Why Christmas Shatters Our Scroogeness
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‘Tis the season to be jolly—and to be Donald Trump. The man is soaring in national polls as things spiral out of control for the Republicans. Trump continues to spew out controversial remarks with no seeming retaliation from his supporters. A campaign that started on labeling illegal immigrants as “rapists” has now reached a zenith by labeling all Muslims as “terrorists.”
At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear Trump say, “Bah humbug!”
Now, the comparison is not one of greediness—although that could be argued. Rather, the point of similarity between Mr. Trump and Mr. Scrooge lies with their perception of people. Calling somebody a “Scrooge” is tantamount to doubting their Christmas spirit and perhaps being too miserly. But there was something more at play that Dickens was getting at when he wrote his classic tale. He presented Scrooge as more than just greedy—he was anti-people.
Let’s view the story from my favorite adaption: A Christmas Carol starring Jim Carrey. In the beginning scenes, Mr. Scrooge is visited by some gentlemen who wish to take a “collection for the poor.” Scrooge declines, insisting that since there are “prisons” and “work houses,” his charity is not needed. In fact, he goes so far as to say that these poor should “die to decrease the surplus population!” He’s reminded of these words when the Spirit of Christmas Present takes him to Bob Cratchit’s house.
Scrooge knew Bob Cratchit—but not as a human. Scrooge knew him only as a tool in his hands to get his work done. In fact, Scrooge did not know much about anyone except what he needed to use them for his own benefit. He perceived people as labels—the lazy poor, the irresponsible young man, the employee taking advantage of him. But his labels are shattered when the Spirit shows him inside Cratchit’s world—a world full of pain. No doubt, Scrooge didn’t even know that Bob had any children, much less that he had a sickly child named Tiny Tim. The animators did a masterful job—I’ll never forget the look on Scrooge’s face when he hears of Tim’s illness. His eyes are opened—he’s seeing Bob as a human now. A human with a lot of pain. And he turns to the spirit and begs that Tim not die. The Spirit replies…
“He better do it! To decrease the surplus population!”
That same look was found when Scrooge is taken back to the house in the future, and Tim is dead. Bob pauses on the stairs and seems to look right at Scrooge through swollen eyes. That’s the moment when things start to click for our covetous old sinner.
I only wish Trump and his supporters could be taken on that same journey. Where can you order three haunting spirits in time for Christmas Eve? Now, I’m not suggesting that Trump and his supporters are all racists. I don’t know what’s in their hearts. However, I can accurately surmise that Trump is playing off people’s ethnocentrism—that their culture, their way of seeing things is the only right way. Anything that is different is bad. Thus, “Mexican illegals and Muslims are all evil—and it’s about time someone had the guts to call them out!”
They’re seeing people as un-people. As tools or burdens. As labels and not lovable. This is the Scrooge-syndrome.
And we all have it. It’s not just Trump. As much as I like to hate his campaign, I see many of its flaws in my personal life. My tendency to promote my way of doing things above anyone else’s. To put people in boxes. To see them only as statistics or polls. To insist that my culture is best.
I see a man with a turban and avoid him—he could be a terrorist. I see a homeless man and avoid eye contact—he could be a druggie. I see a group of African-American kids—they could be a gang. I see Mexicans working on a house—no doubt illegals.
Unfortunately, I won’t be visited by three spirits on Christmas Eve to show me that my perceptions are wrong. If only we could all be taken behind the scenes for the people around us. But God is not going to make it that easy for us. And even if he did, would we really change?
I think not. Instead, I think we need to spend some time meditating on the Word, on the Christmas story. And come away in awe of God’s universal grace. I think we lose sight of how expansive His message was—“good tidings of great joy which shall be to Americans only.” No, that’s not right. “Great joy to Southern, church folk.” No, that’s not it. “To the cleaned-up, tie-wearing, upper-middle-class citizens who speak good English.” Not quite.
TO ALL PEOPLE.
To the illegal immigrants. To the Muslim immigrants—even the ISIS members! To the poor who are mooching off welfare. To Mr. Trump. To Mr. Scrooge. To me and to you.
We get so lost in our politics that we forget why we’re here—not to get a conservative elected (though I hope that happens). Not to preserve our American system till kingdom comes. No, our job is to spread the “good tidings” to all people! Regardless of their job, their ethnicity, or their legal status. The Gospel will sort all the rest out. We don’t need to make “America great again”—we need to make our Savior great! To spread the Gospel to all nations. I think that’ll keep us busy enough to not worry so much about our culture’s demise.
Don’t be so caught up railing against certain people that you forget who they actually are—people! Not labels. Not what you perceive from a glance—not outward characteristics. Rather, stories…often, stories of pain. The people you encounter this season are just that: people. People who need the “good tidings of great joy!”