What do you know about the very First Christmas? Maybe you’ve heard the Bible story; an angel, a pregnant lady, some shepherds with donkeys and wise men riding camels all end up in a stable in Israel looking at this tiny baby boy. A cozy image with a message for all mankind; a Savior is born.
Yet he would not be the gift the people of Israel were hoping for. He was persecuted, captured, tortured and killed by the religious dictatorship of his time because of the controversial message he carried. It went something like, ‘Believe me fellows, this religiosity is blocking the way to God.’
He spread this message on earth, was crucified by the religious dictatorship and its devoted followers, yet he miraculously rose three days after his death fulfilling the promise that there is hope in heeding his words; eternal life in Heaven.
It comes in many flavors, but this is the message many still cling to when someone they love passes. You will see them again someday in Heaven, and there will be no more tears, no more struggle and no more pain.
Yet western Christianity has such a bad track record toward humanity that you can’t say much about Jesus and Christmas in the public arena without being hushed or edited. In a valiant effort to save the economy in rushes the champion of Christmas; the almighty dollar. It seems the newer capitalist Christmas finds Jesus, the manger and all the rest of it a tad embarrassing. Dare I say, taboo. Unless of course it’s framed in the context of a black and white movie from the 1930‘s – then it’s romantic.
This weekend I was shopping for wrapping paper and there was not one roll that had camels or wise men on it. No cards at any major retailers were anything remotely manger related. I barely saw an angel at all. In fact, this year the trend for trees is colored butterflies and ribbon. Ain’t no harm in that. Ain’t no Jesus either.
It seems in an attempt to divert attention from the oppression and abuse the church has inflicted upon mankind, they’ve opted to “de-Jesus” Christmas, and rebrand it “the season of giving”. Christmas has conveniently become a consumers delight so we can all move forward as Shiny Happy People holding hands, caroling by candlelight and tearing into our gifts as quick as you can.
What the… where did Jesus go? And what is this wool doing over my eyes!
Those with any sense can see the message of Christ and the actions of the church do not align. But you can’t and shouldn’t erase the Christian context from Christmas and replace it with consumerism hoping the problems will all just fade away. It is the old “bait and switch” trick. First, remove Jesus, then replace him with presents as quick as you can and hope everyone will be too distracted to notice. Meanwhile happy people across the nation embrace it hook, line and sinker; all the while cheering ‘Merry “X”-mas’.
Ongwehowe people aren’t falling for it though. We know the church is responsible for molesting children, we know the church is responsible for genocide against indigenous nations around the world. Moreover, we Ongwehowe know the church has not taken hard action to do what they should; make amends for the past and reject the assimilationist mandate. No amount of presents can distract us from that truth.
Unfortunately, there is a deceived and vocal leadership in First Nations churches who continue to convert indigenous people to a special brand of westernized Christianity. This is a misinformed church that condemns traditional people, cultural dances and indigenous nationhood as spiritually destitute. Perhaps the worst offense of all in this community apart from misinterpretation of the bible, is the hard practice of pointing people away from political resistance, and toward passivity and subservience to the worldly powers that be. All with the hopes it will get them a better seat at the table when they get to Heaven. Of course, that version of Heaven will be filled with gold curtains, sturdy wooden chairs with red velvet padding and a blonde, blue eyed Jesus Christ. But no feathers, no dancing, and definitely no drums!
What is the hard truth here? Sadly, we might never truly see Christ if we look towards the Christian church to exemplify him. Likewise, you can never truly know the indigenous people of Canada if you only look toward the Indian Act to define them. It seems then that decolonization is not only necessary for the indigenous communities and people of North America, but for the spirits and institutions of all mankind. It seems the original message of Jesus still rings true, “Believe me fellows, this religiosity is blocking the way to God.”