Christmas Eve. Everyone I’ve talked to around here says the same thing: they’re just not “in the holiday spirit.” And much as idiots like Bill O’Reilly (who takes Media Matters top honors as Misinformer Of The Year this year) want us to forget — there is more than one holiday at this time of year. Doncha love George Bush’s America? Where else could a hotheaded, loudmouthed, conservative blowhard quietly settle a sexual harassment lawsuit one month, and the very next be marketing himself as a righteous defender of persecuted Christians everywhere? Amazing. I guess Christmas really is the season of rebirth.
Along these lines, do see Michael Lerner’s Alternet column:
There is a beautiful spiritual message underlying Christmas that has universal appeal: the hope that gets reborn in moments of despair, the light that gets re-lit in the darkest moments of the year, is beautifully symbolized by the story of a child born of a teenage homeless mother who had to give birth in a manger because no one would give her shelter, and escaping the cruelty of Roman imperial rule and its local surrogate Herod who already knew that such a child would grow up to challenge the entire imperialist system.
To celebrate that vulnerable child as a symbol of hope that eventually the weak would triumph over the rule of the arrogant and powerful is a spiritual celebration with strong analogies to our Jewish Chanukah celebration which also celebrates the victory of the weak over the powerful. And many other spiritual traditions around the world have similar celebrations at this time of year.
The loss of this message, its subversion into a frenetic orgy of consumption, rightly disturbs Christians and other people of faith.
Yet this transformation is not a result of Jewish parents wanting to protect their children from being forced to sing Christmas carols in public school, or secularists sending Seasons Greeting cards. It derives, instead, from the power of the capitalist marketplace, operating through television, movies and marketers, to drum into everyone’s mind the notion that the only way to be a decent human being at this time of year is to buy and buy more. Thus the altruistic instinct to give, which could take the form of giving of our time, our skills, and our loving energies to people we care about, gets transformed and subverted into a competitive frenzy of consumption.
Not surprisingly, the Christian right is unwilling to challenge the capitalist marketplace – because their uncritical support for corporate power is precisely what they had to offer the right to become part of the conservative coalition. Their loyalty to conservative capitalist economics trumps for them their commitment to serving God. But for those of us who want to prevent a new surge of anti-Semitism and assaults on the first amendment, our most effective path is to acknowledge what is legitimate in the Christians’ concern – and lead it into a powerful spiritual critique of the ethos of selfishness and materialism fostered by our economic arrangements. It’s time for our liberal and progressive Christian leaders and neighbors to stand up against on behalf of Jews and on behalf of their own highest spiritual vision – and challenge the real Christmas thieves!
In one of the first signs of the effects of the ever tightening federal budget, in the past two months the Bush administration has reduced its contributions to global food aid programs aimed at helping millions of people climb out of poverty.
(Kevin Drum lists a few other examples of Bush’s compassionate conservatism.)
Well, I must say, this didn’t make me feel much merrier. I’ll try again tomorrow or Saturday.