Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Politicizing Jesus at Christmas

It never ceases to amaze me how the American Left likes to politicize Christmas for its own agenda.  I will certainly grant that the American Right does this, too. But the American Left is largely non Christian and those of its adherents who do consider themselves as Christians are only nominally Christians, thinking that nothing is special about Christianity and that it can be mingled and syncretized with other religious belief systems and philosophies.  I know why they do it, of course. What greater authority is there for Christians (i.e. those who practice it) than Christ?  If Christ can be made as the poster child for any number of the left's pet causes then these Christians will have no choice but to become leftists themselves.

In order to make these arguments, the leftists first have to mold Jesus in such a way that makes Him exactly what they want Him to be.  Consider the following myths and half-truths told about Jesus by the left at this time of year, every year.  These are in no particular order.

Jesus was poor.

Jesus was an illegal immigrant.

Jesus was a minority.

Jesus was homeless.

Jesus' race had just come out of genocide.

Jesus' land was being exploited for its resources.

Jesus' mother was unwed (and maybe she should have stayed that way for the sake of empowering her).

Jesus' arrival was heralded only by a few poor country shepherds.

All these are brought up to show that Jesus, if he were here now, would side with the leftist agenda.  Each of these can be debunked.

Jesus was poor.  Maybe.  He certainly wasn't rich. The vast majority of the people in the ancient world lived at or below what we would call the poverty line.  But Jesus' father, Joseph, was a carpenter.  It is reasonable to assume that he made a good living as Jesus grew up in a home in Nazareth.  It is also reasonable to assume that as Jesus was well traveled in Judaea and Galilee that he must have had some material resources to do so.  Also when you consider that Mary's side of the family included priests such as Zecharias, many of whom were wealthy, that some of that might have passed on to her and to her family.  Jesus certainly talked a lot about compassion about the poor, but you don't necessarily have to be poor to speak with compassion about them.

Jesus was an illegal immigrant. This refers to the flight of Jesus, Joseph and Mary into Egypt following Herod's decree that all new borns be slaughtered.  They went into Egypt without a visa and did the work that native Egyptians didn't want themselves.  Hogwash.  First of all, there was no Roman law (as both Egypt and Judaea were Roman provinces--Egypt was an imperial province under direct control of the Roman Emperor himself) which prohibited travel from one province to another (unless you were a Roman senator who tried to go into an imperial province without the Emperor's permission; hence why the Roman hero Germanicus got into such trouble with the Emperor Tiberius).  For someone to be illegal there must be a law broken.  No law broken, no illegality.  Also, it is important to note that there were checks made on the Roman roads by soldiers so it is not unreasonable to assume that Jesus, Joseph and Mary were inquired as to their origins and destinations.

Jesus was a minority.  In Egypt, probably. However, there was a sizable Jewish community in Egypt at this time.  It was in Egypt that the Hebrew Scriptures were first translated into Greek (known as the Septuagint).  The Jewish Philosopher Philo had his home in AlexandriaJesus, Mary and Joseph probably settled in a Jewish community, but we don't know much more than that.

Jesus was homeless.  Patently false.  If we're talking about the manger, Jesus was born there because his parents couldn't get a hotel room!  Even the Scripture acknowledges that. Here's what St. Luke says:  She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.   Big difference.

Jesus' race was a victim of genocide.  Defeated in war certainly.  But genocide?  The Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Alexander the Great, the Seleucids and the Romans all had control of this area since about 700 B.C. There was still a Jewish race and it was still growing both within Palestine and without.

Jesus' land was being exploited for its resources.  The Roman occupation of Judaea was for long term strategic purposes.  That does not mean that the Romans were benevolent despots.  They frequently derided Jewish customs and its belief in only "The One God."  But the Romans knew that to keep order, they couldn't do so merely with the sword.  If you objectively examine Roman history, the amount of rebellions against Roman rule can be counted on two hands.  The people under Rome's rule did not rebel.  Why?  Because the Romans gave their "oppressed" subjects the creature comforts of civilization.  I'm reminded of the part of Monty Python's Life of Brian when the People's Front of Judaea is trying to rationalize how the Romans' gifts of aqueducts, sanitation, order, wine, roads, education, irrigation, medicine, public baths, etc. still warrants their expulsion.  (You can see that clip below; always a laugh)


Jesus' mother was unwed (and maybe she should have stayed that way for the sake of empowering her).  She was betrothed to an older man when she found out she was going to bear the Saviour of the Nations.  Joseph was going to divorce her but married her anyway, though he was much older and she, only a teenager.  And Joseph was no absentee father. Though we don't hear much of  anything of him after the flight into Egypt and back to Nazareth (except for what the Proto Evangelion of James says), he probably took his duties as a surrogate parent quite seriously.  Jesus was thus born into a family with a father and a mother as well as half-brothers and half-sisters (from Joseph's previous marriage).

Jesus' arrival was heralded only by a few poor country shepherds.  Did we forget the part about a great multitude of the heavenly host appearing and singing "Glory to God in the Highest and on earth, peace, good will towards men?"

All of this goes to show that Jesus' birth does not fit the left's narrative.  Even if it is twisted, the facts speak for themselves.  Jesus can and should be a model for the political debates we have in this country, but if Christ only came to serve a political point, then we have really missed the point of His coming in the flesh:  God came in the flesh, assuming everything that we are so that we may be totally healed and so that we, though mortal men, may become [as] God, not in essence but in grace.

We should also remember that as soon as Jesus is born, we are immediately set out on the journey to Golgotha and the Cross.  And there is no political narrative that can monopolize or even have part of that for its own.

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