Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Jesus did not work at Wal-Mart. Jesus was a radical - and A Charlie Brown Christmas knows it!

- PinkMoose photo

Bill Tieleman's 24 hours/The Tyee column

Christmas Marks Birth of a Revolutionary

December 22, 2009

"Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?"

- Charlie Brown, A Charlie Brown Christmas, 1965

He was a radical, an angry man who physically threw loan sharks out of the churches, befriended prostitutes and the poor and so challenged the rule of military authorities that they cruelly executed him in public.

Jesus Christ was not working for Wal-Mart. Jesus was not promoting seasonal gift giving based on a religious holiday or corporate windfall profits from making toys in sweatshops exploiting child labour.

No, Jesus was working for revolutionary change.

So as we celebrate the day marking Christ's birth consider that the leader of one of the world's largest religions demanded sweeping social justice, not weekly prayers.

And whether you are a follower of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism or another religion, or are, like me, an agnostic, secularist, humanist or atheist -- it's important to understand this at Christmas.

Charlie Brown had it right

Christ's true mission is rarely seen or heard at this time of year. And ironically, one of the few places one can watch a telling critique of the commercialization of Christmas has been broadcast on commercial television each year since 1965.

A Charlie Brown Christmas is generally seen as a popular children's program with a seasonal feel-good lesson.

In fact, cartoonist Charles Schultz managed to promote a highly subversive message that severely criticizes advertising -- while using it to pay for sending his vision to an audience of hundreds of millions. Brilliant!

Where else could you hear this line from Lucy Van Pelt: "Look, Charlie, let's face it. We all know that Christmas is a big commercial racket. It's run by a big eastern syndicate, you know."

Charlie's little sister Sally has a similarly cynical view of Christmas. She cannot yet write a letter to Santa but convinces her brother to take dictation:

Sally: "How is your wife? I have been extra good this year, so I have a long list of presents that I want."

Charlie Brown: "Oh brother."

Sally: "Please note the size and color of each item, and send as many as possible. If it seems too complicated, make it easy on yourself: just send money. How about tens and twenties?"

Charlie Brown: "TENS AND TWENTIES? Oh, even my baby sister!"

Sally: "All I want is what I... I have coming to me. All I want is my fair share."

And as Lucy's brother Linus Van Pelt realizes: "Christmas is not only getting too commercial, it's getting too dangerous."

Charlie Brown sums up his confusion: "I just don't understand Christmas, I guess. I like getting presents and sending Christmas cards and decorating trees and all that, but I'm still not happy. I always end up feeling depressed."

Give to charities, and work for change

The irony of the original broadcast -- sponsored by Coca-Cola -- was that the CBS network didn't like A Charlie Brown Christmas, not for its anti-commercialism but because in the key scene where Linus answers Charlie's question about the meaning of Christmas, he directly quotes the Bible.

But Coca-Cola liked and approved the show, so CBS was overruled and the broadcast premiered on Dec. 9, 1965 at 8 p.m.

CBS executives worried that a show about Christmas was "pro-Christian"!

They needn't have. A Charlie Brown Christmas was the number two show of that week, with very few complaints about its overt religious content, and won an Emmy Award for best children's television program.

A Charlie Brown Christmas has become a winter staple ever since. Thank God!

You too can remember the true meaning of Christmas -- by supporting charities that help those in need.

Season's greetings to all my Tyee and 24 Hours readers.

I return to 24 hours on Tuesday January 5, 2010 but check this blog for occasional items, including on the unbelievable sixth anniversary of the B.C. Legislature Raid, December 28, 2003 -- without a trial.



Unknown said...

Another great column, Bill. Thanks. Mel

Ron said...

An excellent Christmas think-piece Bill.

Jesus was indeed a radical - the Latin term for someone who got to the "root" of issues.

He came in the tradition of the Hebrew prophets who were murdered for speaking out against the political and religious elites of their times who "ground the faces of the poor", and "forgot the fatherless".

Selfish individual and corporate greed manifested in today's casino capitalist system diminishes us all and destroys our environment, as we participate in a trashy materialistic economy driven by profit rather than social use or human need.

J.S. Woodsworth had it right when he said: "What we desire for ourselves, we wish for all. To this end we take our part in the world's work and the world's struggles."

The massive global market failure of last year simply reminds one that those who worship at the altar of the market ideology, worship a god that failed.

The vision of a Cooperative Commonwealth in which all contribute and all share in the Earth's bounty still fires many social democrats.

In relative terms, the socially just, environmentally sustainable, and economicaly productive and innovative Nordic nations - deeply influenced by historic Christian socialist values - provide examples to which we should aspire.

Thank you for reminding me of this truly radical legacy, Bill.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Bill, well said. Seasons greetings!

Mr. Beer N. Hockey said...

Given the impossibility of the whole Easter lark it might be better to characterize Jesus as a Prankster.

Ron said...

A joke for the Christmas dinner table.

A man died and went to Heaven. As he stood in front of the Pearly Gates, he saw a huge wall of clocks behind St Peter.

He asked, 'What are all those clocks?' St. Peter answered, 'Those are Lie-Clocks. Everyone on earth has a Lie-Clock. Every time you lie the hands on your clock move.'

'Oh', said the man.. 'Whose clock is that?'

'That's Mother Teresa's', replied St. Peter. 'The hands have never moved, indicating that she never told a lie.' 'Incredible', said the man.

'And whose clock is that one?' St. Peter responded, 'That's Abraham Lincoln's clock. The hands have moved twice, telling us that Abraham told only two lies in his entire life.'

'Where's Gordon Campbell's clock?' asked the man.

'Campbell's clock is in Jesus’ office. He's using it as a ceiling fan.'

Happy Hanukkah and Merry Xmas Bill, and to all.

Anonymous said...

Jesus would raise the minimum wage!

Christine said...

Your column made it worthwhile reading 24h... But I wondered, can you be an agnostic and still affirm the true meaning of Christmas? "Unto you a Savior is born, Christ the Lord", in my mind, it doesn't leave room for 'doubters', it's either you believe it or not and if you believe, you become his follower (Christian=follower of Christ). You can call him a radical, because he was opposing the religious leaders and their practices, but to reduce him to the status of 'social worker', who cared for the poor and needy and only came to tell us to do likewise, is also wrong... Christ's true mission is to save people from their sins, the social justice aspect is extra, a consequence of a person's changed heart. He says: 'Come, follow Me.' which requires to believe in him, and believe him, who he said he is, and why he came.
However, I'm truly thankful for this public appeal to remember the true meaning of Chrismas, for both the religious and the doubters... Thank you for this! and Merry Christmas!

Eleanor Gregory said...

Nice think piece, Bill. I sent this to my sibs, including my one religious sib-in-law who worries about my atheist soul (un-soul?}.

Merry Christmas

Anonymous said...

Hi Bill
Wishing you a very merry Xmas and
a happy new year.
You're doing a great job . Things can only get better in 2010.

Neale Adams said...

Merry Christmas, Bill. The interesting thing about the Gospels is how people read what they want into them. If you favour social change, you see Jesus as revolutionary. If you're a conservative, you can focus on other passages. Who was Jesus really? God knows!