In a few days, on Christmas Eve day, I’ll be experiencing something I haven’t for a long time: the Christmas season at a local church that I consider to be my own.
I was raised in a Christian church, the Church of the Brethren, in Lancaster, Pa. in the 50’s and 60’s. Every Sunday morning until the age of 16, my parents took me to it. Then, after a family move to the Finger Lakes region, and then my going off to college, that Sunday morning ritual ended. Indeed, after leaving college, I didn’t go to church on Sunday morning until the early 80’s, when my son was born and a community-oriented, progressive minister took over at a Lutheran church down the block from where I was living in Brooklyn, NY. I started going to church partly because of the miracle of our newborn baby and partly to support him in his struggles to make the church, not just him, more community oriented. I ended up going regularly for 16 years.
That ended about 1999 because of a family move to New Jersey. For the next 16 years, I only went to church when visiting my retired and aging parents in Lancaster. I had no interest in trying to find a church to go to in my home town area.
Then, a little less than two years ago, a local Reformed Church about a mile away put solar panels on its roof and held a public event to celebrate them being turned on. I went to it, was impressed by the spirit and smarts of the woman pastor, and several months later, I checked out a Sunday morning service.
I discovered, not surprisingly, that I really didn’t agree with much of the theology that was preached, but, surprisingly, I started to look forward to attending on Sunday mornings when I was in town. Part of the reason was the hymn-singing. Part of the reason was the pastor’s focus in her sermons on explaining the social context of Jesus’ ministry 2000 years ago in Palestine and the wisdom of his teachings. Part of it was the multi-racial and generally working-class nature of the congregation. And part of it was the sense of community, love even, that I found myself developing with the others in church with me.
There is something special about being with people almost very week who are making genuine efforts, each in their own way, to live up to the very high, challenging standards of Jesus of Nazareth, to live a life of love.
Now, a year and a half later, I go for all of these reasons but also because I have found my hour in church on Sunday to be a special personal time. It’s a time for personal meditation on how well I’ve lived my life in the week before, living up to, or not, what is my favorite verse in the Bible, Micah 6:8: “And what does the Lord ask of you but to do justice, and love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.”
I got into the progressive movement for transformative change almost 50 years ago because of my religious upbringing. I was given values and a perspective on the world, and a “hero” to try to follow, that led me naturally to a life of activism against war and injustice and in defense of Mother Earth. When I’ve been part of organizations I have done my best to have them be about a way of working and interacting that is qualitatively superior to the individualistic, power-seeking, greedy mis-values of the capitalist system which dominates the earth. I’ve come to believe with every part of my being that unless our movement culture is that way, we have no chance, none, of ever being successful. The greedy bastards will maintain their power.
So this holiday season, whether religious or not, why don’t we use it to reflect on how in 2018 we can live each day the kind of life we know, deep inside us, we are capable of living, full of higher love in action but also love for those around us expressed in tangible ways.
Ted Glick has been a progressive activist and organizer since 1968. Past writings and other information can be found at http://tedglick.com, and he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jtglick.