Tuesday, December 19, 2006

More in the breach than the observance

There is a fundamental wisdom embedded in Christianity which only really gets acknowledged at Christmas time. It has nothing to do with sacrificing sons, or redeeming the sins of humankind through corporal suffering or any of that other Greek gilding which was overlayed on the teaching of Yshu ben Yosef ("Jezus Christ"). It is that simple hand carved wisdom that caring for others is the only way the human enterprise is ever going to work. That personal means are irrelevant and that a giving heart is the only way to heaven.
There is nothing exclusive in this insight. Bhuddism and Islam certainly give this aspect of life due consideration. But there is a humility in the simplicity of the lessons of Yshu which give them a certain reasonance across the centuries. Yshu did not concern himself with rule or jurisprudence as Mahommed did. Nor did he try and provide a detailed path to enlightenment as Siddharta Guatama did. He basically talked to ordinary people in ordinary language and told them that despite the apparent success of the monumentally corrupt Roman Empire ( at that point ruled by the Paetorian general Sejanus in the name of the Emperor Trajan (who was too busy abusing children in Capri), that being nice to people mattered.
"Anyone with two ears had better listen" as he used to say.
It is this lack of complexity which is so important. And it is telling that in most Christian societies it is the commonplace miracle of birth which is celebrated as the largest Christian festival rather than the more tortured interpretation of Yshu's death. Indeed Easter/Ishtar has become more about bunny rabbits and chocolate eggs than crosses, nails and whippings. Chistmas is a festival of birth and childhood and a reminder of the greatest gift we ever get which is that of innocence.
The surprising thing is that after two millennia of apalling butchery by Christians of Christians (and others) that this emphasis, this lesson, still persists.
To call Christian nations "christian" is certainly a misnomer. As Neitzsche insisted christianity is a slave's religion, not a rulers one. As Shakespeare translated it "render unto Caesar, that which is Casesars". Christianity is not about nationhood, it is about a personal sense of letting go of the material to embrace our inner humanity. It is the opposite of 'market forces', 'profit maximising entrepreneurs' or rational self-interest. Thus we observe the sanctity of Christmas in a tortured combination of market excitement and customer exasperation, in order to deliver the illusion of an idea to children who live in a simple world of rational self-interest. It is, most certainly, a truly peculiar phenomenon.

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