Sunday, December 28, 2014

Late December

This time of year all the sales and advertising make you wish someone would show up with a better message for humanity than commercialism – and say it well enough that people would listen.

Someone who'd remind us that we're all in this together. Gold may glitter, but it ain't the path to happiness. (Odds are against it, anyway – like getting a camel through the eye of a needle.) Loving our neighbors isn't just nice, it's part of how a complex and over-crowded society might manage to survive.

A leader who wouldn't kowtow to the Koch Brothers and their local ilk, but would say stuff like “Inasmuch as you've done it to the least of these my brethren, you've done it unto me.”
Someone who would speak the truth to power, ignoring the risks.

A leader who'd be able to explain why hating a whole tribe of people isn't the way. Acknowledge the horrible things done by some members of a tribe or religion but stand up for the rights of members who weren't doing such horrible things at all.

Someone who'd practice tolerance and teach it to his followers. Who'd not turn up his nose at people of lower birth or people who behaved badly, but would recognize that they need our compassion most.

Someone inspired enough to get through to his followers that punctual church-going and cloaking oneself in the trappings of a religion can't compensate for a cold or contemptuous heart. (You can't pray loudly and proudly enough to fool God – or yourself.).

A leader who could utter phrases such as “Judge not, that ye be not judged” powerfully enough to motivate folks to act on such principles.

A leader so inspired he could teach his followers to welcome strangers (despite their odd raiments and strange tongues) without the instinctive certainty that all strangers are dangerous.

A leader who would inspire those followers not merely to drop the appropriate amount of money into the collection plate but to give generously wherever and whenever they found people in need. And to give not grudgingly or pridefully but humbly, with genuine joy and compassion.

A leader who'd encourage others to sell what they owned and give the proceeds to the poor – and illustrate the lesson by spurning material things and worldly status himself.

(Such a leader would appreciate recent studies showing that if you give experimental subjects $20 each, telling half to spend it on themselves in any way they wish and half to spend it on others, the ones who spend it on others are measurably happier by the end of the day.)

Such a person would hardly fare well today. (If s/he became a city councilor, that kind of egalitarian talk would probably get him recalled. Commie!)

Or perhaps he'd convert many of us, only to return centuries later and see that while purporting to follow him people had lost the spirit of his words. They sit in churches built in his name and judge everything from their neighbors clothes to the slothfulness of the poor outside. They use his words as the foundation for just the kinds of intolerance he railed against.

Or when his supposed representative here started turning the church from arrogance and opulent ceremony back to his teachings of compassion (washing the feet of young criminals!?), peace (e.g. the U.S. and Cuba), and tolerance (regarding gays, for example), that representative would be mocked by his own followers.

Recalling how he drove the money-changers from the temples, he'd wonder how his birthday became a huge money-making event – and try to avoid getting crushed by the stampedes for bargain TV's.
[The column above appeared in the Las Cruces Sun-News this morning, Sunday, 28 December.  It will also appear on the KRWG-TV web-page.  Electronic comments are invited here or on either or both of those two websites.]

1 comment:

  1. “Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! ‘Maybe Christmas,’ he thought, ‘doesn’t come from a store.’” - Dr. Suess