Jesus was not born into poverty as one archbishop said yesterday. His father was a carpenter — a well-paid job in his time. As a boy, Jesus argued with priests in the Temple in Jerusalem. That’s not what a poor boy, without the articulation and social skills of a middle-class child, would be doing. Jesus belonged to the 95% of middle-class or even aristocratic reformists in history, not the 5% born into poverty.
Jesus didn’t create Christianity — that was an inadvertent by-product of his rabbinical-type dicta which were remembered long enough to be written down a generation or more later. Christianity would probably have died a death with him had it not been for Paul of Tarsus who spread his own brand of Christianity vigorously among diaspora Jews around the Mediterrenean. Even then, as a schism all of its own, distinct from Jewry, but heavily persecuted, and driven underground by the Romans, Christianity would probably have died again had not Emperor Constantine in AD 313 taken up the Cross as his battle logo — and won. It was only then that the few bishops who remained were granted privileges within the Roman Empire — such as what was left of it! — and allowed to accrue wealth and evangelize from Europe to China.
Like any power organisation, encouraging the personal propulsion of ambitious individuals rather than piety, Christianity itself divided into schisms. And, since they develop increasingly distinct cultures of their own, schisms become increasingly antagonistic towards one another. Despite the fact that Christianity is now fighting a common enemy — secularism and scientism — which ought to unite them, schisms are still as far away from one another as they’ve been for many centuries, though their relationships are not so savage as they once were. Secular governments won’t allow them to be.
In the notionally Christian countries of the advanced world, Christmas Day is a day of rest and an eating orgy for many. In this country, 900,000 (out of a population of over 63 million) will be necessary to keep the wheels turning. One in nine, apparently, particularly old people, will spend the day alone. As I write this, the BBC are televising the service going on in Bath Abbey, about 10 miles from where I sit.
The rector is saying that Christmas Day is a happy day. M’mm . . .well, it may be for perhaps a billion in the world. Of the other six billion, despite the ubiquity of the mobile phone, half of them will be unaware that it’s Christmas Day and will be poor — relatively poor, that is — but certainly unhappy because they don’t have the consumer goods that we have in the advanced countries. In turn, half of them will be absolutely poor — that is, not eating enough food enabling them to have a normal active life.
So, what can I say? Happy Christmas to all those readers who’ve stayed with me since I revived this blog-site last April.