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Rev. Howard Bess: Does Christmas Obscure Jesus?

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posted on Dec, 15 2013 @ 09:43 AM
Does Christmas Obscure Jesus?

Rev Bess (retired Baptist minister) wrote this column for ConsortiumNews a week ago.

I think it bears a reading by the members of this forum, as a reminder of what is "real Christianity" vs the modern notions of it.....which are askew in the vast majority, and completely ignored by the "Christian Right" Ayn Rand groupies called the GOP.

(all emphases within the extexts are mine)

The Christmas season celebrates the regal myth of Jesus – his supposedly miraculous birth and royal lineage as a king of kings – but that loses sight of the historical Jesus and his revolutionary message of justice for the poor and powerless, as Rev. Howard Bess reflects.

"Regal Myth", you say, Reverend? How so??

The earliest written record of the life of Jesus was the gospel written by an unknown author called Mark, who says nothing about a miraculous birth or about royal lineage. (The fiction of his miraculous birth to a woman with royal ties was fabricated decades later.)

Instead, Jesus represented a very small tradition within Judaism that arose occasionally from the ranks of the poor to critique and challenge the dominant religious, political, social and economic powers which dominated the society and offered little to the people.

Hm, sounds like a --- sarcastic gasp! -- a Liberal Progressive to me! Bet he'd have liked the new Pope, and is breathing hypothetical sigh of relief.

Take your time, read the above excerpt again, especially the bold part (emphasis is mine).

Now, let's move on:

Not only did Jesus live and teach in a rural area far from the centers of power, there is no record in any of the four gospels that he ever entered the two major cities in his vicinity, Tiberius and Sepphoris. His heart, mind and soul were with the rural poor trapped in cycles of ignorance and desperate need.

Despite his lack of formal education and his distance from urban sophistication, Jesus was an astute observer of the religious, economic, political and social hierarchies that raped the land and terrorized the common people of his area. A careful reading of his stories and his aphorisms reveal how radical he was.

At the time, few alternatives were available to people seeking change. Roman rulers and their retainers held all the power and wiped out protesters without hesitancy.

Sound all too familiar? Any questions? Good, let us move on:

Mark’s gospel lays out Jesus’s path for establishing the reign of God on earth (and Matthew and Luke repeat the message). Fundamentally, Jesus redefined the meaning of what it was to be great, declaring that greatness did not belong to the rich and powerful.

“If anyone wants to be great, let him be the servant of all,” Jesus said. It was a restatement of the great command to love your neighbor.

When Jesus first laid out his simple plan to establish the reign of God on earth, he spoke to poor, disenfranchised, frustrated, angry and powerless rural peasants. He challenged them to bring Israelite society into line with the noblest ideals of Torah by creating a society based on service to others.

Yet, even two millennia later, the greatest disagreement among followers of Jesus remains his vision of this path to greatness through service to others.

Today’s worldly – like the royalty and rich of Jesus’s time – still assert that greatness comes from wealth and power. But the servant message still echoes through the halls of history.

At the end of the essay, Rev. Bess says the new Pope, coupled with a growing awareness of what "Jesus's message", gives him hope.

Have a good, honest, long "think" about this, folks.

One of the reader comments following the article says (when asked as an atheist why he would read Rev Bess):

I am an humanist and don’t believe in god yet I read Rev. Bess because he is getting the human message across, that we must all care for one another, in a way that rightwing religious and political leaders are NOT doing.

If Rev. Bess’s message gets out there, and Xians learn that the Jesus (who I don’t believe existed) they believe in was non-violent, for example, then maybe there will be fewer wars and more money for social causes. I can be anti-religious but not here, not with someone who isn’t pushing a religious agenda. I trust his voice and message to be humane.

And another atheist says:

I find it difficult to live in a world that cares not a whit for the least of us. And, therefore, it is left to the godless, the atheist, the agnostic, the humanist, the unbelievers and the heretics to understand the message of Jesus without any need to genuflect or abide the nonsense that has frothed around the myths.

We should listen so that we hear the good in the words of this Jesus. We should be the merciful practitioners that sees to those of us suffering that the Kristers find so abhorent.

Let us not be Christians but let us act as such. To me, if there is a lesson from the words of Jesus, that would be it.

