The Real War on Christmas… December 22, 2012

jon-in-red-hat

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The early followers of Jesus of Nazareth were isolated and persecuted. They had no homeland–no sympathetic government. They were considered to be a fleeting, temporary cult. Therefore, they had no holidays. All the holidays available around them were salutes to gods, goddesses and emperors who were NOT born in a manger in Bethlehem.

These Christ instigators developed the philosophy of redeeming the time. Instead of complaining about their low status on the totem pole, they took the existing celebrations and used them to worship, appreciate and commemorate moments and traditions in their own faith. In so doing, because of things like governments toppling, religions crumbling and just the passage of time changing circumstances, these rag-tag believers ended up inheriting almost all of the holidays.

So Christmas, which for most of its existence, was more or less a feast (which did, at times, lend itself to a bit of debauchery) has become, over the last 150 years, more sacred, more worshipful and more reverent than it ever was in its inception, when it was an explosion of carnal pleasure saluting Mithra.

So all of this fuss–this so-called “war on Christmas” because some geeky atheist in upstate New York wants to file a lawsuit because of a nativity scene in the town square–is utter hogwash. If you’re looking for the real war on Christmas, that conflict is being waged by the very religious system which should be supporting the celebration of the birth of Christ.

First of all, let me make one thing clear. I do believe in the church. The church was Jesus’ dream of a world connected by a great idea through a Golden Rule, and that we could transform the fallen state of affairs gradually through the Spirit to more resemble the Garden of Eden of our origins.

But the church has been overtaken by a religious system which was founded in the style of the Roman Empire and therefore is more interested in relics, traditions and the maintenance of coffers than in the idealistic pursuit of spiritual fulfillment. Let it never be said that I am anti-church–but I am against a religious system that would love to take the joy of Christmas over the birth of the Prince of Peace and focus on turning it into either a “Blue Christmas” or a “Bloody Christmas.”

Let us start with this pseudo intellectual–and recent, I may add–journey which has been taken by religious leaders, to provide comfort and sympathy to those who either don’t like Christmas or are finding themselves experiencing their first December 25th without a loved one, a job or family. We cannot take the joy, meaning and importance of this experience called Nativity and spend one minute trying to dilute it so as not to offend a handful of people who need to understand that sometimes we celebrate on behalf of others instead of licking our own wounds.

I do it every time I go to a shopping mall. Because I have bad knees I am in a wheelchair, but I don’t roll in amongst my walking brethren, bitching and complaining about their presumptuous trodding about. I celebrate them. I worship God that I am still able to be among the living and participate. The more briskly they walk, the more I appreciate the gift they’ve been given and my opportunity to still be a part of the human tribe. You do not overcome depression during Christmas by bypassing the unique opportunity to be surrounded by “good tidings of great joy.”

The second war on Christmas comes from the religious system which is in a desperate hurry to break apart the manger cradle and quickly turn it into a cross. Many of them will not even give us one moment to appreciate that God’s original idea was for the world to receive His son, not to crucify him. The heavens would have rejoiced if mankind had accepted the message from the Sermon on the Mount instead of marching the sermon-teller up a mount and killing him. So they turned Christmas into a bloody holiday. They want the baby to become the lamb of God instead of the sweet promise of God’s love for mankind.

For after all, Christmas was God-ordained. It is Easter that is man-made. It is manking which decided to reject His hope and put nails in the hands that came to heal them.

Yes, the true war on Christmas happens in the pews, as we remove part of the great happiness of the season, supposedly in deference to those who are choosing or experiencing blueness. It also is diminished by religionists who can’t wait to get Jesus to a cross.

I love Christmas. It is a reminder to me that if I accept the birth of true mission, then I don’t ever have to die in the hands of my own stupidity.

Be smart. Atheists will never destroy God, because privately, they want God. Otherwise they wouldn’t spend so much time fussing about it.

Christmas will not be taken apart–because everyone needs it. But we should be careful that we are not pushing the baby away from the “inn crowd” and leaving him out in the cold. There’s nothing to be blue about–even if it’s a sad time for you. Celebrate the joy of others. It’ll do wonders for your soul.

And let’s not crucify Jesus so soon. Let’s at least give him three months to make things better.

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Where do we go from here?… July 6, 2012

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She crinkled up her nose like she had just sniffed a basket full of sweaty socks at the Y.M.C.A. I could tell by her scrunched-up countenance that I was about to receive a little piece of nasty criticism. She asked, “Why don’t you go to bigger places where you could do more good and help more people instead of coming to small towns with congregations with so little attendance?”

She thought she had invented the wheel. She believed she had discovered a weakness in my effort and had uncovered a fragment of stupidity in my planning. I asked her a simple question.

“My dear, what’s working?”

It stumped her. Because even though she was bound and determined to prove her point, there doesn’t seem to be much in our society that is heavily promoted which is accomplishing anything resembling resolution.

