Merry Iconoclastic Christmas

(Photo: Jeff Weese)(Photo: Jeff Weese)

The Houston Chronicle reported late Tuesday night that former president George H.W. Bush was rushed via ambulance to a local hospital after suffering shortness of breath. Despite the fact that the man is in the habit of throwing himself out of perfectly good airplanes to celebrate his birthdays, the truth is that he has passed 90 of them, so the medical precautions being taken to safeguard his health are wise.

This probably makes me a terrible person, but my first thought was to take sharp note, in the context of the times, of what happens when a wealthy white man says, “I can’t breathe.” Not to put too fine a point on it, but really, there it is.

I’m just sayin’. I sincerely hope the man recovers in time to celebrate Christmas at home in the mansion with the rest of his wrecking ball of a family. Everyone deserves a holiday. Hell, even God took a day off.

My grandmother would have scolded me for such talk. “That’s not very Christian of you,” she would have said.

And therein lies the funny part.

If you pay heed to the talking points boiling out of evangelical Christian churches all across the land, as well as media outlets like Fox News, you would be led to believe the United States is a “Christian nation.” There is no passage in the founding documents to confirm this claim – and a mountain of established facts, in fact, to refute it right down the alley and into the dumpster – but this has not ceased the increasing fictionalization of the nation’s creation. If the trend continues, the next generation of benightened evangelical home-schooled children will be raised to believe the Constitution was written by Jesus Christ as he rode a saddled Tyrannosaurus Rex over the graves of Muhammad and Martin Luther King, Jr.

It never ceases to amaze me how the loudest practitioners of Christianity in the United States are so consistently able to sidestep and ignore the core teachings of their religion with apparently no shame whatsoever. For example:

“When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”

That’s the New American Standard Bible version of Matthew 6:5-6, and is arguably the bedrock argument for how and why American “Christianity” has gone viciously sideways. Pray alone? Don’t be seen doing it? But how else will everyone know how falsely pious you are?

Meanwhile, these same so-called Christians overwhelmingly approve of Dick Cheney’s torture program, even in all its grisly details, and according to the polls, likewise don’t seem to have a problem with unarmed Black people being gunned down or choked to death by police all across the country.

Here’s another one to chew on: According to Revelation 1:14-15, Jesus Christ had “hair like wool,” and his feet were “like polished bronze.”

A number of recent bad movies, and a museum hall’s worth of paintings that have poured down over the centuries, depict Jesus as a blue-eyed straight-haired pale-skinned White man come to save us all. I don’t know if he existed, and I have wild doubts about anyone who is declared “divine,” but one thing is certain true fact: Whoever got nailed to those crossties on Golgotha bled from brown skin.

The police are stacking unarmed Black bodies like cordwood, and many in this “Christian” nation cheer them on. Innocent prisoners in Iraq were shredded and tortured; children were reportedly raped in Abu Ghraib by US soldiers in front of their mothers, who then asked to be killed because they could not live with what they had been forced to witness…and the polls say most of this “Christian” nation approves.

Conclusion: The majority of “Christians” in these United States of “Christian” America don’t give a single solitary damn about the lives of people who resemble their “savior” a whole hell of a lot more than they do. The mental and emotional disconnect, fully encompassed, is a Doctoral thesis on how deftly the powerful have played with history to their capital advantage, and on how so many others bought it.

In point of fact: It’s Christmas, upon which we celebrate the birth of Jesus, which is entirely wrong, because the Roman emperor Constantine gave Christianity its first taste of state sponsorship in the year 312, and later Christianized all the standing pagan holidays to consolidate his power. Jesus was not, in fact, born today. At the Council of Nicaea, the emperor and his crew made sure the “Good Book,” and its interpretations, would read the way they wanted it to down through the centuries, and that flex has lasted for close to two thousand years.

Beyond these historical anomalies are the pressing modern realities, chief among which is this madhouse push to acquire personal belongings as a means of celebrating a man who cherished and preached the benefits of poverty and self-denial. Our annual carnival of consumption stands in stark contrast against the legacy of someone who took a whip in hand and beat the holy hell out of the bankers in the temple.

It’s probably considered not “Christian” to say these things, either. But it’s honest, at least.

There is what we believe, and there is what actually happened. There may very well have been a guy born in Bethlehem who spent three years preaching against the order of his day until he was executed for it. That may have happened, but the gross manipulation of that alleged event definitely happened, century after century, at the hands of people not seeking piety but power. So much of our culture has been shaped by the aftermath of the arrogance of the righteous, and we are all the poorer for it.

Jesus was not born today. Constantine told me so. Regardless, have a very Merry Christmas. The best present you can give yourself is an understanding of history. Misleading mythology withers on the vine of knowledge, and that is always a good thing.