Racism II: The Three Classes of Racism

In my last post, I mentioned some extremely racist comments and attitudes held by influential leaders in the churches of Christ in the 20th century.  I would classify these actions, writings and attitudes as falling in a category of organized, institutional, or perhaps more directly, intentional racism.  For more information on the broader scope of the churches of Christ and social justice, Bobby Valentine wrote an excellent paper on the subject.  It can be accessed at http://stonedcampbelldisciple.com/2010/03/15/social-concerns-in-churches-of-christ-trends-since-the-king-years-1950-2000/

In that article, he quotes from other church of Christ luminaries like Texas preacher, J.D. Tant, who went on a rant about the indecent drive toward racial equality in Kansas, and noted that such things would never be tolerated in ““heathen” Texas.”  In the early years of the 20th century, the president of Abilene Christian College reportedly accepted money from the Ku Klux Klan during a chapel meeting, apparently giving some legitimacy to that notoriously racist organization.

Valentine went on to show that in the mainstream churches, there was 1) denial of any racism at all, 2) opposition to members becoming active in civil rights marches, 3) even an appeal to the Bible for maintaining the status quo, and 4) a condemnation of Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement for embracing nothing more than a social gospel and denying the true Gospel.

Black preachers like the legendary Marshall Keeble knew their place in southern white society, played the game, and were treated paternalistically by patronizing white preachers.  Other black preachers were more vocal about the shameful inequities heaped on the black minority.  Predictably, they fell from grace among whites.

I’ll not repeat Valentine’s rather scholarly paper.  It’s an interesting read.

In continuing the theme of racism, I think it only fair to consider the responsibility of those who are affected by it.  It is easy to define racism as an offense by a member or members of one race against one or more members of another race.  If there is organized racism, the unfortunate likelihood is that any attempt to address it will be met with scorn and possibly retribution.

But I believe that there are other classes of racism, which are more unintentional, possibly linked to what amounts to subliminal suggestion planted in the subconscious of the incidental racist.  Here is where the argument that something “happened in another time” comes into play.  I believe that there are those who were exposed to de facto racism as children who maintain that de facto racism as adults without even realizing it.  There may be no overt racist actions, but attitudes are hard to dismiss.  Notions like blacks just not being as intelligent as whites linger on.  They shake their heads and point at low achievement and social problems in inner cities and confidently reinforce their prejudice.  They fail to see that lack of investment and opportunity perpetuate a cycle of poverty and social ills that happen to disproportionately affect the African American populations who are effectively trapped in those places.  The cycle is vicious, and not easily broken.

The incidental racist can overcome this problem by recognizing it and consciously rooting it out and exposing it for the racism that it is.  There is hope for the incidental racist.  I believe I was probably in this category once, having grown up in the south and accepting the broadly painted racial stereotypes and prejudices of a society in racial turmoil and on the cusp of change.  I must constantly work to make sure I am not falling back into those old ways.

The third class of racists I would propose includes those whose hearts are good and pure, who would never purposely harm anyone of any race at any time or in any place.  These are good people who for whatever reason make a comment that is misconstrued by someone who has already been hurt and lives in a constant state of alert for more hurtful actions by those who perpetrate and perpetuate racism.  I call these people accidental racists.  A slip of tongue may be all that it takes to set a chain reaction in motion that causes hard feelings and division among people who were once close.

In situations of incidental or accidental racism, the offended party must take action to rectify the situation.  If I have made some offensive remark to my black friend or brother in the faith, I may not know what I have done to cause offense.  The most direct Biblical teaching regarding this type of situation came from Jesus himself in Matthew 18:

“15 If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.  16  But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.  17  If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”

If a brother or sister is offended by a racist remark, it is imperative that this be addressed in order to prevent it from happening again.  An accidental racist will make amends immediately with the single visit.  After all, he may have had no idea that the offense had occurred.  An incidental racist may need more convincing, but once it becomes apparent that he is in the wrong, if his heart is indeed good, he will change.  An intentional racist, on the other hand, will likely be unrepentant and may even become more offensive when provoked.

I’ve been thinking about this because I have recently heard of a case in which the accidental racist scenario was in play.  I hope that the offended party will follow Jesus’ teaching and talk to the one who apparently offended, albeit unintentionally.  To leave a conflict unresolved is like leaving a cancer untreated.  It darkens the heart and builds walls that are not easily broken down.

