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Religion & Spirituality

Keeping Christ in Christmas



Faith is believing what you know ain’t so. - Mark Twain

Paul Richard Harris, Axis of Logic

This article is made possible with the generous contributions of readers like you. Thank you!

Pregnancy test - the Virgin Mary pees on a stick There is an annual wringing of hands by many in the Christian community, especially in Canada and the United States. It seems they are perturbed by the celebration of Christmas as it is generally conducted in the West – that is, a grand exuberance of consumerism and the spirit of commercial activity.
 
No doubt there are some who are earnest in their dislike of the season of gluttony. But let’s face it, who the hell are they to deny that Christmas – and indeed Christians – are a mockery of the man himself.
 
Here’s what it means to be a Christian today:

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Nativity


 

  • Duty to Warn Editor's Note: Reverend Kevin Annett was fired, without cause, from his successfully rejuvenated United Church of Canada (UCC) parish in Port Alberni, British Columbia (the United Church of Canada has no connection to the United Church of Christ [UCC] in the United States) when he refused to stop his probing into his church’s role in the abusive Residential Schools for Aboriginal children in Canada, where as many as 50,000 children died. (The Residential School system in Canada was essentially the same as the racist church-operated Mission School system for American Indian children in the US).
  • Rev Annett’s persistence in this investigative work has resulted in two books and an award-winning documentary (entitled “Unrepentant”) about the sobering history of the Canadian government’s and the Canadian Christian church’s genocidal activities against First nation’s children. A feature film depicting Rev Annett’s powerful story has been produced but has yet to obtain a distributor.
  • Duty to Warn: Modern day Genocide in Canada

Reverend Kevin D. Annett, Guest, Duty to Warn
 
Submitted by Evergreene Digest Contributing Editor Gary Kohls

If you like reading this article, consider contributing a cuppa jove to Evergreene Digest--using the donation button in the above right-hand corner—so we can bring you more just like it.

The last Christmas we were all together hangs over memory like the fog did that year in the Alberni valley. It was a time of gathering, two years and more of labor summoning so many together where once there were but a few. And it was a time of ending.

The church stewards had warned me to expect an overflow crowd at the Christmas Eve service, and like overgrown elves they had busied themselves around the building, stringing wires and sound systems in the cold auditorium kept that way to save money. The snows had come early, and our food bank was already depleted.

With my eldest daughter who was but five, I had walked to the church one morning in the week before yule, pondering the cold and the sermon, when I met the one who would pierce the fog that year for us. She stood patiently at the locked door, her brown eyes relaxing as we approached. Her bare hand gestured at me.

“You’re that minister, ain’t you?” she mumbled to me, as daughter Clare fell back and grabbed my hand.

Before I could answer, the stranger smiled and nodded, and uttered with noticeable pleasure at her double entendre,

“They say you give it out seven days a week!”

I smiled too, gripping Clare’s hand reassuringly and replying, “If you mean food, we’re a bit short, but you’re welcome to whatever’s left.”

She nodded again, and waited while I unlocked the door and picked up Clare, who was clinging to me by then.

The basement was even more frigid than the outside, but the woman doffed her torn overcoat and sighed loudly as we approached the food bank locker.

“For all the good it’ll do …” she said, as I unlocked the pantry and surveyed the few cans and bags lying there.

I turned and really looked at her for the first time. She was younger than she had sounded, but a dark, cancerous growth marred her upper lip, and a deep scar ran down her face and neck. Her eyes were kindness, and in that way, very aboriginal.

“I’m sorry there’s not more …” I began, since back then I still saw things in terms of giving. But she shook her head, and instead of saying anything, she looked at Clare, and the two of them exchanged a smile for the first time.

I stared, confused, at the cupboard so bare, and heard her finally utter,
“Them people in church, you know what they need?”

I set Clare down and shook my head.

“They need Him. They sing about Him, and pretend they know Him, but hell, they wouldn’t spot Him even if He came and bit ‘em on their ass.”