If you turn to the world of politics, there is just too much to prove to produce any power. My dear Lord, you have to convince everybody that you’re a reputable Republican or a distinguished Democrat before you are able to step into the ring and do something to improve the circus. By the time you get done being a pundit for all the platforms of your particular political persuasion, you have used up all the time granted you on the stage of opportunity. Neither one of the political parties have all the answers, and worse, neither are even asking the right questions.

You can feel free to go to religion if you want to, but then you find yourself in the unenviable position of having too much to defend. I will tell you, my dear friends, that I am a person of faith and spirituality, but I have absolutely no intention of trying to explain the Bible. Greater men than me have attempted that feat, and have ended up looking overly pious or have been disproven by the flow of knowledge. I am not going to defend anything. If it can’t stand on its own, then it should suffer from its inadequacy. So I can’t participate in religious ceremony because it just has too much to prove.

Corporations are equally as inhibited and waterlogged. There’s just too much profit to be made. When your latest business meeting is about finding ways to cut employees in order to increase your bottom line, more than likely you will never be considered top of the line. Just too much to profit to have the vision for people and better products.

And I have no intentions of leaping into the forefront of the entertainment industry, which is basically occupied by many pseudo-intellectuals who are more historians than history-makers. They would much rather discuss the subtleties of a scene than risk producing new art that challenges and awakens the audience. Just too much to posture. I never like to be around a group of people who believe they prove their worth by how much they know instead of how much they do.

This is the same position Jesus found himself in when he came out of the wilderness and decided it was time to start his work. There were many, many large towns and countless affluent people looming the horizon. He picked Capernaum. It would probably be the last choice of most individuals who were trying to get a pulse on first-century society. It was tiny, behind the times and certainly out of the flow of the general direction of politics, religion, commerce and entertainment.

So why did he do it? Was it just an attempt to be humble? Or did he know something that other people failed to recognize? Let’s take a look at it from his perspective. If the Jewish religion was going to be decimated in the next seventy years and the Roman Empire would cease to exist within four centuries, there was no wisdom in planting the seeds of your ideas in the format of those who were doomed to be left in the history books. It was necessary to find an environment where the elements of renewal would be received because they were viable to everyday life–not because they were trendy.

Here are the keys to making a difference:

1. Find people who still believe in their talent, but want more. Capernaum was a fishing village. They pulled the sustenance to keep them alive out of the nearby water, and they knew they were at the mercy of nature. These people were prepared to learn more about earth and God. If your coffers are full, it’s hard to believe you lack anything.

2. Find people who use their abilities but aren’t stubborn about tradition, and still seek ways to do it better. One morning, Jesus happened upon Peter and his fishing companions and asked them how they had done during their night’s fishing expedition. They had caught nothing. He told them to cast their net on the other side of the boat. At his word, they did–and pulled in the most fish they had seen in years. Had they been conceited, overly frustrated, pious about their knowledge of the sea, or just aggravated with the turns of life, they would have missed out on pulling in 153 fish. That’s right. We get a count.

3. Learn from people who do it better than you. No one is able to swallow pride, so you might want to spit it out instead. But after you spit it out, realize that it’s not nearly as painful to learn and improve as it is to repeat and fail. Check around. See if there’s anyone who knows more than you do and quietly acquire their storehouse of information.

4. Find people who are willing to stop critiquing. America is obsessed with judging things. Having an opinion is dangerously like stopping on the freeway in the middle of seventy-mile-an-hour traffic. You may know why you did it, but it won’t keep people from wanting to smack you. Keep driving, but learn as you go. Don’t criticize. It makes you look arrogant and stupid.

5. And finally, get somewhere with people who understand that they need to be happy. None of us like grouchy folks. We try to be tolerant but they really do tick us off, the thought being: “We’ve got just as much reason to be grouchy as they do. Why don’t they shut up?” If you can find people who understand that happiness is everything, so therefore, choosing to even fake it from time to time while you’re waiting for it to reappear is the safest way to live, you will find yourself in an environment where God feels like He can show up without having to dodging too many complaints.

So–to give a final answer to my lady who thought she was enlightening me with the need to be more famous, I tell her this:

Nothing is going to happen in this country unless the people who live in the grass roots, who don’t have too much to prove, too much to defend, too much to profit and too much to posture, step forward, use their happiness and learn better ways to love the world and use what they’ve got.

Where do we go from here?

One by one, to the next person who selects a smile instead of frowning at all the choices available.

   

The producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity

You can’t go home again–unless?… July 5, 2012

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Pursuing an insidious inclination towards promptness, I arrived at the home of my son, daughter-in-law and mushrooming three-year-old grandson in East Nashville yesterday at eleven o’clock to participate in a most-profound, yet predictable, Independence Day cookout. I had not seen them since Christmas. Therefore, there was a “roots-and-barley” part of my Father-Earth soul that was yearning to return to the plantation and spy my young’uns.

