It has been 2,012 years, give or take, since the birth of a man ‘honored’, nominally, by our largest annual consumer blitz. And as this celebration, in one form or another, has been continuously held for over seventeen centuries, perhaps there is something to it besides cheering everyone up around the Solstice. Our society, which loves more than anything to expound upon Christian values, could certainly take a cue from the gospel writers’ version of what Jesus taught. From Matthew, Chapter 25:
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’…40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Certain ideologies in the United States hold that utter cynicism, essentially social ruthlessness, is the highest form for political practicality and sophistication. Vague praise of Christian values is easy to come by, but except for as applied to the unborn, these values are rarely quantified or acted upon. They are almost never applied to the hungry, the homeless, the sick, and the prisoners in our society. Religious belief is a de facto requirement for political success, but out of the same lips come grave announcements about dependency and free enterprise and who deserves to eat and receive healthcare. It is true that many of those who would take the food away from poor students needing free or reduced lunches, who carry on about the expense of caring for the sick using THC or with government funds, and who decry any effort to increase the comfort of our nations’ record-breaking number of prisoners are, on a personal level, highly charitable. But for the people who wrote the gospels and those who followed them, breaking dependence on material things for the sake of charity and solidarity was not a character building activity or a conscience salving exercise, it was an absolute moral obligation.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s a huge difference between what is a religious obligation for believers of a particular faith and what ought to be a legal obligation for all members of a society, and the blurring of that distance can and does lead to disaster. But when the majority of Americans of both parties believe the president ought to follow a particular spiritual leader, it bears (re-)considering what the first followers of that figure wrote about human beings’ moral obligations to one another.