A Christmas Wish
Despite the objections of the local authorities, who, like most authorities, preferred the populace to be docile and compliant, the crazy Jew spoke passionately and (it seemed to those who followed him) truly, describing a way of life that could change the world. He made grand claims and upset a few folks. But, in the end, many previously unconvinced skeptics came around to his way of thinking, and his cult grew to unprecedented proportions. A couple of thousand years later, people are still talking about the crazy Jew, and a handful of dedicated students still practice some of the doctrine he preached.
To most people, though, Jesus of Nazareth is a convenient symbol — like the cross, the symbol of torture millions of people like to wear on necklaces. What he actually said and did is not nearly as important to modern civilization as what membership in his cult signifies: goodness, whether or not it’s earned through deeds. This is why politicians, particularly American ones, strenuously flaunt their belief in him, even if their behavior and Philosophy of Life is antithetical to the tenets of Christian dogma. It’s more important to possess the trappings of Christ than to live by his example.
We collectively represent ourselves as a “Christian nation,” despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary in our shockingly un-Christian everyday behavior. You can’t blame us. “Christian nation” has a nicer ring to it than “Satanic nation in thrall to just about everything Jesus warned against.”
This Christmas, let us remember the actual man, the crazy Jew, Jesus of Nazareth. Let us accept that he may have been delusional and dangerous, but he had some powerful (and delightfully simple) ideas that can be applied to our sinful lives. Let the charlatans in their pulpits preaching the “prosperity gospel” take a moment to consider leading by example. Let the Church Elders rediscover the common bonds that unite us all, regardless of our wealth, power, or alleged proximity to God. Let each of us who identifies himself as “Christian” determine what exactly it is that makes someone Christian, aside from the jewelry and the fervent declarations.
This Christmas, let us show our children that the birth of Christ is not primarily an occasion for acquiring more disposable flotsam, delivered to our stockings at human costs none of us can bear to calculate. Let us acknowledge that some of our most sacred beliefs were initially suggested by a wandering philosopher who many people of his day considered insane — but who, nonetheless, still has a thing or two to teach us.
Let us not make a mockery out of Jesus. Let’s honor his ideas.