San Diego – Today is Christmas. A day which has, for centuries, been set aside to remember, celebrate, and honor the birth of a man whose life and simple, beautiful teachings changed the world. Over 2,000 years ago, Yeshua bar Joseph, “Jesus” in the Greek translations of the Hebrew texts, told his adherents to turn the other cheek, help others in more need than themselves, and that a relationship with God did not require adherence to a ritualistic law based on blood sacrifice, it did not require intermediaries to speak to God for an individual. He taught the then heretical notion that every individual could have his own personal relationship with God by simply speaking to Him and even taught how to do that.
He was utterly misunderstood by authorities and even many of his own followers chafing under onerous and pagan Roman rule and was therefore arrested for sedition and treason and executed in the grimmest of manners reserved usually for the worst offenders. A relatively fast death by wild beasts in the arena was far preferable to the long lasting agony of the object lesson to others provided by a crucifixion. Down through the ages since then, his message has been lost even by the Church that billed itself as the proper lineage of his teachings. In his name they slaughtered other cultures and peoples and even each other for minor infractions of dogma in a sea of blood and tears that must have been another source of agony for the man himself. Whether he was born divine or infused with a spark of the divine or merely carried a divinely inspired message, it is his message that was at the core of it all. His message has inspired some of the greatest accomplishments in mankind’s history since then. And it is his message that, when ignored, forgotten, perverted, or refused, has been the missing ethic that has led to the worse and most horrific abuses humans can bring on each other and their environment.
Today the belief system he inspired,and therefore his message, is under attack as never before. In a true example of throwing the baby out with the bath water, rejections of religion, even of God, have also resulted in rejections of Yeshua’s beautiful message because once God has been thrown out of the mix, and despite assertions that He is not needed and His authority is replaceable by man-made institutions, the reality has proven quite the opposite. And I believe mankind has suffered accordingly as they have loosened the bonds that held their natural predacious instincts in check.
His message is also under attack by a much younger religion created in a time of internal war and savage bloodshed in one of the most inhospitable lands on the planet by a true warrior who exhorted his followers to convert or kill unbelievers. Yeshua would have been saddened by such a message: in his eyes, if in fact any was due based on beliefs, such vengeance was not man’s prerogative, it was God’s. The God of Yeshua was sufficiently powerful to take care of such things on His own and did not need the puny assistance of humans. Yet, 1400 – 1600 years after Yeshua walked the earth his so-called followers had adopted as bloodthirsty a view of those they saw as heretical as any view entertained by the current followers of Mohammed. But his message was more powerful than even our savage instincts and power hungry desires so we continued to grow and evolve and finally put those savage policies behind us (for the most part) while, unfortunately, far less mature and far more ignorant followers of the newer religion are just now coming into that same time frame following the birth of their prophet. The problem is we are not playing in a sandbox with swords and spears anymore, we are playing with missiles, bombs, bullets, and more…
It was the logical extensions of the simple message of Yeshua and his Judaic heritage that formed the bases for the legal and political framework of our country’s founding. Arguing whether certain founders were one type of Christian or another or just Deists, is a major red herring and ultimately pointless. What matters is that their ethical and legal frameworks were predicated on those Judeao-Christian beliefs. Arguing whether Yeshua was holy or human avoids the point of whether or not he taught a message that enriches lives and leads to progress or whether, like the message of Mohammed, it leads to stagnation and savagery because it puts a cap on just where the human mind can go in its logical pursuits. The early Catholic church tried to constrain that human instinctive drive just as Islam is doing now and it too was willing and often eager to kill those who disagreed in the name of their God. But the core message of Christianity was bigger than that and ultimately led followers to put aside that era of savagery and get back on the track of growth and a celebration of God’s greatest gift to us, our brains. Time alone will tell whether the followers of Mohammed have a message, as some claim, that is bigger and more enduring than the savages now apparently running the show… or not.
Meantime, here in a country that, precisely because of a foundation in the message of that person born 2,000 years ago, has become the greatest country and power and attraction in the history of mankind. We Americans owe more to the message of the man whose birthday we celebrate today than nearly any other people on earth because we owe not only the spiritual thanks but we owe a secular thanks as well. Whether seen as religious or not, divine or not, holy or not, the core message of Yeshua can, if embraced, allow us to again take our place in history or, if ignored or thrown away, allow us to quickly drift into the ashcan of history.
So whether you are Christian or not, or even if you are an evangelical atheist, if you are an American, you have cause to celebrate this birthday. Not because of the materialistic and economic issues that surround it and have turned it into a gaudy farce, but because it celebrates an idea that was new and heretical, to wit that all humans are created equal, and from their creator all were given certain (as it says in the Declaration of Independence) unalienable rights: rights not bestowed by government but RECOGNIZED by government. You may not believe in that creator, but without such an entity then any such rights came only from other men and that means other men can, if they please, take them away at a whim. Surely no one, except the tyrannical themselves, can think that is a good idea.
So I offer my best Happy Birthday wishes, even though they are almost certainly offered on the wrong day, to the memory and honor of a man whether he was simply Yeshua bar Joseph or truly Yeshua Ha Meshia to all who would celebrate his message of hope, equality, and goodness.