Good Will Towards Men

Even as a humanist/atheist, I can still condone the sentiment expressed in the above title, which comes from St Luke’s gospel in the Christian bible. Except to say that in the 21st century, its scope should be expanded so as not (apparently) to rule out women.

I am always moved when I see an expression of this precept. The above picture is an example. It was sent to me recently by my granddaughter, Beth, who is in her late teens, and whose mother, my daughter, has sadly chosen to remain estranged from me for most of her adult life. The inscribed bauble hangs on the family Christmas tree thousands of kilometres from me on the other side of the continent. I am, of course, the ‘grandad’ referred to in the inscription. The date (2014) shows the first year in which the bauble was hung. Presumably, it has been hung every year since then, side by side with baubles for other members of the extended family.

I am touched. Thank you, Beth, for the good will you show. You are a sweet girl.

Similar good will is on display in Catholic churches at midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. If, like me, you are a non-believer, you can ignore the religious overtones, and treat it as a secular message. Precisely at midnight, you are urged to shake hands with or embrace those on either side of you in the pew. When I first encountered this practice, dragged to church by my then girlfriend, a Catholic, I was taken completely by surprise. The person next to me, whom I didn’t know from Adam, turned to me and extended his hand. For a few anxious seconds, I didn’t know how to respond, then the penny dropped.

Once again, I was touched by this simple display of good will.

Christmas is not my favorite time of year. I am always glad when it, and New Year, are over, and life has a chance to return to normal. In the run-up to Christmas, the manic juggernaut known as ‘advertising’, creation of a rampant commercial sector, switches into overdrive. Most of this advertising consists of iterations on the big con. Con bordering on scam. Most of what it peddles is blatant misinformation, designed to dupe the most vulnerable in our community into lining the pockets of capitalist enterprises by parting with their hard-earned without any proportionate reward.

Good will towards men? Are you serious? Get real. Where’s the profit to be had in that?

Capitalist enterprise has seriously gone off the rails. Instead of looking at the essential message of Christmas, which message I believe can be taken either as religious or as secular, it has chosen to weaponize Christmas to its own venal advantage.

I suggest to you that it may be instructive to look at the text in full, i.e. go back to St Luke. There you’ll find written ‘on earth peace, and goodwill toward men.’

Peace on earth?

In which incarnation would that be?