Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Hiding Behind the Christmas Tree

Decembers are so predictable: holiday cheer and holiday blues, perky music and glitzy decorations and the pursuit of the 'true meaning of Christmas'. And of course in the background, day after grinding day, the bad news doesn't stop just because it's December. With bombings in Aleppo, rockets landing on Beersheba and alleged mass murders in Colombia, the headlines read like the sickest kind of ABC book.

Photo: primeself-storage.com
But then one day - last Friday to be exact - Americans took notice. People who didn't seem to care on December 13th about thousands killed in Syria or tens of thousands killed in Mexico suddenly reacted on December 14th when 28 were killed in Connecticut. It was, undeniably, a horrific event. It was shocking, gruesome and inconceivable. And so were all the other times people were shot to death, bombed to death, starved or crushed or raped or tortured in Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Haiti, Mali and elsewhere - including, of course, other locations in the United States.

I'm deeply disturbed by the Sandy Hook massacre, as I'm deeply disturbed by every instance of violence I hear about. But what disturbs me much more is the reaction I'm seeing - or, I should say, the lack of reaction. When on Friday my Facebook and Twitter feeds erupted with comments about violence after months of silence on the subject, and Google put a memorial candle on its search page where none had been the day before, I had to face a terrible truth. These people were not, as I had thought, deeply pained every day by the preventable suffering and pointless loss of life that never stops. They were not freshly goaded to hard work by each new headline. They had been looking the other way.

But hold on; it gets worse. A lot of the comments, thankfully, were attempts to brainstorm for a crowdsourced solution. But a surprising number of people actually appealed to the rest of us not to try to stop the killing. They said they needed us to let them focus on their feelings, and that there would be time for such talk after it was all over. Of course there was no reasoning with them, either, because they weren't interested in reason. They weren't motivated to stop the killing. They wanted to go back to looking the other way.

And then there were the people (I have to assume they meant well) who suggested prayer or "spiritual revival" was the answer. Now if prayer is a method of harnessing some cosmic or mystical power and directing it to accomplish specific goals, and if spiritual revival is an evil-erasing phenomenon we can simply wait for, then of course those are good answers. But the people who suggested these things are Christians. They believe in the Bible. And of course the Bible teaches that prayer without faith is useless, and 'faith' that's not demonstrated in action is nothing but hypocrisy.

Some people, it seems, have religion in their lives like they have Christmas trees in their houses. They display it where you can't help but notice, and it looks beautiful. And maybe it is a beautiful, natural thing, full of life and strength, but they've cut it off from its roots and removed it from its context. They've covered it with a variety of baggage taken from elsewhere, very attractive and eye-catching but cheap and fake on close examination. And there's probably nothing wrong with that. It's a tradition and a pretty one; it can add beauty and a sense of magic to daily life. But it's no substitute for living. It can't replace getting out of the pew and actually doing things and caring about people.

This Christmas season, though I desperately wish the terrible events of last Friday hadn't happened, it's my prayer that through this tragedy many people - especially my fellow Americans - will wake up and choose to look at what's happening to so many human beings just like us all over the world, and will choose to help stop it. If enough of us make that choice, I know we can succeed.


  1. The first step is to admit there is a problem.
    Louise Sorensen
    louise3anne twitter

  2. So true, Louise. Any ideas on how to get more people to do that?

  3. I fell to my knees because I believe with all that I am that God exists. I asked Him to care for those who were left behind after this tragedy, and love the souls of those who had been taken from us by a mad whackjob with a gun.

    I don't confuse religion with faith. People call me a Christian because I am a believer in Christ and an ordained minister. However, in depth, I am not, because Christ is a conglomeration of letters to make a sound to describe an idea of the Creator of All that Is.

    I am a devout believe in Him, The God, the One Who Created All that Is. He sat beside me as my son died and told me my little boy would grow up happy and healthy even after doctors asked me to sign organ donor cards. My son didn't stay dead and is now 22, happy and healthy and eating me out of house and home.

    In my time of need, God came to me. Religion didn't show up, God did.

    Like you, I am horrified, saddened, even sick, by the tragedy that struck our nation. It was another tragedy inside our country's borders in the 50+ years I have lived here. It has happened before and it will happen again. No law will stop it, no injunction hold it at bay, and no amount of protests can protect us. It tears at my heart to know it will happen again and even more that there is nothing we can do to stop it.

    Where good people are, the insane nutbag will find a way to hurt. When people live, innocent will die. It sucks but it is true. While it is my belief we should stop trying to find ways to kill each other, the ever inventive madman will find a way.

    That being said, it is my contention that there will never be anything we can do to stop the violence, rather we must find a way to lessen it's hurt and salve the pain after the fact, while still looking for ways to prevent it from happening as much as we can.

    Christmas is wonderful, I love it more than any holiday. Not only because of what it represents, but because my son was born on Christmas Day. Where we're differ, I believe, is I see Christmas for it's deeper meaning, not it's religious roots. Religion was created, and is corrupted by man. Faith in God is a gift from Him. To me, the real meaning of Christmas is to celebrate the giving of one's self to another, to sacrifice me for you.

    Like you, I wish none of the tragedies around the world happened. But time has just one direction. It'd be great if no one died today because someone bombed the shit out of a Mosque or Religionman, who wants more land because his religion says they deserve it, doesn't shoot his rocket propelled grenade at some school.

    But, as I pointed out, entropy flows just one direction. In that I can not change what has happened, I change what I can. I volunteered with other members from my church to go to El Tamarindo to help with clean up back in February because they needed help. I volunteer at least four times a year and demand my kids do the same, not because of my "religion" but because of my faith.

    My solution is as unfeasible as yours. I think religions should cease believing they know what God truly wants and how only they can give the secret solution to getting into heaven, and start preaching about how we as a civilization, can better help those in need, those less fortunate, those without the means to help themselves.

    Faith that people can make a change is, for me, a more feasible goal that getting any religion to change.