I smiled at that one, and even dared a mild chuckle.

“You doin’ a Christmas play for the kids?” she continued.

“Yeah”.

“I bet it’s the usual bullshit with angels and shepherds, right?”

I nodded.

“That don’t mean nuthin’ to those people. Why don’t you do a story about … well, like, if He came to Port Alberni to be born, right now?”

I finally laughed, feeling very happy. She smiled too, walked over to the cupboard and picked up a small bag of rice. Donning her coat, she nodded her thanks, and said,

“My bet is Him and Mary and Joseph, they’d end up in the Petrocan garage, down River road. The owner there lets us sleep in the back sometimes.”

And then she was gone.

I didn’t try explaining the stranger to anyone, ever, or what her words had done to me. All I did was lock the food cupboard and lead Clare up to my office, where I cranked up the heat and set her to drawing. And then I sat at my desk and I wrote for the rest of the day.

The kids in church were no problem at all. They got it, immediately. The Indians who dared to mingle in the pews that night with all the ponderous white people also took to the amateur performance like they had composed it themselves, and laughed with familiarity as the holy family was turned away first by the local cops, and then hotel owners, and finally by church after church after church.

It was mostly the official Christians who were shocked into open-mouthed incredulity at the coming to life of something they thought they knew all about. As the children spoke their lines, I swear I saw parishioners jump and writhe like there were tacks scattered on the pews.

“Joe, I’m getting ready to have this kid. You’d better find us a place real friggin' quick.”

“I’m trying, Mary, but Jehovah! Nobody will answer their door! I guess it’s ‘cause we’re low lifes.”

“Look! There’s a church up ahead. I bet they’ll help us!”

If you believe the Bible, whoever He was loved to poke fun at his listeners and shock them out of their fog, and our play would have made him proud. As the eight-year old girl who played Mary pleaded fruitlessly for help from a kid adorned in oversized clerical garb, and was covered in scorn by the young “priest”, I heard a sad moan rise from the congregation.

But things took a turn when Mary and Joseph came upon an Indian, played by one of the aboriginal kids.

“Sir, will you help us? My wife’s going to have a baby …”

“Sure!” replied the native kid with gusto. “I got a spot in a shed behind the gas station down the road. The owner lets us all sleep in there!”

And in a contrived scene of boxes and cans scattered where our communion table normally stood, Mary had her baby, as erstwhile homeless men with fake beards and a stray Rez dog looked on, and one of the witnesses urged Mary to keep her newborn quiet lest the Mounties hear his cries and bust everyone for vagrancy.

Voices were subdued that night in the church hall over coffee, cookies and Christmas punch, and the normally dull gazes and banalities about the time of year were oddly absent. The Indians kept nodding and smiling at me, saying little, and not having to; and the kids were happy too, still in costume and playing with the local stray who had posed as the Rez dog in the performance that would always be talked about. It was the white congregants who seemed most pregnant that night, but they couldn’t speak of it.

It was one of my last services with them, and somehow they all knew it, since we had all entered the story by then. For a churchly Herod had already heard a rumor, and dispatched assassins to stop a birth, and me, even though it was already too late.

My daughter Clare was not running and rolling with the other kids, but in her manner joined me quietly with her younger sister Elinor in tow. Our trio stood there, amidst the thoughtful looks and unspoken love, and person after person came to us and grasped our hands, or embraced us with glistening eyes. An aging Dutch woman named Omma van Beek struggled towards me in her walker and pressed her trembling lips on my cheek, and said something to me in her native tongue as the tears fell unashamedly from both of us.

Later, when we were scattered and lost, I would remember that moment like no other, as if something in Omma’s tears washed away all the filth and loss that were to follow. And perhaps that looming nightfall touched my heart just then, for I gave a shudder as I looked at my children, almost glimpsing the coming divorce, and I held my daughters close as if that would keep them safe and near to me forever.
The snow was falling again as we left the darkened building, kissing us gently like it had done years before when as a baby, Clare had struggled with me on a toboggan through the deep drifts of my first charge in Pierson, Manitoba, on another Christmas Eve. The quiet flakes blessed us with memory, and settled in love on the whole of creation, even on the unmarked graves of children up at the old Indian residential school.

