|Praise the lord and pass the lutfisk.|
Matt 26:11: The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me.
There are those who are content to the let the poor be among us as a state of the economy. I read a perspective on the matter in South Dakota Magazine in a column by Ken Blanchard. Dr. Blanchard purported to be giving a meditation on Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" as a literary work that has shaped the way we celebrate Christmas. As one reads the column, one finds that Prof. Blanchard is talking about some versions of "A Christmas Carol" that have been made for films, not the work as it is actually written. When Dickens wrote the story, he said he intended to "strike a sledge hammer blow" for the poor. But Dickens guarded carefully against letting his portrayals of the poor and the causes of their condition take on a political aspect. His concern was that his literary art portray people, not flack for any particular political viewpoint. Prof. Blanchard, however, cannot resist bringing a bit of flack into his appraisal of "A Christmas Carol." Although the story involves the transformational redemption of Scrooge as a human being, Prof. Blanchard finds that in his role as a businessman, Scrooge did not need redeeming: for Scrooge "was about as efficiently productive as it is possible for a human being to be, as least when it comes to cold, hard, cash. Cruel as he was, he had money to lend and a job for poor Bob Cratchit."Lk. 11:41: But now as for what is inside you—be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.
Lk. 14:13-14: But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
This contention is extended to the capitalist class altogether: "Say what you want about the evils of capitalism, it has done more to supply the hearths of the poor than dropping alms into collection plates ever did. More Tiny Tims of the developed world have been saved by the power and prosperity of modern civilization than ever were by a ghost sprinkling Christmas cheer."
Literarily and historically that statement misses the entire point of the story. (And the suggestion that capitalism lifted the poor out of poverty does not seem to align with the facts of history.) The ghost of Marley bemoans that he lived his life in a mindless, capitalist pursuit:
As Scrooge is taken by the second spirit of Christmas to look in on the home of his employee, Bob Cratchit, he looks at an empty chair with Tiny Tim's crutch leaning on it and asks if the child is destined to die. The spirit answers in Scrooge's own words:Why did I walk through crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never raise them to that blessed Star which led the Wise
Men to a poor abode! Were there no poor homes to which its light would have conducted me!
'If he be like to die, he had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.'
Scrooge hung his head to hear his own words quoted by the Spirit, and was overcome with penitence and grief. `Man,' said the Ghost, `if man you be in heart, not adamant, forbear that wicked cant until you have discovered What the surplus is, and Where it is. Will you decide what
men shall live, what men shall die? It may be, that in the sight of Heaven, you are more worthless and less fit to live than millions like this poor man's child. Oh God, to hear the Insect on the leaf pronouncing on the too much life among his hungry brothers in the dust.'
Scrooge is rebuked for pursuing business with no concern or awareness of the effect that his mindless pursuit has for others. That is the lesson that the three spirits all show him.
Dickens was a contemporary of Karl Marx. His work was seen by the Marxists as a classic portrayal of the struggle of the working class to survive against the negligence and malevolence of those who regard workers as disposable pawns in their capital schemes. But Dickens did not write to elucidate political theory; he wrote to explore the value of all humanity. George Bernard Shaw points out that "The difference between Marx and Dickens was that Marx knew he was a revolutionist whilst Dickens had not the faintest suspicion of that part of his calling."
In "A Christmas Carol," Dickens did not invent the contemporary celebration of Christmas. He recalled its celebration as it was observed by the lower classes, and he defined it as recognizing the call to duty that those Scandinavian churches tried to live by.
Those people of my generation and later who have renounced their faith still tend to adhere to those principles laid down by Christ. In many cases, it is the failure of the church to practice those principles that causes the loss of faith.
For me, Christmas will be a somber time. Living in South Dakota where nine reservations were created and are maintained by exactly the attitude and mindset that Scrooge repudiated makes Christmas exceedingly somber.
I hope you had a somber Christmas and have the honesty and courage to see that somberness all year through.