Christmas Mourning

Christmas evolved into an abomination. Born as a church celebration of the incarnation, Christmas lives in adolescent convolution and ambiguity. Confusion and anger about the holiday occur easily in the culture where we live. I write not to express anger. How easy it

by Salvador Dali

I am sorry.

would be for me to unleash an incisive tirade against the sickness we see during the holiday shopping season! Instead, what I bring this year is neither words of comfort nor words of fury. Rather, I cry words of mourning upon this page. I mourn for us who follow Jesus, but I mourn even more for those who do not. For all who refuse Jesus, please forgive me. It is for you that I offer this lamentable confession.

In The Gospel According to Matthew 2.16-18, upon hearing from Zoroastrian-observing royalty that news of “the child who has been born king of the Jews” came to them through the stars, Herod, in a wrathful fit of violent spontaneity, sent soldiers to massacre infant, male children all throughout Bethlehem and the surrounding region. For those of us who know this story from our youth, we dismiss it out of sheer redundancy of hearing. Anyone reading it for the first time or anyone reflecting on it with serious depth will invariably be confronted with the immense horror of the event. Matthew responds in an almost unexpected fashion: the book quotes a prophetic oracle of mourning. Verse 19 continues, “When Herod died…” An infanticidal massacre merits nothing more than tears. Herod receives no punishment. His actions speak for themselves. They are reprehensible.

Let me take apart the story briefly. Herod, a puppet ruler over Palestine, represents the collusion of the indigenous people of the region and the imperialist powers. Christians root themselves in that indigenous group. We derive from them. Colluding with the imperial powers of our day turns us into King Herod! The truth thrusts itself into our vision time and time again during the advent season. Millions of people in the U.S. race to buy, decorate, and consume on Christmas day, yet they do not celebrate Jesus. The entire country expresses some form of observance. My Buddhist boss buys gifts, and even atheists join the holiday! They do it because the Herods who claim allegiance to Jesus and allegiance to the empire force it upon them.

In the story, when the Persian elite arrived in Jerusalem with gifts, knocking on Herod’s door, it appeared to Herod that they came for him. When they left without leaving their gifts and returned home without providing Herod an assassination target, Herod saw their disinterest in his authority. He lashed out to protect that authority. The result looked absolutely horrific. Many innocent folks suffered for the offense taken by the king who served two masters. How many people in this country have become victims of the Christians who serve two masters, G-d and country?

Those infants represent all the people who get caught by the coercive might of this country’s Herods. We, with our actions and our fervor for consumption, force them to celebrate a holiday that means little to them. They feel inadequate and abused. In the malls, they shop in order to satisfy the deep-seeded need for community, love, and acceptance, yet the gifts they buy only bring them isolation, despair, and homogeneity as the puppet kings demand they buy in order to maintain the puppet power all in the name of the baby who escaped the massacre leveled by those very people in power.

Christians come up with many clever ways to circumvent this problem. They donate money to charities; they give various alternative gifts; they volunteer at soup kitchens on Christmas; and they do many other excellent things. What they do not do is mourn. We fail to confess our sins to those who erect Christmas trees without believing in Christ. We cannot imagine the end of Christmas. That is because we are the ones killing it with our Herodian coalition with the powers that be. What should be our response to Christmas? How should we act in light of this now destructive holiday? We should mourn in lamentation for the people we subjected to our system of belief. To all of you, I am deeply sorry. Please forgive me for the times I joined in the infanticide. You are innocent, and you do not deserve to be the victims of those who follow G-d and empire. For you, I offer this:

A voice was heard in Ramah,

wailing and loud lamentation,

Rachel weeping for her children;

she refused to be consoled, because

they are no more.

And I offer this promise: from out of this mourning, I promise to find new ways of celebrating the birth of Jesus that do not coerce you to join. Peace!

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About ben adam

The world is going to hell in a handbasket, and we might miss Armageddon because we're too busy watching MTV and CNN. Please, read a book, throw a ball, bake some bread, and for goodness sake, turn the TV off.
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2 Responses to Christmas Mourning

  1. Don Whitman says:

    This is another excellent article. It is very imaginative in the way it takes into consideration those who are not christians and what it means for them. It is something that I never considered. Christmas also misrepresents who Jesus is just as the mainstream church does every day. When I was Catholic we witnessed on the feast of the holy innocents. It is on Dec 28, three days after Christmas, and even though it is an official feast day it is of course totally forgotten by the church. We would communicate to people the slaughter of the young boys and tie that to whoever this country was slaughtering at that moment. It was of course always someone.

    Below is an article answering an editorial in the Tacoma News-Tribune by Bill Bichsel that was also on the disarm now plowshares website and my response also on that website. Both are self explanatory. In a very different way they deal with the same thing you are writing about: the ways that the gospels misrepresented. In the case below they are misrepresented by their absence.

    Bichsel himself had been resisting nuclear weapons since the 1970s. He is older now and in ill health to the extent that by doing the action and accepting the consequences he may be making the ultimate sacrifice. Certainly this is taking up the cross. At the same time what can one make of an action, public witness and court testimony that excludes Jesus. I have read many of the articles on their website and seen videos of their gatherings and it is strictly secular leftest in nature. The words God, Jesus, Yahweh, Holy Spirit cannot even make it on one of their signs. Certainly they are showing courage in facing ten year sentences but to what end?
    Peace, Don
    THE REV. BILL BICHSEL

    I take deep issue with the editorial of Dec. 15, “Who’s guarding the nukes at Kitsap-Bangor?”