The sad heritage of racism, especially in the South, and unfortunately ingrained in some churches needs to be exposed and expelled.  There is no advantage to be gained from oppressing another race.  Indeed, the most beautiful gardens in nature are where there is appreciable diversity.  Among races, we are fundamentally and biologically of identifiable but negligible difference.  But inside, the soul of a white man carries no more weight than that of his African American brother.  In fact, they are equal.  And they are both of inestimable worth.

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Racism

Every church has a history, and the churches of Christ are no different.  Anyone who has even passing acquaintance with this wing of the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement has heard of many of the names of the great leaders of the past, including the father/son Campbell duo, Barton Stone, Walter Scott, Moses Lard, David Lipscomb…the list could go on for quite a few lines.  In the 20th century, there were other famous personalities that were part of a definitive period of doctrinal debate and fellowship lines drawn in the sand.  Names like N.B. Hardeman, B.C. Goodpasture, Fanning Yater Tant, Roy Cogdill and Foy Wallace come to mind.  While these men wound up on different ideological sides of the institutional schism that would forever split the churches of Christ after World War II, through their voluminous writings, their voices still ring with fervor and more often than not, some variation on the theme of righteous indignation and/or condemnation for all who differed with them.

I recently came across a reprint of an article in the Bible Banner by Foy E. Wallace, Jr., dated March, 1941, in which the great warrior for the non-institutional faction poured out his venom on the horrible, soul-damning mixing of the races.

“The manner in which the brethren in some quarters are going in for the negro meetings leads one to wonder whether they are trying to make white folks out of the negroes or negroes out of the white folks. The trend of the general mix-up seems to be toward the latter. Reliable reports have come to me of white women, members of the church, becoming so animated over a certain colored preacher as to go up to him after a sermon and shake hands with him holding his hand in both of theirs. That kind of thing will turn the head of most white preachers, and sometimes affect their conduct, and anybody ought to know that it will make fools out of the negroes. For any woman in the church to so far forget her dignity, and lower herself so, just because a negro has learned enough about the gospel to preach it to his race, is pitiable indeed. Her husband should take her in charge unless he has gone crazy, too. In that case somebody ought to take both of them in charge.”

He went on later in the article to relate an incident experienced by the great N.B. Hardeman:

“When N. B. Hardeman held the valley-wide meeting at Harlingen, Texas, some misguided brethren brought a group of negroes up to the front to be introduced to and shake hands with him. Brother Hardeman told them publicly that he could see all of the colored brethren he cared to see on the outside after services, and that he could say everything to them that he wanted to say without the formality of shaking hands. I think he was right. He told of a prominent brother in the church who went wild over the negroes and showed them such social courtesies that one day one of the negroes asked him if he might marry his daughter. That gave the brother a jolt and he changed his attitude!”

In another memorable illustration, Wallace drew from his own experience at a gospel meeting:

“In one of my own meetings a young negro preacher was engaged by the church as a janitor. He made it a point to stand out in the vestibule of the church-building to shake hands with the white people. When I insisted that it be discontinued some of the white brethren were offended. Such as this proves that the white brethren are ruining the negroes and defeating the very work that they should be sent to do, that is, preach the gospel to the negroes, their own people.”

Now before you go off on the “It was a different time” speech, I’ve already thought of that.  And there is still no excuse for any of that sort of thought in any Christian, of any tribe or splinter group.  But I’m pretty sure that some of it is still there.

I am shocked at the apparent disgust that these preachers held for even shaking hands with a black man.  Were they so worried that the black would rub off?  Did they see dark skin pigment as a kind of inverse leprosy that required one not to touch?

I remember standing at the doorway of a church building one evening while two elderly white gentlemen were talking about the old days, and liberally using the “N” word.  I was shocked.  I was disgusted.  But I held my peace, to my own shame.  Both of those men are dead now, and I never rebuked their racism.

But I will not hold my peace any longer.

Wallace was wrong.  Hardeman was wrong.  Every person who listened to their racist diatribes and agreed with them was wrong.

Why would I say that?  It’s that pesky little old book called the Bible.

