Archive for December, 2017

We will never win until we make peace with each other.

December 24th, 2017 No comments


I usually start getting into the “spirit” the day after Thanksgiving when I start playing my Christmas with Weezer EP. I haven’t even listened to it this year. Now it’s less than a week before Christmas Day and today was the first day I started reflecting on Christmas. Well, Advent and Christmas.

I guess I’ve given in to despair. There seem to be so many things wrong. I feel little joy. I try to be as upbeat and positive as possible, and I have little to complain about in terms of material well-being. I tend just to plod on through my days, doing the things I must but with little passion. Hanging on in quiet desperation, as they say. I feel that the dream I was raised to believe has turned into a nightmare. I still talk the noble talk, but everything I once thought was good has been corrupted.

I met a couple at the hospital who are very old. I can’t know for sure but they could be in their nineties. The woman couldn’t walk without a walker, and her husband was beautifully attentive. It occurred to me how lovely true love is. The woman was old and broken, but the man obviously cherished her. What did the beloved possess that could enrich the lover? Only herself, broken as she was. I usually don’t care for “Christmas” music but there was a mellow holiday tune playing and that’s when the Christmas story finally captured me.

Most of us I’m sure have heard of the so-called “war on Christmas.” In fact, Christmas in America is under attack, but not by the “liberal elite” as many would have us believe. The celebration of Christmas has come to symbolize America itself: a transcendent dream that is realized as a self-seeking obscenity. The tradition of gift giving is a remembrance of the gifts wise men reportedly brought to Jesus at his birth. It is possible that the gifts were quite valuable: gold for the king, frankincense for the one who is worshiped, and myrrh for Jesus’ predestined brutal execution. But the gifts were symbolic of the divinity and the sacrificial destiny of the Christ child. They were not meant to satisfy an insatiable desire for diversion that comes from obtaining material goods. Pope Francis described this in last year’s Christmas homily.

The mystery of Christmas, which is light and joy, questions and unsettles us, because it is at once both a mystery of hope and of sadness. It bears within itself the taste of sadness, inasmuch as love is not received, and life discarded. This happened to Joseph and Mary, who found the doors closed, and placed Jesus in a manger, “because there was no place for them in the inn” (v. 7). Jesus was born rejected by some and regarded by many others with indifference. Today also the same indifference can exist, when Christmas becomes a feast where the protagonists are ourselves, rather than Jesus; when the lights of commerce cast the light of God into the shadows; when we are concerned for gifts but cold towards those who are marginalized. [1]

Giving gifts on Christmas also symbolizes the gift that God gave humanity in the incarnation. That gift was the grant of true peace and reconciliation to a world burdened by arrogance and folly. The Christ child is the perfect model of love: totally self-emptying self-sacrifice for those who do not deserve it, cannot earn it, and in many cases do not even know they want it. It is exactly the opposite of what we have turned the celebration of Christ’s birth into. Instead of humbling ourselves in recognition of the depths of our need and the even greater depth of God’s love, we dance madly around the golden calf, never satisfied beneath the flickering torches and dissonant melodies.

The apostle Paul aptly described it in his letter to the Romans where he marked the universal condemnation: “Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man or birds or animals or reptiles.” (Ro. 1:22-23) Our devotion misses the mark, and this has been true since the Fall (Gen. 2).

At the time Christ was born, certain sects of the Jews had determined they could overcome their innate depravity and enjoy peace by strictly following the Mosaic law. But it is impossible for humans to adhere to that law on their own unaided strength. Rather than bringing them closer to God, their doomed devotion deepened their separation. Why? Because they could not acknowledge their inadequacy.

In the same way, groups in our society are certain true peace can be achieved through the triumph of some ideology, left or right or otherwise. The paradox of our time is that we aspire to greatness through vile methods. Our motive is not peace, but triumph. Our efforts are self-defeating. Because we seek peace through violence. We act as if we can solve our dilemma by more and better exertion of the human will. And by so doing, we perpetuate brokenness. The only solution is humility.

Pope Francis tells us,

With this sign the Gospel reveals a paradox: it speaks of the emperor, the governor, the mighty of those times, but God does not make himself present there; he does not appear in the grand hall of a royal palace, but in the poverty of a stable; not in pomp and show, but in the simplicity of life; not in power, but in a smallness which surprises. In order to discover him, we need to go there, where he is: we need to bow down, humble ourselves, make ourselves small. The Child who is born challenges us: he calls us to leave behind fleeting illusions and go to the essence, to renounce our insatiable claims, to abandon our endless dissatisfaction and sadness for something we will never have. It will help us to leave these things behind in order to rediscover in the simplicity of the God-child, peace, joy and the meaning of life.[2]

In a secularized society many rebel at the thought of surrender to a deity, may even believe there is no God. But even the most committed atheist must bow to the historical reality that violence always breeds violence and only love begets love. Instead of seeking to change or fix or correct or overcome those we disagree with, we must choose to love them.

