Around this time of year we celebrate a season of “goodwill toward men”. The general idea here is that we engage with those around us in a way that says we care about all those aspects of our lives together that make us better. It is a time when we pause to celebrate the better angels of our nature. We want to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, and uplift the spirits of our friends and neighbors through gift-giving.
This is a season when we pause to reflect on the foundational ideals of our civil society. The loud voices of religious conservatism among us call us to faith in their version of the Judeo-Christian value system. They call us to put and keep Christ in Christmas; even as they demonstrate either an ignorance of, or a total denial of the prophetic demands that have given life to this tradition throughout its history.
Inextricably bound with the coming of our Savior are the proclamations of the prophets who understood the undeniable relationship between God’s saving grace and the establishment of Justice in our midst. Can we meaningfully talk about Christ and Christmas in the absence of a real commitment to the proclamations of Amos or Isaiah, or any of the prophets for that matter? Have we not heard the admonition of the prophets echoing in Amos’ appeal to “let justice go rolling on like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream…”?
I speak with the prophets when I declare that we must not have our voices co-opted in what has become an orgy of commercial excess this time of year, while we ignore the political and economic culture that furthers the oppression and marginalization of the disadvantaged among us. Businesses and their political benefactors that deny a livable wage to workers can’t cleanse their consciences by the giving of gift baskets at Thanksgiving and Christmas.
In light of the fundamentalism which insists that we must give prominence to the Biblical foundations of our nation’s origins, it becomes imperative that we raise some fundamental questions about those foundations. What, we must ask, are the social ramifications of a belief system that assumes the “fatherhood” of “a common Creator”? Am I my brother’s keeper? Do I have the right to demand that I be treated as a “fellow person”?
In the tradition of Martin Buber, a prominent twentieth century philosopher, religious thinker, political activist and educator; shall we cultivate amongst ourselves “I-thou” rather than “I-it” relationships? Do we truly believe that all persons are created equal; and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights? Is the pursuit of happiness a birthright of all persons regardless of race, gender, or nationality?
This Season Of Goodwill is a time when we should take every opportunity to get better … If we are not sure how, we should take every opportunity to find out.