Thoughts by Richard Bleil
Before we go any further, let me just say “Merry Christmas” to all of you. Yes, today is Christmas, 2021, which seems odd to me because I believe Christmas 2020 was about thirteen days ago. And, no doubt, I write something like this every year, just as I write something like I did yesterday every year. The major holidays are always rich sources for blog posts, but every year, I write them new. They may sound very similar because my thinking about major holidays don’t really change much from one year to the next, but they’re always actually new posts.
As Christmas has been highly marketed it might seem as though we forget the original meaning of the holiday. As you no doubt already know, it’s the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, the savior in the eyes of Christians. There are some things that we know are not factually accurate about the holiday. For example, in the Bible, at the time of Christ’s birth the shepherds are described as tending to their sheep in the fields, which probably sets the birth of Christ sometime in the spring or summer, and yet, here we are in the dead of winter celebrating Christ’s birthday.
Christ was around so many years ago that it is hard to ascertain what is fact, what is apocryphal, what has been metaphorical and what is just flat out wrong. We know that at the time of Christ, news spread via bards from town to town, and their stories were often embellished more and more at each new town to gain favor in the eyes of the town for food and money. There are scholars that have been working to determine what is true, but we do know that many of the legends, like Christmas being in December, have been changed on purpose. For example, Roman pagans celebrated a major holiday around this time many centuries ago, so the church changed the birth date of Christ to correspond with this pagan holiday. The purpose was to overshadow and eventually wipe out the pagan holiday in favor of the Christian celebration.
So many of my friends take the Bible as literal and unquestionable truth. I once asked a friend of mine, a geologist who was a high ranked administrator at a very Christian college how it is that resources like gold end up concentrated in very specific places (gold mines) as opposed to being distributed more evenly around the world. His response to me was, quite literally, that there is no explanation consistent with the Bible, and therefore we won’t discuss it. And he was a very good friend of mine.
At that point, I came to realize just how restrictive absolute belief in the Bible could be. I apologize to anybody who finds offense at this statement, but let’s be honest about this. Even if Christ did know everything, do you suppose the people’s scientific knowledge had evolved to the point to understand evolution, the big bang or quantum theory? If Christ did know, certainly he wouldn’t have taught science, and therefore it wouldn’t have been put into the Bible. How would he have explained things like where we came from? The easiest way would be, are you ready for this…God made it so.
Unfortunately, too many people have warped the lessons of Christianity towards their own political ends. Anything they don’t like is a violation of the Bible, and anything they do like seems to be in the Bible. Regardless, for example, of how you might feel about abortion laws, the Bible does state that life begins, quite literally, when God first breathes air into the lungs of the child and not before. Nowhere does it claim that life begins when some future unknown technology can detect a flutter that might be taken as a heartbeat.
The point here is not to try to argue for or against women’s rights, but to argue for respect for each other and tolerance. I was in a faculty meeting at that same Christian college as we discussed a student who worked at a “gentleman’s club”, not as a dancer but as a bartender. I was the one who argued that even Christ treated Mary Magdalene as a woman of honor and respect. This student has such a big heart, such high moral standards and is so open and easy that she is exactly the kind of person who should be in places like that to help those who end up there because of bad circumstances and who might need a hand back out. And yet, there I was, a non-Christian amongst Christians trying to teach them about tolerance, acceptance and love.
As a society, we’ve been beating on each other, berating anybody with a difference of opinion, warping the word of the Bible for politics. It’s time to learn tolerance, acceptance and love. I hope you have family with whom to celebrate this season, but at the same time, let us all strive to renew these traditions and values, to let go of past prejudices and hate and walk in the shoes of the man whom we celebrate on this day.