The Common Good

A Tale of Two Christmases

We are all hypocrites. I am a hypocrite. That guy over there shoveling his driveway is a hypocrite. You have most likely been a hypocrite at some point. Liberals, conservatives, Christians, and atheists — all hypocrites. This is not so much a statement of judgment as it is a statement of human nature. It is unavoidable and so wonderfully human. All of us have double standards and fail to practice what we preach, simultaneously looking down on others who do the same thing.

Thomas Zsebok/Shutterstock
We sometimes forget that Christmas celebrates the entrance of redemption that started in a barn. Thomas Zsebok/Shutterstock

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That being said, I am about to criticize something in which the act of criticizing will itself be an act of hypocrisy. I am criticizing the vast swarm of words, opinions, responses, and re-posts that have a tendency to take over the Internet and our modern-day consciousness. So now I will simply add to the chatter (though for your sake, hopefully briefly) and then depart to spend at least one day, God-willing, in some form of peace and quiet before Christmas, because really that’s why I’m so perturbed. It seems as if we are in a rather confusing tale about two Christmases.

There is one Christmas as celebrated by orthodox Christians in which we rejoice in the birth of Jesus into a manger, coming not as king, but as beggar and blue-collar worker, born amid dung and hay, eventually coming to signify and proclaim the reconciliation of heaven, earth, and nations, and trumpeting peace, joy, love, and life.

There is another Christmas that is on the surface very similar looking — the Christmas in which pundits on both sides use the day of Christmas as fodder to further their political, ideological, and religious views and people bludgeon each other to death with action figures.

What a couple of weeks. First there was the Fox lady who claimed both Jesus and Santa were white, there’s the whole ongoing NSA investigation that we really should’ve seen coming what with all the Bourne movies, Utah became the 17th state to recognize gay marriage, and then surprise! A guy from Louisiana says he doesn’t understand gay people and makes a few other racial/homophobic slurs.  Cue the matches. Cue the gasoline. Internet ignite.

A few observations:

Politics and religion need a long overdue divorce. Or if that’s too much, the hypocrisy among supposed “Christians” on either side of the political aisle has simply gone too far. Sarah Palin’s saying that she loves the “commercialization” of Christmas and Megan Kelley’s claiming Jesus was white, or using “Merry Christmas” as another bullet in the culture war gun are just a few examples from the conservative side.

On the left the whole PC thing can get taken a little too far. There is a difference between being politically correct and respecting all people regardless of race, age, gender, sex, or religion. The line however, is where the arguments erupt. Was it the liberal police making a big deal of man simply espousing his religious beliefs? Or was Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson a racist homophobe who went too far in his disrespectful comments? It was probably neither extreme. Regardless, in these scenarios the Internet wins and we divide against ourselves, even in the church.

I for one cringe whenever I hear someone in the media say something disrespectful regarding homosexuality. “Please don’t let it be a Christian,” I think. “Please don’t let it be a Christian. No! It is a Christian!”

In all of this we lose sight of the true gospel of Jesus and the season of Christmas — season that is wonderful for us Christians, but should also not fascist-like be imposed upon the rest of America, regardless of the “fact” that this is a supposed “Christian” nation and always has been. Christians have for far too long now gotten swept up in a culture war with a vendetta against certain specific sins, while ignoring others. Sin after all is sin. And the sin of materialism and greed that takes over this sacred holiday of ours is just as big of a deal as homosexuality (if you do believe it’s a sin in a monogamous marriage relationship).

America is going down the toilet, say some. But I have a feeling it has to do more with our lack of concern for the poor and our preoccupation with money and power than it does with the homosexual agenda. But, hey, that’s just my opinion.

Jesus came to reconcile all nations.

Jesus most likely looked like a member of the Taliban. This is just a geographical/historical fact. His parents were not Norwegian but Middle Eastern Jews. Throughout Jesus’ ministry he constantly hung around with “undesirables” such as Samaritans, the sick, and Gentiles. There is the story of the Woman at the Well. The Roman Centurion. The Good Samaritan. The list goes on. The Bible itself criticizes sins of idolatry and greed more than anything else, but we tend to lose sight of this.

In America we have sent people of color to different water fountains and sent Japanese people to internment camps. My wife’s older family members spent a considerable amount of time at the Manzanar camp. Her grandfather had to have someone else purchase land to build a house on for him because he was Japanese and would not be sold to.

And yet, somehow we hear this saying that Jesus has come to bring peace and reconcile all nations. The Jews and Greeks. Men and women. White and black. Straight and gay. How does it all work? I have no idea. But I do know that we are at the very least called to participate in this proclamation of peace in whatever way we can. That means respecting and even loving our enemies and those with whom we disagree. It means being a jar of clay rather than a clanging symbol. It means, I think, maybe quieting ourselves and living out this thing day after day in humility and service of others.

Unfortunately I’m sure there are many lovely people doing wonderful things for others over Christmas, and Christians loving gay people even if they disagree with their lifestyle, and people who are not caught up in the culture wars and hate comments, but these people will never get recognized because at the end of the day, the only bias all media has is conflict. Sometimes it’s pro-right and sometimes pro-left but it’s undoubtedly pro-conflict. It’s all about inciting chaos and drumming up the hot topics of the day.

Ultimately Christmas means praying and waiting for this moment from Revelation 22: “The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” Christmas can get overhyped, oversold, and easily lost, but if it does still mean anything today, then let it at least mean a day or two when we can all calm down and celebrate the entrance of redemption that started in a barn.

Levi Rogers is a writer and coffee roaster out of Salt Lake City, Utah. He graduated from the University of Utah with degree in English and likes to write poetry and creative non-fiction. He currently attends Missio Dei Community.

Photo: Thomas Zsebok/Shutterstock

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