Christmastime. Hands down, my favorite time of year. I want to enjoy every second of it. I’m trying very hard to remember what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.
Last month, the MYP took our teenagers to see the movie Wonder. It’s a heartwarming, uplifting story about a boy with a facial deformity learning to live in the world. (I thought the ending was a bit contrived, but that’s how these things go.) The central message of the movie was “If you have a choice between being right and being kind, choose kind.” I like that. It’s an ideal that forces me to try to be a better person. I try to treat people with kindness and respect, generally, and I find that one mostly tends to involve the other. That is to say, treating each other well is right, and people who are considerate to everyone are frequently the same people who have taken the time to consider all sides of a situation in order to come down on the correct side. Obviously it’s not quite that cut-and-dry, which is why “choose kind” is an important value to hold yourself to. Of late, however, I’m finding the high road to be quite a climb, indeed.
I struggle with choosing kind, and, if you are a frequent reader of this column, I think you know why. The word they use is “politics” however that gives our current national discourse far too much credit. It is a battle of ideologies. Fear and selfishness seems to be winning. Or at least they yell the loudest.
This is my disconnect: The best possible solution to any problem is to look at the facts of the situation, discuss varied perspectives, and eventually find common ground. But facts don’t seem to matter anymore. There is a significant portion of the population that will only accept the news equivalent of comfort food. If a truth disagrees with their world view, it is dismissed as “fake news” or a “liberal conspiracy.” You can’t agree about what’s on the horizon when one side thinks the sky is purple.
I’m angry all the time now. The slightest thing will set me off. It makes me want to lash out at people displaying that attitude. I can’t change their minds, so I want to hurt them (verbally). That isn’t the Christian choice. That isn’t choosing kind. I don’t want to be this way. But even Jesus had His breaking point, and it stemmed from the same source. People making a mockery of God’s word.
And that really is what gets me the most. The hypocrisy of it all. Jesus was born in a stable because His pregnant mother was turned away. That is generally considered to have been a bad thing. Yet, the same people reminding everyone to “keep Christ in Christmas” are also fighting to keep out immigrants and refugees. “We’re full,” they say. “No room at the inn.” Christ was born with nothing and He was feted with gifts by royalty. It is why we exchange gifts on Christmas today. Yet, many of those people so generous to family and friends will look at people born into poverty and squalor and dismiss them as “welfare queens” and “the lazy poor.” “No more government handouts.” (Unless they, themselves, are unemployed. They are hard-working Americans who have been unfairly screwed by the government.) “Whatsoever you do to the least of my people, that you do unto me.”
I’m getting away from my point. (And I’m decorating this article with quotation marks like they’re Christmas lights.) Even writing this is making me angry. But I really don’t know what else to do. Being a Christian means loving your neighbor and treating everyone with dignity and respect. But being a Christian also means loving God, and honoring the word of the Lord. Can I be unkind if it is in the service of kindness? That sounds like the ends justifying the means. But in this case the ends are pretty important. So I just don’t know.
If you read my December column last year, you may recall that my favorite Christmas special is A Charlie Brown Christmas. Charlie can’t catch a break. He loves Christmas, and is appalled by how it is being appropriated. He is asked to direct a Christmas play, which he tries to make as true to the Nativity story as possible. Yet he is stymied at every turn by his peers who want to see the Biblical figures not as they were, but as they, themselves are. He is asked to do something to improve the show for everyone, and is ridiculed for it because it isn’t good enough. He has been nice to everyone and done his best, only to be told that he has screwed everything up. But all is not lost.
Eventually the kids come around to see the good that Charlie Brown has done and they try to return his kindness. When he discovers them, he demands answers. “What’s going on here?” CB declares in an accusatory tone. His answer? “Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!” They join together in a hymn of praise as the credits roll.
I love a happy ending. I hope our country can have one, too. It’s Christmas, and I love a good surprise. God bless you. #ChooseKind