Skip this post if you don’t like reading about religion.
I’m not a big fan of the holiday season, as I might’ve maybe mentioned. Once or twice.
I’m not religious. I’ll see my mom on Christmas Eve, but I don’t have a tree at home, and I don’t often give gifts. I do observe the winter solstice, but it’s much more of an observation than it is a celebration, and my head isn’t in the game as much as it was when I was younger and wiser. I was, however, raised Roman Catholic, and as a child I was deeply religious. I attended Catholic school, weekly mass, and received the sacraments; Confirmation, the Eucharist, the Sacrament of Penance… I sang in the Church Choir, and I was an Altar Boy. (I hear they’re called Altar Servers now, but we didn’t let girls in the club back then.)
All of this to say that I have a fairly solid understanding of Catholicism, and although it seems I’m in the minority in this, my experiences with it were very positive.
To be clear, I’m not saying Catholicism itself is positive, or making any statement about religion proper, just my own experience with it.
I was lucky enough to have churches and schools full of priests and teachers who were mostly bright and caring. Most importantly, they placed a sharp focus on deriving moral direction from the bible itself, rather than any overarching Church dogma. It’s a cliche, but it almost always came down to the question, “what would Jesus do?”
…and the thing about JC (we go way back) is that he’s a really great person to draw lessons from, and if most Christians paid any attention to what he said, the world would be a much better place. None of the hot-topic religious issues in public debate today (abortion, ‘the gay’, etc) get more than a dozen lines in the bible. No one cares about them. Jesus certainly doesn’t care about them. There are thousands and thousands of verses and sermons on peacemaking, community and forgiveness, but the most clear message in all of the bible is on poverty. When a rich man asked Jesus what he needed to do to get into heaven, Jesus told him that rich people don’t go to heaven, so he needed to sell all his worldly shit and give the money to the homeless.
All of this to say that this is the only time of year in which the public celebration of a religious holiday actually makes me angry. You’ve got families spending thousands of dollars on themselves and their friends in the spirit of giving, hyperextended retail hours, credit limit raises and extra loans — millions of Canadians showing their holiday spirit by buying, buying, buying.
If you’re celebrating Christmas this year, try giving to the people you won’t see every day, who aren’t your family or coworkers or friends you get drunk with. There are a lot of very, very cold people downtown who could use a coffee, a hot meal, or some warm gloves and thermal socks.
It’s the Christian thing to do.
And if, like me, you’re not Christian, then you shouldn’t need a 2,000 year old dead guy to tell you it’s the right thing to do.