Friday, December 18, 2020

Hanukkah and the Great Battle for Worship

Just this week, VP-Elect Kamala Harris, someone who has been vocal about 'appropriating' other cultures, came out with a shallow, ignorant and remarkably insensitive statement about what Hanukkah 'means' to her. Her statement really shows the move towards a society devoid of true, meaningful religious expression outside of the approved, gooey, empty, sentimentality that has no underlying foundation other than 'it makes me feels good.

Her idea of Hanukkah sounds like a hallmark movie instead of the true story of Hanukkah; which you may read of in the book of Maccabees should you be interested. There you will find something far different than the flippant "I love Hannukah because it really is about the light and bringing light where there is darkness, and there is so much work to be done in the world to bring light and it is a celebration of Tikun Olam..." The actual Feast is about a bloody and brutal war between Jews who wanted to hold fast to their faith, and a grasping, secularizing, Hellenizing culture that had capitulated to the governmental decrees of the crazy Antiochus IV; he who had demanded that the Jews STOP practicing their religion.

The state, as it is wont to do, demanded loyalty to only one -- the STATE. The secularization of Israel was going well, with the assistance of a large number of Jews who were willing to sacrifice their faith on the altar of pragmatism and political expediency, until those pesky Maccabbeans refused to abandon their religion to sate the government's desire for worship. Instead, they revolted against the secularization of their world, and were given a miraculous victory over a crushing and oppressive government, successfully cleansing the Temple and re-establishing worship back to the people.

Now, i do not find KH's statements shocking, for if the true story of Hanuakkah were told, it would actually be a refutation of what many in our culture hold to; that religious practice needs to be subsumed under governmental control. Sadly, what bothers me is that she cares so little for something so deeply important to so many people, she certainly didn't have a problem appropriating a Jewish feast for her own political rhetoric. This is a disturbing trend I find on both sides of the aisle, one side seeks to secularize all things religious, the other, conflates their religion with their politics, sanctifying their political views. Both sides seek to put forward the sacredness of their political position in one way or another, while attempting to empty religious thought of anything truly transcendent -- what is old is new again, hello Antiochus IV!

I doubt that we will see this trajectory,(that of increasing ignorance of all things sacred, and creeping secularization), change anytime soon, and as I stated earlier, this is not just one side of the political aisle, both sides are remarkably ahistorical, corrosive in their language and bent on controlling society with their idealogies. Sadly, true, caring, and open conversations seem further away now than they have ever been, and I doubt that this will reverse until we, as a people, step away from our narcissistic, self-absorbed, victimzed mindset, a mindset fostered by 'social' media, news outlets in pursuit of eyes far more than truth and an educational system that seems less and less interested in 'education' and more and more in 'doctrination' (on both sides of the aisle), and step more into a self-giving, sacrificial, and caring attitude towards those who difffer with us. Only then will we be able to see beyond our own navel to have a true and honest discussion around the sacred and the secular.

Hanukkah, at the end of the day, is a choice between who/what one will serve. To round out this story, if we move forward in time, the Jewish nation, 400+ years after the Maccabean revolt, was once again under the rule of an oppressive government, this time Rome. And during the celebration of Hanukkah, Jesus was found to be walking through the Temple grounds, (John 10:22ff), and as He did, He was questioned about His identity: 'IF You are the Messiah, tell us plainly...' Well, He had already told and shown them, but they were far more interested in a secular deliverance, a casting out of the Romans and re-establishing of Israel as a powerhouse in the region (sort of an ANE 'Make Israel Great Again' campaign) than they were of re-establishing worship of the One True God, so, they ultimately rejected Jesus' Messianic claims, seeking to put their eyes on a temporal goal. The God-man had entered into the Temple grounds, once again the Temple burned brightly with the presence of the LORD, but they refused to see: they chose who they would serve.

Ultimately, we all have to serve something/someone; an idea eloquently put forward by that great Theologian, Bob Dylan:

"You may be an ambassador, To England or France, You might like to gamble, You might like to dance, You may be the heavyweight Champion of the world, You might be a socialite, With a long string of pearls. But you're gonna have to serve somebody; Yes indeed, you're gonna have to serve somebody. Well it may be the Devil Or it may be the Lord, But you're gonna have to serve somebody..."

The questions is: Who will you serve?