Thursday, December 03, 2009

Happy... Holiday!

Associated Press Posted on December 1, 2009 at 1:15 PM

HOUSTON -- Happy holidays — now where's that immigration paperwork?

Several programs providing Christmas gifts for needy children are checking immigration status first, requiring at least one member of the household to be a U.S. citizen before handing over toys. The Salvation Army and a charity affiliated with the Houston Fire Department are asking for children's birth certificates or Social Security cards.


What the f--ilioque is going on with Christmas? I think we've finally gotten what our politics and even many Christians have hoped for: It looks like "immigration policy" has finally trumped Jesus Christ as the "reason for the season".

It seems to me that the birth of Christ is exposing the truth about the state of the world, just as it did 2000 years ago. Many claim America is a "Christian nation", yet at the season of the greatest Gift, the birth of Christ, we politicize the celebration of His Incarnation by legislating the boundaries of unconditional charity and grace in His honor because of the "politics of the aliens among us".

When Jesus came and threatened Herod's kingdom, Herod killed the children to protect his political status and nation.

When the Jewish leadership met to discuss Jesus they determined it was politically expedient to kill Him "lest the Romans come and take away our status and our nation."

When Pilate was confronted with the person of Christ, he delivered Him to be crucified to save his political ass.

The illegals threaten our status and our nation. They threaten our lifestyle because they threaten our economy. They are a burden on our society.

The Jews were commanded to welcome the sojourner among them. They were to leave a tithe of their fields for the alien and the poor to glean. As Christians we are to exceed the righteousness of the Pharisee. As a "Christian nation" do we exceed the demands of the imperfect Law or do we follow Herod, Pilate and the High Priest and his council and trample under foot the gift of God to preserve our comfortable kingdom?

Jesus did not come to rule the world. He already ruled it. His coming made manifest the meaning of the Psalters words, "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we will call on the Name of the Lord."

Jesus came to expose the world for what it is, what it has become through sin, and to save it through an Unspeakable Gift given without regard for citizenship and politics, morals and religion, power or wealth. We are all equally aliens on the earth, sojourners and strangers, we are all poverty stricken, hungry and destitute, all enemies of God and enemies of one another. It would seem that once a year The Gift of unconditional love could be emulated by those who claim to be giving in the "spirit of the season".

I get spam every year at this time about the politics of "keeping Christ in Christmas". And given the politics that surrounded the Gospel of the Incarnation 2000 years ago, in a way it is a fitting irony that Christians are using the legal and political arena and economic pressures on retailers who eschew using the term "Christmas" to get their say in the culture. It is indeed, in one sense, truly "Christmas" because Christ is finally doing in our culture and kingdom what He did the first time: exposed the politics of religion, power and our trust in the chariots and horses of economics and the imaginary stability of our temporal kingdoms and preservation of our lifestyles. But alas, indeed, in another sense it is no longer "Christmas", it is Christlessmas because in the political killing of the Gift to innocent children we have followed in the footsteps of those religio-political leaders who killed our Christ... or at least have tried to.

Herod, the Elders and Pilate... where are they and their economies and kingdoms now in spite of their political machinations, policies and rationalizations to save their status and nations?

Yes boys and girls, Santa is checking his list to see who is naughty and nice. And apparently his list is now the Census. (Hmmm... didn't someone else take a census when Jesus was born?)

May we find His truth in this Advent season, not in ACLU lawsuits, Christian websites identifying "Christmas approved retailers", email spam about Christmas trees, Kwanza and even apologetics about the baptism of the solstice, but by being called in the simplicity of our daily work by angels' voices to come and adore Him who was born rejected, a stranger to His people, outside the city, away from the shops, the palaces and yes, even the churches.

Blessed Nativity to all.

H/T to Barry Young KFYI


ryan said...

grrr... politics, will we never learn?

Allan said...

Interesting juxtaposition to today's epistle reading from Galatians, "In Christ, there is no Jew nor Gree, no slave & free..." In Christ, there is one nation, humanity. We Christian's should keep our politics focused ONLY on the politics of God's Kingdom, the kingdom of the Servant King who gives His life for the sake of His city, who reminds us that we are all aliens in a strange land and of His hospitality to us who were once alienated to God. That kingdom is a FAR cry from the American political system, and so should our discipleship be.

el cuerpo negro said...

