There Came A Dream So Fair…….

Richard Crooks is not familiar to everyone, but his name is the one most likely to spring into my mind as Christmas approaches. The concept of Christmas means different things to different people. Some, especially in America, would have it a solely Christian festival, denied to those they class as “unbelievers”.

My concept of Christmas goes back to when I was seven or eight years old. Then, I had no clear idea of the Christian aspect, but believed fervently in Santa Claus, or Father Christmas as we called him in England.

That one year I had developed a passion to own my own gramophone and dutifully wrote of my desire in a letter to Father Christmas, posting it up the chimney and watching the red-hot, fiery embers – soldiers, we called them – marching up the chimney throat before being carried away on the updraught to Santa’s grotto at the North Pole.

Early Christmas morning found me creeping downstairs before dawn, profoundly excited as I glimpsed – not any old gramophone – but the very latest electric turntable, designed to play through the big walnut-cased, superheterodyne, valve (tubes, in American) radio receiver already esconsced on the family sideboard in the living room.

A note from Father Christmas, in a hand very similar to my father’s, demanded I not touch it until Daddy had arranged the wiring properly. Consequently, the next few hours were spent opening other presents and stuffing my face with candy, until later that morning the record player was ready for its first trial.

Some weeks before Christmas my mother had innocently asked me to name my favorite piece of music. Without hesitation, I proclaimed, “Jerusalem!” – the famous, nationalistic, hymn composed by William Blake and sung regularly at my grade school assembly, that begins:

“And did those feet in ancient times, walk upon England’s mountains green?”

I loved the rising crescendo that finally proclaims the question:

“And was Jerusalem builded here, among those dark, satanic mills?”

My mother was never renowned for either her precision or a good memory. So when the player was finally ready for the off, and I opened the big, wooden drawer that gave access to the turntable, there on the felt mat was a twelve inch bakelite platter entitled, “The Holy City” by Richard Crooks (tenor).

Not that I was at all bothered. Frankly, Daffy Duck performing “Oh, what a beautiful morning” from Oklahoma would have been just as welcome, but when the great man began to sing I knew he was definitely not Daffy Duck.

With a brand new record player and only one recording, the inevitable happened. Once Christmas dinner was done and the dishes cleared away, my parents rapidly disappeared into the front parlor to watch TV and left me alone to play, for the umpteenth time, “The Holy City” by Richard Crooks (tenor). As his rich, deep tones emanated from the ten inch speaker of the walnut-cased radio, the day slowly faded to twilight, and as I gazed in wonder out the window, snow began gently to fall outside.

That moment – the snow; the crackle of a coal fire; the twilight, and Richard Crooks singing “The Holy City”, will for me be forever the epitome of Christmas.

“Last night I lay a-sleeping, there came a dream so fair, I stood in old Jerusalem beside the temple there. I heard the church bells ringing, and ever as they rang, methought the voice of angels from heaven in answer sang…..”

I stopped believing in Father Christmas a few years later. I stopped believing in Christianity some years after that. But I still believe in Christmas, and I still believe in Richard Crooks.

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Christmas – A Great Time For American Infighting?

What is this weird insecurity that makes Americans fight about Christmas. You hear it regularly, but only in this country, at this time of year: “The Liberals want to ban Christmas”; “Happy Holidays”; “Christmas is being hijacked from the Christians”; “Liberals hate Christmas”.

I made the mistake of reading the “Madisonville Meteor” recently and came across this article by Katharine DeBrecht. Of course, the “Madisonville Meteor” is a Texas journal so I should have known better, but Ms DeBrecht appeared singularly hate-filled against those fellow humans who dared to question her rigid religious beliefs. The name was not familiar until I read that Ms DeBrecht writes children’s books, her first being entitled: “Help! Mom! There Are Liberals Under My Bed!”. She has three children. I’m glad I was never one of them.

Her opening paragraph for the “Meteor” begins:

“I came across a bumper sticker the other day while Christmas shopping that proudly proclaimed “Jesus was a liberal.” Of course, this gave me great pause. If Jesus was a liberal, you might as well forget Joseph. Jesus would have had two mommies……”

Excuse me?

Here we have a “Christian” mindset at work vividly illustrating the mind-numbing effect of ecclesiastical brainwashing. It would be hilarious, but for the fact that this woman writes books for children and somebody is happy to publish them.

Presumably, Ms DeBrecht’s definition of a “liberal” (she consistently uses the small “L”) is anyone not totally imprisoned in the hate-ridden, dogmatic, religious traditions that pass for some strange notion of Christianity (minus the “Christ” part) in this nation.