The old Byzantine icon depicts Jesus as a baby, hugging his worried mother while she stares ahead into his bloody future: her eyes turned in grief to the viewer, yet his loving eyes seeking her, past the moment, past even his own death.

The image may still hang in the basement of my church, where I left it.

Related:

  • Rev Annett will be in the Duluth area as part of a US book tour the first weekend of February 2012. Look for various public opportunities in January to view his documentary, which can be seen in its entirety here.
  • There will be a number of opportunities for people in the Duluth area to dialogue with Rev Annett and others from the American Indian community concerning these important stories. The dates of his Duluth visit include Feb 2 -7, 2012. Watch this space for more information.


Duty to Warn: Modern day Genocide in Canada, Gary G. Kohls, MD, Evergreene Digest

  • About the widespread and cunningly hidden crimes against humanity that were perpetrated against innocent First Nation children over the past century in residential schools across Canada.
  • Your Crime is Not Diminished by Time, or Apology


 

The Hijacking of Jesus


 

  • Belatedly as it may be, the Christian church is finally wrenching Christ away from the politicos and the moneychangers, and reclaiming Him as both radical reformer and a symbol of universal connection, love and justice.
  • Where Were You When They Crucified My Movement?
  • Occupy Wall St - The Revolution Is Love

Lynne Mctaggart

Submitted by Evergreene Digest Contributing Editor Amelia Kroeger

This article is made possible with the generous contributions of readers like you. Thank you!

Anyone who believes that the Occupy Movement is a ragtag batch of hippies who have had their day now that the police are cracking down had better look again both at the churches, the civil rights leaders and religious leaders now joining in the fray.

Yesterday (Dec 15), the Reverend Jesse Jackson, veteran of four decades of civil rights protest, showed up at Occupy London’s headquarters at St. Paul’s cathedral, during their ‘Occupy Everything’ day of protests. He likened the Occupy movement, which he called a ‘global spirit’ now sweeping the world, to the civil rights struggles by Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu chose the same day to release a message of solidarity with the Occupy Movement and appealed to Trinity Church in South Africa to house the protesters.

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Related:

Where Were You When They Crucified My Movement? Chris Hedges, Truthdig

  • Chris Hedges gave an abbreviated version of this talk Saturday morning (Dec 3) in Liberty Square in New York City as part of an appeal to Trinity Church to turn over to the Occupy Wall Street movement an empty lot, known as Duarte Square, that the church owns at Canal Street and 6th Avenue. Occupy Wall Street protesters, following the call, began a hunger strike at the gates of the church-owned property. Three of the demonstrators were arrested Sunday on charges of trespassing, and three others took their places.
  • Occupy Wall St - The Revolution Is Love
  • Jesus and the 99 Percent

Occupy Wall St - The Revolution Is Love, fiercelightfilms, YouTube
Beautiful articulation of the deeper meaning of this movement

 

Dutch Catholic sexual abuse revealed in report


 

  • Thousands of children abused in Dutch Catholic institutions, says independent commission
  • UK court: Catholic Church liable for priest wrongs
  • Bishops Are Behind the 'Let Women Die' Act and the Push Against Birth Control--Even As They're Under Fire for Sex Abuse Scandals


Mike Corder, Associated Press / Guardian

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Wim Deetman, chairman of the commission on sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic church. Photograph: Robert Vos/AFP/Getty Images

Thousands of children suffered sexual abuse in Dutch Catholic institutions, and church officials failed to adequately address the abuse or help the victims, according to a long-awaited investigation released Friday (Dec 16).

