Wednesday, December 19, 2012

* O Holy Nights (plural)

Today Dr. Phil created a sensitive, perceptive  television program on the agony  of healing after the violent death of a loved one. 

Then Dr. Phil and his wife Robin read a poem which had been left on their facebook page  yesterday, a reworking of “T’was the Night before Christmas”. 

It featured the “savior” Jesus welcoming the 20 children murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School to heaven and promising to take care of their “Moms and Dads.”

It stuns  me that an educated psychologist would be insensitive to the theological needs of  non-christians.

At least one of the slain children was Jewish. The image of Jesus as “savior” embracing the children and taking care of their parents is ---well let’s be candid  ---  it’s rude.

It nullifies what I am sure were the good intentions of Dr. Phil and Robin McGraw in reading this poem

I was troubled----not for myself----but for the non-christian parents in the group.

I learned this lesson in my own family in a very embarrassing moment.

Thirty years ago my cousin’s son, 16, was killed by a hit-and-run driver while walking home from school.  I wrote a prayer for the funeral which referred to a God “who also lost a son”  to senseless violence.

Years later when a colleague of my father lost his daughter in a car crash, my father gave his friend a copy of my prayer.

I said , “ Dad. He’s Jewish.  He doesn’t believe Jesus is the son of God.”

My father looked stunned and embarrassed and waved it off as an inconsequential social blunder.

It was a social blunder alright, but it was not inconsequential. 

It was part of the ethnocentrism of  American Christians who unwittingly think the whole world believes as they believe.

I remember how foolish I felt when someone pointed out to me that Jesus was not a Christian; he was Jewish from the day he was born to the day he died.  The Last Supper was a Passover meal.  Jesus’ name was really Joshua ben Joseph.

It may seem trivial to bring this up in the midst of the horrible suffering of the Newtown parents, but I wince at the well-meaning adherents of a particular religious belief adding even another ounce of insult of any kind to the profound injury of the parents.

Let us be cautious in our offerings of solace.

Paul D. Keane

Master of Divinity, 1980
Yale Divinity School


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