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A timeless message for any time of year

Considering the season, chances are Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly is railing about his favorite theme, the so-called “War on Christmas.” I can’t say I blame him. It has made the man a bundle of money.

Frankly, I’ve always considered it a non-issue. When someone wishes me a “Merry Christmas,” I respond in kind. It’s no big deal, being more a matter of common courtesy than politics. I don’t feel offended by the creche on the Greenfield Town Common, although I always chuckle at the blond-haired, blue-eyed baby Jesus, who was, in truth, a dark haired, dark-eyed Jew like me. Still, if O’Reilly wants to behold a true war on the meaning of Christmas, he should go to the malls where frenzied consumers mindlessly shop for worthless junk they’ve been convinced they need. The crass materialism of the holidays has always repelled me and unless I find some way to access the Sacred, I would either go crazy or into deep hibernation. Hence, I anticipate the threefold joys of Hanukkah, Solstice and Midnight Mass. The spiritual energy of these wonderful celebrations is all the same to me.

I always figured that Jesus the Christ must be shaking his heavenly head in wonder watching the annual travesty that takes place in his name. Despite my upbringing, I consider him not only a prominent spiritual teacher but also an actual person who walked the earth in a human body modeling godliness by example.

This year, I think he would be doubly perturbed to watch devotees of his teachings violate them by their targeting of the unfortunate and desperate.

Reading these pages since the election, I’ve noticed an insidious trend among the more conservative members of our nation. Following the low example of Mitt Romney, they’ve taken to parroting his disgraceful claim that those who voted for Barack Obama are shirkers; undeserving parasites who greedily take money from the rest of us. Of course, Romney only received 47 percent of the vote (oh, irony), which implies that a majority of Americans, including veterans, teachers, women and college graduates, among others, are sitting on their duffs waiting for a handout.

I guess if you are ignorant or mean-spirited enough, you could buy such a cruel and bizarre allegation. However, it strikes me as interesting that these same accusers are routinely played for suckers by Wall Street, the banks, Big Oil, Big Insurance, Big Pharma ... what have you. Then they listen to some talk show hooligan who says, “See that woman on welfare over there? Let’s blame HER!” Unfortunately, such deceitful scapegoating seems to work.

Personally, I know two friends, both single mothers, who over the past year lost their jobs. They are conscientious, hard-working women whose unemployment has nothing to do with any lack of skill or integrity. They were downsized and now survive on food stamps and the kindness of their families, circumstances that cause them unnecessary embarrassment. Both are actively seeking work while raising their children. For an arrogant, fortunate son like Romney and his Republican cohorts to defame women like these is nothing less than vile. Shame on them.

Jesus, of course, spent a fair amount of his time administering to those “undeserving,” a fact some of his adherents choose to forget. For him, these were the people who needed his love and support, often prophesying woe to those who deliberately oppressed them to line their own pockets. Jesus also shared his esoteric teachings with thieves, prostitutes and other shady characters, thus earning the lofty censure of the Pharisees, the fundamentalist religious conservatives of his day, who found him a threat to their power and venality.

Jesus had little to say about the social issues of our time, devoting few if any words to gay marriage or abortion. He did, however, have plenty to advocate about compassion for the poor and continuously condemned the hypocrisy of the rich and powerful. In no uncertain terms, he spelled out to the contemporary Mitt Romneys that they had as much of a chance of getting into heaven as a camel going through a needle’s eyes. In short, none, unless they practiced selflessness and generosity.

Lessons from the past are always necessary to ponder today. There is a saying by Nahman of Bratslav, an 18th-century Hasidic sage, that you could gauge a nation’s prosperity by its treatment of the aged. Adding to that thought, I would say you can gauge a nation’s moral compass by its treatment of the poor and struggling. Or lack thereof.

In conclusion, for anyone who approves of targeting those in need in order to fatten the rich, by all means go ahead and do so. But if you profess to be a Christian, the man who initiated your faith might have some choice and inconvenient words to hear. Words we would all be well advised to listen to.

Daniel A. Brown has lived in Franklin County since 1970 as an artist, writer, amateur historian, and photographer. He is a frequent contributor to The Recorder and welcomes feedback at dbrown1793@gmail.com.

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