The report by the an independent commission said Catholic officials failed to tackle the widespread abuse in an attempt to prevent scandals. The suspected number of abuse victims who spent some of their youth in church institutions likely lies somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000, according to a summary of the report investigating allegations of abuse dating back to 1945.

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Related:

UK court: Catholic Church liable for priest wrongs, Associated Press / Guardian UK

  • A British court has ruled that the Catholic Church can be held liable for wrongs committed by priests.
  • The Men Behind The War On Women

Bishops Are Behind the 'Let Women Die' Act and the Push Against Birth Control--Even As They're Under Fire for Sex Abuse Scandals, Sarah Seltzer, AlterNet

  • The first bishop in the US is indicted for child sex-abuse coverup; meanwhile, his colleagues push for laws that will intrude on our sexual freedom.
  • The Men Behind The War On Women


 

Gay marriage - a Lutheran leader's plea to Catholic bishops


 

May I share a word with all of you who now lead the Roman Catholic community of faith in Minnesota?

Herbert W. Chilstrom,
Minneapolis (MN) Star Tribune

This article is made possible with the generous contributions of readers like you. Thank you!

The former presiding bishop of the nation's largest Lutheran denomination says church leaders should embrace and engage all.

To my brothers -- the Catholic bishops of Minnesota:

In 1976 I was elected a Lutheran bishop in Minnesota -- one of seven such Lutheran leaders in the state. Over the next years one of the highlights of my time in office was the annual noon-to-noon retreat with our eight Catholic counterparts in the state.

The bond that developed between us was deep and respectful. We shared our differences; we celebrated our likenesses. My friendship with Archbishop John Roach and Bishop Raymond Lucker, in particular, is a blessing I will treasure as long as I live.

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Would Gandhi Disband Occupy?



 

The heart of Gandhi’s teaching was the call to take personal responsibility, to risk everything, in unceasing direct nonviolent action until your society achieves greatness.

Ira Chernus, Religion Dispatches

This article is made possible with the generous contributions of readers like you. Thank you!

Gandhi makes an appearance

The New York Times, the gray champion of moderate reform, has done the impossible: they’ve found a Gandhi scholar who managed to make the Mahatma, our greatest hero of radical resistance, endorse the critics of Occupy Wall Street.


“Gandhi did not believe in enemies: he worked on the premise that solutions emerged only from cooperation,” writes Ian Desai in a recent Times op-ed. He goes on to claim that Gandhi’s slogan would have been “We are the 100%”—which is, like so much of the piece, both true and deceptive.

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The High Price of Materialism

  • The problems of excess materialism
  • The promises of a healthier, more just, and more sustainable life
  • Celebrating Spiritual Death On Black Friday
  • Great holiday gifts for $10 or less

centernewdream, YouTube

Thanks to Evergreene Digest readers Michael Sodos and Jeanette Eastman for this contribution.


This article is made possible with the generous contributions of readers like you. Thank you!

Psychologist Tim Kasser discusses how America's culture of consumerism undermines our well-being. When people buy into the ever-present marketing messages that "the good life" is "the goods life," they not only use up Earth's limited resources, but they are less happy and less inclined toward helping others. The animation both lays out the problems of excess materialism and points toward solutions that promise a healthier, more just, and more sustainable life.



Animation by Squid and Beard.

Produced by the Center for a New American Dream

Related:

Learn more at
Center for a New American Dream

Celebrating Spiritual Death On Black Friday, Coleen Rowley, Huffington Post
Martin Luther King Jr. warned that a country in continuous war approaches spiritual death. I wonder if he realized that this extinction would play out in the nation's shopping malls as, like the Romans, we distract ourselves with bread and circuses from the crimes and catastrophes that surround us, and the responsibilities we avoid.

Great holiday gifts for $10 or less, Dana Dratch, Bankrate.com

  • Gifts are meant to be thoughtful (and) not necessarily expensive," Mendelsohn says. "And this is where that comes in more than any other gift -- when you're in a pinch to spend just a small amount of money
  • The High Price of Materialism
     

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