Preach it Steve!

The other day I was standing in line at Subway and the talk went towards how America was taken from the natives by the Europeans. When I pointed out the irony of our current "immigration scare," given that we are all immigrants, the guy ahead of me said, "yeah, but they all came over legally." Funny how that "L" word is used by those in power :)

Lord have mercy

Kirk said...

Here, here, Steve! Nice post.

Last weekend, there was an article in the Colorado Springs Gazette about how Dobson's group was making its list of retailers that are hostile to Christmas. You know, like Target, who reportedly directs its employees to greet people with "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas." I wonder, was Christ born so that Christians could buy things they can't afford for people who don't need it? I say we should keep Christ out of the pagan/secular Christmas celebration and reclaim the Nativity. Let's go back to the old calendar and separate ourselves from this mess.

margaret said...

Sod Christ and Christmass. He was born on 7 Jan anyway ;) Seriously I give as locally as I can - I take the stuff and another human being receives it.

Mind you, I am all for Merry Christmas and giving the poor so&so in the parking lot a tenner to buy a couple of bottles of plonk.

s-p said...

I'm with you Margaret, I don't do "corporate alms". I prefer a face to face with the person I give to, even if he's falling down drunk in the parking lot.

Ranger said...

Having grown up in an immigrant community, I have seen the reality of the situation. The jobs are here, no one else wants them, and they actually pay better than most, with better benefits. Also My brother did construction for years, and by far, the better employees were those who had immigrated, whether legal or not.
I'm all for compassionate conservatism, but when the conservative negates our compassion, we are in deep trouble.

Nina said...

Ok...I will be the one who goes out on a limb and take the other point of view....I work as a teacher in "the hood" and in a very, very immigrant-heavy area of town.

Here is what I see....students who get free / reduced lunches, free uniforms, free school supplies, free medical & dental care, free Christmas gifts.

Their parents? Are not here legally. They do not work jobs where they have to pay taxes...they work jobs where they get paid under the table. Why? so they don't have to pay taxes.

The result? These parents drive Escalades, BMW's, Lincolns...all fully loaded by the way. Several families own two or three houses in this area of town. Now, you may say "but this is the how nice are the houses?" That is not the point. When the Barnett Shale moneys came through here (oil and gas money given to land owners whose houses where over the Barnett Shale) they got 2-3 checks (anywhere from between $200.00 - $2000.00 each.)Many parents bring their child's lunch AND the kid gets a free lunch. The result? Oftentimes the school lunch (courtesy of our taxes) gets thrown away. By the way these are not the school lunches of our youth. When asked why they got a school lunch since another one was brought for them...the answer? "Because I can."

I cannot afford to pay for my husband's medical bills (I make too much money--as a teacher for assistance!), but these people get the latest in free health care and dental care because they do not "earn enough money" least legally they don't.

Many times parents will refuse to pay for a field trip. Why? They claim they do not have money. But when it comes time to bring a lunch for the aforementioned field trip the students of these parents bring large Lunchables (average cost for Lunchable - $6.00...average cost of field trip - $3.00). Oh, and while on the field trip, these students often carry money for souveniers.

When they are ready to visit their relatives south of the border, they turn themselves in. Why? So (as they state) they can get a nice airplane ride (courtesy of our taxes)...they even brag about how nice the ride is. Then when the visit is over, they just come right on back. This happens many times for the same illegal immigrant.

Now I know that those who came to this country took it from the ones who lived here previously...illegal immigration again. This is a fact of ugly fact that exists all over the world (my people in Constantinople, Cyprus, Pontos, are prime examples of this).

However, now there is a country here and it has rules. To come to this country means you should follow its least out of respect to "which side your bread is buttered on".

When my parents became citizens of the USA, they studied about this country because they knew they would be asked questions by the presiding judge. Now this does not happen...the entire event is not even done in English.

My point? Since being in this country is something not worked towards, it is not appreciated.

What I have described above, is prevalent among illegals...not among the poor where I work. We can spot the trully poor by the way their children dress and by the cars they drive. These people work, declare their income, and cannot afford the nice items the children of illegal immigrants have.