The makeup of the list of participants included four of my sons, a grandson, one daughter-in-law, one mother of that daughter-in-law, two old friends, their daughter and her new boyfriend (whom no one had met as of yet). Also present was my wife of forty-one years and my traveling partner of seventeen summers.

It was an intriguing mixture. As I looked around the room, I realized I’d had my fingers in all of the human pies present in one way or another. Even the mother of my daughter-in-law and I had had some serious disagreements about the burgeoning relationship between her child and mine. I think she believed me to be a heretic from her particular rendition of Christianity, which, from my perspective, doesn’t get many free nights away from the campus of Bob Jones University.

I came to enjoy myself–maybe even to have a sensation of “coming home.” But I should have taken some wisdom from my heavenly Father, who handled His particular rendition of parenting and creative expression much more wisely. For after all, God created the heavens and the earth–and then He left for a long time. It’s estimated by the scientific community that the separation was billions of years. Upon returning, He discovered that His creative efforts had not progressed very far, and were without form and somewhat useless. So being the genius He was, He added water and air into the mixture–and departed again. As any good scientist will tell you, an atmosphere of oxygen in the presence of water, where the spores of life are readily available, will ultimately set in motion an avalanche of evolution.

The Creator continued to return at various intervals to review the progress of this ever-evolving creation of His, occasionally inserting some desirable conditions and always ending His visitation to the “cook-out” with a proclamation that “it was good.”

That’s the way I felt yesterday. I didn’t feel like I was coming home. Seasoned traveler that I am, I have learned that home is wherever I am allowed to be all that Goid has made me to be. But what I did feel was a great creative pride of having set something in motion and allowing it to evolve without much interference from me. The end result is that some of my creations became birds, some fish, some primates and some, mammals. I think we even have a few trees and vines mingled in there somewhere. They each take the air and water that I’ve provided and use it to grow in different directions.

But also like the great creation story, I realize that each and every one of them will reach a point in their evolution where they’re going to get tired of “monkeying around,” and would like to learn the most effective way towards leaping over the missing links in life and discovering the true passion and potential of being humans, created in the image of God. I’m not trying to be overly dramatic or analytical; it’s just that every child born of woman and conceived by the seed of man has to eventually realize that just subsisting in the natural order and sucking up resources around you will not translate you into the world of greater intelligence.

That requires a second creation–another meeting in a garden where God touches us and allows us to stop “apeing” the society around us, as we become truly human. Until then, we will go through fits of independence and fuss about the climate and difficulties in life, because we have not yet taken our place as the caretakers of the earth, responsible to be merciful to the animals, respectful of Mother Nature and equal to our brothers and sisters.

I was moved to be with my family–but I was also delighted to leave and let them continue their evolution.

  • One of them is about to become a parent and another, ready to give birth.
  • One is exploring the newness of romantic relationship, and the other wiggled on the hook as if he was being cast in a really bad Ben Stiller movie.
  • Two of them were aging, desperately needing to stop talking about their maladies and realize that the greatest joy in getting older is ripening to maturity, understanding that Day Two of that process does initiate rotting.
  • One is dealing with his own fatherhood issues from a distance.
  • Another wants to enjoy being the mother of a new grandchild while still inexplicably expressing some disapproval over the whole miracle.
  • And the other two are young and free of entanglements–trying to keep body and hearth in the same proximity while increasing their value, both as men and potentially as lovers.
  • Then I have two buddies–one of which, after many of years of being a devoted mother, would like to know what it’s like to be an upstart, youthful novice, with new places to go; and finally, a friend, who for some reason, likes to mount stages with me and squawk her best to often less-than-appreciative audiences.

Evolution. It does not belong to Darwin or to scientists. It was God’s idea. And the intelligent ones will follow His example–create, give air, breath and water–and allow the offspring of their efforts to find new avenues of progression.

You CAN go home, friends, as long as you don’t insist that everything has to stay the same. It won’t. And if you pout and object, you will be marched like the naughty dinosaur you are, to the tarpits for extinction.

I love all my creations. I love them so much that I allow them to be left alone, to evolve. I do hope that each and every one of them, at some point, will realize that hanging around in the jungle scratching yourself is no replacement for taking dominion over the earth and using the brain God gave you. I do hope they all will arrive at the gates of Eden, seeking entrance.

Then, I hope we can stand together, created in the image of God, view the journey of our upward mobility and opine in unison: “Damn! It was good.”

   

The producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity

emPATHy … June 1, 2012

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Slavery.

For two hundred and fifty years in the United States of America, owning another person for your own profit and gain was considered acceptable. It may be difficult for some people to believe that such a mindset existed in our country–but trying to project shame on the event will not help us to understand what caused the phenomenon, and why even a hundred and fifty years later, this country wrestles with the issue of racial equality.

