Sunday, December 27, 2015

Isn't the Nativity story just mythology? - part 2

Continued from last week….
I went through seminary from the mid 60’s to the mid 70’s. I was taught more about what the Bible was not than what it was. These were heady times, right after the Second Vatican council. I remember the first time I played the guitar at a hootenanny Mass.  I was an accomplished artist; I could play the chords G, C, and D and was working on E minor.  The music group “Up with People” was all the rage. The documentary “Smile 'Til It Hurts,” a documentary history, credits Halliburton, General Motors, Exxon, and Searle with subsidizing the cheery music group as the antidote to the hippie subculture.
Up! Up! with people!
You meet 'em wherever you go!
Up! Up! with people!
They're the best kind of folks we know.
If more people were for people,
All people ev'rywhere,
There'd be a lot less people to worry about,
And a lot more people who care!
Sixty years later I can still hear the lyrics to that song like some horrible echo in my brain. It is like remembering the song on the radio before the car went over the cliff. I was amazed to hear that the music group is still around and sang for the pope on December 2nd of this year. The wonder of it all!
Where was I? Oh yes, as Up with People was supposed to be the antidote to the hippie subculture. It didn’t work. We chose the hippie sub-culture because it involved drugs, sex and rock and roll.  The hippie subculture did however have something in common with the Up with People movement and its chipper theme song. Both were smugly optimistic. The theme song of Up with People urged us to care more and then everything would be alright. 
If the hippy subculture had a theme song, I suppose it would have to vote for “This is the Dawning of the Age Aquarius.”  Everything was going to more than alright. It was going to be great because something had happened in the constellations and the new age of openness was here and we, the hippies were here and we would do it right in our drug crazed haze. We weren’t going to screw it up like our parents did. We were going to be all natural, except for our recreational chemicals and our birth control pill fueled sexual revolution. We were nonviolent.
Now we are tenured professors. (All except for me. I never managed to score tenure. I still have to work for a living.) Many of us are still teaching the next generation, who would be our grandchildren if we’d managed to have any children.  We are teaching them to be nonjudgmental and nonviolent and non-polluting and non-married and non-parental and non-religious and non-employed. Maybe it will work better this time. Please excuse me. I have gotten off the track. Back to whether Jesus was born in Bethlehem or not.
We conceived a colossal disdain for our parents and for everything that had gone before us. We were going to make everything better by a huge explosion of good will and niceness.  Part of our disdain was to smirk at how people before us were so very gullible. They believed in miracles and the Bible and a lot of other myths that were really just the same as every other mythological religion. You could create your own religion if you wanted to. It helped if you could score some peyote, or go on some Native American spirit quest to find your animal spirit guide (With my luck, mine would probably have been a hamster or a hedgehog.)
Ah they were heady times. We who were better than those yahoos who had preceded us could take apart the Holy Scriptures with the help of our de-mythologizing professors. Bethlehem was just a construct that fulfilled Old Testament prophecy, but it couldn’t be real, because there was no such thing as prophecy, unless of course you got one from your indigenous shaman or your animal spirit guide. Certainly the prophecies of Scripture were just after the fact inventions. 
I managed my way back to the faith through the Pentecostal movement, but still had the nagging suspicion that all the holy places and relics etc. were just part of the medieval tourist trade and we moderns who were scientifically and mentally superior to the rubes who wrote the Bible knew that these things were just too good to be true. After all, who could remember back 2,000 years? Then I met Amer Sahade.
Amer is a tour guide from the Holy Land. He is a Christian, and a graduate of the University of Albuquerque and a really smart fellow. He reminded us that his people had lived in the Holy Land since time immemorial. They were there from the beginning. (Genetic tests actually confirm this.)  He also pointed out that people before the invention of printing had great memories because they didn’t have the opportunity to write everything down and then forget it. His people had not yet lost that memory. He told a story about how his grandfather pointed out the tree that the old man had been shown by his own grandfather when he was a little boy, a memory stretching back perhaps one hundred and fifty years.
I remembered Cardinal George once reminiscing about how his grandmother told stories of her own grandmother and what it had been like to be Catholic in Kentucky in 1812. He talked about their meetings on Sunday during which they said the rosary, fear the Sunday readings from the lectionary and had a big meal. That was a memory stretching back almost two hundred years.  I was able to find my German cousins because of memories that stretch back from the present to 1866. These simple stories are remembered for centuries by people to whom they are important. How much more carefully would the memories of the amazing events surrounding the life of Jesus of Nazareth be remembered?  This changed everything. It was around 100 AD, a long lifetime after the resurrection of Jesus, that people started to come from distant places to search for the holy places revered by the indigenous Christian community of which Amer was a descendant and it was not long after this that these things were written down and have remained fixed until our time.
Next week: on to Bethlehem!

1 comment:

  1. Yay! You're "back"! Good grief, it is so refreshing to hear someone from my generation (sort of) to help clean off the scum we floated on during that time. It really helps me relate to "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do."