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Monday, December 26, 2005

The Monday After

A Quick Forward...

Before you read the rest of this post, please keep in mind that I don't hate Christmas. I just don't like what
it's turned into the past few years. I miss the old Christmas, like we had when I was a kid, when we visited all the family and went to church and felt comfortable. These days it's hard to find time to see everyone you want to see, and when you go to church no one welcomes you any more and the preacher doesn't know your name and talks into a microphone to 700 other people who don't know you either... I guess it makes me grumpy that Christmas is all about getting an X-Box 360 this year and not about Christ. (Many churches were actually closed on Christmas Sunday this year as they felt no one would bother to show up. That makes me sad.)

I just want Christmas to be Christmas again. That's all...


Christmas is Over


Christmas is done for another year, and we're all happy. It'll be at least five or six months before we start hearing Christmas music again and the stores start pushing Christmas sales at us. This year I never once heard Bing Crosby sing a Christmas song, but I sure heard a lot of cruddy new neo-conservative Christian rock songs. I wonder what they say if you play them backwards...

This is the first Christmas I remember where people told each other "Let's not exchange gifts this year," and meant it. Most people here in Iowa (my bosses excepted) have little or no money to spare, so Christmas money went to the kids, with the adults skipping the gift thing altogether (Dagmar made homemade gifts for our family and friends this year). In fact, this is the first year I've heard people actually complaining about Christmas. "You know," I heard several times, "Christmas isn't in the Bible anywhere. It's really not a Christian holiday. Christ was born in the spring, not in the winter. We're really celebrating an old pagan holiday..." I also heard, "Did you know the first Christians in America banned Christmas for the first forty years they were here?"

Why the grinchy feelings? Our government, led by United States President George Walker Bush, has effectively spent, squandered and stolen the nation's money. People do not feel safe in their homes any more as our government has failed to protect us from terrorism. People realize that our government is misleading us, and that makes people uneasy. There is now a backlash against Mr. Bush and his merry band of thugs in power, and that backlash is following a slippery slope - "Our president is an ignorant man doing evil things. Our president is a Christian. Therefore Christians are ignorant people doing evil things. Christmas is a Christian holiday. Christmas is evil." The logic, while stretched pretty thin, does indeed exist. Many people I talk to used to view theologically conservative Christians as a harmless group of people who'd rather not think for themselves. Those people now view theologically conservative Christians with active mistrust. "You know," I heard the other day, "that guy over there goes to that whacky church over in Morningside, you'd best stay away from him - you know how Christians are."

I have nothing against Christians, mind you. In fact, I'm pretty sure I qualify as one myself. But I remember when the churches remained more or less apolitical. Now Marion "Pat" Robertson is railing against women, advocating murder, and demanding that the Lord give the Republicans "just one more seat on the Supreme Court." (Mr. Robertson, by the way, is quite the character. He was indeed in the Marine Corps as a young man during the Korean War, however his father intervened when they tried to send him into combat, and young Mr. Robertson was sent to Japan and put in charge of making sure the officer's clubs had enough alcohol. While in Japan, Mr. Robertson had sexual relations with prostitutes and sexually harassed his cleaning lady.) source If Mr. Robertson is an example of this new form of Christianity, I'm not impressed. I have a feeling Jesus would be upset, too. These are, however, the Christians that are pulling strings in our government, and these are the Christians that Mr. Bush seems to enjoy hanging out with.

There is no denying that the right-wing neo-conservative Christian faction truly believes in their faith. They have, however, lost all sense of perspective, and they have no sense of humor about it at all... You can say the same about the fundamentalist Muslims that strap bombs to their sons and send them into crowded stores.

It scares me. It really does.

