Let's have this spirit around for all year
I 'm not particularly religious but like most I can't help being affected by the Christmas season. Not just because of the over-the-top marketing of the season, which gets more tiresome each year, or the fact that our main holidays are organised around it, but because the story of Christ is one of values and actions that are meaningful to more than just the regular religious worshippers amongst us.
What in the hideous world of American politics might be described as Christian values (in a country whose founding document insists on separation of church and state) are in reality universal values.
We should be thankful that we have institutions like the churches who dedicate themselves to reminding us of these principles that are so important to how we live and organise our society.
The golden rule of "doing unto others as you would have done unto you" is a principle of courtesy, respect and egalitarianism. My education might tell me it's from the Bible, but I don't see that it is inconsistent with anything we are told is in the Torah or the Koran, or even the writings of L Ron Hubbard.
Christ's teachings, according to the Gospels, were about the generosity of the human spirit, about making a place for the dispossessed, the different and the disadvantaged, of going out of our way to help the poor. He spoke of, and his actions reflected, the superiority of our human- ness over material objects.
When Christ kicked the money-lenders out of the temple it was a fundamental reflection of his values. It was a truly Christian thing to do.
His advice to a wealthy young man that "it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God" was the ultimate rejection of materiality in favour of spirituality, and presumably was intended to frighten the selfish rich.
As most of us spend the next few days making frenzied last purchases, worrying whether we've got enough things for family and friends, eating fine food and enjoying the generosity of each other, we might want to ask ourselves just how much we pay heed to the values we call Christian, whether we are of that faith or not.
How is it that in a time of relative wealth in our country, certainly compared to 100 years ago, we still have so many living in poverty? How right is it that we have more than a quarter of a million kids living under the poverty line, kids who turn up to school unfed?
Fonterra has done itself no harm this week in expanding its milk in schools programme, but shouldn't we be concerned that it is even necessary? And what difference would it make if Fonterra actually reduced the price of milk? Could more families afford it?
Look at the growing inequality in our society. We now just seem to accept that the heads of large organisations should be paid salaries of hundreds of thousands of dollars, even millions, and that workers at the bottom of the chain should struggle to receive even the minimum wage.
Worse, why is it that when the facts about our poverty are pointed out to us as a nation some of us respond in tones of denial? "It's not the state's job to raise kids and feed them."
"Make the parents go out and work" - never mind about the availability of work. Or is the real implication of that retort that the poor should be grateful for any work going, no matter how appallingly paid?
How is it that, like many nations led by reasonably sensible people, we continue to rack up huge levels of debt? Not just as a nation but as households with huge mortgages and credit card debts?
The people behind this debt are the same ones who shovelled borrowed money to Greece, Spain and Ireland, and who were behind the predictable global financial crisis four years ago. Why haven't these moneylenders been cast out of the temple?
So, I'm happy to embrace the spirit of Christmas, to welcome a time of peace and goodwill to all.
But I'd like it to be this way every day.
If we are going to be dominated by the messages of one religion, even if those messages are of universal application to all of us, then let's at least be consistent all year round.
The real message of Christmas is one of hope.
That by taking seriously the message of egalitarianism, by making a place for the less fortunate, by showing goodwill to all, there is a better way to enjoy our collective wealth, to eliminate poverty and to let each of us achieve our true potential.
Merry Christmas to all readers.
Taranaki Daily News