As we enter the 10-day fray left of consumerism, stress, acquired debt, and "forced family fun" that is what Christmas is nowadays....let's all think about these things.

Any "Christian" who thinks the Pope is a problem, or that Jesus wasn't about social justice and caring for the disenfranchised (poor, needy, ignored, enslaved), needs to review their mindset.

Do you follow Ayn Rand's atheistic self-absorbed philosophy of "me first and me alone" - getting rich off the labor of others with no qualms about it at all? Or do you follow the teachings attributed to Jesus?

Only a complete hypocrite can do both. Serving "two masters", anyone?

Why is it that the agnostics, atheists, humanists, and godless unbelievers have to point these things out???

edit on 12/15/13 by wildtimes because: (no reason given)

posted on Dec, 15 2013 @ 09:59 AM
Oh man .. this will be an interesting thread.

Things you mentioned ...

- Christmas. The real meaning is mostly lost. The commercialism reflects the loss of understanding about Who Jesus really is ... IMHO. People don't know who He really is. Jesus = Love and forgiveness and compassion and empath. He isn't about 'things' and not O.T. harsh mentalities. He is love and mercy incarnate. THAT is what Christmas is about.

- Jesus and social justice. I don't know if he was into social justice, but he and his apostles do seem to have been living a socialist type lifestyle. In ACTS we see that clearly. I see Him working on souls, the natural secondary fallout of which is helping the needy and the poor.

- Ayn Rand. I liked her book 'Atlas Shrugged'. (no I'm not an objectivist) It had an excellent story and she did get the economics correct. But I found her fascination with violent sex to be odd. She equated rape and bruises/blood with love and sex play ... (it REALLY came out her book Fountainhead)

- The pope. When he speaks on forgiveness and love and helping the poor and not judging the souls of those around you, then I'm right there with him. That's what Jesus taught. When he speaks about a global tax for wealth redistribution to 'the poor' ... I get nervous. Who would be in charge of that? The Corrupt UN? The Corrupt Obama administration? The Corrupt Vatican? the Corrupt Protestant groups? Where there are organized money systems and politicians .. there is corruption. I prefer to donate through private charities that have to answer to transparency laws. And yes, that's through a capitalist system, but it's more trustworthy then any political and/or theological system out there. IMHO

posted on Dec, 15 2013 @ 10:09 AM
reply to post by FlyersFan

When he speaks about a global tax for wealth redistribution to 'the poor' ... I get nervous. Who would be in charge of that?


I don't know. I understand the notion that giving should be voluntary and not coerced; but the uber-rich don't think like the rest of us. It's a sort of pathology, as Chris Hedges said

We’ve been saturated with cultural images and a kind of cultural deification of wealth and those who have wealth. We are being–you know, they present people of immense wealth as somehow leaders–oracles, even. And we don’t grasp internally what it is an oligarchic class is finally about or how venal and morally bankrupt they are.

We need to recover the language of class warfare and grasp what is happening to us, and we need to shatter this self-delusion that somehow if, as Obama says, we work hard enough and study hard enough, we can be one of them. The fact is, the people who created the economic mess that we’re in were the best-educated people in the country–Larry Summers, a former president of Harvard, and others. The issue is not education. The issue is greed.
Source (emphasis mine again)

I don't know who would be in charge, and it seems that no matter what ideas get presented that would help things, there's always the question of "but who decides"?

Well, if Jesus's message is the underlying theme, it seems easy enough to just do what he suggested. But, since all the gazillions of denominations can't "decide", and the government can't "decide" - I really don't know. But not knowing who to put in charge doesn't take away the fact that it needs to be done by ALL OF US. We all need to take responsibility and step up.

It really and truly seems to me that the USA is the Roman Empire Redux. On its way out. Big time.

posted on Dec, 15 2013 @ 10:16 AM


Oh man .. that's all we need. Someone showing up and claiming to be Jesus or the imaginary 12th Imam or some such thing. I wonder if that's why the pope just recently warned people about worshipping politicians and celebrities .... hmmmm ....

posted on Dec, 15 2013 @ 10:18 AM
reply to post by FlyersFan

LOL!! There are already people claiming to be Jesus - did you see that Australian guy and his girlfriend who think they are actually Jesus and Mary Magdelene?

No, no one takes the "I'm Jesus" people seriously.

