Jesus as a Socialist?

 Merry Christmas to All… Peace on Earth and goodwill to those we like?  Or, something like that?

Well, another year of holiday festivities is underway and, in the spirit of the season, we’ve got lights, trees and wonder… all going 24/7, as find ourselves deep into exclamations of joy, celebratory eating,  gift exchange and gift return. Christmas fever… it’s ON!

Many of us have been decking the halls for days and days and, quite frankly, we may be in need of a little reflective downtime.

Yes, tis indeed the season to be jolly.

At least it is for those of us who exist in the category of “ones for whom this season mostly fits the paradigm.”  For the many of us who manage to handle all of the various challenges that the Christmas season, in all of its pomp and commerce oriented glory, sets on our societal tables, we either exult, suffer through  or find our way with luck and good cheer to New Years Eve, where we can make the resolution to do it much better next year.

It would be far too easy to simply comment on the disparity of connection between Christmas “the event we SAY we are celebrating”, and the practices that come due when we hear those bells jingling so merrily at every mall and shopping center around he nation.  It does, after all mean jobs and a fresh wave of employment from Black Friday till the end of December.

And I certainly will not be the first or the last to call attention to the issue of how closely this resembles the man whose name we claim to hold at the center of the celebration.

This year, almost more than any other, it seems to be more of a challenge to hear and see how the angels song of peace and joy is resonating in the populace. Love is not the only thing in the air.

I noticed recently, influenced perhaps by the election of Donald Trump as our next president, that one brand of Christians, notably a great many conservatives and more than a few who identify as evangelicals, have taken to celebrating a new found joy of being able to say, “Merry Christmas”, as opposed to the phrase “Happy Holidays”  or “Seasons Greetings”. The freedom they feel seems to be focused on the joyful fact that they are now about relieving themselves of the necessity to spend time and effort having to think about the fact that everyone in America is not “who they are.”

And in truth, it must be said that, as with other religions and faith traditions, all Christians  are not of the same stripe, opinion or worldview.)

Without getting into a lengthy diatribe about the lack of inclusiveness, the fault-lines of scarcity of thoughtful engagement or  the miss guided anger over “PC,” inherent in that thinking (as if, having to consider the fact that we live in a diverse society of religions and backgrounds, I will point out that this victim perspective of modern day Christians, in America, tires me greatly.  I even had one visitor to my Facebook page tell me that having to say “Happy Holidays” robbed him of the joy of his Christian heritage. Really? I find myself wondering how such a shallow faith have any joy at all? That you actually have to consider the feelings of others in the celebration of the birth of one who is famous for having come to love, heal the sick, liberate the captive and set people free?

In this time, I find myself wanting  to reflect that, unlike so many of  what I call “Christians without compassion,”  Jesus set a high standard for inclusiveness and for politically being on the side of the oppressed and the underclass in his society. I think that we would be wise to follow that example as well as His demonstrated ability to consider “the other”  in his daily life, more fully in ours.

This morning I saw an article in the Huffington Post and it made me smile. Obviously, Jesus did not identify himself as a political operative. But the views expressed in his life and the words attributed to him, are hard to ignore.

Jesus, by his very example, was indeed, a socialist, in the sense that he was working for and concerned about the good of all.  He was into sharing and collaboration (a quality that our Congress would be wise to adopt) and he certainly made a point of connecting with people of different backgrounds as he negotiated his mission on earth.  As I listen to the rhetorical gobbledegoop and endless prosperity based messages from so many leaders and followers who describe themselves as “part of God’s family, it’s not hard to see that this a heavily overlooked, ignored and mostly unmentioned fact that goes unacknowledged in circles that praise, repeat and in my opinion, overuse and commodify Jesus’ name.

Not only that, but Jesus was a vigorous opponent of prejudice, injustice, race and religious hatred, a champion of the poor and an outspoken public activist. (He spoke truth to power with frequency!) That being the case, guess who ought to be speaking out against those very same issues now?
I attended a conference, some years ago, where a very wise and articulate speaker (I wish I remembered his name) said “If everybody who calls out the name of Jesus and who says they are  “a Christian” REALLY took his words and actions and lived them out, the world would be a VERY different place.”
Sadly, too many followers are “Christians in Name Only!”

