Friday, December 25, 2009

It's Nasty Out There

“In everything do to others as you would have them do to you;
for this is the law and the prophets.”
Matthew 7:12

On one of our local afternoon sports talk shows, host Mike Felger has been complaining that “this is the worst week of the year.” He has said this every day. Often repeating the very same words for emphasis. I don’t know what he is like in person. He cannot be as miserable as his on air persona. It’s just not possible.

In between explaining why Randy Moss is a bum (although he is going to the Hall of Fame) and the Red Sox should trade Jacoby Ellsbury (the most exciting baseball player I have ever seen) and Mike Lowell is useless (he was the World Series MVP in 2007 and he plays hard every day), Felger gives his analysis of life around us. And his view is, “It’s nasty out there.”

The bad news is, I think he is right.

We have lost the Golden Rule.

Even at Christmas, we have lost it. A woman wrote a letter to the editor, telling how she pulled up to the drive up mail box at the Post Office and discovered that she had not put enough postage on her Christmas card. As she looked for a stamp, the woman in the car behind her honked and yelled at her to “Move it!” She went on to say how difficult the Christmas season had been for her this year with illness and death in her family. And she wondered why people couldn’t remember that the person holding them up is a real person who may be dealing with real problems.

Christmas used to be the time when Christians acted like Christians. For a few weeks, or a few days, we were patient and we thought about the other person. For a short time, we gave up a parking space, let slower cars merge on the freeway, and invited strangers to go ahead of us at the supermarket check out line. This annual display (and often it was a display) of kindness was shallow, but it was better than nothing.

The seasonal display of kindness was as phony as Santa Claus at the shopping mall. But there was also something good about it. We were pretending to be the people we knew we ought to be. And that’s not a bad thing.

For a long time, Christmas has taken on a cultural meaning far different from the announcement of Jesus’ birth. Many of us have lamented the shallow sentimentality of the season. Deep existential reflection was replaced with “nice.” But nice is still better than nasty. And now, too often, we just have nasty.

As I reflect on how we have lost our way, I think of the verses that come right after the Golden Rule in Matthew’s Gospel:

13“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. 14For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
Matthew 7:13-14

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