Friday, December 25, 2015

What Really Matters

One of my Christmas traditions for the last few years has been to spend some time contemplating what "kid oakland" wrote 11 years ago about the historical Jesus, whose birth so many of us celebrate today.
Let me tell you something about the Jesus that I know.
He was a real man. Born in a poor region to working poor parents. He loved learning, he loved his mother and his father.
But he left them and spent his life with the poor, the outcast, the rejected, the defiled, the sick, the sinners, the bedraggled, the bereft, the self-hating, the lonely, the banished, the foul, the miserable, the desperate and finally, those sick with their own power.
He did this, not because of his ideology or his creed. He did this not because of his doctrine. He did this, quite simply, because he loved them. He preferred them.
Because of the events of the last few months, this year I also want to reflect on what Kareem Abdul-Jabar wrote recently: My Very Muslim Christmas.
Although I am Muslim, I have a deep affection and respect for Christmas. Affection because I was raised Catholic and the holiday season is a nostalgic hug as comforting as a warm crackling fire and hot apple cider. Respect because praising the significance of the birth of Jesus is an important part of the Muslim faith...
Christmas time is a wave of good cheer that washes over most people, regardless of their religious affiliations or lack of one. It’s the time when we imagine the best person we could be—and then try to be that person...We feel good knowing that such a kind and gentle person lurks within us. And each year we try to coax that lovely person to stay a little longer past the season. Because without that person, baby, it’s cold outside.
However, recent events, from terrorist attacks to police killings of unarmed African Americans, have heightened public awareness that America is in the midst of an identity crisis. On the one hand, Americans see themselves as the great international melting pot that welcomes huddled masses of all religions and ethnic backgrounds. On the other hand, they’re terrified that too much diversity mixed in the pot will dilute our white Christian majority. The resulting American stew might be a little darker in appearance and a little less likely to display a nativity scene at Christmas...
The speed of change is disorienting for many Americans and makes them fearful that someday they, too, will be marginalized. This fear is, in part, behind the rising anti-Muslim sentiment in the country....
This campaign against Muslim Americans spits in the face of everything Christmas stands for. Peace on Earth. Good will toward others. Being the best person we can be...
Muslims, Christians and Jews worship the same God, just in different ways. Those differences can make each group wary of the other, until they realize that a fundamental teaching in all three religions is to co-exist in peace with others. True, we can all dig into each other’s holy texts for isolated quotes that seem to contradict this, and we can all air each other’s historical dirty laundry when each acted contrary to this teaching. But Christmas reminds us all that what really matters is how we behave here and now toward each other.
In the end, Kareem's message takes us back to the same one we hear when we look at the actual life that Jesus led. Hmmm...maybe there's something to all that.