“Whatever you do to the least of these, you do unto me.”
— Matthew 25:40
“God’s LOVE is the Heart of Christmas.”
— Christmas card in a 2017 holiday card display
By the time you read this, the season of manic advertising and spending will be over.
Christmas Day may be past with its often stress-filled socializing and family squabbles.
I commend the Knights of Columbus for starting and persisting with their campaign to get rid of those horrible Christmas cards. I did not see a single one this year.
I did see a number of great Christmas cards . . . including the one quoted above.
In the week leading up to the insanity that is “Black Friday,” I saw in my Credit Union a big sign: “Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store; Maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit MORE.” The Grinch.
I was delighted. Could there actually be hope for us?
I suggested to our parish K of C and CWL that they buy such a sign ($39.95) for our parish as my social/structural justice budget is currently depleted.
In an attempt to “Keep Christ in Christmas” after the Sandinista democratic socialist government of Nicaragua gained momentary power in that tiny impoverished country (1980s), one of its cardinal “sins” was to ban the 24-hour advertising. The leaders felt it turned the celebration of the birthing anew of the Divine into our world in the form of Jesus the Nazarene into a soul-less spending spree perpetuating our culture of death.
For such moves this original Sandinista government which was peppered with priests including a number of Jesuits, were vilified.
They were . . . and even their memory . . . is a “threat of a Good Example.” “Capitalism” does not like the survival of practical alternative modes of development that offer functioning alternatives to the existing order.
Did you know that our industrial form of capitalism cannot survive without our manic consumption and materialism?
In 1955 American economist and marketing consultant Victor Lebow observed in an article: “Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption our way of life. That we convert buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption. We need things consumed, burned up, replaced, and discarded at an ever-accelerating rate.”
The two best ways to do this? War . . . and DIY home renovations! Lebow did not advocate this.
He was merely observing what needed to be done given our industrial capacity for over-production of everything — including food — if we wanted to avoid another “Great Depression” after the Second World War, as happened after the First World War.
We could have structured our societies to have authentically sustainable modes of development enabling all God’s children to have life with dignity according to our beautiful Catholic social teachings . . . but they got “disappeared.” Where is the profit maximization in that?
I suspect most people, if they had been given the freedom to make conscious informed choices, would have chosen that.
As I hope to explore in my next column, we were not given that choice.
Instead, those with the wealth to buy the power to influence the decision-makers — bit by bit — restructured our global societies to suit them.
At this stage, it wasn’t as if there was a “conspiracy” or “plan.”
Those with the wealth to influence how we structure our societies simply followed the logic of profit maximization over all else.
This includes all life, including the survival of our species on Earth. It also includes our relationship to the Divine and how we experience It.
Remember, Lebow observed consumerism and materialism had to replace “spiritual satisfaction.” But does it?
Slowly, over the last 60+ years, our souls and the meaning of our lives including our “high” holidays (holy days) of Christmas and Easter became reasons to insanely consume. Consumption and materialism became a way of life . . . complete with rituals such as Black Friday and football over the American Thanksgiving.
Sixty-plus years later, our children are so devoid of a sense of the sacred and meaning in their lives that they risk their “satisfaction” by taking drugs that might be tainted.
We have unprecedented numbers of refugees and millions dying of starvation. Our development mode is catapulting us toward cataclysmic catastrophe with climate chaos being but one of many. And the world’s largest militaries are defending this grotesque culture of death while we are sold a line they are protecting us against terrorism.
With an ever-increasing gap between a tiny few with immense wealth and the power that kind of wealth can buy, please reflect with me what “Keeping Christ in Christmas” means in our historical moment.
Moment to moment, day to day, what does it mean for you to “Keep Christ in Christmas” . . . and “Love at its Heart.”
What does it meant to have “the Word,” the “Logos” birthed into this grotesque culture of death that is killing so many?
What can you do to bring “good news to the poor,” to the least of these . . . ?
Are handouts from our “surplus” really enough to co-create cultures of life and civilizations of love as we are called to do?
A critical educator, writer and engaged citizen living in Qualicum Beach, B.C., Zarowny is also on the leadership team for her parish’s Justice and Life Ministry.