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Christmas stories

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press
Tuesday, December 27, 2016 08:30 am

Had a nice visit with my sister over Christmas. Because of work schedules, we don't often get to spend the actual day together. We watched Hallmark Channel Christmas movies on Saturday and Sunday both. I don't think I have her quite hooked yet, but she's caught on to the fact that you can do other things, read a book or go  make coffee, let your attention wander all the time, because the movies are utterly predictable from the first five minues.So is the likelihood that people will say something utterly stupid about Christmas. I kept my exposure to that at a minimum by not watching the news. But even when you take a quick peek at social media, there it all is. Matthew Dowd, "chief political analyst" for ABC wins the prize this holiday season. (I put that in quotation marks because he's one of the geniuses who said Donald Trump could never win; he said there was a 95 percent chance of a Hillary Clinton win, and that she would win by a larger margin and with a bigger coalition than Barack Obama.) He tweeted this on Christmas Eve: "Let us remember today 2 immigrants, a man and his very pregnant wife, sought shelter & were turned away by many. She gave birth in a manger."

Ah, twisting the Bible to suit your own agenda. An oldie but goodie. The version I'm the most used to hearing is that Joseph and Mary were homeless and nobody would take them in, so if we want to honor Jesus we will pledge to think good thoughts about the homeless, or something.

Of course Joseph and Mary were not homeless. Joseph was a carpenter, and they had a home suitable for someone of that trade in that time and place. And of course they wren't immigrants, either. They went on a temporary trip from Nazareth, the town they lived in, to Bethlehem, the town of David's line, which was Joseph's line, in the same country, to register with the government so thjey could be taxed. They weren't refused anything by anybody. A lot of people were under the same decree, so the town was full, and there was simply no room available.

If I wanted to use the Nativity to support my own agenda, I'd probably make that evil tax collector the centerpiece of my story, make it a parable about the dangers of a big, central government and how it strangled individual initiative. And let's talk about productivity — ever stop to think about how much carpentry Joseph didn't get done while traipsing all over the place. Now that I think about it, though, liberals probably aren't nearly done with twisting the story yet. Any Christmas now, somebody will note the fact that, um, Joseph is not really Christ's father, so it is entirely possible he is a secret transgender.

Joseph isn't really need in this story, is he? Writer Alma T. C. Boykin noticed that when she heard some girls talking about an Amy Grant pop-Christian song about "Mary being a single mother" and "God taking care of her" and "letting her know that he was OK with her," and that's the message we should get out to young, unmarried pregnant girls today, too.

The Gospel of Luke is what most people seem to associate with the Nativity and Christmas. But the Gospel of Matthew has an important point in it – Joseph "being a good man" didn’t plan to make Mary’s pregnancy public and ask for her to be punished. And he stayed with her, believing the angel in his dreams, and accepting the child as if it were his. Mary was not "just like" modern single mothers.

But that seems to be an unfortunate trend in pop theology and therapeutic Christianity. There’s nothing wrong with being a single mom, or by implication, with the actions required to get in that condition. Or worse, you have the guest editorial writer in the Washington Post who claimed that the Christian Church’s making Mary an example of the importance of bodily purity is hurtful to rape victims and that no human should be expected to be celibate until marriage, and that to recommend such is triggering and cruel. Which, even though I’m not Catholic, is not anywhere in the teachings about Mary that I’ve read or come across.

Sometimes it's hard to understand whether someone is truly ignorant of the Christmas story and its meaning or it they're deliberately misinterpreting it. Such is the case with what David French calls "the strange and revealing controversy" over a message sent out by the Republican National Committee that made the left's heads explode (as so many things seem to these days). Goodness, they all fretted, was the RNC actually calling Donald Trump a king and equating him to Christ? Hardly. This was the part of the RNC statement being reacted to:

Merry Christmas to all! Over two millennia ago, a new hope was born into the world, a Savior who would offer the promise of salvation to all mankind. Just as the three wise men did on that night, this Christmas heralds a time to celebrate the good news of a new King. We hope Americans celebrating Christmas today will enjoy a day of festivities and a renewed closeness with family and friends.

I'm no expert on Christianity, but even I know that "new King" (note the capitalization, please) refers to Christ.

I have two reactions to this strange little controversy. First, are these folks really so ignorant of Christian language and customs that they don’t understand that the "new King" is Christ? I’ve heard that phrase countless times. "King" is capitalized for crying out loud — a clear reference to the divine.

Two weeks ago, New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet told NPR’s Terry Gross, "I think that the New York–based, and Washington-based too, probably, media powerhouses don’t quite get religion." Yup, and this tiny tempest is Exhibit A.

Next, do liberal journalists and pundits really think so little of the RNC that they actually believe they’d call Trump a king? Do they really think they’d compare the president-elect to Jesus? Apparently so, and that’s a big problem. They’re not even granting the RNC the presumption of rationality. Indeed, they presume the opposite – that their political opponents are delusional.

I remember a line from the move "Goodbye, Mr. Chips" (haven't read the book so I don't know if it's there, too). Chips said the two things you really need in life are a sense of proportion and a sense of humor. When it comes to covering Donald Trump, the press is going to have neither, so it will be of ever-diminishing value.

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