AUTHOR: Beth TITLE: DATE: 12/24/2003 11:47:00 AM ----- BODY:
A Heathen on Christmas
"I want so much to believe"

--NIN, "Terrible Lie"

We all know I find Christmas irritating. So I'll spare you another year of ranting on that. To be honest with you, this Christmas hasn't been too bad so far. My holiday shopping went remarkably quickly. The so-called stress of the season hasn't really been all that crushing. It still sets my teeth on edge to hear "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" sung by anybody, but I think I'll live (and this is equally true of many other non-holiday songs). But when Christmas doesn't make me mad, it makes me sad. Sad because I simply cannot fathom, let alone join, the sudden and fleeting yearly belief in hope and peace. What does it really accomplish to have just several weeks a year when we can all feel better about ourselves for being kind to our fellow man? Why do we feel that now is the only time of year to pay attention to our families, to count our blessings, to give to charity? Just reading the news, it's fairly obvious. Because at heart, people are nasty and greedy and selfish. We want everything for ourselves--including credit for being a good person. So, 11 months out of the year, we behave like the cutthroat, barely-evolved animals that we are. And for approximately one month a year, some of us stand on street corners ringing bells, and others throw their pocket change in, and that, apparently, absolves us all for another rotation around the sun on the miserable world we've created. I don't mean for this to be so cynical. After all, scratch a cynic and a disappointed idealist bleeds. That, I think, is what's happening here. I'll admit that the Christmas season can be very bewitching--until it calls to mind the very misery that its excesses try to hide. All the Martha-Stewart Christmas Trees in the world aren't going to make me feel better about something like this, for example. And the ever-popular volunteering at a soup kitchen on Christmas Eve isn't going to absolve me of the guilt I feel over my priveleged life; if I was really worthy of such absolution, I'd volunteer on a rainy night in mid-March. We all would, if we were truly good people. Just pick up a newspaper and you'll see what I mean. Take today's New York Times headlines, for example. Reading it online today I learned that Mad Cow Disease has (finally) been detected in the United States. Why? Because of the greed of people in the beef industry, who feed cattle to one another rather than using cornmeal or other, more natural feed, so they can cash in on the greed of sprawling corporate health-ruining fast food behemoths. This collectively means that many people in the United States could end up, literally, with sponges for brains. Meanwhile, several thousand acres of rare forest have been declared fair game for development, meaning logging, and Pakistan's Pervez Musharaff was the target of an assassination attempt this week--prompting speculation about what would happen if the nuclear powers of Pakistan were to fall into the hands of a fanatical military which, without Musharaff, would be without command or control. Oh, and Minister Darryl Strawberry has apparently become the spiritual counselor for Michael Jackson, in a dazzling display of the righteousness of Christianity (note to Bible-thumpers: sarcasm). It's funny how I've been thrown in the loony bin, and then put on medication that has done truly obscene things to my body, when it seems like the entire human population is collectively trying to kill itself. But, as I've said before, I'm not here to hate on anyone's religion. I'm not going to get into the particular bones I have to pick with Christian belief, though they are numerous. Well, except for this one: this perverse, pathetic world--in my mind, anyway--cannot be one into which a Savior has been born. Pity me if you like--that's just the way I feel.