Putting Christ Back into Christmas

Despite what proponents of the so-called “prosperity gospel” preach; despite the tithing that power-hungry pastors collect from their entranced flock; despite the malicious claims allegedly found in the Bible that gays, Hindus, and connoisseurs of erotica are destined for eternal purgatory — despite all the hateful crap that religion teaches us — we believe there’s still love, joy, and peace to be found in Christ’s teachings.

The ancient philosopher-orator-charismatic is increasingly hard to recognize in the portrait painted by modern exponents of his legacy. But this weekend, when millions of people who identify with Jesus of Nazareth celebrate his birth — and, subordinately, the fleeting pleasures of consumerism — we all, Christian and non-, might do well to remember what all the fuss was about when this crazy Jewish guy started spouting inscrutable epigrams a couple thousand years ago.

Our collective capacity for compassion seems to diminish every year.

Our willingness to engage in random acts of kindness seems atrophied, like a thirsty houseplant.

Our commitment to equitableness seems to have been supplanted by an increased drive to hoard.

Let us remember the essential message in Christ’s teachings, which, apologies to the dozens of sects of Christianity that claim to have the authentic message, had nothing to do with original sin and being sacrificed by his father so that we all could own our plasma screens and iPods. Religious scholars — as opposed to the thousands of modern pastors and deacons and priests who claim to have special insight into a book that’s been around for more than a few printings — tell us that the iconography that flourished in the decades after his murder was largely invented by politically motivated zealots with agendas that had little to do with Christ’s way of seeing the world. When caught up in how one is going to get a pass into heaven and the eternal afterlife that awaits us, it’s easy to forget the simple stuff about how best to live life in the present.

Treat others as you would yourself.

Be generous with both goods and spirit.

Remember that we’re all one enormous dysfunctional family.

Be kind.

Even those of us who reject the myths that surround Jesus’ life would do well to put Christ back into Christmas this year, and every subsequent day.


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