Exmas

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.)

Anyway.

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.

Anyway.

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.

18 thoughts on “Exmas

  1. this really is a wonderful post and i pretty much agree with what you are saying.

    but there’s something about giving that makes me feel warm inside. not just to the poor and homeless, but to my family.

    it’s funny, but we don’t tend to go all out during our birthdays. yet Christmas is something wonderful. the meal, the friends, family, gift giving. i enjoy it and love doing it. it makes me think of being a child and getting all giddy to sing Christmas songs, give gifts, do stuff for the aged. yeh i know it’s very commercial now, but how can i stop feeling this way about it? i don’t WANT to stop. it’s like magic.

    i’m agnostic. not sure if there’s a God or many or none at all. i have no clue as to what is out there. i’ve never read the bible either. have not set foot in a church, for sermons, since i was a child. hrm…

    i know i don’t need a 2,000 year old dead guy to tell me what the right thing to do is, but what’s stopping us all from doing the Christian thing all 365 days of the year and NOT just because it’s Christmas?

  2. There are lots of ways to help and in general the one-on-one method won’t often work with the desired results – it must be a continuous and building thing. Learning more than taking. This should be the attitude applied throughout the year, and all of life.

    Trouble is, guilt doesn’t make people feel better, nor make them want to go help. It makes them want to avoid and think of things that make them happy.

    There should be something akin to mandatory military service within the spectrum of government run homes. Then again, I also feel it would be nice if everyone had to work retail and tech support for a few weeks a year. Seeing the other side is the hard part in all this.

  3. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t give to your friends and family, I’m just saying that if you’re going to give, you should try to cast a wide net.

  4. I think they mean that it should be a law or requirement that all citizens work a certain amount of time with people less fortunate than themselves. Group homes, shelters, soup kitchens. Something like that is mandatory right now, since all high school kids have to put in I think 60 hours of community service in order to earn their diplomas these days. I thought that was a good idea, but I’m not sure if high school kids are really grounded enough as a whole to make the most of that experience. This topic slightly deviates from your message in you post and I’m sorry about that. I’ve been seriously considering going and buying as many Tim Hortons gifts cards as I can afford and handing them out downtown. Thanks for inspiring me to spread the good cheer a little further from home this year. I think this would make an awesome new tradition.

  5. When I wrote that I thought to myself: It kinda sounds like I’m saying there should be guns used in Shelters.. eek!

    What I meant was, along with IT and retail but maybe thats just silly, everyone should have to help at least once. Both to see whats going on but also to ensure we have a constant stream of volunteers/conscripts. Kinda like some countries have with mandatory military service – if everyone has to do it, its not a big deal. No one feels singled out, and now your entire citizenry understand more about other people.

  6. My disbelief that there ever was a Jesus due to evidence to the contrary aside, and being raised near Jews, so my biblical knowledge is old testament, my rule is the golden rule.
    It really seems to be the only elegantly sound ethical stance I’ve ever found, just do to others as you would have others do to you. For me, that means just not interacting with most people, as we’ll all be much happier if I remain disengaged.
    It’s also why I not only don’t give anyone a personal gift at all at the solstice, but instead I give all my money to a charity that is working to, among other things, curb the unending human consumption that is making it kinda hard for the other forms of life here. After all, I wouldn’t want them to compete with me in such a way that I can simply not even hope to find the tiniest niche left in which to make a living either.
    Anyway, hope to see you in town some time soon.

  7. i’ve been thinking on and off for a while now about doing something i’ve never done before, and i think your post has given me the prod i needed… or maybe more like the click in my head that says “why not?” and honestly, i have no idea why i’ve never gotten off my ass and done this before.

    my blood type is O negative. i am a universal donor; anyone can receive my blood. and i’ve never given any.

    i have the week off next week. i live a 15 minture bus ride away from the canadian blood services head office on carling ave. i’m going to give somebody the chance to live for christmas :)

  8. I was reading one of Philip K. Dick’s last books, The Divine Invasion, recently. He discusses the perspective in it the the only rule of the Torah is the Golden Rule, and the rest is simply commentary on that. I don’t see that as true personally, the content of Exodus and Leviticus seem a pretty clear mandate and guide to genocide actually, but he was approaching it from a Christian perspective.
    All that to say yes, that is a common interpretation. I still see the Jesus character as fictional, mostly based on Osiris, but I agree that the Golden Rule was the writers main intention to get across with him. I also agree there were some Christian thinkers who emphasised it well. I don’t see how they got it from Mosaic Law though, but enough sources are insistent that’s true that I will concede the point anyway.

  9. Leviticus 19:34 is pretty explicitly “the golden rule,” But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.

    According to Wikipedia, Hillel the Elder, a Babylonian Jewish scholar who lived around the same time as Jesus, was also known for teaching that the most concise explanation of Judaism is “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: this is the whole Law; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.”

    The mandate and guide to genocide that you refer to is separate from the actual “law,” but occurred around the same time that the law was recorded. Just another one of those contradictions that holds together the universe.

  10. Actually, the universe, and my icon, and this entire discussion, are simply constructs of your perceptions that you have no way of verifying.

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