the commercialization of Christmas. They believed and taught that publicly, Christmas was to be celebrated in churches and that personally, the faithful carried Christmas in their hearts, not in shopping bags.Their message was: Keep Christmas out of the stores.
Today, ostensibly in the name of Christianity, right-wing folks want Christmas in the stores. Around this time of year for the last decade or so, Fox News entertainer Bill O’Reilly, William A. Donahue of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, TV host Pat Robertson and other zealots have fumed about an alleged “war against Christmas” they claim is orchestrated by liberals. According to them, this “war” started when employees of certain stores said “Happy Holidays” to customers rather than “Merry Christmas.”
Donahue even includes former President George W. Bush in this liberal conspiracy because he sent cards that referred to the “Holiday Season” rather than “Christmas” during his tenure in the White House. From where I sit, anyone who claims George W. Bush is a liberal is a few bulbs short of a string of holiday lights.
This campaign has no theological foundation. Surely O’Reilly, Donahue, and Robertson know that “holiday” derives from “holy day” and is not irreligious. And as noted, the religious community has always insisted that Christmas be kept in the churches and not in the stores.
Want to keep Christ in Christmas?
If the right-wing zealots who wear their Christianity on their sleeves (rather than in their hearts) want to keep Christ in Christmas, they should promote—rather than demonize and work against—legislation and policies that feed the hungry…support workers and their families…welcome the stranger and the unwanted child…care for the ill, and other truly Christian precepts. After all, the Jesus they claim to believe in hung out with, and advocated for, the commoners, the poor, the abused and downtrodden.
Also, the right-wing zealots, if they took their Christian faith seriously, would promote rather than oppose legislation that punishes those who exploit working people and the poor. The Biblical Jesus didn’t traffic with the Wall Street crowd of his time. Calling them “robbers” and “thieves,” Jesus threw the money changers who took advantage of the poor by charging usurious interest rates out of the temple, whereas today’s right-wingers cozy up to the bankers and others who make billions off the backs of the poor and the working class.
And under the guise of addressing immigration issues, the so-called Christian right-wingers have been waging a hate campaign against undocumented workers and their children, most of whom are of Mexican descent.
Looking for Jesus in all the wrong places…
I refer O’Reilly, Donohue et al. to Matthew 25: 34-40, where Jesus tells the righteous that they shall be received into heaven because (paraphrasing): When I was hungry, you gave me food. When I was thirsty, you gave me drink. When I was naked, you clothed me. When I was sick, you visited me, and when I was a stranger to your land, you took me in, for, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
I submit that the above Gospel better represents Christian action than does a hate campaign against the utterance of “Happy Holidays.” The indisputable truth is that Jesus Christ was a liberal who took on the conservative social establishment of his time. Ironically, had the conservatives won that fight, the so-called religious right would not have the liberal Jesus to misrepresent.
During a rant about Bush’s “Holiday Season” card, a CNN reporter asked Donahue if Jesus Christ would have been offended by receiving such a card. Donahue replied, “Well, maybe he would, but I’ve never met him.” Perhaps Donohue has never met Jesus because he’s looking in the wrong places: the right-wing radio and television programs on which he’s a regular. He might try looking in the Gospels. I’m pretty sure Jesus is in there.
Ditto for Congressman Paul Ryan, former U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Rick Santorum, soon-to-be-former Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and other Tea Party Republicans who shamelessly use religion as a campaign prop. Their agenda centers on cutting food stamps to make sure hungry children remain
hungry…fighting against raising the minimum wage so poor people can’t afford the necessities of life…refusing to extend unemployment benefits for the broke and desperate…working to harm workers and their families by destroying unions…outsourcing millions of jobs to overseas sweatshops so corporations can increase profits, thereby depriving Americans the ability to support their families…doing everything they can to assure that regular people—from the poor to the middle class—do not get medical coverage…demonizing immigrants, including children, even U.S.-born children of immigrants.
Mohandas Gandhi could have been talking about these folks when he said: “I like your Christ (but) your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
Being a true Christian entails much more than slinging slogans around and uttering phrases such as “Merry Christmas.” It requires Christian action. So, rather than waging a quixotic campaign against a fictional “war on Christmas,” O’Reilly, Donahue, Robertson, and their adherents should read and practice the Gospels they purport to believe in.
Happy Holy Day! c/s
Copyright 2014 by Sal Baldenegro . To contact Sal write to: email@example.com