As life’s shadows lengthen, it’s natural to move your thinking on from the kids to the grand-children. You’ve done your best for your own progeny; their path is set. But what legacy can be left for future generations? What will make a real difference for them? I guess it depends on what we want the world to be like and what big issue must be addressed.
When I recall the early years, all of my memories seem to converge to the simple. Sliding down a cow paddock hillside in on an old car hood with my best friend, while mum shovelled cow manure into a wheel-barrow. Endless summer days riding my bike, building forts and shooting at things with my slingshot. I don’t ever remember going home for lunch.
Christmas time was extra special – a month of trees, lights, smells, music, food and toys. For a young person, it was pure sensory indulgence. I remember one midnight service where the church was so full we had to sit in the balcony, right in front of the choir. Looking over my shoulder, I sat mesmerised as they sang of Bethlehem, shepherds, choirs of angels and baby Jesus in a manger. Joy danced in every mother’s eyes. Presents, cards and cakes were given to family, friends and those in need. Nobody ever questioned the importance of Christmas. Why would you? Nobody ever apologised for celebrating Christmas. Why should you? I guess we’ve taken Christmas for granted.
We know that the Nazarene was probably not born on 25 December. Anthropological studies would also argue that Christians have co-opted ancient mid-winter festivals for their own purposes. Nevertheless, Christmas has, for centuries, meant something special for our culture. It has, for generations been a time for reflection, celebration and generosity.
Fast-forward about 45 years from boyhood to now. A friend recently sent me a video clip of a particular group of people climbing a large Christmas tree in a shopping centre in France. They were yelling hysterically, tearing at the decorations, throwing baubles in disgust. A public celebration of Christmas was obviously offensive to them. I don’t remember seeing this on the news. As is their custom, Western media outlets went to great lengths to avoid publicising this in case they inflamed the already heightened sense of disdain. Similarly, law-makers are hell-bent on preventing the claimed offences of Christmas – by replacing “Merry Christmas” with “Happy Holidays,” banning nativity scenes and culling Christmas Carols (except for Rudolph the red-nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman). After all, we don’t want to be correct, just politically so.
My father-in-law (Fin) told me about one US county that even banned the playing of Christmas Carol tunes in case they evoked the lyrics in people’s minds. Imagine the world devoid of Mozart’s Greensleeves or Handel’s Messiah. But how do musical tunes offend the sensibilities of those who have never heard the words? And if they have heard them while in their own countries, why did they choose to listen? The duplicitousness of law-makers appears quite obvious in this instance.
With teacher-like chiding, we are admonished to be tolerant of other people’s beliefs. Granted. I recognise that people have differing views, but not all views are created equal. Some result in the exchanging of gifts and blessings, others in tearing down public displays with rancorous, intolerant lust. We’ve also (recently) been told that “love trumps hate.” After all, didn’t the modern-day philosopher John Lennon tell us that “all you need is love?” Shouldn’t we love our enemies by sacrificing what we value on the altar of tolerance? Well, I’d like to counter Lennon’s quote with another from the Black-Eyed Peas (Where is the Love): “The truth is kept secret, it’s swept under the rug. If you never know truth, then you never know love.”
Two millennia ago, Pilate sarcastically questioned the bloodied Nazarene with “what is truth?” and departed without waiting for a response. In 2005, the satirical US comedian Stephen Colbert coined the term “Truthiness” to describe “the quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes or believes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true.” A decade later, the Oxford Dictionaries have proposed the death-knell of “Truth” by nominating the word “Post-truth” as their 2016 Word of the Year. It “relates to or denotes circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” In other words, in 2005, Colbert predicted the dawning of “Post-Truth,” which our luminaries have used to declare, with clenched fist, the emasculation of “Truth.” I’ve heard it stated that love is the supreme ethic while truth is intolerant. After all, truth is, by definition, exclusive while it seems that love has an amazing ability to tolerate everyone and everything. This, however, is a common misconception as love also possesses a hard edge. I’d like to point out that when “I do” is stated to a marriage partner, “I don’t” is the automatic response to all others.
For love to be the fruit, truth must be the root. Truth not only lies at the root of the tree of behaviour, but its attempted emasculation is, in my humble opinion, the root cause of many of today’s ills. That is the WHY to this article. I feel compelled to defend this belief, even if it results in intolerance by those who demand tolerance. Naturally, my defence will be made in the marketplace of ideas and via peaceful and dialogal means; with weapons of logic and reason. If, however, my peace is assaulted by force, does that mean that I should step aside and let the enemy of my values steal them from me? I say, no. I’m going to appeal to Gandalf and as he did to the Balrog, draw a line and shout: “You cannot pass!”
I want my children’s children to grow up knowing that there are “truths” to be known and defended. They should know what they believe and why they believe it. They should be skilled in logic and reason and be taught to live by what they believe. If they know this, they will be able to stand against any attempt to strip away what is valuable to them. Included is the freedom to enjoy Christmas.
I am going to end this article by daring to be offensive. I wish every reader a very Merry Christmas, a joyous New Year, a great sense of peace, prosperity in your spirit (more-so than your pocket) and great contentment in life. Unlike Pilate, I trust you will all hang around long enough to understand what truth is.