So if a child does not get a gift from an organization because they cannot prove that one member of his/her family is a legal immigrant...don't feel to bad. As I have been told, "My parents buy me better gifts (computers games, blue ray players, wii's) and we just sell the ones we got for free on ebay".

Moo! said...

Hi Nina (and Ranger), I too own a construction business in Phoenix, a high "illegal immigrant population state". I know both the problems with finding competent, motivated and responsible "white guys" to work and I also know the issues with abuse of the American system by savvy illegals and savvy "legal white trash". Basically the post is not about the politics of immigration but the impact of politics on our attitude toward the poor regardless of their legal status. The real bottom line is, as I implied, we are all aliens to the Kingdom and basically have squandered, been ungrateful, abused and taken for granted God's Gift to us. Our attitude toward giving alms in the Nativity season to the undeserving poor is a reflection of our understanding of our salvation and how we define undeserving poor, or the poor as "qualified by our standards". In my mind this is a spiritual principle that cuts across political issues. I'd have no issue with a secular/political, government sponsored agency requiring ID, but the Salvation Army, a self-proclaimed Christian agency, doing that is unthinkable to me. (For more on my thoughts on the Christian response to the poor and almsgiving check out my podcast "Homeless, Hungry, God Bless" on Steve the Builder at Ancient Faith Radio.

thegeekywife said...

I liked this post.

A lot.

A whole lot.

I did not know you had the AFR podcast. Must check it out soon!

Fr. Christian Mathis said...

I often wonder why it is that Christians get so upset at retailers who do not keep Christ in Christmas. Is that the role of stores at the promote the Gospel? Or is it the job of Christians?

Just a thought.

Moo! said...

...and an excellent thought at that, Father!

Nina said...

Hey back at ya! BTW...who is Ranger?

Anywho...about your response...I found it made me stretch my mind....

You wrote...
"Our attitude toward giving alms in the Nativity season to the undeserving poor is a reflection of our understanding of our salvation and how we define undeserving poor, or the poor as [']qualified by our standards[']. In my mind this is a spiritual principle that cuts across political issues"

My point is that these people are not "poor".

To those that are poor, by all means - HELP 'EM! Many of us have been in need of help in various who are we to deny help to those who are in need?

As to the Salvation Army requiring proof of legal immigrant status by one member of a is ugly but necessary. I have seen many poor turned away from charities because the help is not there anymore....the food / clothing / money / medical attention has run out....and oftentimes this is the result of those who are not truly poor (illegal immigrants and others) bleeding the charity dry. To insure that there is enough for those who really need it (and we all know there are many in today's economic crisis), certain procedures must be followed.

s-p said...

Hi Nina, Ranger left a comment before yours, so I included him in the response. I agree that some people aren't "poor" who get assistance and charity, but my 40+ years of experience with the "poor", illegals,drug addicts, homeless etc. is that immigration status or citizenship is not a good indicator of legitimate need or tendency to "work the system".

If we REALLY wanted to change things we should remove "charity" from the government and make it the province of religious organizations and Churches where it used to be. If we took all the salaries of government workers paid to screen and dole out tax dollars as alms we'd have a lot more to go around. But that's another whole issue.

James the Thickheaded said...

I like the comment about the undeserving poor. There was a time when I felt it made a difference, but you know... the smile on the face of someone you give a fiver or tenner to is worth ten times either. Yeah... so the guy's gonna buy booze... maybe. But maybe he's gonna get a hot meal or a cot for the night, too. No idea and the thought that I actually do have an idea says more about "my bad" than I'd like to admit, huh? So thanks for affirming a change... that seems kind of squishy.

I put this up there with one of your OLIC podcasts about visiting prisoners... especially the hope to be visiting the "wrongly convicted". I mean we're supposed to, huh? But I'd bet it's the others that need us more, who like Metropolitan Anthony Bloom noted... where prison is like death. These folks have nothing to live for, but the wrongly convicted... maybe they do. Ah... but this is a step ahead of where I am.

So thank you. And especially... have a feliz navidad, yo espero felicidad.

s-p said...

Thanks James. Squishy is OK. I cleaned up the post and added some caveats and made a Steve the Builder podcast out of this one too. Same title as the post. And yeah, all of us talk a better game than we live, but if we can at least talk about it rightly, maybe we'll live it some day too.