To me, Christianity should be different. And I believe it was different when I was a kid. I remember when Christian churches were very open and accepting of people of all backgrounds. Anyone could go to a church and feel welcome and safe. This has gradually changed, in my experience. People wore their Sunday best to honor God. Now people wear their Sunday best to show off. If you go to your average church during a service you will not find any beat-up old rustbucket cars in the parking lot, but you WILL find shiny new Cadillacs and Hummers. It seems that the churches these days somehow discourage the poor from worshipping. Many local churches donate to the Soup Kitchen or the Gospel Mission, but when is the last time your church invited the people who use the Soup Kitchen or Gospel Mission to one of their services? It won't happen - people from the Gospel Mission don't have money to put in the collection plate, and they don't vote - therefore they tend to be neglected from weekly services in many churches. (My wife pointed out to me that there are several churches in Sioux City that welcome the poor to their services - so my blanket statements may be erroneous. But in my personal experience, if a homeless person with mental problems and poor hygiene were to show up at a Sunday service, he or she would not be welcomed with open arms. I sincerely hope that there are churches that welcome ALL people to their services.)

Christianity used to be people helping people. The church I used to go to in LeMars often donated money to a mission in Africa. They stopped sending so much money, though, because they needed a new parsonage and they wanted to put glass offices and elevators in the church. The result? A nice new church in Iowa and lots of poor people in Africa. It seems to me that your average neo-conservative Christian feels very smug and good about himself for donating five or ten bucks a week at church. But it also seems likely to me that this same average neo-conservative Christian would never help a homeless man by giving him a job or even a sandwich - this sort of charity is left to the "left-wing bleeding-heart heathen liberals," a group the neo-conservatives feel are trying to ruin the country. How? By being nice to people, that's how.

We need, as a country and a religion, to start looking beyond the literal word of the Bible and realize just what Jesus was trying to teach us. The big lesson I got from Jesus is simple - be nice to each other. The world is a small place. We need to realize that not everyone looks like us, and not everyone thinks like us, but we are ALL human, we ALL deserve respect and dignity, and we ALL are in this together.


A Day Off

This is the first time in a month I've had a day off and been healthy enough to enjoy it! I wonder if my pneumonia and my wife's bronchitis could somehow be linked to the rising energy costs...? I'll have to find a way to blame the Bush administration for this, somehow...

I've not been paying any attention to politics lately, so I'm playing catch-up, and I like what I see, for the most part.

United States President G. Walker Bush was caught spying on U.S. citizens. No one's sure why Mr. Bush endorsed this behavior as there are laws in place to allow the U.S. Government to place wire taps on telephone lines IF they get a warrant from a special court first. It turns out that this special court has hardly ever turned the government's requests for wire taps down. So why did Mr. Bush authorize the National Security Agency to snoop it's own citizens? We'll know for sure when the Judiciary Committee investigates... source (From what little I've read on this issue it sounds like the N.S.A. has listened to, analyzed, or recorded a LOT of phone conversations and e-mail correspondences. In fact, the only criteria to be met for eavesdropping was that one end of the conversation or correspondence take place outside the United States. So when my wife called her relatives in Austria to wish them a merry Christmas the government may have been listening. Did the government read the e-mail joke I sent to a friend in Canada? I dunno... Spooky!) President Bush has broken the law. He should be mindful of what happened to the last Republican president who had a penchant for wiretaps...

I was VERY happy to read about possible censure against Mr. Bush and Vice President Richard Bruce "Dick" Cheney, and investigations into possible impeachment offenses. That makes me happy! Happy happy happy! source

I keep getting e-mails from the democrats telling me that the majority of American citizens now wish to see impeachment hearings against Mr. Bush. I don't know if that's true or not, but it seems to me that if the Republicans tried to impeach President Bill Clinton for piddling around with an intern, well, the Democrats should be able to impeach Mr. Bush for lying to his citizens, spying on his citizens, giving money to his friends (Haliburton), starting a war in Iraq, failing to find Osama bin Laden, condoning torture... The list goes on and on. The question then is, if we CAN impeach Mr. Bush, SHOULD we? I don't know. Regardless of how cavalierly the republicans treated impeachment eight years ago, impeachment is a very serious thing. I'm worried that if we impeach Mr. Bush the republicans will start impeachment hearings on the next democratic president the day after he or she is sworn into office as retribution. But on the other hand, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney have clearly broken the law and should be punished for their actions. They keep spouting how people should take responsibility for their actions - I think it's high time they led by example.

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