West Words: Actually, Christmas should make you uncomfortable

Tom West, West Words
Tom West, West Words

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].

  • Mark Fyten

    Wow. Well said Tom. Merry Christmas!

  • The corporate office of ECM newspapers is in Coon Rapids, MN. I
    really think we should start submitting complaints to that office. This
    type of ignorance is almost a weekly occurrence and legitimate reporting
    does not get done.

    I raised 3 amazing human beings as a single parent. While it’s true
    that I was divorced there was nothing “broken” about our home. All of
    Tom’s writing, including his article about the assassination of JFK
    grieves the loss of “simpler” times, and harkens back to his reverence
    for a sunshiny-Glen-Miller America that never existed.

    What Tom has not considered is that when he wrote of the “simpler”
    times in the early sixties; they were only simpler for straight, white,
    men. Race crimes and civil rights issues where barbaric and white hot
    during the very period Tom embraces as our country’s finest days.
    Domestic violence was a “family matter”. Women were largely dependent
    and families stayed together because divorce left women and their
    children living in abject poverty while their counter parts moved on to
    start new families. Our court systems only required divorced fathers to
    toss in a few buck each month toward the care of the children they
    already produced so they could start fresh with new wives and new lives
    all while gay partners lived and loved in fear and secrecy.

    Unfortunately, Tom’s ignorance and denial of a more varied, broader
    community infiltrates all of his work at the paper. Where his West Words
    articles ignore the whole of society except white men, his weekly
    selection of publishable “relevant stories” completely ignore truly
    important stories about nursing home abuse, health violations, school
    board failures, racist remarks by council members and unexplained cuts
    to federal grants and instead he presents himself and the community with
    only the nice parts of stories. Stories that frame Morrison County and
    its leaders as individuals who belong to the sunshiny Glen Miller
    America that Tom longs for. Never mind that it never existed. Never mind
    that it still doesn’t. Never mind the papers obligation to report all
    the facts about the news, not just the parts that pander to Tom West’
    sense of nostalgia.

    Beyond the broader issues his articles raise, I think his opinion on
    this topic regarding legislation is completely inaccurate because too
    few have access to health insurance and even fewer have access to mental
    health care. We focus on gun control when we need to focus on mental
    health, whether that be of the parent, child or both. After the US
    opened the doors to the atrocities in our asylums we largely left those
    individuals to rot in our prison systems.