This from the irrepressible Rabbi Michael Lerner (pictured), author of The Left Hand of God, urging us to see "the holiday season" in terms of hope and resistance, rather than lethargy and consumption: "Jews and Christians have much in common in celebrating at this time of year. We certainly want to use this holiday season to once again affirm our commitment to end the war in Iraq, to end global poverty and hunger ... and to save the world from ecological destruction. We live in dark times—but these holidays help us reaffirm our hope for a fundamentally different reality that we can help bring about in the coming years.
"And yet, there are reasons to not mush together these separate holidays. The tremendous pressure of the capitalist marketplace has been to take these holidays, eliminate their actual revolutionary messages, and instead turn them into a ... focus whose only command is 'Be Happy and Buy.' The huge pressure to be happy and the media’s ability to portray others as beaming with joy makes a huge number of people despondent because they actually don’t feel that kind of joy, and imagine that they are the only ones who don’t, and hence feel terrible about themselves, something they seek to repair by buying, drugging or drinking themselves into happiness. And when that too doesn’t work for very long, they become all the more unhappy with themselves or with others. The pressure to buy as a way of showing that you really care about others puts many people into the position of spending more than they have, putting themselves into further debt, and then feeling depressed about that. Still others have no way to buy 'enough' on credit, and then their children, saturated by a media specially attuned to the best ways to market to toddlers and everyone older through their teen years, make their parents or others feel inadequate because they have not bought what the media portrays as the standard for what a “normal family” buys for the holidays."Jews, seeking to fit into American society, grabbed onto this path of the holidays 'not really being religious but only a time to celebrate,' and thus many embraced Christmas in the one way they could—buying presents for their non-Jewish friends and neighbours and celebrating Christmas as a 'non-sectarian, American holiday.' But this well-intentioned move to fit into American society only helped the capitalist secularists, and unintentionally further undermined the ability of Christians to hold on to the religious and spiritual intent of their holiday. This is why spiritual progressives of the Christian faith have urged Tikkun and the Network of Spiritual Progressives to not celebrate the holiday as one undifferentiated 'holiday season' but to ... affirm the specific message of each one." Full article here.