Christmas Day, Sydney, AD 2012. And just for once, with my wife and daughter away on well-earned holidays in Malaysia and the rest of my family elsewhere around the world, I’ve decided to turn down kind invitations from friends to include me in their celebrations in favour of some solitary cerebrations.
And the weather seems to be of similar mind and mood. Outside the rain is pouring down like the tears of heaven, as if in sympathy with those of us spending this day reflecting on how far the human race has – and hasn’t – come since the birth of Christianity.
Not that the Nativity, as the birth of Jesus Christ has become known, was free of mixed messages. The allegedly “immaculate” conception and apparent celibacy of the self-professed “son of God” have proven endlessly problematic in relation to the sexuality of the faithful.
With the result that today, twenty centuries later, the clergy of the Catholic Church is riven with sexual-abuse scandals and its laity is still denied the practice of artificial birth-control.
Then there is the matter of the birth in a manger in a stable that was supposedly symbolic of poverty and humility, but was oddly contradicted by the arrival of three wise men bearing costly gifts.
And this contradiction has been perpetuated through New Testament messages decrying the love of money and material goods, often supported by those most addicted to wealth and power for the purpose of perpetuating their exploitation of the people.
So that today, as I write, the Pope, richly decked-out in gold-encrusted garments, has been preaching the Christian message from his splendid Vatican palace.
But of course the Pope doesn’t speak for all Christians, and there are admittedly some Christian sects and other organisations that properly scorn the trappings of earthly wealth.
But the head of the Church of England, Queen Elizabeth 11, speaks from a situation of equal magnificence to the Pope’s, in blithe forgetfulness of the fact that her version of Christianity was founded by former King Henry V111, who variously killed and divorced several wives and plundered the monasteries for his own and his cronies’ enrichment.
I haven’t yet heard or seen this year’s Christmas platitudes from Her so-called Royal Highness. But I’ve read part of the Pope’s pronouncements, and they’re as unimpressive as ever. Calling for peace in the Middle-East and lamenting the flight of Christians from the region.
No mention, of course, in his message for regimes there, that Christians are siding with the Alawites of the murderous Bashar al-Assad regime in its war on the majority of Syrians, and no call for adherence to religious principles on the part of Jewish and Muslim parties to the eternal conflict.
No call on Catholic or other Christian supporters of killing around the world either, like the NRA’s believers in US citizens’ “right to bear arms”.
The recent massacre of 20 small children and six of their teachers at a pre-school was greeted by the NRA with about as un-Christian response as you could get: let Americans keep their guns and put armed guards in every school.
But it’s not all doom and gloom, as I sit here with only my thoughts and my daughter’s black goldfish Boris for company on this rainy Christmas Day in Sydney. There are many organisations, both Christian and otherwise, that are today, as every day, out there busily practising what they preach.
The Salvation Army and St Vincent de Paul Society, to name just two, are spending their Christmas Day ministering to the poor and homeless with free food and gifts, all provided by public donations.
Many Americans, including President Obama, are taking a brief holiday from their tireless efforts to finally achieve some measure of gun-control.
And a great many ambassadors for peace, Christian, Muslim, Jewish and whatever other religions or of no religions at all, are still working hard to try and bring peace and harmony to the endlessly strife-torn Middle-East, Africa and elsewhere.
Including, of course, Malaysia, where growing numbers of individuals and organisations are dedicating themselves to countering the ill-will the ruling coalition does its damndest to promote between the nation’s religions and races.
As I’ve commented countless times before, the Barisan Nasional regime and its cronies in the police, judiciary, media and business would be a disgrace to any religion.
No religion on earth would condone the wholesale thievery that BN commits, or the violence, lying, bribery and chicanery that it practices to keep itself eternally in power.
Yet still it claims to be the “defender of Islam” and attempts to conceal its criminality behind a cloak of blatant hypocrisy.
As Bob Teoh states in his excellent “Xmas card to my prime Minister” today, the BN regime has condoned the slapping of non-Muslim Orang Asli school students for failing to recite the doa over their lunches, the conversion of under-age students, and the forced Islamisation of bumiputra Christians in the issue of their MyCards.
Then there is the authorities’ continued antagonism to use of the word “Allah” by Malaysian Christians even though the Kuala Lumpur High Court has ruled that this is permissible.
These and many other facts of life under BN rule, including the regime’s objection to the display of crucifixes on schools and churches, its sponsorship of the race and religious pressure group Perkasa and the gutter sectarian ‘newspaper’ Utusan Malaysia, and total lack of religious freedom for Malays, totally give the lie to Prime Miniister Najib Abdul Razak’s “moderate” 2012 Christmas message.
Like everything else Najib pays lip-service to, his pretending to cozy-up to Christians is, like his playing Santa Claus with public funds with his BR1M scheme, just a cynical ploy to buy votes.
So just as Jesus may well have wept at the prospect of what would eventually become of his messages of peace, love and charity, he would surely shed a tear at the fact that his birthday has for so many become such an orgy of greed, and a golden opportunity to parade their profane hypocrisy.