Away With the "Manger"

Ripley Johnson

Yesterday at 10:48 AM ·

"When legend becomes fact, print the legend." It's a fantastic line from the film The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

One of the things I got from growing up in a cult was a wonderful sense of clarity when it comes to sorting tradition from historical fact. I wasn't raised with these common traditions, and so it's much easier for me to accept that they are simply artistic creations rather than historical fact.

Unfortunately, it makes me fairly unpopular with many people (including most members of my own family) to even mention the facts that disprove the stories we are all told again and again, so I just go with the flow of tradition rather than go against the cherished beliefs that make people feel safe and comfortable. Nobody was ever loved and cherished because of how technically correct and historically accurate they were anyway.

I recently came across this blog post from theologian Ian Paul about the historical accuracy of the traditional nativity scene being displayed everywhere this time of year wherein he informs us that little baby Jesus WASN'T born in a building away from the main living quarters built to house animals.

If you believe that Jesus of Nazareth was actually born and swaddled in a barn, you probably also believe that he looked just like Cesare Borgia and was killed by people that were kind enough to let him keep his underwear on while being crucified. That's fine.

Jesus himself said as much dozens of times according to the New Testament.

If you want to have the little nativity scene with your festival decor, go for it. What actually matters about the story is that someone was born who taught the lesson of LOVE being the highest and most worthy discipline of all. When YOU live YOUR life according to the ideals of love, you don't have to worry about the letters of the old law because when you truly love everyone, you follow the laws AUTOMATICALLY.

Seems like a no brainer, right?

But sadly, just like people want to believe that Jesus died while wearing a snow white scarf tied neatly around his genetic material distribution unit, they also want to believe that he wasn't really asking us to have the same amount of love in our hearts for BOTH Barack Obama and Donald Trump AT THE SAME TIME. Even simply suggesting that idea to people makes them very uncomfortable and they will quickly grab up their bibles looking for scripture to reassure their existing beliefs, rather than face the challenge of finding REAL love for someone who they believe to be "bad."

Again, if that's who you want to be... go be it.

I'm not interested in even trying to stop you, because your "wrongness" doesn't offend me. Why?

Because I love you for who you ARE, not what you believe, what you've done, or what you've said. Let me say that again so that you actually get it. I love you. Regardless of how you feel about me, my beliefs, my physical appearance, my financial status, my personal history, or anything else and regardless of your beliefs, your physical appearance, your financial status, your personal history, or anything else.

As we come to the end of each year, I like to reflect that someone gave us the lesson that LOVE is the greatest gift we can give or will ever be given. And ULTIMATELY it doesn't matter if he was the actual son of God or just a prophet, a teacher, or even just a fictitious amalgam of other people's ideals and instructions. What matters is that we do the hard work of loving each other despite all of our differences.

Now if you've actually read this far down, I want you to ask yourself what matters the most to you right now. Is it proving me wrong or the happiness that comes from knowing that you are truly loved unconditionally by me?

I sincerely hope that it is the love that matters most to you. And if not, I hope you've come around by this time next year.

Happy Holidays!!

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Written by Ripley Johnson