    The editorial states, “But in the real world – as opposed to the wishful thinking world – intimidation is sometimes the only means of maintaining peace.” Intimidation never brings or maintains peace; it only maintains a state of fear.

    One nation pointing its nuclear weapons at another produces fear that brings the other nation to arm itself. Intimidation brings on an endless cycle of fear and the proliferation of nuclear weapons among nations.

    In this “real world,” fear, hopelessness, apathy and ever-cycling violence reigns. It seems to me that the majority of Americans are lulled into living out this reign of fear in which the political, economic, corporate, military and media power is in the control of the few.

    The editorial describes the “wishful thinking world” by alluding to the vision of Isaiah11:6-9, in which the “… lions lie down with lambs.” Isaiah’s vision expresses the deep hope that people can work through entrenched layers of fear, prejudice and hate that keep people apart. It is a vision of hope for a peaceful kingdom.

    In this Advent season, we reflect on the coming of the Prince of Peace, who comes in vulnerability, weakness and poverty to proclaim the peaceful kingdom. In this kingdom to which all are invited, forgiveness, putting down the sword, nonviolence and loving one another are foundational. The invitation calls for deep and hard work.

    One should not pray “thy kingdom come on earth …” if one doesn’t believe it. The hard work of the kingdom calls us to work through our deep fear and prejudices. Jesus taught and lived the way of peace, and it led him to his execution. This is to know the depth to which we are called to peace and nonviolence.

    But the execution is not the final say: If we wish to continue the work of the Prince of Peace, we must work to make active nonviolence real in our lives and in our world. The kingdom will not come by waiting for it, but by following and acting on the deepest longing for peace in our hearts.

    Besides the faith underpinning of the work for nuclear weapon disarmament, there is the legal reality that nuclear weapons are illegal under U.S. and humanitarian laws. The Hague Agreements, the Geneva Protocols, the U.N. Charter and the Nuremberg Principles to which the United States is a signatory all outlaw nuclear weapons because they are indiscriminate killers of civilians and because they destroy the environment and infrastructure of cities and civilizations.

    Article 6, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution states that all treaties and agreements made by the United States with other nations become the supreme law of the land. These laws are incorporated into our domestic laws.

    In addition, the U.S. war crimes law outlaws the use of weapons of indiscriminate killing. At the recent trial in which I and four companions were convicted of entering the Stategic Weapons Facility Pacific at Bangor, where the nuclear warheads for the Navy’s Trident subs are stored, we were forbidden the use of humanitarian law and necessity as a defense.

    One further note: Nuclear weapon disarmament does not mean that the United States gets rid of all nuclear weapons at once, but that we move in good faith toward disarmament along with other countries. While the United States has decreased the number of its nuclear weapons, it has continued to refurbish and rebuild plants and newer weapons.

    There are many preliminary things to be done toward disarmament. The United States could ratify the comprehensive test ban treaty, take the weapons off of hair-trigger readiness, initiate a no-first-strike agreement, stop uranium mining and enhancement and and ratify the new START treaty. The United States could begin to train workers in the dismantling of nuclear weapons and facilities, and begin to offer job training for converting things of war into things of peace and our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh.

    The Rev. Bill Bichsel, S.J., of Tacoma is a Roman Catholic priest who has led protests against nuclear weapons since the 1970s.

    By Don Whitman
    The article by Bill Bichsel is unusual in that it actually mentions Jesus. I have been following the disarm now plowshares action, public witness, and courtroom testimony and have been frankly amazed at the absence of any talk about Jesus and Yahweh. In article after article and report after report the emphasis has been on international law and, seemingly, good citizenship. In one of the earlier articles this was mentioned along with the “of the people, by the people and for the people” rhetoric.

    The reason that people who follow Jesus go out into public is to proclaim the love and power of God. It is only God who can save us from our situation and for followers of Jesus to go out into public and not speak of Jesus is unthinkable. How can we show our loyalty to the gospels if we do not talk about the gospels in public witness. We live in the most murderous Empire in history and it is only God who can bring it to an end. God is in fact bringing it to an end and the important work of proclaiming that to people, telling people to prepare for the fall of the society and revealing that God is preparing a new heaven and new earth as the prophets declared and as Revelation proclaimed is left undone.

    It is certainly right to focus on specific weapons systems and to talk about international law but only in the context of Jesus and Yahweh. We all have to make a choice about whether we are citizens of Empire or followers of Jesus. We cannot be both. The rhetoric seems to be that of secular leftism.

    Bichsel states that “Nuclear weapon disarmament does not mean that the United States gits rid of all nuclear weapons at once, but that we move in good faith toward disarmament along with other countries.” What does this mean. The only moral position that a follower of Jesus can take is to demand that the government get rid of all nuclear weapons no matter what other nations do. Would we get rid of our Auschwitzes only if other nations give up theirs. To have even one nuclear weapon is blasphemy. If the other nations do not give up their weapons do you believe that we should not give up ours? God is our security. That is what you should be saying in public. In your argument about disarmament you have taken the mainstream Imperial position. We have to follow Jesus no matter what.

    I had two letters on the former dialogue page that raised the same questions and others that were not answered. Those letters are apparently no longer on your website. You did acknowledge one of the letters but did not answer it. I spoke with one of your members at a gathering but did not go into the issues in depth. I believe that these are extremely important questions and should be answered on your website. If I am the only one bringing up these issues it would greatly surprise me but that may be the case. I will reduce the questions to two. Why is there an absence when it comes to revealing the reality of God on the street and in court? Do you believe that it is the moral imperative of the followers of Jesus to demand that this country disarms completely no matter what other nations do?
    Peace,
    Don Whitman

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