Maybe Wallace and Hardeman and every other racist church member had read the account in Acts where Peter was having his moment of doubt about delivering the gospel message to the Gentile.  In Acts 10, Peter’s vision culminates with the pronouncement from on-high: “15 And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.”  (emphasis dlr)  Peter was perplexed by the vision, but the meaning finally dawned even on an uneducated Jewish fisherman.  “And he said to them, “28 You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean.” When Cornelius relates his story of answered prayer, Peter says, “34 So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, 35  but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” (emphasis dlr)

Yes, they had read it.  And they had read into it, too.  They had read “separate but equal.”  But that is not what God had said.

In Galatians 3, Paul—whose Jewish pedigree and training were second to none, who should have known that associating with another race was wrong if indeed it was wrong—wrote,

“23  Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed.  24  So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25  But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26  for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.  27  For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.  28  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  29  And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.”     

If we indeed believe the words of the Bible, we must not be so selective in our readings as to allow institutionalized racism to continue in our churches.  The bile that Wallace spewed was truly disgusting.  The attitude of Hardeman in not shaking hands with an African-American was loathsome to the point of contemptible.  That Wallace would hide behind the Jim Crow laws in another part of the same article was despicable, and placed him on the wrong side of Peter’s declaration in Acts 5.29, “We ought to obey God rather than men.”

There is no way around it: racism is sin.  But as I think about it, while it may have been danced around in a discussion of James 2, I’m not sure I can recall if I have ever heard it specifically called such from a pulpit.  I do not know if Wallace or Hardeman ever repented of their overt racism.  I can only hope they did.  I know their influence likely had far reaching and very negative impacts on the African-Americans who were by choice, by faith and by the acceptance of a color-blind God their brothers and sisters.

In the tiny congregation where I maintain my membership, I have seen good and Godly African-American brothers come to be a part of our family—come to be accepted, loved, respected and honored as any brother should be.  One of those men was paralyzed, but not in his heart and mind.  One wanted more than anything to preach the Gospel and serve his God in the best way he knew how.  Both of those men died well before their times.  I cried many tears when they passed away.  I would love to hear their strong voices again, shake their hands, and worship together with those gentle souls with no regard for color or disability.  We were brothers.  I loved them.  I miss them.  And I look forward to a time when we shall all be together again, though not in imperfect bodies in this fallen and decaying world.

I hate the thought of racism anywhere.  But in the church, it must not, it cannot be tolerated.  There is no “separate but equal” in the body of Christ.  There is only equal and precious.  Let there be no whispered epithets.  Let there be no “us” and “them.”  In God’s eyes, we are one.

Jesus said to his disciples, “You are the light of the world.”  Physics tells us that visible, “pure” white light is actually composed of all the colors of the spectrum.  Without all of them shining together, the world could never look quite right.  As I see it more and more every day, this tired old world needs pure, bright, unified light, maybe more than ever.  Maybe we should really listen to Jesus, take our place in that great spectrum of light and shine on.   

Thanksgiving

Yesterday afternoon, Emily and I braved the savage wilds of Walmart to forage for the remaining elements of our Thanksgiving feast, such as it shall be.

The place was an absolute zoo.

With all of the preparation for the blessed commercial event this Friday, the most holy day of the retail calendar, you could not even reach items on major aisles in the grocery section. Grocery shelves had to be blocked by piles of regular merchandise so that the flotsam of Black Friday could be judiciously placed, allowing the faithful to plan their attacks when the doors open on the evening of that unpleasantly inconvenient day of alleged “gratitude.” And as for restocking the bare portions of the grocery shelves in anticipation of that benighted minor observance of Thursday, the attitude seemed to be, “Who cares.” If you haven’t bought your Jell-O by now, there may always be room for it on Thanksgiving, but that room will have to remain empty.

Well, in this house, Thanksgiving is not Black Friday Eve, and Christmas is not just about presents. Now I understand economics. I understand the object of business. But when we allow commercial greed to eclipse our appreciation for what we already have, we cannot hope to ever be satisfied. There will be no satiation as long as we allow business to to lead us.

A dear friend reminded me recently of a passage from the Old Testament book of Zechariah. There, in chapter 7, beginning in verse 8,

“8 And the word of the LORD came to Zechariah, saying, 9 “Thus says the LORD of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, 10 do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.”

11 But they refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears that they might not hear. 12 They made their hearts diamond-hard lest they should hear the law and the words that the LORD of hosts had sent by his Spirit through the former prophets. Therefore great anger came from the LORD of hosts.

