BY DON NELSON
A rose by any other name is still a rose.
Human beings of all cultures experience joy and sorrow, hope and despair.
Longing for and seeking after meaning in the moment is common to our kind. That seeking has not been done in a homogenous fashion. Many are the ways we humans have attempted to find the central purpose for life. Those ways are not as important as the fact that the seeking is common.
The variety of cultural expressions of the poetic verse that each ethnic group and indigenous peoples hold dear is clearly manifested in the seasonal greetings extended this time of year. Greetings that should serve to call us into a hopeful, caring and joyous time instead seem to be the very thing that separate and divide.
It seems, to this aging human being, that we are not engaged in “coming together” as one human family but rather we have grown more intent on identifying and separating along “religious and social” fault lines. We are becoming a fractured and quake endangered specie.
Somehow the placid imagery that adherents to the Christian faith like to point to as the “Christmas Experience” seems more at home in a Macy’s storefront display. They are nice to look at but have very little impact on the “lived out” example of that faith. This, it seems to me, points to the conundrum of any proclamation of belief.
All who know me know I am self-identified as an Alum of the Institutional Church. That said I have to express hope that Pope Francis will make a difference as he leads his church into reflecting and examining the core values and beliefs it is founded on.
As we prepare for a Day of Gathering and Celebrating – however you understand it – my hope is that you can find time to reflect on the core values of your belief. You may consider yourself a non-believer – that’s not a show-stopper when looking at the central convictions you hold about your fellowman and how justice and mercy and compassion have molded you as a person.
Others may hold firmly to a belief system that they feel needs to be defended. It does not need your defense. What it needs is your commitment to follow the core values of justice, mercy and compassion that are now and have always been foundational.
To quote the wisdom and truth others have spoken is always appropriate. I offer such from two qualified human beings, John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.
“The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me? But … the good Samaritan reversed the question: If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him? All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.” – MLK
“For in the final analysis, our most basic common link, is that we all inhabit this small planet, we all breathe the same air, we all cherish our children’s futures, and we are all mortal. Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one’s own beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression for persecution of others.” – JFK
Christians like to say this is a celebration of the birth of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, the Hope of the World.
To all those who so believe, the time has come to live out those words and stop following the opinions and interpretations of your poetry.
To all others, it is time to seek that core of justice, mercy, compassion and humanness and make it live through your life.
Happy Holidays – Merry Christmas – Have a Holly Jolly Christmas this year.
– Don Nelson lives in Lawton, OK and is a frequent contributor to The Oklahoma Observer