The Spirit of the Season – Suggestions for a More Just and Intentional Holiday Season

While I don’t consider myself a Christian, I do consider myself a follower of the message of Christ, and I do celebrate Christmas culturally as a way to count my blessings and put forth a little bit of extra love out into this world.  Thus, my friend Sheila suggested I offer some of my suggestions for making this time of year a more just, intentional, and love-filled holiday, especially since the power of our consumption in the U.S. has great potential to change the world and also great potential to do harm in this world.  Perhaps I should have written this blog earlier in the season so that those buying for Hanukkah could have benefit from the list (and considering that most have already done their Christmas shopping), but hopefully you can draw some insight from the post either for this year or holidays of the future.

In no particular order, here are a few

Suggestions for a More Just and Intentional Holiday Season

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Redskins, Sambos, and Whities – Racism in Sports Mascots

I don’t particularly follow sports at all.  Well, that’s a lie.  I do pay pretty close attention to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, and I follow soccer internationally to some degree.  That’s about it, though, and I definitely pay no attention to American football.  However, the other day I was around a TV with ESPN’s SportsCenter playing, and I noticed some of the scores from the weekend’s football games.  The Minnesota Vikings had beaten the Washington Redskins 17 – 13.

Longtime Redskins Mascot, Chief Zee

“Really?” I thought to myself, “It’s almost 2011, and we still have a professional sports team named after a racial slur?”  After all, the term “Redskin” was a largely-derogatory term for Native Americans, used by white people who were disparaging the native peoples of this land.  Worse, the team with the racial slur as a name is the NFL team from our nation’s capital*slaps forehead* What are we thinking?  Was it not bad enough that the folks in D.C. broke almost every single federal treaty signed with Native People?

I can already hear the reaction most defenders of this mascot would have:  But we’re honoring their brave warrior spirit!  They should feel proud that a Native American is the mascot for the Washington Redskins.

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My Journey and My Own Religious Bigotry

Jamie in 2nd Grade - Around the age I started training to be a lector

I’ve had some pretty negative experiences with religion in my life . . . particularly with Christianity.  Well, let me back up and give you a little information about my Christian experience.  I was born and raised Catholic, baptized in the church.  My family went to church every single weekend, and it was made clear to us that going to church was not really a choice.  We had to attend.  I went to Catholic school for 9 years, and I was the one of the youngest lectors in my church’s history, reading the gospel in front of hundreds of people at mass in the from about 9 years old until I was 16.

I was always incredibly inquisitive.  I remember when I was probably in 3rd or 4th grade asking the priest at school what it means if I don’t believe (as Catholics do) that the bread and wine we eat and drink on Sunday is ACTUALLY the body and blood of Christ.  What if I don’t believe that I am actually eating God’s skin and blood?  I was told, “Well, then you’re not really a Catholic.  You see . . . that is one of the core beliefs of Catholicism.”  Of course, then, I fell into line . . . more so out of fear than out of belief.

As I grew older, I became frustrated with much of the hypocrisy I saw in the Catholic church and in other Christian denominations as well.  I read the Gospel and saw the teachings of Christ as a call to serve, as a call to caste off worldly desire and possession and work for justice.  “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the head of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 19:24).  “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours in the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh” (Luke 6:20-21).  Yet I didn’t see this in the Christians or the Christianity practiced around me.

I saw Christ’s message as one of pacifism rather than the bellicose preachings I was hearing from those in my church and elsewhere.  “You have heard it said, ‘An Eye for and Eye, and a Tooth for a Tooth.’  But I say to you, do not resist an evil person.  If anyone strikes you on the cheek, turn to him the other” (Matthew 5:38-39).  Yet I saw Christians leading charges for war around the world.

I saw hypocrisy, and for many years I sowed seeds of doubt.  In time, I came to feel that while Christ has always been one of those I look up to as I search for how to lead my life, I could not say comfortable that Christ and God were one in the same.  I announced to my family that I could no longer attend church with them and that I no longer considered myself Christian.

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