I know there are no easy answers - it's a big mess.

posted on Dec, 15 2013 @ 11:11 AM
Does anyone actually know when Jesus's birthday really was? I read it could have been sometimes in September

Christmas is just a day chosen to coincide with the winter Solstice to appease the people, it is not Jesus's birthday.

posted on Dec, 15 2013 @ 11:23 AM
reply to post by rickymouse

Correct! I've heard it was in April, in September, etc. I know full well it was a usurped Saturnalia festival - the pagans were the ones who brought trees inside, and the Winter Solstice was already celebrated (the sun reaches its lowest point on the horizon and stays there for three days, then commences back up toward 'overhead').

To me, it makes no difference when he was born, how he was conceived, whether or not he existed, died, didn't die, resurrected or resuscitated, etc. blah blah.

Very possible he is a mythical figure altogether - but the message still holds, no matter where it originally "came from" (it came from Solomon, it came from Buddha, it came from Krishna, from Lao Tzu, from Sumeria, and lots of others as well, into modern times). Thanks for chiming in, ricky!

posted on Dec, 15 2013 @ 12:49 PM
This guy thinks current economics thinking is a form of brain damage given that it only about the bottom line and I think he’s about right

And don’t get me started about Christians

posted on Dec, 15 2013 @ 02:53 PM
reply to post by wildtimes

What Jesus was tried to teach was not bad, it was good. It did get turned around by those desiring to profit or gain power by it's utilization but in essence the message that Jesus was trying to give was against these things.

I think Jesus was real but his message has been twisted yet if you read the bible you see that the interpretations were twisted, not the writings.

I also did read something about april somewhere I think. It really doesn't matter I suppose.

posted on Dec, 15 2013 @ 05:15 PM
I'm going to come at thus from am oblique angle......

Living in one if these 'multicultural' nations, one, can't help but notice that Christmas, the actual meaning of it i.e. Jesus birth is being stamped out. Nativity scenes were banned from public places a long time ago and thus year the malls have decorations and santa but the word Christmas is, not to be, seen anywhere, rather just signs saying 'happy giving'

I think it's high time Christmas was declared a 'cultural' event to preserve it from era'dication all together. As it is, Muslim neighborhoods test down decorations etc because is a 'christian' event that they take offense in.

We all know that trees, presents and santa have nothing to do with Jesus birth and that even the date itself is totally incorrect and yet these are things are also under threat because intolerant people from other faiths see Christmas as a purely christian event despite the fact it had been sanitized of all jesusness . As a, result I am personally becoming tired of us who live in the west having to constantly give ground to other cultures and faiths.

What do we get back for giving these things up? Oh that's right, absolutely nothing, we just get more demands and are told we are intolerant.

There is an old saying that seems to have been forgotten in our multicultural political madness; 'when in Rome, do as the Romans do......'
edit on 15-12-2013 by markosity1973 because: (no reason given)

posted on Dec, 15 2013 @ 05:20 PM
reply to post by markosity1973

I think it's high time Christmas was declared a 'cultural' event to preserve it from era'dication all together. As it is, Muslim neighborhoods test down decorations etc because is a 'christian' event that they take offense in.
They do?
(I think you mean they 'tear' down decorations, right?)

I agree with you, though, that it's a cultural event, and not a religious event anymore.

edit on 12/15/13 by wildtimes because: typo

posted on Dec, 15 2013 @ 05:37 PM
reply to post by wildtimes

Yes, I meant tear down. Stoopid predictive typing lol.

Yes, there is a suburb in melbourne that shall remain nameless as it is only one example where the local council used decorate a large tree as is tradition. However, muslims started moving into the area and when enough of them moved in they decided it was time to take action against this 'christian symbol' so they tore the lights down off it. The council replaced them, thinking it was a, random act of vandalism and they did it again.

In the end the council decided it was too costly to keep replacing the lights. So the Muslims won and those of us who like decorated trees lost out.

The bit that makes me irate is that a decorated tree is, considered christian by them and therefore a target when we all know it's a pagan thing and we do it because it looks nice. Christmas it actually a total melting pot of pagan and Christian belief and should be left as it is, baby Jesus and all.

posted on Dec, 16 2013 @ 11:44 AM
Perhaps the "Christians" should finally distance themselves from Winter Solstice or Saturnalia or any other non-christian related religious ceremonies and traditions that they took over in the first place?

