So, another December 25th came and went, and despite the religious right and Fox News pundits bemoaning a phony “war on Christmas,” the commercial holiday came to fruition as it has for generations. And, why shouldn’t it? Americans are bombarded for a couple of months with advertising to spend, charge, and take out loans that reveals the real “reason for the season” is purely commercial; not religion. The claim that Christmas is a religious holiday is about as absurd as an imaginary jolly elf traversing the Earth in one night delivering gifts to naughty and nice children alike, or that the Christian bible mandates celebrating another imaginary person’s birth.
There has been plenty written about Christmas being a Pagan holiday, and it is always a source of wonder how alleged Christians fail to follow their god’s condemnation of mixing “true worship of the one god with foreign gods and traditions.” But very, very few Christians follow that scriptural edict; particularly where commerce and greed is involved. However, there are some Americans who, although possibly not Christians, take Jesus Christ’s words to heart and spend their time, and resources, to help the needy, and not just at Christmas.
One such man is the 90-year-old veteran, Arnold Abbot, who has been arrested by Ft. Lauderdale police for emulating Jesus Christ and handing out food to the homeless. Fortunately for the homeless in Ft. Lauderdale this year, Mr. Abbot was able to give them dinner on Christmas Eve and not have to worry about being nabbed by the police or posting bail in time to rush home and see Santa. Abbot has been arrested after the Florida city passed a harsh ordinance criminalizing people who follow Christ’s admonition to feed the poor; especially in public. The city also passed a provision that forbids homeless people from having possessions in public whether it is Christmas or not. Like many Americans, Ft. Lauderdale’s leaders just cannot countenance homeless people having personal possessions, eating, or allowing anyone to give them food. Something 90 year-old Arnold Abbot knows all too well.
Abbot, a World War II veteran has dutifully helped hand out food to homeless people each Wednesday for years and immediately after the Draconian law went into effect, police were on hand to arrest him. He continued to be arrested and cited for the vile crime of giving food to hungry Americans. After a public outcry, a Broward Circuit Judge, Thomas Lynch, ordered a stay on police enforcing the heinous “feed the poor” crime to allow the city and homeless advocates to enter mediation and decide whether to continue punishing altruists helping feed the hungry. The city leaders just could not tolerate an activist judge ordering even a temporary Christmas provision allowing kind-hearted people to feed the homeless, so they appealed the Judge’s ruling and got the Christmas ruling lifted. It was the city’s way to keep the homeless hungry and send a message that Christmas is for spending money, not showing “goodwill to mankind.”
However, and maybe because it was during the Christmas season, or the adverse media attention, decent members of the public pressured the city and on Monday it did the “Christmas thing” and announced that police would not enforce the ban and arrest people for feeding the hungry during the “peace on Earth, goodwill toward mankind” holidays. However, the city said that barring a permanent judicial decision, or an agreement between the city and homeless advocates, the ban will be back in effect after the holiday season and police can go back to arresting and punishing people for doing exactly as Jesus Christ commanded; feeding the poor.
The reason many people barely tolerate the “Christmas spirit” normally mean-spirited people seem inclined to display during the Winter Holidays is that, if only for a couple of days, human beings are not openly hostile to each other; that is, unless one responds to “Merry Christmas” with a hearty “Happy Holidays.” Two days ago at a mall in California, when a Salvation Army bell-ringer said “Happy Holidays” to a shopper passing by, the shopper went ballistic and berated the elderly volunteer for being an atheist who was “going straight to Hell for dishonoring Jesus and killing Christmas.” Never mind the elderly woman was standing out in the cold begging money for the needy, she was part of the war on Christmas. The Christmas that is a blatantly commercial holiday founded around Pagan traditions that morphed into a two-month commercial crusade all about guilting people to spend money and not following the altruistic directive of the man who preached to give all one’s belongings to the poor.
As a secular humanist, one always hopes that the “goodwill toward mankind” sentiment some people express at Christmas would last throughout the year, but that presupposes the Christian-mindset is founded on Jesus’s commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself.” However, as America appears to be a nation careening toward a population at war with itself over greed and religion, it is seriously astounding that for a couple of days in December around a commercialized Pagan holiday, some Americans at least act like they have goodwill toward other Americans; and for that reason alone it can be Happy Holidays.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.