John A. Tures: Christmas is for love, not war

December 25, 2013 

This Christmas, like so many, has been treated to its share of controversy, involving this never-ending "War on Christmas." But what both sides fail to understand is how Christmas is great because of its humility.

I was raised by a Catholic family. We never missed a Mass, even on the road. Christmas was a special and holy time. It still is for my family. So I am pretty well versed in the true story of Christmas.

At the same time, I read a lot of mythology stories in books. As I grew up, I read Greek mythology, Roman mythology, Norse mythology, stories from Egypt, etc. I even took a college course on Asian religions. In Latin American studies, we would cover what the Mayans and Aztecs worshiped.

There's a certain continuous theme in many of these religions … an all-powerful deity. They have folks who can throw lightning bolts, lay waste to cities, destroy those who aren't faithful, etc. Many have demands that you give total obedience, or else. In that sense, these mythologies really aren't that different from parts of the Old Testament, where there's a lot of smiting going on. Some folks in America are drawn to that type of Christianity.

Some deities have kids, like the Greek figure Hercules. These "demigod" characters wander the Earth, performing feats and tasks that mortal man could not hope to accomplish. I'm told Hollywood even has a Hercules movie coming out in January to dazzle us with this tale (again).

Believe it or not, Christianity isn't even the only faith that has a resurrection story. Osiris in Egypt, Balder from the Nordic countries, and others have ways of making a heroic comeback, defeating death.

But Christianity does have a story that others seem to lack. It's a story of humility. The all-powerful Christian God doesn't come to Earth in a flaming chariot, assume a part-animal form to terrify the people of the Earth, or annihilate everyone who crosses him. Instead, he's born to very poor circumstances, far from home, where animals live, visited by the lowest laborers: shepherds. He's born an underdog.

He has the power to point his finger and slay his enemies, but instead uses it to help and heal others. He not only acts humble, but he preaches a degree of humility, telling us that we have to serve others, love our enemies, pray for those who persecute us, and expose injustice in a way that seems to be meek by outward appearances. Maybe that's why he's still popular after 2,000 years.

Even if you can't bring yourself to acknowledge who Jesus Christ is, you've got to admit that from some pretty humble origins, this individual sure spread this word that even most atheists would recognize as a good set of lessons to encompass the world; he was a game changer in history.

This year, let's see if we can adopt some of this humility that changed the world. If we can act more like this modest person and deity, we can perhaps have fewer "Christmas wars."

John A. Tures, associate professor of political science at LaGrange College; jtures@lagrange.edu.

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