13 “As I called, and they would not hear, so they called, and I would not hear,” says the LORD of hosts, 14 “and I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations that they had not known. Thus the land they left was desolate, so that no one went to and fro, and the pleasant land was made desolate.””

The expectation for those living a peaceful life are laid out in verses 9 and 10: render true judgments (which may be more akin to our concept of social justice), show kindness and mercy to people who need it, and finally, be nice, not evil to each other.

Long story short, the children of Israel and Judah didn’t do that and they lost everything, including their freedom. We face the same fate today. In allowing avarice to be our sovereign guide, we will barter our freedom for useless trinkets. No, we may not fall to a foreign power. But we will have sold ourselves into slavery to the economic gods. We will worship not in churches, but in stores and malls and banks and stock exchanges.

Perhaps it is no coincidence that the greatest deals of Black Friday are offered at night, before the dawn, when we are tired and weak and our greed is not illuminated by the light of day. Or reason.

Let Thanksgiving be unfettered by the anticipation of a buying frenzy. Let us return to the simple purpose for which it was instituted: to give thanks to a gracious and merciful God for all that we have, blessings physical, spiritual and social.

We should be thankful for family and friends, those who are still with us and those who are not; for a bounty of food, no matter how humble; for warm clothes and shelter; for jobs that fulfill us; for health of body, mind, and spirit; for freedom and all who defend it; for ideas and ideals that elevate the human experience; for the beauty in nature and the loyalty of pets; for strength and persistence when we need to stand firm; for gentleness and kindness that we all need each day; for faith and hope and the greatest of gifts, love.

Let Christmas be a time to reflect on that greatest gift, and rather than seek only to receive, but be twice blessed in giving, especially to those from whom we expect nothing in return. To Christian people, Christmas is a time to celebrate and be thankful for the birth of a divine child, who would one day teach peace and love and hope for the reconciliation of the prodigal with a loving Father. The late fall and winter observance of the Festival of Lights to the Jewish people is a celebration of hope for deliverance from oppression and the miracle of providence in the face of adversity. To other ancient peoples, the winter solstice festivals marked the time of renewed hope, that there would be a rebirth as the days began to lengthen and the bleak winter would be conquered by a warm and productive spring.

These are worthy of human consideration, not the useless merchandise we are convinced we need by businesses who thrive on excess and do not know the meaning of “enough.”

For years, I attended the “Black Friday” bacchanalia, more out of curiosity than anything else. But I don’t plan to do that this year. I don’t need to compete for savings off something that I don’t really need. Instead I think I’ll let Friday be another day of Thanksgiving, as each day should be.

Kindness

Charlie Chaplin once said, “We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery, we need humanity. More than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness.” I couldn’t agree more.

As I thought about the great deficit of kindness and gentleness in the world, I suddenly landed on the notion of learning from toddlers, from special needs children, and from animals. These three groups have so much to teach us. Toddlers of course, are at the age of flexing their independence and they may at times be quite selfish. But watch what happens when someone is hurt or cries. A toddler will often move over to the hapless victim of misfortune and hug them or try to console them in some way.

The same sort of thing happens with special needs children with conditions like autism. While a child on the spectrum may be trying in so many ways, he can also be extremely empathetic and caring.

There are so many stories of how pets have the ability to sense emotional turmoil in humans, and they console them in ways that only pets can. For example, only recently, my wife and I were dealing with a thorny issue involving our son, and she was stressed and upset. Our wonderful cat, Ernie, hopped up on the couch and sat beside her and placed a paw on her leg, as if to remind her that things would be alright.

As we go through life, we see so many people who are beaten down and suffering. Too often, we pass them by and don’t give them a second thought. Maybe there is nothing that we can do to help them. Maybe their problems are beyond our scope and ability. But that doesn’t mean we can’t care, show kindness and gentleness and even mercy.

Of course, the Bible is replete with calls to kindness and mercy. So many people can quote the beatitudes, but too few apply them. In particular, Matthew 5.7 says, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” Now, this is not to say that we should offer mercy only in order to get it, an investment for an expected greater return. We should be merciful because it is the right thing to do. A consequence of being merciful is that we, too, obtain mercy. What is the difference? The first case cheapens the act to a tit-for-tat game or a business venture. The result of this would be that if we do not attain an acceptable return, we will no longer invest our mercy in that enterprise. The second view entails mercy for its own sake, with nothing tangible expected in return. This is true mercy, and the reward is much greater in the long run.