Oh and, yeah, as an after-thought, his actions and words got him killed! Apparently, people in power prefer to stay there.

Jesus was a wise and wondrous teacher. And perhaps, with each passing year, we need to use this holiday to review what the man at the center of the celebration was all about and really work at passing out the peace!

Merry Christmas!

7 replies
  1. Friar Peter Chepaitis
    Friar Peter Chepaitis says:

    That is a powerful re-stating of the message of Christmas, as well as the core values of Judaism, Islam, and other world religions. This Christmas, Anna and I have been telling a simple story that seems to grow in beauty and power every time we tell it. I will be putting it on the Bethany Ministries website very soon http://www.bethmin.org along with the rest of our preaching on Christmas Eve. Here it is – I hope it will all fit.

    Old Turtle and the Broken Truth
    One night, in a far-away land that “is somehow not so far away,” a truth falls from the stars.
    As it falls, it breaks into two pieces; one piece blazes off through the sky
    & the other falls straight to the ground.
    One day, someone stumbles upon the truth lying on the ground & finds
    the words, “You are loved” carved on it.
    It makes him feel good, so he keeps it & shares it with the people in his tribe.
    The thing sparkles & makes the people who have it feel warm & happy.
    It becomes their most prized possession, & they call it “The Truth.”
    But those who have the truth grow afraid of —those who don’t have it,
    —those who are different.
    And those who don’t have it want to have it for themselves.
    Soon people are fighting wars over the little truth,
    trying to capture it for themselves.

    A little girl who is troubled by the growing violence, greed, & destruction
    in her once-peaceful world goes on a journey—through
    the Mountains of Imagining, the River of Wondering Why, & the Forest of Finding Out—
    she goes to speak with Old Turtle, who is a wise counselor.
    Old Turtle tells her the Truth is broken & missing a piece,
    —the piece that shot off into the night sky so long ago.
    Together they search for it &, when they find it, the little girl puts the jagged piece in her pocket & returns to her people. She tries to explain that they only
    have part of the truth, but no one will listen or understand.
    Finally, a big crow flies the broken piece of the truth to the top of a tower,
    where the other piece has been placed for safety.
    The rejoined pieces finally shine their full message:
    “You are loved / & so are they.”
    And the people begin to understand. —And the earth begins to heal.

    From a children’s book, Old Turtle and the Broken Truth by Douglas Wood, illustrated by Jon J Muth (NY: Scholastic, 2003)

    Reply
    • Reggie Harris
      Reggie Harris says:

      Thanks Peter. Sorry to have taken so long to respond. I appreciate you checking in. I know that this is a time that can drain the spirit and tax the mind. I will aways try to honor the time you take to read what I place here.
      Onward in light! Reggie

      Reply
  2. Barbara Dean
    Barbara Dean says:

    You make so many important points here Reggie. One is that you define socialism in a very positive way, as opposed to the demonization it has suffered in the media and in the minds of many, who conflate it with the “evil” of communism. You define it as being a way that is concerned with the good of all, with sharing, with collaboration as opposed to competition, with connecting. And that Jesus was a strong example of all that. One does not have to be Christian (as I am not) to admire and aspire to these ideals. And I think that Bernie Sanders, who is also a Jewish socialist, espouses these ideals as well, which accounts for his popularity among thinking, caring people who want to see a different world, one where all are cared for and none is left behind. The world that Jesus exhorted people to strive for as he taught inclusivity, railed against injustice, prejudice, racial and religious divisiveness and hatred, is the world that Bernie also works for. That we all must work for, especially now as forces that are opposed to all of that, that represent the elevation of the rich and powerful, the greedy and the cruel, conquest and oppression – are arrayed against us. But I don’t think they will prevail for long. I do believe that the goodness that is in most of us, the desire to see everyone prosper and be happy, kindness, compassion, caring – that is what will win out in the end. Maybe the spirit of Christmas is really inspiring me right now. I hope so!

    Reply
    • Reggie Harris
      Reggie Harris says:

      Dear Nevaeh, I appreciate you checking in. I know that this is a time that so many things can drain the spirit and tax the mind. I will aways try to honor the time you take to read what I place here.
      Onward in light! Reggie

      Reply
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