Friday, December 13, 2013

That Christmas spirit

This time of year in the northern hemisphere is especially difficult for the poor, the homeless, the sick. Many religious traditions take note of this by making special appeals at this time to their adherents to provide assistance to those in need. It is a time when people of conscience must be particularly aware of those who are less fortunate than they and wish to reach out to them and help them.

Having been raised in the Christian tradition, I always associate this desire to help with Jesus' parable of the sheep and the goats as related in the Book of Matthew in the New Testament. The relevant section of the parable from the New International Version of the Bible begins with Matthew 25:34.

34“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ 

Every religious tradition that I am familiar with gives similar approbation to this human impulse toward altruism.

And then there is the opposite tradition which is embodied by certain prominent politicians and their supporters in our country. They were skewered very succinctly in a Tom Tomorrow cartoon at Daily Kos this week.

"The true meaning of Christmas" in their world seems to be "We've got ours. All the rest of you losers are on your own." The irony is that, often, what they've got has been inherited and has not really been gained through their own efforts.

Then, of course, there is the very insular and racist view of Christmas as exemplified by this news host on Fox News this week.

She and all her all-white and vociferously Christian cohorts at Fox News would likely have their minds blown by this image:

Whatever our religious or non-religious traditions, let us resist the impulse to selfishness and insularity and instead extend our compassion and altruism to all who need it at this time of year and throughout the year. That would be the true spirit of Christmas, the humane spirit.

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