EDITORIAL Christmas Day, here in the city of St. Francis, seems like a fine time to look at Jesus Christ, what he advocated, and what his legacy is today. Because this traditionally Catholic city has temples filled with crass money changers these days, and a mistaken elevation of “the market” to almost divine status — developments that are antithetical to everything the Bible teaches about Jesus.
While the Guardian isn’t regularly in the habit of using biblical citations to support our arguments — yes, we’re still the same godless heathens that you’ve all come to know and love or hate — this is an exercise worth undertaking for a couple reasons. One, many of this city’s power brokers are people of faith. And two, because morality still matters, maybe more than ever in these heady times of myopic, buccaneering capitalism, so it’s worth discussing the moral framework that we’ve inherited.
Let’s start with a clear truth: Jesus was a socialist. He was one the early socialists to have his ideology laid out so clearly and at such length, calling for the wealthy to give away their riches to the poor and expect nothing in return, not their names on monuments or even so much as a thank you.
“I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God,” Jesus said in Matthew 19:23.
San Francisco’s namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, took that tenet as far as it could go, giving away all his worldly possessions and joining the poor in the streets of Rome and begging in front of churches, the kind of homeless person now treated with such disdain here.
Jesus was the guy who “poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables,” according to the John 2:13, one of the four gospels that chronicle that high-profile clash with the capitalists of his day. It was the only time in the Bible where Jesus, always a serene and resolute fellow, is actually pissed off and acting out aggressively.
San Francisco’s religious critics love to compare this city to a modern day Sodom or Gomorrah, the cities supposedly destroyed by God because of their citizens’ wicked ways. But on the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus, who befriended the destitute and the prostitutes and the freaks of all kind, it’s worth remembering that his ire was aimed at the greedy rich and not the bedraggled poor or the animated activists.
It is those who aspire to good socialist values — compassion, integrity, sharing (not renting, which is actually what most “sharing economy” companies do), caring for the Earth and all its creatures, and yes, hard work as well, albeit in service of humanity and not personal wealth — who most embody the true Christmas spirit.