How Christmas Affected Cultural Economics

Radical teachings passed down through the centuries: 

We owe a great deal to the intervention of the Christmas story into our economic history. To those of us who were not born as Jews, we were introduced to an entirely different collection of thoughts and traditions. Moreover, the revolutionary teachings of Christ changed moral standards and expectations forever. We were given a nobler concept of what it is to be human and were given insights into our own weaknesses and greedy foibles. Christ shed light on concepts not available from any other source. Those concepts were indispensable for the later experiments with the concepts of a free society. 

Christ’s teaching changed the vision of the “good society” proposed by the classical writers of Rome and Greece, and made possible new ideas of culture and economics. Philosophers and writers who adamantly refuse to believe in Christ’s claims to deity or the correctness of the Judeo-Christian position, are none-the-less compelled to admit their indebtedness to the unique teachings of the Christ of the Christmas story. Richard Rorty, whose parents were ardent followers of Trotsky, and he, himself, totally immersed in atheistic Marxist teachings, once wrote that as a progressive philosopher he owed more to Jesus for certain key notions, such as “compassion” and “equality” than to any of the classical writers. In Bertrand Russell’s book, Why I Am Not a Christian, he conceded that although he took Jesus to be no more than a humanistic moral prophet, modern progressivism is indebted to Christ for his ideals.

In Plato’s Republic, citizens were divided in the following way: A few were of gold, a slightly larger body of silver, and the vast majority of lead, (that sounds a lot to me like my frequent flyer program). Those considered in the group of lead all had the souls of slaves and, therefore, were properly enslaved. Only the persons of gold were truly to be treated as individuals of importance and worth. Christ taught that God, who made every single child in his image, gave every child worth and dignity, saying, “what you do to the least of these, my children, you do unto me.” It was revolutionary teaching to identify God with the most humble and the most vulnerable. Christ taught a fundamental equality in the sight of God to all human beings. Whether a person “believes” in Christ or not, it would be intellectual dishonesty to deny that his teachings radically changed concepts regarding culture and economics.

Christ taught that God sees “into” us. God sees us as having equal weight in our “uniqueness,” not because we are the “same,” but because each of us is different. Each is made by God after an original design. This concept of being equal in our uniqueness is quite different from socialist concepts of being equal because of our sameness. Christ’s teaching did not promote a leveling notion. Neither does it require uniformity for equality. On the contrary, it tries to pay heed to and give respect to the unique image of God in each person. God did not make us equal in talent, ability, vocation, bank accounts or position. He did not take away what is unique and submerge it into uniformity, as we have seen promoted in so many economic and political cultures where, traditionally, the impulse has been to pull people down and place them all on the same level, regulated by the state.

Another revolutionary teaching that resulted from the Christmas story in Bethlehem was Christ’s teaching on compassion. Historically, most teachings regarding compassion are limited to one’s own family, nation, culture or kin. Christ’s teaching nurtured and encouraged the impulse to reach out, especially to the most vulnerable, and to the poor, the hungry, the wretched, those in prison, the helpless, hopeless, and the sick. His teachings instruct us to even love our enemies and see and respect the dignity even of those who in the eyes of the world have lost their dignity.

The radical expectation of those teachings pushes to include the concept ofuniversal compassion!

Those are a few of many teachings introduced into our cultures and economic systems because of the Christmas story. We have not only an economic venue as a setting for the Christmas story, but, also, the phenomenon of the Christmas story affecting even present day cultural economics.