In the gospel according to Matthew Jesus delivers from the Mount a series of commandments to impossible actions and attitudes, and ends with the command, “You must therefore be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt. 5:48) If we are to claim discipleship to Christ, we must take this command seriously. Yet how can we be perfect?

The answer is in love. We cannot, on our own merits, achieve the perfection Jesus demands. We cannot, on our own power and through our own will, create peace. But we can humble ourselves in love: self-giving even for those who call themselves our enemies. We can do this whether we call ourselves Christian or not. The apostle John affirms “God is love” (1 John 4:8) and records Jesus instructing his followers they will be identified by their self-sacrificing love (John 13:34-35). Peace can only be achieved when we have surrendered to something greater than ourselves, even if that something greater is the mutual recognition of each other’s weakness.

Love doesn’t necessarily mean affection. It does mean putting the needs of others before our own. In our situation that must mean recognizing the dignity and worth of those who identify as our foes in the midst of their brokenness, in spite of our own brokenness that impels us to more destructive actions and attitudes. We will never win until we make peace with each other.

The Christmas story tells of God offering himself to bring peace to those who could never achieve it on their own. History shows us that only this selflessness brings victory and peace. That is the true meaning of Christmas: Peace on Earth, achieved through love.

To all who celebrate this holiday, Merry Christmas. To all others, may you find peace and joy this holiday season.


[2] Ibid.

The Big Lie

December 18th, 2017 No comments

“There is absolutely no collusion. I didn’t make a phone call to Russia. I have nothing to do with Russia. Everybody knows it. That was a Democrat hoax. It was an excuse for losing the election, and it should have never been this way, where they spent all these millions of dollars.” – Donald Trump, 12/15/17

Remarks by President Trump Before Marine One Departure | The White House

South Lawn 9:21 A.M. EST Q (Inaudible.) THE PRESIDENT: Well, it’s a shame what’s happened with the FBI. But we’re going to rebuild the FBI. It will be bigger and better than ever. But it is very sad when you look at those documents. And how they’ve done that is really, really disgraceful, and you …

Dear Conservative Friend

December 9th, 2017 No comments

Dear Conservative Friend,

You and I are obviously on different ends of the ideological divide. I respect that the considered positions of many conservatives are held in good faith, even if I think they are misguided. For most of our history we have been able to bridge the gap between left and right because both (perhaps reluctantly) conceded that their opponents were patriots.

But when it comes to Trump, I don’t think we’re talking about right vs. left; we are talking about right vs. wrong. The discussion about what Trump represents in American politics is complex and probably futile, since we will not agree on basic facts. But you can take it from me that those of us who oppose him do so not because of partisanship but because we believe he actually represents the absolute worst of American society. He represents an America that is retrograde, racist, misogynist, nativist, swaggering, self-absorbed, and brutal. His vision resembles an upright individual who has gotten drunk and succumbed to animal instincts, losing all sense of propriety. His shadow ironically shines a bright light on the principles many are willing to abandon in order to hold on to power. Evangelical Christians abandon the gospel and basic moral principles, “Conservatives” abandon patriotism and fiscal conservatism and even the fundamental Enlightenment principles of liberty and equality on which our founding documents are based. Bigots and “super-patriots” who were once relegated to the fringes suddenly and boldly take center stage. In other words, Trump and those he works for are at best agents of chaos, not patriots.

I’m not going to assume that what I just described, describes you. I’m fairly certain you don’t believe any of what I just wrote, and I believe you and most of those who agree with you are patriots. And I’m not going to try to convince you I’m right, because we conceptually live in very different realities. But you can believe that I believe what I wrote, and because of that I refuse to contribute to the normalization of this tool’s actions. We can agree to disagree about politics when we can concede that those we disagree with have the best interests of the country at heart. I do not believe Trump has the best interests of the country at heart, even in his own delusions. And I applaud people like John Lewis and John McCain who are willing to stand against what Trump and his followers represent and say. “This is not normal.”

Rep. John Lewis: Trump is an ‘insult’ to civil rights event

U.S. Rep John Lewis announced Thursday that he won’t speak at the opening of Mississippi civil rights and history museums, saying it’s an “insult” that President Donald Trump will attend. The long-planned Saturday ceremony will mark Mississippi’s bicentennial of admission into the union….

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