X-Mas? Jesus Would Be Ashamed

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[Commentary On Christmas]

Every December 25, Americans profess their love for Christ by celebrating Christmas.

And for a day they pretend to be benevolent with the symbolic exchange of gifts, while singing Christmas carols like “White Christmas.” Giving is perhaps the greatest virtue of all. Isn’t it the essence of love? But the “giving” that America engages in at Christmas is, largely, just a shameful sham. Unfortunately, Christmas often delineates the class schism between the “haves and have-nots.”

I often wonder if most Americans really reflect on the teachings of Christ during Christmas. For most that “give” during Christmas revert right back to their selfish ways when the holidays are over. Christ taught that sharing was a duty of responsibility. What would he think of selfish people who don’t understand that giving isn’t a one day affair?

All across America, many people are being neglected by the avarice that now lies at the heart of the American spirit. Americans down on their “luck” subsist invisible to the larger society. The Social Darwinist attitude is: if they aren’t “making it” it’s their own damn fault. Do they really think Christ approves of this kind of shallow thinking?

One of the most powerful Biblical stories is the narrative of Christ feeding five thousand hungry people, with five loaves of bread and two fishes. The literal reading of this story isn’t overly important, since it’s an allegorical tale. The real message here is that true Christian faith is embodied in the virtuous service of caring and sharing with others. But how many hungry people, including children, do we ignore every day?

According to the U.S Department of Agriculture 38 million people in America—including 13.9 million children—live in homes that suffer from hunger, or, are living on the edge of hunger. Why is this social scourge tolerated in a supposedly “Christian” country as wealthy as America? What does it say when one CEO—Goldman Sacks’ Lloyd Blankfein—receives $68 million, as a bonus, while nearly 14 million of our children are starving? Did Goldman Sacks give back anything substantial to any charity? Unsurprisingly, Blacks and Hispanics endure higher rates of starvation, Blacks (21.8 percent) Hispanics (19.5 percent.)

America often deludes itself into believing that it is a compassionate nation, but given the facts, is this anything more than euphoric fantasy? Based on GNP per capita, America is the fourth richest country in the world; with a GNP per capita of $41, 440. This is surpassed only by Luxembourg at $56,380; Norway $51,810 and Switzerland at $49,600.

Condoning hunger and poverty would be one thing if America was some poor “underdeveloped Third World” nation. It isn’t. Is greed the problem here?

A CEO receiving a $68 million bonus isn’t an aberration. In fact, it is that very abomination that creates poverty and hunger in America. A 1986 report, done by the Joint Economic Committee of the U.S Congress, highlights America’s wealth imbalance. Among the findings were: (1) the top half percent controls 35.1 percent of the wealth. (2) The richest ten percent owned 71.7 percent of the wealth. (2) The other 90 percent only receives 28.2 percent of the wealth. It should be noted that some authorities insist these figures are conservative, because of the manner in which the data was collected. They argue the imbalance is even higher.

This year we have witnessed many Americans losing their homes, and facing homelessness, in the continuing fallout from the mortgage market meltdown. Homelessness in America is already a severe problem. The National Center on Family Homelessness states there are over one million homeless children. They warn family homelessness is also on the rise.

For sometime now, lip-service has been given about “supporting the troops.” The current price tag for this Iraq war of aggression, created by our “leaders,” is climbing toward the trillion dollar figure. Yet, according to the Veterans Administration, at one point in 2004, there were as many as 400,000 to 500,000 homeless veterans. In New Jersey, there are 7,000 homeless veterans. In New York, the figure is 13,000. Why are there so many homeless veterans, in this “Christian” nation? Why can politicians find money to destroy but not to save lives?

In Louisiana, two years after Katrina most of those who were neglected by American elitism are now being forgotten while some stuff their selfish stomachs this Christmas. Many remain homeless, while the murder rate skyrockets in streets where the mud and debris left by the storm are still not cleaned.

This Christmas, as always, there will be grassroots organizations doing their best to feed the hungry and clothe the destitute, with little or no help from the wealthy. Those with a little seem to perpetually give their all. Christ taught “it’s more blessed to give than to receive.” America should ask itself if this is really a “Christian” nation why isn’t it living up to this essentially fundamental Christian ideal?

Benjamin is a member of The Black Star News’s Editorial Board

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