Meet the beatitudes
Whether one thinks of Christmas as a celebration of the birthday of Jesus, who taught a new, more forgiving, covenant between man and the formerly wrathful Jehovah to the peoples of the Earth, or as a corruption of a pagan ceremony in which the shortest day of the year heralds the turning of the celestial calendar and the return of the cycle of increasing light and fertility, or even if you think of it as just an excuse to buy and exchange presents with your loved ones, the upcoming holiday is worthy of some thought.
One of the things I think about fairly often is how poorly the actual message of Jesus as I learned it in Sunday school, lo, these many decades past is conveyed by the strident, fearful, repressive, hateful and outright violent posturings of today’s so-called Christian fundamentalists.
So, without further ado, here are the eight beatitudes of Jesus quoted from his sermon on the Mount of Olives shortly before he was killed for transmitting ideas a bit too subversive of the ideals that keep empires afloat:
1. “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
2. “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
3. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
4. “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.”
5. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”
6. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
7. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.”
8. “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Beatitude, by the way, means, according to my desk-side Webster, “1. perfect blessedness or happiness. 2. a blessing.” I’m not going to go into a long-winded interpretation of the above, but I do think it’s worth noting that nowhere in his most famous speech does Jesus say anything about hell, fire, brimstone or eternal damnation.
And then there’s my other favorite Jesus quote: “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” That seems pretty straightforward and pretty good advice for building a cooperative society. Of course, you couldn’t muster much of an army or convince too many people to kill each other if everyone went around believing in such a notion, so it’s advice that more than likely won’t be followed by anyone trying to build an empire.
I mean, if you love your neighbor as yourself, then to kill your neighbor would be to kill yourself, and not many people are into that. Even making your neighbor work in a sweatshop so you can afford comfortable shoes or watching your neighbor starve while you enjoy a huge meal would be appalling if we followed that advice too closely.
So, for peace of mind’s sake, maybe it’s best to just ignore all that religious nonsense and enjoy the pretty lights, the presents and the scent of pine.
Pine, by the way, in its verb form means to “1. to waste [away] through grief, pain, hunger, etc. 2. to have an intense longing or desire; yearn: mourn for.”
I pine for a peaceful Christmas.