Monday, December 29, 2014

Holiday 2014

Happy Holidays!!

I hope you were able to spend some time with your family, some time with less stress than normal, some time to reflect on the reason for the season.  As anyone who knows me personally, and/or those who have come to know me through my posts, I am not a religious person.  I don't belong to any particular church, haven't been in a church other than for the occasional wedding or funeral in many, many years.  Yet, I like to consider myself spiritual.  Over the course of my life I have had the opportunity, through formal education as well as through personal time spent "searching for the meaning of life" to have been exposed to the lessons of many of the great spiritual teachers of history, especially those of Jesus Christ.  Having been raised a Catholic, I suppose that is why I identify more with his teachings, although, like many a searcher for truth, I have been also drawn to the spirituality of the eastern cultures, Buddhism in particular.

So, it should come as no surprise that I laugh aloud when I hear certain political pundits claim America is a Christian nation.  Of course, I realize that we identify ourselves as Christian from the standpoint that the predominant religions that we claim affiliation to our based on His life.  But, as I have said more than once, and most recently to my brother-in-law, to believe that we act Christlike in regards to the issues of the day is ludicrous.  From our acceptance of violence as a means to address our problems to the all consuming emphasis on material wealth as a means to happiness and an yardstick for success, we behave as unChristlike as is possible. 

Turn the other cheek.  Love thy neighbor as thyself.  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  Do we use these as guidelines in our national and personal relationships?

As a nation we spend more money on our military than the next dozen countries, and we provide weapons of destruction to friends and foes alike, friends through the mistaken belief that guns will provide peace, and foes through the avarice of men who are only interested in money.  Rather than rehabilitation, we incarcerate as large a percentage of our own citizens as any other nation on earth.  Even when it comes to situations where one citizen confronts another, we have Castle Doctrine laws that give the green light to shoot each other.  While the vast majority of our police hold true to their creed of protect and serve, the axiom seems to lose some of its power when men of certain color or religious beliefs are involved. 

From issues ranging from torture to health care, we seem to ignore the lessons of Christ when making our laws.   The recent debate on the investigation into the interrogations techniques used by the CIA seems to center on whether the torture resulted in viable information, and less about whether by using torture on our enemies we had lost another portion of our soul, another claim to be a Christian nation.  "I have met the enemy and he is us" never rang so true than when I hear Americans defend the use of torture against our enemies.  As for health care, we have finally made a step towards treating all Americans with respect in terms of providing access to affordable health care insurance, especially those who need it the most, ie, the sickest, the poorest, the youngest, and yet in the name of profit or simply because some believe in the one bad root of capitalism, survival of the fittest, there are those who vow the repeal of this new law.  I always think of that famous Scrooge line from "A Christmas Carol"  when told by the gentlemen collecting for the poor that some would rather die than go to a poorhouse when he responds - "If they would rather die, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population".

Speaking of yearly, traditional Christmas shows, I am sure we all saw a few these past couple of  weeks.  Whether it be A Christmas Carol or It's a Wonderful Life, I am sure more than one tear was shed at the moments when Scrooge turns from humbug to happy and George Bailey's financial woes are solved by the generosity of his neighbors and friends.  We respond with tears and smiles because we know that Scrooge was not treating those in his life as Christ teaches, we know that George Bailey's rescue is the result of his lifelong mission to help his neighbors, to put people above profit.  And, hopefully, in both cases because we believe in the goodness of men.  Yet, we contribute to the cheapening of our beloved holiday season through our silence when the big retailers open on Thanksgiving Day, or stay open until 11:00 on Christmas Eve.  Or worse, by actively shopping at those times.  I happen to work in retail, and, for the most part, most of my customers are pleased that our doors are closed at the holidays.  They understand that they are happy not to work and so are happy for me that I am off as well.  Yet there are always a few who frown at the knowledge that they will have to complete their shopping before the holiday, that we are not open for them to be able to wait until the very last minute to shop; that we are not at their beck and call.  I usually ignore those frowns, feel a bit sorry for them, but every once in a while I will ask if they have off or must work.  Generally, my question is met with surprise, as if the person couldn't conceive of working on a holiday but never made the mental jump to realize that it was just as important for us to be off as well.  Almost as if being a retail clerk made us less than a person, or less deserving of the holiday at home.

Do unto others...  It is such a simple idea, this golden rule, but so very difficult to practice.  Hopefully, you had a chance to watch your favorite holiday show, and you found a moment to remember that the root of the word Christmas is Christ. 

Lastly, a correction.  I mentioned in my last post that I had finished reading the Laphams Quarterly Youth and was beginning Time.  I misidentified the issues however; Youth was summer, Time was Fall.  Winter, which I have not yet begun, is called Foreigners which should be interesting in light of the recent immigration policy change initiated by President Obama and the upcoming legislation that will be created in the new year when the next Congress begins its term.

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