“. . . and wild and sweet the words repeat. . . “

No one hungry here

No one hungry here

Christmas comes every year and I think about two of the most common human experiences that will most likely never be mine. The first is being so certain of my religion or my political ideas or my tribal allegiance that I am willing to do anything to defend one or the other by any means necessary. The other is being so poor that I do not know which will come first, a meal or death by starvation.

I know lots of people who have the first experience of certainty. I have never, to my knowledge, met anyone who has experienced the second. My guess is no one who is intimately acquainted with religious, political, or tribal certainty knows anyone who is in danger of starving to death.

It stands to reason. One could not know without doubt that they understand whatever their religion teaches, or that the organization of their society is absolutely the best, or that their clan is the best, strongest, and brightest without being part of a community of knowers. You couldn’t figure those things on your own.

And if you are part of a community that knows these things absolutely, you would never starve to death unless the whole community were in danger of starvation. Some priest or official or cousin would take care of you.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas. I wouldn’t make my sloppy unprofessional videos of my candles and my Christmas balls with music in the background if I didn’t. I bought my sister’s present in June because I saw it and knew she’d love it. I’m getting on a plane in about three hours to fly to Baton Rouge to spend the holiday with my brother and sister-in-law. And twice I’ve bought a package of over-decorated, empty-caloried sugar cookies at Kroger and eaten the whole package overnight when I don’t even like sugar cookies.

But the whole business makes me terribly uneasy because I don’t believe any of it—any of the “reason for the season,” that is. If

He heard the bells on Christmas Day

He heard the bells on Christmas Day

Jesus really is the King or whatever he’s supposed to be, then he has fallen down on the job. Especially if he’s the Prince of Peace or the Hope of the Poor, or any of those things. His followers are the people most likely in this country to support what we know as Apartheid in a country half-way around the world, the only one left in the world with that system of government. His followers are the most likely people I know who want to expel kids from this country who have never lived anywhere else just because they’re not part of our clan and happened to be with their parents when they crossed the border between our country and another.

Oh, I forgot, Bill Maher and Richard Dawkins, who say they have no religion, believe all those things about certain people, too.

I guess it’s not only the people who are absolutely sure about their religion who are likely to have those ideas about politics and family.

OK. So you can stop reading. You know where I’m headed. This sounds ever-so-much like the typical I-Hate-Christians sophomoric blah-blah-blah that people who read the Bible and say “See! Look here! It’s not true, it all contradicts itself, it’s all based on magic, blah-blah-blah” drag out all the time, but mostly at Christmas.

I don’t really mind if you or anyone you know is so certain of their religion they’d be willing to, for instance, start a war in Iraq over it. I guess more than anything I’m jealous. I miss that Santa Claus god I used to pray to religiously (pun intended). He was a pretty nice guy, looking out for me and mine all the time. I never got all the fine points of how one is supposed to believe and act towards him, but I was learning.

No, anyone’s belief is their business (even if they hate me because I’m a faggot and do unnatural things that the Santa Claus god says I shouldn’t do).

But here’s what gets me (and I’m not picking on the Baptists—they just happen to have set themselves up for ridicule in Dallas) is things like spending $135 million on a really fancy and world-class church building and then blaring music so loud no one can stand it—to keep the homeless people (who are probably hungry) from sitting in protected areas around the building out of the rain. It wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t such insipid music—dew-wop Jesus music, as my late friend Anne Gervasi would have said.

But don’t get all smug, you atheists and Methodists, and Muslims, and Hindus We have our own place. The Dallas Public Library does the same thing. At least we have taste at our building. The music is likely to be opera. Nothing worse than hearing Aida singing about her one true love when you’re dirty and hungry.

So I guess I’m going to go to my grave (well, perhaps not if John Boehner and Ted Cruz cut Social Security) without ever experiencing those two things, certainty that I know God (and, more important, he knows me back) and certainty that I’m hungry and likely to stay so.

Funny about Christmas in this country. We’ve made it a celebration out of both.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow thought sort of the same thing, I think.

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
and wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

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