Wednesday, December 22, 2010


December 22, 2010

Happy Christmas everybody. Yes, Every One. Not just Christians alone but Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, all. This is a time of peace on earth and goodwill to all mankind. Even unto folks who don’t honor the birth of Christ or who worship no god whatsoever.
As a festival, Christmas surely isn’t exclusive: I’m certain Santa doesn’t withhold goodies from good children anywhere. He was, after all, Saint Nicholas, a big-hearted bishop in the Greek Orthodox church who lived in what is now Turkey and only later, ahem, emigrated to the North Pole.
Not to trivialize the devotional aspect of Christmas. The Nativity is what this holy-day is really all about – a blessed time for Christians. Yet I do believe that one religion’s season of giving and joy can, and should, be shared with those of other doctrines. Why not? In fact why does religion have to be so alarmingly clannish!
First off, let me say this: I’m not of any fixed persuasion. To those who refuse to read any further I’ll mention my disappointment, because being a free thinker allows me to step back and look at faith as a whole
Plainly said, I don’t believe it’s necessary to sing along with other people if you want to look up and communicate with the Big Gentleman. What’s wrong with having your own private chat with Him? Moreover, I think I’m a pretty laid-back chap, a giver not a taker, law-abiding, love children, animals, my fellow man...
But apparently none of that’s any good.
A neighbor said this altruism doesn’t matter and that unless I’m a member of his congregation I’m hell-bound. His church has 50 worshippers. If he’s right, it means 87,261 other Walton County residents are doomed along with me to an all-too-toasty eternity - and most all are good churchgoing Christians.
Not now, but when it began, Kwanzaa was a substitute religion for African-Americans, skin color alone being the defining factor. Must our good will divide us, each group telling the rest: we’re right, y’all are wrong!
We saw faith fragmented to ghastly effect with Jim Jones’ People’s Temple, with David Koresh’s Branch Davidians and the Heaven’s Gate suicide crowd who thought a spaceship was coming to collect their souls. Hundreds of needless deaths.
And why do some of the most fervent believers despise and destroy those who don’t think the way they do? Millions were killed through religious conflicts over the centuries and we’re seeing death again with the anti-abortion people.
You’re so devoted to preserving life that you commit murder - how much sense does that make? Science and theology may debate the exact point between conception and birth that constitutes a human being, but the doctor’s life that Scott Roeder took – during a Sunday morning church service, no less - was definitely a real one.
Sure, the Right To Life is a noble idea. But what about the right to live one’s life? And yet we have politicians vowing to bulldoze, I should say bully, victims into giving birth to the progeny of their rapists. Incest victims, children themselves, forced to deliver a relative’s baby and raise it.
Raising a child to age 18 costs a quarter million dollars plus school fees. A staunch pro-life friend-of-a-friend says she contributes ten bucks regularly through her church. Not good enough, Kathy: if your conviction is so strong you should bring up that unwanted child-of-rape yourself instead of victimizing the victim all over again.
Blind piety tramples on humanity. We scorn people who express their belief in a different way. So-and-so’s a Muslim, a Hindu. So what? Couldn’t those folks be just as pure of thought as any of us? Does anyone doubt the Dalai Lama is a decent fellow?
No question, violence in the name of Allah or Buddha or Krishna or Jesus goes against anything that I would call religion. Same goes for hatred in general, and yes, like everyone, I do have trouble suppressing my loathing for the bastards who attacked us and would do so again. Yet theirs is a political jihad, nothing to do with faith, even though they say it is. They’re not Islam. Roeder isn’t Christianity.
I guess I’m advocating mutual respect of all creeds. I don’t normally quote from songs or movies but I recall the Austin Lounge Lizards’ great parody “Jesus Loves Me But He Can’t Stand You”. I thought Jesus loved everyone.
And I salute Charles Bronson as Blue Buffalo, welcoming Rod Steiger’s aimless Confederate soldier O’Meara into the Sioux tribe - Run Of The Arrow: 1957 - with the astute observation: “Same god, different name.”
And that’s the key.
Whether we whisper or sing or shout it, in English, Spanish or Urdu, in Yiddish or Arabic, whether we’re in a group or alone, handling holy books or venomous snakes, in the end we’re all praying, in our own way, to Almighty God. Merry, peaceful Christmas, one and all!


© 2010 Fred Wehner is a journalist formerly with the Daily Mail in London, who then founded and ran the New York News Agency before settling in Monroe 21 years ago.