This concept of kindness and mercy is not a Judeo-Christian only talking point. Far from it. All great religions see the need for harmony among people. The way to achieve that is through kindness, caring, love and mercy. Many people are familiar with the Golden Rule, where Jesus said, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them….” Sadly, knowledge and action are often far apart. In more recent times, the Dalai Lama said, “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” I think Jesus would approve of that message.

As I think about the Random Acts of Kindness movement, I have mixed feelings: on the one hand, any kindness is good. On the other, I believe kindness should in many cases be premeditated and systematic. It should be so until it becomes second nature, even automatic.

Imagine a world where every person looked after each other, lived kindness, not just performed perfunctory actions. That would be a revolution beyond any other, beyond political boundaries, beyond selfish pursuits, and truly into the realm of the divine.

And even if we are “only human,” we can dream of something better. Every achievement begins with a dream, a vision. Maybe it’s time to dream of a better human nature. Maybe then, “you’re only human” would be the highest form of praise, not just an excuse.

A Pause to Reflect on Reaching 100 Posts

It’s been an experience.

Over the past couple of years, I have had the pleasure of indulging a life-long passion: writing.  I love to write as a means of self-expression, but also to entertain and enlighten.  I have often thought that if I could choose a different career, I would love to be a writer.  Not that anything I have ever written has ever been that good.  But I have poured my heart and soul into the essays I have crafted and shared with my willing readers.  You have seen more of the true me than I normally ever share in public.

I have never tried to force my words on anyone.  I have shared freely as a way to spark dialog and encourage people not to blindly accept anything, but rather to think for themselves.  God gave us all brains for a reason.  We need to use them, and often to keep the cobwebs swept out and protect the precious gift of free will.

So much of what I have written has been of a rather focused nature regarding issues that I believe have concerns for Christians who are heirs of a bold and noble historical movement, the Stone-Campbell Restoration.  That is my heritage, and I intend to remain with it because it is what I know best.  But while that is my heritage and my fellowship, my allegiance is not to any organization.  My faith, my hope is in Jesus, not in any particular wing or splinter group of any church.  Like Paul, I want to know Jesus as well as I possibly can; learn of him and from him.  I want his words to speak to me, not filtered through any group’s dogmas, written or unwritten creeds or assimilated doctrines.  As the hymn reminds, “He the great example is, and pattern for me.”  I am confident in my faith that I am what I am happily by his mercy, and most thankfully by his grace.  I am a Christian who neither requires nor demands any other description.

I hope that the things I have written have been of interest to the broader scope of Christendom as well, and even beyond.  As I have related, I lived for so long outside the door, as C.S. Lewis visualized. I could hear the fellowship, see the glow from within, but I could not make myself knock and ask for admission.  Not until I was able to set aside fear and embrace the essence of true Christianity: love.  The rich themes of love and mercy and grace play throughout all of scripture far more than fear.  If I have accomplished anything with these essays, I hope that someone may be challenged to lay aside fear or prejudice or misconceptions and embrace that essence.

As I have grown over these last few years in faith and insight, I have seen so much more of what God expects of his people.  He is love, and he expects us to be like him.  From the beginning mankind was expected to take care of God’s good creation.  That not only includes all of nature, but our fellow humans, as well.  Justice and mercy have been ongoing themes in things I have written, and they shall continue to be because they have become so deeply ingrained in me.

I welcome any and all to read these words.  Share them, think on them, consider them, but please do it in the spirit of charity with which they are always offered.  I have never set out to offend in anything.  If I have, I am deeply sorry for any misunderstanding that may have arisen.

In the wonderful classic motion picture, Chariots of Fire, the Christian missionary turned Olympian, Eric Liddell, delivers a line that I have remembered since the first time I saw the film.  He said, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.”  I told my dad just this morning that I feel the same way when I write.  I pray that all that I have shared has been seen as it is intended: to glorify God.

So, as sort of a celebration of this landmark 100th post, here is a list of the top 10 most viewed essays as of 1 November 2014.  Many thanks to all who have read these posts and shared them with others.  Your encouragement has lifted my spirit on many dark days.

