Right in the centre - Clouding the Christmas message


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

Last week’s column raised some serious questions as to how the Christian church might better serve Christ’s intentions and the wellbeing of His followers. All Christians should be thankful for the Christmas season, the message and the full meaning of Christmas. Christ was born as a baby in Bethlehem. He is the Son of God, but he came to earth to be our Saviour. The message is over 2,000 years old, usually revered, but sometimes rejected.

It is a message that is one of the most prominent of messages in the history of mankind. For the Christmas season, for the message of a Saviour, I am truly thankful. No other holiday (Holy Day) in all the world has the attraction of Christmas.

Over the centuries though, the Christian church has made some errors that need to be acknowledged and avoided in the years to come. Here are some examples that come to mind.

The idea that Roman Catholic priests and nuns must be celibate was not adopted until over 1,000 years after Christ walked this earth. It is a silly notion that has caused the church much grief. Choosing not to marry, or to be chaste, should be an individual decision, not a compulsory thing foisted upon men and women by church rules. Being married, or not married, has nothing to do with how well a person may function as a church leader.

Churches have made some bad choices over the centuries. The Crusades certainly could be questioned. On the surface, they were intended to defend the Christian faith and drive out the Muslims. The problem is that Jesus never asked his followers to go and kill people in his name. He did ask, pretty strongly, that we love our neighbours though. Many wars seem to have been unavoidable, but it would be hard to prove the case that the Crusades were such.

In more recent times, the Christian church has taken stands that may have seemed good at the time, but proved to be less than productive in the long run. Although not entirely led by the Christian church, attempts to prohibit alcohol consumption proved pretty unfruitful, turning the booze trade into the mainstay of the criminal element. It might have been better to enforce laws against public drunkenness and drinking and driving, than to have put North America through the prohibition era. The Christian bible is pretty clear that we shouldn’t be “drunk” and that is an obvious truth. I choose not to use alcohol, but that is a matter of choice and for certain, God gives a freedom of choice. The consequences of our choices are a different matter.

Probably the biggest mistake churches have made over the centuries is to impose rules that have little or no basis in the teachings of Jesus. The Ten Commandments are the basic rules of Christian living. Jesus summarized them saying, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.”

He didn’t say dancing would send you to Hell. He didn’t say smoking or drinking would do it either. He didn’t tell churches to practise harsh judgement on their members.  He didn’t say not to eat certain foods.

There are lots of practices I don’t like and that I don’t think I, or others should do, but they are preferences, not a matter of Heaven or Hell. I don’t like tattoos, or body piercing and wild hair colours, but these are all matters of preference.

Like I said last week, it is my belief that churches have overloaded others with actions and rules that have nothing to with Christ or Christmas. Love yourself, love your neighbour and love Jesus. Merry Christmas to all.

Disclaimer: The writer serves as a volunteer chair of the Manitoba Community Newspaper Association. The views expressed in this column are the writer’s personal views and are not to be taken as being  the view of the MCNA board or Banner & Press staff.