• What if Jesus were born a female?

    • Posted on Dec 24, 2017

    Sunday Essay #4 
    12-24-17

    Here's a bit of a reminder that Jesus had to be born male to be a savior.    I wrote it years ago, and recycle it every few Christmases.  It seems to strike a small nerve among both Christians and skeptics.    It's angered a few, and I've heard that it pleases more than a few. 

    If I were a minister, this would be my Christmas sermon.  

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                Every December Christians honor the babe in the manger, and even non-Christians have to admit it’s compelling and memorable.

                It pits the meek against the mighty, poor against the rich, outcasts against insiders. Oh yes, and it's the story behind the founding of a world religion. 

                It’s so powerful that no one thinks twice about recycling it every year.  The same ought to go for alternative versions.  Here’s my revised Christmas story that I have freely adapted from Matthew and Luke in the New Testament.  

                And behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for this which is conceived in her is of the holy spirit.”

                “She will bear a son or daughter and you shall call his or her name Jesus or Jesse, for he or she will save his or her people from their sins.”   

                While Joseph and Mary were in Bethlehem, the time came for her to be delivered.  Lo and behold, Mary gave birth to their first-born daughter, wrapped her in swaddling clothes, and laid her in a manger.  There was no soft crib because there was no place in the inn for mere refugees or immigrants. 

                Following the angel’s suggestion, she named her blessed daughter Jesse.

     

                Now in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And another angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone all about them.  

               The shepherds were sore afraid.   

                And the angel said to them, “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will come to all the people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Jesse the Queen.

                 “And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”

                When the angels went away into heaven the shepherds said to one another, “A little girl, our savior?  Can this be?”

                 “A female savior? A lady Lord?  Women can birth saviors, but they cannot BE one.   Everyone knows that!”

                They went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph.  Soon they looked with wonder on the babe lying in the manger.  And they made known that which they had heard concerning this child.  All the people wondered at what the shepherds told them.

                Then the shepherds were no longer sore afraid.  They were just plain sore. 

                 “What happened to the days when only boys could be saviors?  Has any girl ever become anything but a wife, an old maid, or a witch?”

                The shepherds went home, thinking the real savior had not yet been born.  "Probably some maverick angels," one of them mumbled. 

                 Along the way, they met three wise men who had heard the news.  The shepherds stopped them, saying, “Turn back. Save your frankincense and myrrh. Wait until the real savior comes along. This one’s only a baby girl named Jesse.”

                And Mary, mother of Jesse, pondered all these things in her heart.

                “What if little Jesse had been born a boy?” she wondered, after she and Joseph had returned home.  “Would he have been worshiped as a real savior?”

                Mary prayed nightly that if her daughter Jesse had any special powers she would keep them to herself.  Little boys with special powers became saviors, founders of great religions.  

                Little girls with special powers were burned as witches.

                Baby Jesse grew into wonderful woman, a friend to all in need, wise beyond her years, and deeply beloved.  Thanks to her mother’s wise teaching, she never used her miraculous powers, and never married.

                Jesse lived and died in obscurity.  

                Meanwhile, all around the world, wise men kept waiting for the real boy savior.  

                Merry Christmas, everyone. 

     

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  • Sunday Essay #3: 'Tis the Season for Compassion

    • Posted on Dec 17, 2017

    Sunday Essay #3 is also today's Courier Column--and for a change, almost no political sniping.  This holiday season amounts to solid case for compassion, and I try to underline that here.  

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                Of all the virtues decent people try to live by—balance, compassion, integrity, forgiveness, fairness—compassion strikes me as most important.  This holiday season it deserves special attention, since it seems to be waning.      

                The New Testament’s Christ and Christmas stories amount to studies in compassion, beginning with the manger and ending on the cross.  Even non-Christians admit that the story reveals and embodies compassion.    

                Poor and outcast Joseph and soon-to-be mother Mary struggle to find shelter, then give birth in a lowly barn’s animal stall.  That child grows up to be a world spiritual leader, only to suffer crucifixion followed by redemption, thankfully. 

                It all centers on compassion, which means co-suffering. Even the secular among us who understand the story suffer along with Christians and their savior.    

                These days, even with rampant commercialization, the root of our holiday season is still giving. And what is giving at its best but compassion? 

                Thoughtful giving requires understanding, and the best gifts become lifelong memories. That first bike, which took you everywhere in style.  Or your first handsome suit or formal gown, which made you feel closer to adulthood.  Or that generous gift certificate which allowed you to own something you could never afford.  All were gifts that required a modicum of thoughtful compassion from the giver.   

                Don’t underestimate the joy of giving and receiving gifts rooted in compassion.  

                At its best, the holiday season amounts to a celebration of compassion. Locally, the Cedar Valley Food Bank and the Cedar Valley Hospice remain among the most deserving, their missions centering wholly on compassion. 

                When we look out for each other, as the season celebrates, we thrive.  In fact, when we act for the good of others, we inevitably act for the good of ourselves. Unless you’re the “before” Scrooge, it feels good to give. 

                 Charles Darwin drew that very conclusion as he studied how species evolved. He noted that “. . . the social instincts lead an animal to take pleasure in the society of his fellows, to feel a certain amount of sympathy with them, and to perform various services for them.” 

                The great biologist believed that “survival of the fittest” worked as the evolutionary engine because the “fittest” were those who cared for others as much or more than themselves. That’s how a species ultimately survives—the Golden Rule in practice.  

                For Darwin, it was never a dog-eat-dog world where only the strong survived.  

                Currently we seem to be ignoring that lesson and splitting into “us” against “them.”    Tribalists rail against diversity, sure that we do better by supporting and protecting only our own.  This can’t last, since humans are interdependent, now globally so.     

                Ultimately, “me first” believers risk becoming egomaniacs and narcissists who either deny or avoid feeling compassion. In the long run, they become outcasts. Dictators and authoritarians discover, sooner or later, they have no friends and nowhere to go. 

                ‘tis the season for compassion, for building bridges.  Not walls.  

               

                 



     

               

               

               

               

               

                 

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“Even before the advent of the Internet, Cawelti’s columns went 'viral' in the Cedar Valley… the role of a columnist is to be thought provoking, to take tacks that shed a different light on an issue or possibly cause a reader to reevaluate a position. At the very least, it should bring clarity to a particular perspective, whether you buy into the commentator’s worldview or not.

Scott's work does just that.  Enjoy this collection of his writing.”

-Saul Shapiro, Former Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier Editor
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