Sunday, December 16, 2007

I know I've bashed religion now and again in this space, and I've probably specifically bashed Christianity here as well. And with good reason. If my relationship with the church was a romantic one, the church would be the ex that I kept changing myself for, trying to make it work, but she never changed for me. And, leaving out the metaphysics, there are some fundamental errors of thought, in my clearly not particularly humble opinion.

But this is the time of year when I like to meditate on the parts of Christianity that I love, because item number one on that list is the Christmas story. The King of Kings, the Son of God, Savior of the World, all that, is born into abject poverty. Well, okay, maybe not abject poverty. I mean, yeah, he's sleeping in a manger and all, but that was really just because he forgot to make reservations. But even if Mary and Joseph were just sort of middle class (he was, after all, a carpenter), it's still a revolutionary story.

Before Jesus came along, kings came from kings, not mangers. (Buddha was a silver-spooned rich kid.) Well, okay, David was a shepherd who became king, but he didn't handle it particularly well, and it's not like he saved the world.

Christianity really is, at its heart, a religion for the poor. Even as it's been adopted by the rich, the powerful, and warped into its own opposite, the actual message of Christ is there at its heart, undercutting the attempts of, say, every Republican presidential candidate to pretend that Jesus was anti-tax, pro-torture, and a big fan of war.

With the Messiah having been born in an animal trough, there was a little seed of thought planted that a poor person could grow up to exceed their expectations and do great things, and that God preferred peace to war. The Enlightenment grew out of those seeds, as did this country. That still doesn't mean we're a Christian nation. The point, actually, is that we're not. Jesus was first and foremost a critic of religion and religious institutions. He never went after the state.

All of that because Joseph didn't have access to Expedia. Pretty cool.

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