|Ebenezer Scrooge [Phot by Loren Javier]|
Ebenezer Scrooge is the protagonist of Charles Dickens’s novella, A Christmas Carol. A bitter childhood has turned Scrooge into a mean and selfish person. He is quite like some of our corporate bigwigs whose greed is as endless as selfishness is insensitive. He is a corporate honcho of the time, in fact. His concern is only profit. Profit before everything else. People don’t matter. It doesn’t matter whether his staff are starving as long as his business rakes in profits for himself.
One Christmas transforms Scrooge, however. He is blessed with a vision into his own heart and into the heart of the reality around him. The vision teaches him that there are many other things that should come before profits. Mankind is your real business, as one of the characters tells him. Compassion, forbearance, and benevolence are your real business.
A miracle follows the vision. Scrooge is transformed. He decides to help the deserving people. He sheds his selfishness and callousness. A handicapped boy, the son of one of his staff, becomes his adopted son. Scrooge learns love. And that brings him a happiness that he had never known earlier, that he would have never known at all.
Christmas is about a deep happiness, Dickens would say. It’s not about self-denial; it’s rather about self-love which leads to love for others. Christmas is about a celebration of life. Life is to be celebrated and not denied religiously.
One of the biggest blunders of Christianity is to identify Jesus with his cross. The cross has become the ubiquitous symbol of Christianity. This is gross injustice to Jesus and the spirit of his teachings. Jesus’ whole attempt was to teach the essential spirit of life to his followers. “I came to give life, life in its fullness,” he said. But the religions founded in his name ended up denying life by equating it with evil. Life is sin, according to most Christian religions. The cross is redemption. Abnegation is what is required.
Celebrate life, Scrooge learns from that particular Christmas. He celebrates life by sharing his wealth with the needy. He celebrates life by sharing himself with others. He ceases to be a mean corporate honcho and becomes a humane person who is an integral part of the human community.
This is the essential message of Jesus: we are not entirely separate individuals, we are integral parts of a community. Once we internalise this, life becomes a joyful celebration, a divine rhapsody.
Unfortunately our churches insist on crucifying Jesus again and again. Scrooge can teach us better.