“Take it easy today,” Pauline said, as I dropped off a box of raisins. Then reaching into my pockets I emptied them of the ten eggs I had stuffed in there on my way over from the chicken coop. “We’ve got to do something with all these eggs,” I told Pauline, “I can’t keep up with them.” Thankfully, Pauline had a lot of cakes she was cooking for her daughter in Nassau so I knew some of them would get put to good use. “She’s got her spoiled,” Maxine had teased her sister a couple days before. That was the night that my post-Haiti illness had gotten really bad; the night before I had gone to Nassau to get tests. After that sleepless night, a day in Nassau, and another restful night back here on Eleuthera, I finally had a minute to ponder what I had seen on the televisions in the Nassau airport.
It had been my first television in almost two months, and what I saw made me feel worse than my physical discomfort. The only thing worse than being sick in bed today on Eleuthera was being reminded that back in the States there was sickness in people’s hearts and heads. Ignorance, racism, privilege, sin, pride – that was all I could think of as I watched Megyn Kelly and her predominantly, if not entirely, white panel of commentators insist upon the whiteness of both Santa Claus and Jesus Christ.
Oh Megyn Kelly, I mourned, you picked the wrong week for this. For this is the third week in Advent. This is Mary’s week. This is the week that we are reminded, if we have ears to hear, of what the real purpose of all of this season is. And this defense of the whiteness of Santa Claus and Jesus could not possible be more out of place.
People have been celebrating Jon Stewart’s “take-down” of the debate, as he pointed out that Megyn’s statement “just because it makes you uncomfortable, doesn’t mean it needs to change” was a pretty good definition for oppression.
While Jon Stewart and Jessica William’s commentary, including the video of what Vatican researchers have proposed Saint Nicolas actually looked like, did help me to cope through humor and fact with the confusing and harmful fiction I had seen on my screen – I think there is someone else who can give us a better explanation.
There is another historical figure, a young woman, part of an oppressed minority group within a large empire. She lived in a part of the country that people mocked, saying “what good can come from Galilee.” She was at risk of execution by stoning when she became pregnant without being married, until her boyfriend stepped up and volunteered to be the baby daddy.
So, go ahead, Mary, have at it. What is the whole point of this Christmas thing?
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.”
For anyone who thinks that Christmas is something that the powerful, the rich, the dominant, the privileged, or dare I say, the white, should struggle to maintain control of – then you can have that celebration of power and consumerism – and you can keep it. You can purchase and consume all the gifts you want while God “fills the hungry with good things, and sends the rich away empty.” You can continue to think you have a right to be offended if someone says Happy Holidays to you instead of Merry Christmas, rather than celebrating that they were kind enough to wish you well. You can focus your celebration on your own ability to control – to control what others say, what others think, how others celebrate.
You can continue to fight to maintain your own power and dominance in a nation where the rapid decline in the Caucasian majority population in comparison to persons of color is making you uncomfortable and even a tad bit frightened. Perhaps you will even decide to try to protect the majority status of “white” by extending the definition graciously to include people of middle eastern descent, like Jesus and Saint Nickolaus (you know the way you eventually did with the poor Irish immigrants that I descended from in order to maintain “white” as the majority population by including our hordes of people). Because no matter what you say, the reality that “just because it makes you uncomfortable, does not mean it needs to change” – is a myth that people of privilege are trying to opt out of while imposing on others. So when not only the numbers of persons of color rise, but when their voices also rise to speak a truth that makes the dominant, the privileged, the ones in control uncomfortable – we people of privilege try to flip the script, and by raising our voices louder than theirs think that we can drown out the truth that we do not want to hear.
Whatever you decide to do, and however you decide to celebrate, that is your freedom and your choice and I leave it up to you. All I ask is that you give the rest of the world the freedom to celebrate as they want rather than trying to bully people in the time when we celebrate the birth of the anti-bully God. Some may choose not to celebrate at all. Some may choose to make up their own holidays to celebrate. Some may have other religious celebrations that you have no reasons to disrespect.
Perhaps, most of all, I would ask that you allow those who want to celebrate the birth of their savior as their liberation from slavery to sin and death to do so, rather than imposing upon millions of Christians your own dominant view of Christmas. Step back, please, from making this time of the year a time of oppression by insisting that “just because it makes you uncomfortable, doesn’t mean it needs to change.”
Well, I will tell you what makes me uncomfortable. It makes me uncomfortable when people pretend that Jesus looked like me. I want my Jesus to be Jewish, because I can only understand who Jesus is through the story of the people of Israel – both the suffering that came before him and the suffering that came after. I like that my Jesus is from Galilee, because it gives Archbishop Elias Chacour – the Palestinian, Christian, citizen of the nation of Israel and the leader of the church in Galilee – it gives Elias Chacour the right to joke about Jesus as a kid from this Palestinian leader’s hometown who was always making trouble.
And I like that my Jesus was born to an unwed teenager girl who was an ethnic minority in an underestimated town; because my savior chose to enter the world in one of the riskiest ways possible, when his mother could easily have been stoned for being pregnant out of wedlock; when the king of the region could have slain him as he did hundreds of other young boys at that time. I love that my Jesus chose that because it showed exactly Mary’s point – that Jesus came to lift up the humble, the oppressed, and the underestimated.
Jesus chose to enter the world as an “at-risk” child so that he could bring love and deliverance and hope to all the world calls “at-risk” and puts “at-risk.” As the boot of the world’s powerful came down on the downtrodden, my savior was born to put himself in the way. To join those whose lives hang in the balance below the boot, and to say “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Oh the risk, the suffering and the death that my Jesus endured to bring that message of hope. He went through so much. He gave up so much. And now you want to distort his message and turn it into something else? Another attempt to promote oppression, to remind the downtrodden that you have the power, and to once again say “white is right” even in the very face of the one who came to tear down that kind of oppression.
O Lord, forgive them, for they know not what they do.