On the night Jesus was born, his country was occupied by a foreign army that was huge, cruel, and efficient. It was the military might of the world. The Jewish religious leaders were collaborators with Rome who focused on keeping their status rather than serving the people. Illness, poverty, and disability were considered to be signs of God's disfavor, and thus these people were to be shunned. Shortly after his birth, he and his family were forced to flee to Egypt to escape probable death. They were refugees for about three years. They were like the refugees that flee from their homes today as the result of war, famine, and political persecution. When he returned to his native land and later became an adult, he started a new ministry of healing and teaching the common people.
Over a few decades after his death and resurrection, his small handful of followers of his teaching of a new way of life grew in numbers and spread across the globe. Three hundred years later the religion that developed out of his teaching became known as Christianity, conquered the Roman Empire, and became the official state religion.
None of this came about easily or without much suffering and not always for the right purposes. But as we see today, not everyone who calls themselves Christian practice his way of life or follow his commands. Over two thousand years we have fractured into hundreds of splinter groups who not only differ in theology but also primarily seek political dominance.
Hopefulness does not equate with passive submission. Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war challenges us to be aggressive in fighting evil. But the reality is that we already are engaged in a series of wars within Islam in the world and in within the Protestant religion within this country. All leaders claim that God is on their side. War is not the solution, but how do we bring about peace? With love and charity for those who would hurt and despise us. But that admonition of Jesus is hard to follow.
How can I let go of this terrible anger that I feel? I do not wish to be a martyr. I cannot understand how America has regressed to the great divides of a hundred years ago in wealth and poverty, morality, racism, and oppression of minorities. The current political philosophy is that money is king and political power comes from the top down, and common people are its servants. Have we reverted to a 21st Century Feudalism?
We have developed science and technology, but we have not learned how to create and sustain social justice. In the 18th and 19th Centuries some nations descended into literal revolutions that convulsed the world into economic and political chaos. The aristocrats of 18th Century America wrote our Constitution and Bill of Rights that created a revolution in how to govern. They not only saved the nation; they created a new democracy.
In the late 19th Century, America experienced a great awakening with a religious fervor that occurred outside the church and spread across rural America and renewed the nation. Today we are again divided by race, gender, status, and economic class. Are we facing another precipice? Who will speak for social justice? We have Bernie Sanders Our Revolution and the Reverend William Barber's Moral Majority, but will they be enough to recover our freedom?
I believe that the forward march of history will prevail, even though progress occurs in fits and starts. We're experiencing a great backlash against our first African-American President. The hatred that has been repressed for eight years is now out in the open, and we will continue to see more violence. But the blood-letting eventually will exhaust itself, and common sense may once again return to the land.
May the dawn of a new year bring a renewal of hope in America.