Christmas is upon us once again, and families, no matter how far flung, will be gathering around hearth and home. It is said to give us a warm, comfy feeling and visions of sugar plums.
Some of us even find our way to church, although for many it is a duty done only to maintain family harmony, pleasing the old folks.
There, we hear the story about the humble birth of Jesus, sing familiar carols and again find comfort in the well-known tale we learned as children.
The problem is, comfort is not what Christianity is about. If one sits down, tunes out what others have to say about Jesus, and just reads a Bible, most will be reminded of just how difficult it is to live a Christian life.
We live in a time of rampant materialism — and also of wealth, which, boiled down, has been brought on by mankind’s increasing ability to share knowledge about the laws of nature.
That is the reason, many think, that there are 7 billion humans alive today while there were less than 2 billion a century ago. We’re better at producing food and curing illness, and thus the population grows. Many of us believe that humans are a clever species.
Our high opinion of ourselves, however, remains problematic. We begin to think that we can solve anything. Even in the midst of more material abundance and knowledge than mankind has ever had, our world still is full of woe.
A year ago, a young man walked into a Connecticut school and slaughtered dozens of children and teachers, then killed himself.
Since then, many have cried out for the government to do something — like take away everybody’s guns. Others have asked what kind of God would allow something like this killing of innocents to happen?
The politicians don’t act. The best they can do is blame someone else. And that is because the solution is not only very difficult, it is impossible for a law to solve.
No one will ever know exactly why that boy shot up that school because he is gone. All we know is that he came from a broken home, and he killed his mother before going to that school.
Even though we know that plenty of children with a poor or chaotic family life grow up to be productive citizens, I’d still bet that something happened in that boy’s upbringing that made him want to rage against the powerlessness that he felt in his life. He didn’t receive the proper nurturing or sufficient guidance or something many of us call love.
And so I’d ask on this Christmas, dear readers, how do you propose that society provide that? With a law? Surely you jest.
The solution to most of the world’s ills are not laws so much as more faith, more charity and more love — those things that you can’t see, but which all of the world’s great religions preach are key to happiness here and to the salvation of one’s soul later.
Sixty-five years ago, Whittaker Chambers was one of the most famous people in America. A Communist in the 1930s, he left the party and became an editor at Time Magazine. Then, he was called before Congress, where he testified that a number of Communist spies, including Alger Hiss, an undersecretary of state, had supplied secrets to the Soviet Union.
A few years later, Chambers wrote his autobiography, “Witness” and talked about his journey away from communism and to Christianity. It is a well-written book, and Chambers begins by saying that communism has raised the most profound question of our time: God or Man?
He writes, “(Communism) has taken the logical next step which 300 years of rationalism hesitated to take, and said what millions of modern minds think, but do not dare or care to say: If man’s mind is the decisive force in the world, what need is there for God? Henceforth, man’s mind is man’s fate.”
If you are comfortable with that — knowing that man’s mind has produced the likes of Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Saddam Hussein and countless school shooters — that’s your choice. But if you believe that there’s still a mystery about life and why this universe was created and at least some hope for God’s grace, well, for starters, there’s Christmas.
It’s the more difficult path for flawed humans to follow, requiring more than lip service, but given the savagery from which our species rose and still too often displays, it remains our best hope for righting what’s wrong with the world.
Tom West is the editor and general manager of the Record. reach him at (320) 616-1932 or email [email protected].