Coming as I do from a continent that still manages to integrate some aspects of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John into its Christian ideals, rather than reverting to the barbarous, tribally-orientated, mess of often mentally-retarded scribblings that passes for sacred Old Testament scripture, interspersed with a smattering of likely drug-induced fantasy from those who wrote years and years after Jesus’s supposed death, and had no personal contact with him whatever, I find the “American” idea of Christianity incredibly disturbing.

She continues with these gems of wisdom:

“God is for life: Liberals are for the culture of death through euthanasia and abortion.

Brainwashed individuals often ignore the most obvious evidence against their indoctrinations, and Ms DeBrecht is no exception. Here, she fails to accept the “Christian” war in Iraq, perpetrated by a born-again “Christian” and supported by vast numbers of “Christians” throughout America, despite the deaths and suffering of twenty thousand Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. Compared to those, the “sin” of mercifully releasing a terminally ill patient wishing to expire with dignity, or the surgical removal of a undeveloped foetus before birth, seem somewhat meagre.

“God is for marriage between one man and one woman: Liberals are for same sex marriage.”

It’s a known fact that brainwashing induces confusion, and here Ms DeBrecht has difficulty differentiating between the words “liberal”, and “gay” or “homosexual”. This is common, particularly among those “Christians” addicted to the Christian Broadcasting Network. Hardly surprising when one considers its founder was baptized Marion, and changed his name to Pat (short for Patricia?).

“God is for faith, liberty, and values: Liberals are for government control and handouts.”

Considering the present Republican government is the most controlling in US history, this makes no sense whatever. But then, very little emanating from what passes for Ms DeBrecht’s mind does, so what’s new?

“God wants us to put Him first: Liberals are for putting themselves first.”

The obvious answer to this comment is simply to quote the parable of the Good Samaritan, but as Ms DeBrecht’s religion conveniently excludes any reference by Jesus of Nazareth to loving and caring for those not necessarily of our creed or nationalty, it would only produce a rather bewildered expression from Ms DeBrecht, probably followed by the rather gutteral ejaculation: “This does not compute!”.

But what has all this to do with Christmas? The title of Ms DeBrecht’s article is “Why liberals loathe Christmas”. She does eventually get around to the subject:

“Christmas represents a religion with a moral code. There are no exceptions for the “if it feels good, do it” liberal crowd. Self-absorption and instant gratification have no room when one centers his or her life around God, and not self.”

And then:

“No one committing immoral behavior wants to be reminded that they are doing just that. Instead they seek to belittle the religion that requires a moral code, and elevate their own self-engineered code. How dare anyone define my morality, I define it the way I want to!”

What Ms DeBrecht is rather forcibly saying here is that Christmas is solely the property of Christians, and anyone else had better shut-up about the subject. In fact, Christmas in its original form, has nothing whatever to do with Christianity but was a pagan festival celebrating the God Mithra, who incidentally is reputed to have been born on December 25th, of a virgin, while shepherds and magicians looked on. The date was conveniently hijacked, along with much other stuff, by the early Christian church during the time when it was busy making up all the ‘facts’ about Jesus it didn’t already know – which was most of it.

Certainly, I would agree with Ms DeBrecht that Christianity is a religion with a moral code, along with Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Taoism, and all other religions. Where I disagree with Ms DeBrecht is in her definition of that moral code. All religions, including Christianity, contain the same moral code, defined in the Christian tradition as:

“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, soul, and voice, and thy neighbor as thyself.”

The last two words are equally as important as the rest. No-one can define with accuracy who or what is “the Lord thy God”, but we can certainly define ourselves. Loving ourselves, and others as ourself, is the crux of Christianity and all other religions.

Christmas is a celebration of that Love. As such, it is open to all – “our neighbors, as ourself”. Ms Debrecht would limit those who can enjoy Christmas to the members of her exclusive little American club. She bastardizes the Christian religion and defames the name of Jesus by so doing. She, and those who agree with her views, are politicizing Jesus’ message in the name of Christianity.

The parable of the Good Samaritan defines “our neighbor” as being anyone, anywhere in the world and of any, or no, religion. It demands that the door of Christmas be thrown open to everyone, whatever their creed or nationality. It is a celebration of our Love for ourselves; our Love for others, and our Love for our God, in whatever form that “God” takes.

Methinks Ms DeBrecht needs to learn a little about the wonder of expansive Love.

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