I am sure the other religions would gladly enjoy the distance as well...

posted on Dec, 16 2013 @ 11:49 AM
reply to post by abeverage

Yeah! Iknowright?

I was thinking that just yesterday. If the Christians are so offended that the winter solstice holiday (aka Saturnalia - a pagan festival) is not really so much into "baby Jesus"...apparently they have forgotten, or never knew (imagine that!) that it was the Romans who usurped said festival and slapped a 'new theme' on the party.

Didn't make much difference.

Perhaps they should change "Christmas" to September (the more likely date of the supposed event) - and take over "labor day." Or, what the hell, add in another "national holiday" - we only get them every 6 weeks or so!

Then everyone would be happy - the Christians can have Jesus Birthday all to themselves, and the rest of us can do whatever with the Winter Solstice festival. Maybe it would take some pressure off to over-indulge, over-spend, over-stress, and over-comply.

For my part, I'd be fine if it went away altogether. A nuisance imo.

posted on Dec, 16 2013 @ 12:32 PM
reply to post by wildtimes

Instead, Jesus represented a very small tradition within Judaism that arose occasionally from the ranks of the poor to critique and challenge the dominant religious, political, social and economic powers which dominated the society and offered little to the people.

There's a complimentary and very interesting article, Reza Aslan On The Birth Of Jesus: 'Zealot' Author Relates Historical Nativity Narrative that adds to the ideas presented by rev. Bess.

Aslan told The Huffington Post, "If the Gospels are correct that he was from a village called Nazareth, and that he came from a family of tekton (woodworkers or builders), what that means is that he was the poorest of the poor. The word tekton was actually a term of abuse among the Romans, who used it as slang for an uncouth or illiterate peasant."

Ancient Nazareth was a small village of perhaps one hundred Jewish families or less, located on a hilltop in lower Galilee. Aslan described it as a tiny hamlet of mud and brick homes, "a place so small and inconsequential that it appears on no maps prior to the 1st century."

Aslan asserts that the gospels, that were written at least 60 years after the Death of Jesus, were meant to identify Jesus as the "The Christ", and to unite the eastern spiritual movement with new Christian thought.

"The stories themselves are not and were never meant to be read as a literal historical account of Jesus' birth," Aslan explained. "They are, instead, a theological argument about who Jesus was."

With regards to the magi that come to give gifts to the newborn king in the traditional Nativity narrative, Aslan explained that magi were Persian or Zoroastrian priests. Some Greeks believed that Zoroastrians were astrologers, which is why the magi would have noticed the appearance of a new star in the east. Aslan said, "Most scholars would say that the appearance of the magi was an attempt to connect the Jesus movement with eastern spiritual movements."

The People who wrote the narrative of the Birth of Jesus had no actual interaction with Jesus. The story of Jesus can't be based in anything "factual". The truth of the story is only understood through faith and theology.

The Winter Solstice is the reason for the season, not Jesus.

Happy Festivus!

edit on 16-12-2013 by windword because: (no reason given)

posted on Dec, 16 2013 @ 12:58 PM
reply to post by windword

Aslan asserts that the gospels, that were written at least 60 years after the Death of Jesus, were meant to identify Jesus as the "The Christ", and to unite the eastern spiritual movement with new Christian thought.

I LIKE it!!!

Yes, I agree, and thanks wind, for chiming in!


posted on Dec, 28 2013 @ 07:05 PM
reply to post by wildtimes

Wildtimes, I am so happy you made this thread.

The philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth has been completely perverted, or ignored. The Roman Empire and early church did this in order to have a stranglehold on the uneducated masses. The councils of Trent and Nicea all but destroyed what Jesus worked for.

Since then, it has been a downward spiral. Consumerism and a host of other socio-political motives (POWER) have driven the evolution of what was once a beautiful and revolutionary philosophy into the empty husk of what is modern christianity.

Christmas should be a celebration of LOVE, which was the basis of the Nazarene's teachings. Turn the other cheek, love thy neighbor, care for the sick and infirmed, and of course charity. Not charity based on obligation, or guilt, but charity based on love without expectation of reward or recognition.

Love for love's sake. "Let not the left hand know what the right hand is doing." According to the teachings of the Nazarene, ALL OTHER VIRTUES stem from true charity. (LOVE)

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