A Jewish Christmas message to the unsaved world

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Pope Francis

Pope Francis

This is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.

It’s the Sunday before Christmas. Pope Francis has already delivered his Christian message to the world. Some have described his message as a “tongue lashing.” He wants to get the church’s house in order. Rather than Christmas cheer, I wish him the best of luck.

I have a Christian message as well, or rather some random thoughts about the season that drives me – and some Christians I know – bonkers. As with Pope Francis, some might describe my message as a tongue lashing. I’d love to get the world in order. Wish me – and all of us – the best of luck.

For what it’s worth, then, here is my Jewish Christmas message – to the unsaved world.

Every Christian in the world seems to be listening to Handel’s Messiah. A few years ago the New York Times  listened too. What they found was an intensive debate about the anti-Jewish content of this perennial favorite.

Read the article for yourself. See how the chorus sounds afterwards.

The corruption of life is endless. Our inheritance is so often covered with blood it’s difficult to find a place to stand without being overwhelmed by the stink.

Our longing for innocence is natural. So, too, is our desire to wave away the prophetic voice. The prophets remind us of the imperative need for justice.

That’s our usual take on the prophetic. It isn’t the whole prophetic story.

Finding our prophetic voice isn’t easy. It’s each to her own in this troubled terrain.

But then the opposite – assimilation to power – is easy to spot. And yes so difficult to resist.

These past weeks Christians and non-Christians alike have endured the endless Merry Christmas greetings at the checkout counters in America. This as the number of refugees in the Middle East and elsewhere continue to grow. For many, the cries of the suffering are drowned out by the rousing chorus of Handel’s Messiah.

With salvation ringing in our collective ears, we are tone deaf to our own injustice.

Preachers and their cohorts spend so much time reflecting on what Christmas means for the intact world, perhaps it’s time take a more sober approach. It’s time to reflect on what the Christmas season doesn’t tell us about life in our world of dislocation and death.

Contra the Christian story, the world of dislocation and death tells us that the world has not been redeemed and the process theology gloss that the world is in the process of being saved should be bracketed. Better to toss it altogether.

In an unredeemed world we are on our own – together.

Much of my Christmas angst comes from a renewed contact with Palestinian Christians and their accompaniers, mostly American and European Christians, in one of the (un)holiest places in the entire world, Jerusalem. The intersection of American Department Store Christianity and Christmas Tree Lighting Bethlehem Christianity drives me crazy.

If that’s not enough to send you into Christian shock therapy, think about the United Nations. They’re now opining about the recent wave of house demolitions in the West Bank.  Note that they have “serious concern” about the situation.

One commentator on the report asked why the UN isn’t outraged. Obviously they don’t understand the role of the UN.

During this Christmas season, think of the UN as “intermediate enablers.” Almost everything the UN touches continues on its bloody way for decades.

Like university academics, bureaucratic justice seekers can’t afford outrage. Their office travel decorations suffice.

The UN was on the spot when Israel became a state. It’s still there in full force almost 70 years later

UNRWA is almost as omnipresent in Israel/Palestine as the Israeli military. When is the UN finally going to take a stand? Perhaps, like Handel’s Messiah, the less we know the better

UN reports are Muzak – elevator music for those who frequent the halls of power. Their reports over the years make good stocking-stuffers. This year’s report is no different.

Like our UN Ambassador, Samantha Power, who graced the Central African Republic with her presence – for one day. Those she visited should remember her commitment to Palestinian freedom. She bartered away Palestine for her own advancement. I don’t think she’ll give up much for Africa this Christmas.

Now silent on Syria. With millions on the run.

Now silent on Egypt. About to start the Stalinist show trial of the 21st century.

Should Jews join the Muzak crowd this Christmas season?

We already have.

So it is on Christmas – in our unsaved world.

About Marc H. Ellis

Marc H. Ellis is retired Director and Professor of Jewish Studies at Baylor University and author of The Heartbeat of the Prophetic which can be found at Amazon and www.newdiasporabooks.com

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