Monday, December 10, 2007
Is Christmas Political?
I found this nativity scene on the blog of Will "Too Holy for the PCUSA" Spotts. I thought this piece of artwork describes Christmas pretty darn well.
Mr. Spotts will have none of it. Mr. Spotts decided to leave (so he says) the PCUSA because the PCUSA allows the likes of me.
If you think that is hyperbole, you can read his own words. Well, not just me, the ministry of my colleague, Rev. Jim Rigby, also drove Mr. Spotts into recovery.
According to Mr. Spotts, Jim and I represent, "the increasing presence of ‘renegade’, undisciplined Ministers of the Word and Sacrament." That will just not do. He has taken his marbles, but instead of going home, he tosses them wildly at anything Presbyterian.
He particularly does not like the stance the PCUSA took in 2004 against the Israeli oppression of the Palestinian people. Hence, he thinks the nativity scene of the wall blocking visitors to Bethlehem soils his Christmas.
Well, Mr. Spotts, you ought to read the infancy narratives of the gospels again. They are not anything if not political. The infancy narratives, like the gospels themselves, are fictions. They draw from legends in the Hebrew scriptures and from pagan mythology (ie. virgin birth) to tell their story. They are fictions, however, with a bite. They are political fictions. Through creative fiction they paint a picture of the kingdom of God as opposed to the kingdom of "this world" (read Empire).
According to the gospels, Jesus did not come to preach some metaphysical nonsense about life after death and secret spiritual kingdoms. He preached politics, down and dirty. "Whose side are you on?" is the message of the Gospels.
Are you on the side of the powerful and the paranoid, (in our day corporations and militaristic madness) or are you on the side of those who are adversely affected by the politics of empire?
The infancy narratives are set within the framework of powerful and paranoid rulers, Caesar Augustus in Luke, and Herod in Matthew, who represent the politics of empire.
In Luke, we discover Mary, who upon accepting her role as giving birth to Jesus, announces regarding YHWH:
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud
in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
Mary sounds like an undisciplined renegade.
Also, in Luke, from the lips of Jesus, his mother's son:
Then he looked up at his disciples and said:
‘Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
‘Blessed are you who are hungry now,
for you will be filled.
‘Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh....
‘But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
‘Woe to you who are full now,
for you will be hungry.
‘Woe to you who are laughing now,
for you will mourn and weep.
Read 'em and weep, you who think Christmas is not about politics.
I wish you a political Christmas this year. I wish you courage as you make a decision about whose politics you will embrace, remembering that "no decision" is a decision for the status quo.