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2016 has been a year unlike any other in my life of 60 years, which has made this Christmas season unlike any other. It’s not so easy to settle into that joyful holiday spirit when the political world mocks so many values I hold dear, from protecting our planet to caring for refugees to respecting the equal rights of minorities to upholding the value of truth. Then, just as I find myself stewing in that bitter soup, it hits me: that’s what Christmas was, in fact, about. Not sentimental songs about snow and mistletoe, but hope in the face of ugly and dangerous political realities. To explain, consider some macro-history. Of all the problems we human beings have faced, one of our biggest has been men. Male humans often become violent rivals for status, prestige, sexual satisfaction, money, land, and power. Fueled by androgen, testosterone, and social conditioning, men form and use gangs, political parties, nations, religions, and empires to play out their aggressions, and sadly, women and children are often caught in the crossfire.  Many millennia ago, societies devised a response to this problem of male aggressiveness. They elevated one alpha male to a position of power above all the beta and gamma males (and all the women, too), creating hierarchies of dominance and submission. It was a crude deal: in exchange for keeping all the unruly men under control, society rewards its dominant father figure with extra power, privilege, prestige, and other perks, including financial and sexual perks. What kind of man would be elevated to such a position? In order to cow any potential rival into submission, he must be willing to deploy violence faster and more ruthlessly than anyone else. And he must be willing to “display,” not just once, but constantly - to remind all potential upstarts of his physical prowess, his sexual prowess, and his financial prowess, so they’ll remember just who the alpha male is. The name for this system is patriarchy. It can exist in a family, a clan, a tribe, a nation, or an empire. Beginning about five centuries ago, European patriarchs (popes, kings, and their cronies) extended their patriarchal regimes globally, so that since the colonial period, patriarchy has expressed itself as white Christian male supremacy for much of the world. But about 2000 years ago, a story began to spread. In this story - revolutionary in its meaning, whether or not you take every detail literally, a virgin bears a son. What could such an image mean? Could it mean that God is conspiring to produce a new image of humanity, and especially maleness, apart from typical patriarchal lines of primogeniture, choosing instead to create something new only with the cooperation of a woman? Could it be that this story of virgin birth is not simply about miracle or the untidiness of sex, but rather about the rejection of patriarchy and the ugliness of patriarchal violence? The baby born to this unlikely mother did not grow up to be an alpha male who played and won by the old set of patriarchal rules. Rather, we might call him an omega male.  He didn’t display sexual prowess by bedding women left and right, but rather, treated women with uncommon respect.  He didn’t rise to prominence along the normal alpha-male route of threats of eye-for-eye revenge, but by way of nonviolent resistance, forgiveness, healing, and reconciliation.   He didn’t win followers by false promises, threats, or manipulation, but won their respect through his nonviolent example, courage of convictions, clear message, and personal character.  He didn’t preach an us-versus-them narrative or scapegoat “the other,” but moved toward the other in a spirit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness, and self-control.  In the 1st Century, as in the 21st, there was no shortage of alpha males strutting their patriarchal stuff, seeking attention, vying for power. But into that chaos came a baby who would later embody a new image of manhood, and a new model for humanity.  Suddenly, Christmas 2016 means for me not a season of sentimentality, but a season of daring and revolutionary hope. In that light, a recent book by a courageous Evangelical woman takes on added significance . Carolyn C. James’ Malestrom (a play on maelstrom) demonstrates how the Bible, far from endorsing patriarchy, actually subverts it and proposes a better way of being human for both men and women. “Patriarchy is not the Bible’s message,” she says. Rather, it is the shadowy cultural backdrop against which a brighter post-patriarchal message shines. Patriarchy may have addressed the problem of male aggressiveness back in the days of swords and spears, but in a world of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, patriarchy is not the solution: it is part of the problem. And the Christmas story, believe it or not, proposes an alternative. Ponder that for a while, and you might find yourself humming, “Joy to the world.”

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1 Enakshi Ganguly = "I feel that all mystic/faith-based communities need to be less about cotton candy (or is it bubble gum?) preaching and more about centering support in the face of grief, trauma, hate and anger (although the list goes on). I have never found any sort of connection with those who make their churches out to be this weekly concert they go to without any real work around healing, nurturing and establishing relationships with one another. "
2 Enakshi Ganguly = "Study Says White Extremists Have Killed More Americans in the U.S. Than Jihadists Since 9/11* not counting the genocide of indigenous communities in the Americas and around the world through conquest, settler-colonialism, inquisitions and neoliberal capitalism*"
3 Sara Di Diego = "One thing to keep in mind is that patriarchy is not inevitable.  In a case study of a tribe of baboons, with Dr. Robert Sapolsky, all of the alpha males died after eating some bad garbage (since they didn't allow the lesser members of the tribe eat any prized garbage).  After their deaths, the females and less aggressive males changed the tribe to one with equality.  They mellowed out, became less aggressive, and enforced this atmosphere with any new members.  This study shows that society can rule without bullying and aggressiveness from males.Learn more here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Q-bB-qywJ0"
4 Enakshi Ganguly = ""The Director of Episcopal studies at the Candler School of Theology, Charles D. Hackett, explainsThe fact that [Jesus] probably looked a great deal more like a darker-skinned Semite than westerners are used to seeing him pictured is a reminder of his universality. And [it is] a reminder of our tendency to sinfully appropriate him in the service of our cultural values.14th-century Macedonian painting of Jesus14th-century Macedonian painting of JesusThe image of white Jesus many Westerners conceive of today is the result of a deliberate attempt to whiten Jesus, to make him look more like a Western European.If one looks through a chronological history of the presentations of Jesus in Western art, one will see that Jesus gets increasingly whiter and whiter. One can simply walk through the rooms of an art museum organized by consecutive historical periods (as many are) and see how Jesus’ portrayal changes."Source: http://bennorton.com/jesus-was-not-a-white-conservative-jesus-was-a-palestinian-dissident/"
5 Enakshi Ganguly = "Source: http://bennorton.com/jesus-was-not-a-white-conservative-jesus-was-a-palestinian-dissident/"
6 Dan Halloran = "Since tRUMP was elected primarily by white, male Christians and Catholics, the churches and their hierarchy and clergy must be doing a terrible job of getting the word out. He is the most autocratic, dictatorial white male elected President in the history of our country.  For one, I feel no reason for joy this holiday season, but can try to admire those who let faith get in the way of facts in this darkest chapter of our history.  I just hope we all survive it and personally wish you well."
7 Sara Di Diego = "I love this way of viewing this religious text, thank you for sharing this!"