Marx and Freud were (partly) right, I think.

Marx, if I understand him correctly, said that religion is like a drug to keep people anesthetized to the systemic injustices enslaving them. Freud, if I understand him correctly, said that religion was basically our wishes which we psychologically project on a heavenly screen.

So, when I compare how we in the Tri-Village area celebrate Christmas with the Christmas story, I have to say that those two guys were pretty perceptive. The story, as recorded in Luke and Matthew, describes Mary and Joseph as going through a pretty difficult time.

Mary pregnant before she’s married, and Joseph knows for sure that he’s not the father.

A long multi-day trudge to Bethlehem. Mary’s water breaks and there are NO VACANCY signs all over town, so she has to deliver in a stable. No breakfast in bed in a birthing suite. The sweet smell of manure. Later on they have to become refugees in Egypt to escape the jealous wrath of an insecure tyrant.

So, what did I experience this Christmas? Beautiful music, fashionable clothes, expensive presents, lots of (anesthetizing) alcohol, colored lights, the romantic glow of candles. Once, when I was in Tokyo, a missionary told me that a lot of non-Christian guys will bring their girlfriends to Christmas Eve services, because the touching music and romantic glow of candles makes it easier for them to get their girlfriends to sleep with them.

Now I don’t have anything against anesthetics per se, especially when I’m having a colonoscopy. I don’t have anything against wishes and dreams, either. I just wish people—and congregations–wouldn’t impose so much of that fantasy land on a holy day which goes to the core of the human predicament.

“For to you a savior is born,” proclaimed the angels to the shepherds. When the savior grew up just about everyone rejected him, because he didn’t save them from their circumstances. What he was doing was trying to save them from themselves.

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Tom Holmes

Tom's been writing about religion – broadly defined – for years in the Journal. Tom's experience as a retired minister and his curiosity about matters of faith will make for an always insightful exploration...

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