You see, a funny thing happened to Christianity after the resurrection of Jesus. After several different jaunts and jiggles, it ended up in the hands of the Roman Empire, which was completely conquered by individuals collectively known as Barbarians. Perhaps we should take offense–because they are our ancestors. They are the Visigoths, Huns, Angles, Vikings and Saxons.

The belief in Jesus survived this barbarian takeover, but they were not comfortable with the message of the Messiah. They saw no future in “loving your enemies” or “doing unto others as you would have them do unto you,” so they transformed the lifestyle of Christianity into a religious practice which mainly focused on the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. Even when they became Protestants, they still maintained many of the relics, rituals and superstitions of the Mother Church. Basically they came up with a theology that was very Old Testament, in the sense that it was believed to be quite proper to club someone over the head to get his leg of lamb. But instead of using Moses as the deliverer of the people to the Promised Land, Jesus the Christ was inserted as the new law-giver and the King of Kings. They managed to extract his message from this religious transformation and leave behind the suffering savior who will one day become the conquering king. Yes, Jesus became the ultimate Viking. Although he was defeated at Calvary, he resurrected to one day return in vengeance, to judge the quick and the dead.

These barbarians–our ancestors–made the journey across the Atlantic and settled in the New World. They immediately had a problem. The terrain, the weather, the lack of funds and the nature of this new kingdom gave them a swift kick in the pants. So rather than referring back to the message of Jesus–to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”–they sought for more practical solutions. You might ask yourself how good Christian people ever resorted to slavery? We always make poor choices when we allow the bankers to control our conscience. It became a really easy three-step process once money became the issue.

1. “We need cheap labor or free workers so we can make money.”

2. “Those people down in Africa don’t look like us so they must not be as good as we are.”

3. “Therefore, we will go down, get them, and use them to create profit for ourselves.”

Gone was any thought of empathy. The definition of empathy is very simple. It literally means the action of understanding. Do you really think our ancestors sat down for even five minutes to try to understand what it was like for a black man or woman to be snatched from their homes, thrown on a ship for a long journey and then to arrive in a new country without freedom? Do you think they spent any time at all wondering if there was a way to improve the financial situation in their lives without destroying the lives of others? You see, long before a decision was made by the Dutch trade ships to bring black human cargo to this country as slaves, our ancestors had abandoned the true message of Jesus, true spirituality and therefore, any sense of a world view. They had turned Christianity into a religion of conquering and therefore, made it convenient to use it for their own campaign.

So since we haven’t had a major spiritual renewal in our world for a long time, and the blood and thoughts of our ancestors vibrate in our beings one hundred and fifty years later, we are therefore still under the curse of believing that there are some people who are not as good as we are. It makes us self-righteous, and after all, all decisions to be “holier than thou” end up with the participants looking ignorant.

This leads us to the second step oo the path of true spirituality and a world view–empathy. The action of understanding–which was exemplified in the philosophy of Jesus by the statement, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Was there any plantation owner in Georgia who would have allowed his son or daughter to be treated the way the slaves were in his county? Of course not. But once you believe that somebody is less than you, it is very easy to explain your abuse of him or her.

Somewhere along the line, as Rome was being pillaged by our ancestors, the message of true empathy and hope was abandoned in favor of force.  Because of that, we still are not sure what to do with the tainted history of our country’s involvement in slavery. There were people like Thomas Jefferson who knew it was wrong, and even wrote about it being a terrible necessity, but continued to own slaves, piously trying to overcome that shortcoming by freeing them at his death. Let’s be honest–if they needed to be freed at his death, they probably deserved to be free while he was alive.

I do not think we will ever get our footing in this country on the issue of racial equality until we abandon the Viking interpretation of Christianity and instead, adopt the universal message of Jesus, which is empathy: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I’ve even simplified it down this year to a broader spectrum of application: “No one is better than anyone else.”

Whether people act deprived or depraved in our presence does not change the fact that God is no respecter of persons. But it is not very difficult to make the journey into bigotry when you are financially strapped and your religion has been stripped of all of its empathy. Even today we continue to withhold civil rights from some of our citizens because we don’t think they’re as good as we are.  It is our generation’s offshoot of slavery.

So we now have two parts of the path–and you can immediately see how they move in synchronicity.

  • Apathy: “I don’t care what you do and what you are. I will not judge you. It’s not my business. “
  • Empathy: “I have made a decision to do unto others as I would have them do unto me.  In other words, ‘no one is better than anyone else.'”

We cannot shame our nation into regretting slavery, but what we can do is realize that slavery was caused by greed overtaking our sense of understanding the true heart of Jesus–and whenever greed is at work, we are willing to do anything to anybody to get what we want.

 

The producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity

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