There is no punchline.
Pope Francis has likened the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem to the migrations of millions of people today who are forced to leave homelands for a better life, or just for survival.
In his Christmas Eve remarks, he expressed hope that no one will feel “there is no room for them on this Earth.”
Francis celebrated late evening Christmas vigil Mass in the splendor of St. Peter’s Basilica, telling the faithful that the “simple story” of Jesus’ birth in a manger changed “our history forever. Everything that night became a source of hope.”
Noting that Mary and Joseph arrived in a land “where there was no place for them,” Francis drew parallels to contemporary time.
“So many other footsteps are hidden in the footsteps of Joseph and Mary,” he said in his homily. “We see the tracks of entire families forced to set out in our own day. We see the tracks of millions of persons who do not choose to go away but, driven from their land, leave behind their dear ones.”
“In many cases this departure is filled with hope, hope for the future; yet for many this departure can only have one name: survival,” the pope said.
Referring to the king of Judea who was depicted as a tyrant in the New Testament, Francis continued, saying some migrants are “surviving the Herods of today, who, to impose their power and increase their wealth, see no problem in shedding innocent blood.”
The misuse of the Nativity story (and confusing it with the later Flight to Egypt) to make a point about the modern immigration policies is one of the most maddening example of people who for most part are not Christian and otherwise don’t give a shit about Christianity using Christianity as a baseball bat to bludgeon their political opponents. So for the umpteenth time:
- Mary and Joseph travelling to Bethlehem were not refugees; they were not escaping an oppressive government or political/religious/ethnic persecution, in fact they were actually obeying the occupying Roman authorities and their pointless and inconveniencing census requirements to register at the locality where the family originally comes from.
- They travelled within their own country, amongst people of their own ethnicity and religion.
- Yes, there was no room at the inn. Not because the owner was a bigot, but because the inn was full – all the rooms were taken by other travellers in the same position as Mary and Joseph, who obeyed the Roman authorities and journeyed to their ancestral seat to register in the census. To make room for Mary and Joseph, the inn-keeper would have had to kick out some other guests, perhaps some other Mary and Joseph. And Mary, fortunately, wasn’t one of those people who throws her weight around (“Don’t you know who I am? The Mother of God, that’s who!”). So instead, the inn-keeper did the next decent thing and offered the stable (“At least you’ll have a roof over your head”).
- You are confusing the Nativity with Mary, Joseph and the new-born Jesus escaping to Egypt to avoid the Slaughter of the Innocents by King Herod. Note that in this case, the Holy Family behaved like the ideal refugees envisaged by the Refugee Convention: they sought refuge in the next neighbouring country where it was safe to do so, and once the threat passed they returned home. Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus did not turn up in Germany or Sweden, demanding permanent resettlement, and so Jesus did not end up preaching with a following of Gallic fishermen and getting crucified in Paris.
A topless activist from the feminist group Femen tried to snatch the statue of the baby Jesus from the Nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square on Monday but was stopped by police as she grabbed it.
A Reuters photographer said the woman jumped over guard rails and rushed onto the larger-than-life Nativity scene shouting “God is woman”. She had the same slogan painted on her bare back.
A Vatican gendarme stopped her from taking the statue and she was detained. The incident happened about two hours before Pope Francis delivered his Christmas message to some 50,000 people in the square.
The group’s website identified her as Alisa Vinogradova and called her a “sextremist”. It says the goal of the group, which was founded in Ukraine, is “complete victory over patriarchy”.
Critics counter that Trump is promoting a version of the holidays that excludes members of other religions, and that his crusade to bring back Christmas is part of a larger attempt by the president to define America as a country for white Christians alone.
Wishing people “merry Christmas” instead of “happy holidays,” is thus in line with Trump’s decision to ban citizens of Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, critics say. It fits neatly with his refusal to condemn white supremacists when they march against diversity, and with his condemnation of athletes who protest police brutality against black men.
With this in mind, the fight to end the war on Christmas is exclusionary politics at its most flagrant.
“I see such invocations of Christmas as a kind of cypher, what some would call a dog whistle. It does not appear to be intolerant or extreme, but to attentive audiences it speaks volumes about identity and belonging—who and what are fully American,” Richard King, a professor at Washington State University who studies how white supremacists exploit culture, told Newsweek.
Saying “Merry Christmas” is now a neo-Nazi dog whistle. Shhhh, no one tell “Newsweek” that an overwhelming majority of Latinos and African Americans, and sizeable minorities amongst Asian-American are Christians – and that Christianity is now an overwhelmingly the religion of the developing world – South America, Africa and Asia.
Likewise, Nazi Germany’s propagandists rooted their idea of Christmas in visions of ethno-nationalism. They rewrote the lyrics of Christmas carols, promoted Nazified holiday traditions and launched numerous Christmas charity events for poor Germans. The ultimate goal was to draw a clear line between those who belonged and those who should be excluded, those who could not benefit from the joys of Christmas.
Trump’s rhetoric differs from that of Nazi Germany’s, most notably because he has never advocated for genocide. But Trump’s talk about Christmas coexists with reemerging white identity politics, experts say.
“Trump’s rhetoric differs from that of Nazi Germany’s, most notably because he has never advocated for genocide.” Baby Jesus wept. This is now what once used to be a respected news magazine.
Not surprisingly, “The Southern Poverty Law Center is tracking the hashtags #Christmas, #MerryChristmas, #Jesus, and #ChristmasEve, as part of “trends in a community of far-right Twitter users”.” This is the same Southern Poverty Law Centre, which lists people like the former Islamic extremist and now an anti-extremism activist Majeed Nawaz as anti-Islam extremist.