By Diogenes ( articles ) | Dec 24, 2007
In this religiously contentious season,....
Huh? In my neighborhood strangers are smiling at each other as they pass on the street, wishing each other a Merry Christmas-- or maybe, if they're uncertain about the other's religious affiliation, a Happy Holiday. There's literally music in the air downtown; there are signs proclaiming Peace on Earth and Goodwill to All. It's the least contentious season of the year.
But when you're James Carroll-- the Boston Globe op-ed columnist whose main purpose is to bash the Catholic Church-- you see these things in a different light. So you conclude the opening sentence of your pre-Christmas column:
.... it is difficult to think aloud about Christmas as an event of more than commercial significance.
No doubt it is, for someone of Jim's peculiar disposition. Scrooge had it easy; he only thought of Christmas as a distraction from his all-consuming financial affairs. Carroll, on the other hand, is being consumed by the gnawing dread that someone out there might be experiencing religious sentiments-- joy, even-- of a sort that cannot be sanctioned by a former Paulist priest.
People smiling. They're going to church. They're thinking pious thoughts. The horror! Carroll must act quickly. And he does.
In paragraph #2, with a single dogmatic sentence, he announces that Jesus was a non-violent revolutionary who died opposing the Roman empire.
Paragraph #3: Jesus is dead. But some people still like Him. Resurrection? Hehehehe.
Paragraph #4: Oh, and the Nativity story? C'mon.
(Personally, if I were writing columns debunking Christianity, I think I'd start with the Nativity story during this "contentious season." But then I don't debunk Christianity, which is why I don't have a regular column in the Boston Globe.)
With the fundamental tenets of orthodox Christian faith disposed of in those opening paragraphs, Carroll next offers a remarkable analysis of Dostoevsky's famous Grand Inquisitor scene. You know, from the Brothers Karamazov: that cheery little tale that is so often associated in our memories with Yule logs and tinsel-hanging and caroling parties.
And then-- here it comes! wait for it!-- we get the James Carroll nugget:
Indeed, the Jesus who rejects slavish authority for himself and others is the living critique of any institution, the church included, that asks less of humans, instead of more.
Wow. Heavy. Slavish authority: an interesting concept just in itself. And heaven knows we need to be freed of the heavy burdens imposed by those institutions that ask less of us.
But it's the restless passion of Carroll's writing, certainly not the logic, that catches my attention. This is a man with Something on His Mind.
Don't you see? Don't you see?!! It's not enough to go to midnight Mass and receive our Lord and kneel silently afterward before the creche contemplating the awesome mystery of the God-Child. It's not enough to sing hymns and exchange gifts and feast and enjoy the simple pleasures of the human life the Almighty came to share. There's so much more that James Carroll could tell you, and...
You're not paying attention! You're singing and shopping and wrapping and cooking and decorating, and there's a Globe column sitting on the coffee table unread! No wonder this season is so contentious!
Merry Christmas, Jim. God bless us, every one.
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