As most adults know, Christmas is a fabricated celebration of the birth of Jesus, made up long ago to coincide with ancient festivals held on the winter solstice. Jesus, scholars think, was born in the spring.
“Star of Bethlehem” fable notwithstanding, I was awestruck by the sight of the brightest object I’ve ever seen in the night sky on the winter solstice this year.
Going out to look at the stars at midnight as I always do before bed, I observed what appeared to be an incoming plane to the northeast, just over the rooftops. This object is too bright to be a planet, I thought.
Standing in the chill for a minute, the brilliant object didn’t move. I went in and got the binoculars. It was orb, shining with the brilliance of a concentrated and distant full moon.
Having seen dazzling Venus in the pre-dawn sky recently, perhaps it was Venus rising, but whatever it was, it left me gobsmacked with mystery and wonder.
As any teenager knows, Jesus and Christmas have very little to do with each other. But things have grown immeasurably worse this consumeristic season, a “record year” for UPS.
Support for flagrant evil now passes for Christianity in America. Apostasy is what is called for, defined as “the abandonment or renunciation of religious belief.”
Belief and belief systems prevent the experiencing of sacredness beyond knowledge, the known, and the mind of man. Indeed, perhaps one cannot become authentically religious without first becoming an apostate.
Why do many Christians now serve the lord of darkness? (I’m not referring to the odious excuse for a man and president, Donald Trump, but whatever thing pulls his strings.)
I don’t know, but it’s fitting to ask, as Emerson did in the 19th century: “Is it not time to present this matter of Christianity exactly as it is, to take away all false reverence for Jesus, and not mistake the stream for the source?”
As Thomas Jefferson wrote after his presidency in “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth,” “The whole history of the Gospels is so defective and doubtful that it seems vain to attempt minute enquiry into it…[However] in the New Testament there is internal evidence that parts of it have proceeded from an extraordinary man; and that other parts are the fabric of very inferior minds. It is as easy to separate those parts, as it is to pick diamonds from dunghills.”
I was raised Catholic when the Mass was still in Latin, and left the Church at 18 after careful research and reflection. The worst argument for remaining a Catholic appears in the New York Times this Christmas.
“The case for remaining a Catholic is that all this has happened before and will happen again,” writes Ross Douthat, referring to the filth of pedophile priests, ecclesiastical cover-ups, and Vatican corruption. We need to doubt that very much.
Douthat’s apologia amounts to a rationalization of pedophilia committed by purported ‘men of God,’ grown like deadly bacteria in the petri dish of the Roman Catholic Church. As such, it too is evil.
Why, in the Christian tradition, was Jesus “born of a virgin?” According to Douthat and the ‘begats’ that are read at the beginning of Mass on Christmas, Jesus was descended from “a collection of tyrants, child-murderers and worse, none of them remotely pious and many actively at war with the prophets sent by God.”
Because in the story (myth in the worst sense of the word) the innocence of Jesus had to be so pure that the innocence of a newborn baby was not enough; he had to be born of a Virgin.
To get some insight into the human being Jesus actually was, and how his mission failed, it helps to examine his life from a Jewish perspective.
Jews of course don’t believe Jesus was the Messiah. They are right; Jesus was not “Christ the savior” because his mission failed, though it failed because the Jewish leaders of Roman times rejected him—not because the Romans crucified him.
This doesn’t fall into the ‘Jews killed Jesus’ slander and anti-Semitism. I’m merely pointing out the contradictions inherent in the Judeo-Christian tradition.
Douthat claims that Jews believe, “we deserved every exile and punishment we received.” I wonder how Jewish people feel about an ugly statement like that, Jews who are survivors of innumerable programs, and descendants of the most horrific program of all, the Holocaust? I doubt they believe that their parents and grandparents deserved the ‘punishments’ and exterminations of Auschwitz and Treblinka.
To my heart and mind, Jesus attempted to bring about a radical change in the human heart (Jew and Gentile alike) during the Roman occupation of Judea over 2000 years ago. Given the world the Judeo-Christian tradition has largely wrought, he obviously failed.
Jesus himself didn’t understand what went wrong, crying out on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Deifying Jesus in the centuries that followed, and getting in bed with Constantine and forming the Roman Catholic Church, made the Catholic Church corrupt from its inception.
So yes, “all this has happened before.” But must it continue to happen? Isn’t that the question Jesus would ask this Christmas of Catholics, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and atheists?