Right-wing media outlets are fond of reminding us this time of year that liberals are out to destroy Christmas. It seems that if the political left had their way Christmas would be reimagined as a crass secular event focused on excessive shopping, and outlandish light displays paying homage to flying reindeer, elvin toymakers, a jolly fat man with Ninja-like stealth skills, and other symbols of pagan magic that would make Hogwarts seem positively Muggle-ish. And we would never stand for that. Christmas should be preserved as the solemn low-key religious celebration of the birth of the Christian savior. Although, this argument seems oddly similar to the one that gays can’t marry because it would destroy the sanctity of Brittany Spears’ 55-hour long marriage. The ideal of the institution already doesn’t match the reality.
This Christmas season, Congress is trying mightily to wrap up its business so all the little boy and girl legislators can get home for Christmas Eve in time to be judged naughty or nice by Santa. But as Fox News shouts from the rooftops, Christmas is also a celebration of Christianity and a time to remind the faithful what it means to be Christian. Given the Christian right has long been a supporter of Republican policies, and assuming that the GOP Senators and Congressmen don’t want coal in their stockings, it should follow that Republicans are advocating for the same laws and programs Jesus himself would vote for. It is Christmas after all.
Yet that doesn’t quite seem the case. Jesus was an advocate for the poor, the weary, and the downtrodden. He brought hope to the hopeless, and love to the unloved. He fed the hungry, clothed the naked, and cared for the sick. He brought a message of peace, understanding, and compassion.
It’s not remotely clear how to reconcile those values with the GOP opposition to unemployment insurance extensions to keep families in their homes and well fed over the winter, the down vote on the 9/11 responders care to provide relief to people and their families who sacrificed for us in our time of need, or the DREAM Act to allow marginalized people to come out of the shadows and live amongst us. These seem like the sort of policies to which Jesus would have given a big thumbs up. On the flip side, Jesus doesn’t say much about protecting the wealth of the rich. He’s not known for speaking at length to the Roman aristocracy as an advocate for how important it was for the Empire to keep its taxes on the wealthy low so that coins would trickle down to the plebeians and out into the Hebrew homeland.
Some Christians have argued that Jesus wanted individuals and the church to carry out these good deeds and not the government. Yet in a democracy where the government is of, by, and for the people, isn’t the government simply an extension of the individual? It could be argued that if the government does it, then the minority is forced to go along and so that somehow doesn’t count toward your eternal salvation. Yet aren’t some Christians also asking that Government enforce other Christian values on the minority like bans on gay marriage and abortion? Why is it okay for the government to coerce some Christian behaviors and not others?
The Christmas season is often a time for reflection. Perhaps you might reflect on Gandhi’s observation:
“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
Are you like your Christ? Are your politicians? There may well be a war of sorts on Christmas, or at least the spirit of it. But you may want to take a closer look at who is on the offensive.