Exploring a Multidimensional Reality from the Human Nexus

Marcellus Gallio’s Defense Before Caligula, From “The Robe” (1953)

Coming to Terms with “Joy to the World”

Logic and the Turtle on the Fence Post

In Search of a Different Kind of Conservatism

Questions

When Ignorance Becomes Sin

Toward a Better Understanding of Atheism

Thoughts on Patterns, Examples, and Restoration

This may not be perfectly accurate, however, as the numbers only reflect the counts since I moved my blog over to Word Press.  For me, it’s sort of a walk down memory lane.

I look forward to many more opportunities to share observations and reflections.  As long as I have reasonable control of my mental faculties, I will continue to think, explore, and share with all who may be interested.  Without this forum, I might continue to write, but I would likely not have the strong drive to edit, correct and clarify.  Indeed, modern technology is quite a blessing.

I thank God for giving me a love for and a reasonable command of words.  And again, I thank every person who has taken the time to read and share any of these posts.

A Brief Meditation on the Tragic Fall and Triumphant Rise of Humanity

From ancient times, the human condition was degrading.  We were created in innocence and ensconced in a realm of perfection, never having been polluted by sin or evil.  But humanity was not content with perfection.  There must be more.  That one prohibition given to those innocents in the Garden was too restrictive, that forbidden fruit too tempting, that soothingly nagging voice too convincing to let the line go uncrossed. 

But perhaps the far-reaching effects of that one fateful decision were too cosmically cataclysmic for two innocent hearts, too inexperienced minds to fully contemplate or comprehend.  How do you know evil unless you have seen it face to face, heard its voice, felt the intensity of its burning cold emptiness?  How do you know loneliness without separation?  How do you know safety without danger? How do you know peace without conflict?

With that one decision, a curtain fell.  With one thought that traveled through still learning synapses, guiding a hand upward, reaching for something that should never have been considered; with one touch of something as apparently innocuous as a fruit, this universe was destroyed.  Not all at once.  But even as entropy patiently, inexorably claims order, the rift between eternal and mortal, soul and body, God and man had begun.

Through countless years of calls to order, pleas to return, invitations to reason, the rift continued to fray until perhaps this failing, corrupted creation reached a tipping point beyond which there could be no hope of redemption.  Whether that was the case, only God knows.  But it was then that God lit a candle in the darkness to guide us home should we choose to see it.  He opened the realm of the divine and let slip the hope of a restored creation.

He sent us Jesus.

Jesus’ earthly ancestry was a jumble of rogues and royalty, like most of us.  His birth was into humble circumstances, like most of us.  That birth was a miracle of life, as any birth is, but was even more miraculous through its circumstance.  His life was unremarkable in terms of worldly accumulation of wealth, like most of us, but the riches he imparted through his teaching were far from ordinary.  He was challenged with every temptation that humanity can face, like every one of us, but stood firm in his resistance, to show us it can be done.   

His message was one of hope.  It was the echo of the creation call to perfection.  It was the challenge to rise above the gathering corruption of a fallen humanity bent on self-destruction and breathe the clean air of a restored Eden, now in heart, but one day in reality. 

His life was one brief but eloquent demonstration of what humanity can and should be: thankful, gracious, appreciative, selfless, loving, caring, passionate, compassionate, giving, forgiving, strong, courageous…in a word, perfect.

When the darkness claimed Jesus’ earthly life through his own willingness to lay it down, its victory was short-lived.  He arose from a borrowed tomb to unsurpassed glory: he was re-created, now more in God’s image than any before him.  He was the new Adam, rising above the bonds of mortality to show us the way to what was always planned for us.  The candle in the window now blazes as a watch-fire, a beacon on the hill of Heaven, a lighthouse to guide us safely through the straits of this fallen creation and on to perfection.  Through his life and example we have the pattern of what humanity was meant to be, what we can be if we choose.

Whether you call him Jesus, Yeshua, Immanuel, the Lamb of God or the Lion of Judah, there is no mistaking who it is you are talking about.  He is the central figure in the Christian scriptures, and some would say all of history.  His life changed the course of history, the echoes of his teaching ringing still through 20 centuries.  His message, though twisted by some and denied by others, will never be extinguished.  He continues to change hearts.  He is the son of God.  He was.  He is.  He ever shall be.