It happened again last night while I was eating supper and watching Chris Matthews on MSNBC. His program is interrupted with a tragic shooting at a mall as the Christmas season unfolded.
The announcer could not have qualified her words any more than she did. Her narrative was sprinkled with “safety” words. Among them are “allegedly,” (big-time usage), “supposedly,” “apparently,” “it would seem to be that…,” “witnesses claim that,” “what we know now is…”
What she knew now was that someone was shot at a mall. That’s it. No matter where the TV helicopter flew we still only saw tiny mice-looking people racing around in a state of chaos in the mall’s parking lot. Barely news and certainly not journalism. “We’ll keep you posted with” should have been followed by “all the many facts that we don’t have but will interrupt your television show to scare you with the little we allegedly know.”
The biblical Christmas season provides us with numerous “allegedlys.” An “alleged” virgin is pregnant before marriage (not a big thing as it is today, but it was the year 0). Her truly speechless boyfriend wishes to dump her for another but changes his mind because of a dream. (Too much Bailey’s Irish Cream?) The virgin’s cousin’s husband was “supposedly” made speechless because he doubted God in naming his son who becomes the “apparently” deeply disturbed man who lives in the desert wearing fur and eating bugs. In the meantime, we “think” we’ve learned that an old lady lives in a temple refusing to die until she sees God. (No Prozac available in the year 0?) Days have now passed and there’s what “seems to be” angels swarming the evening sky and scaring the hell out of innocent shepherds who are tending their sheep. (What? Bailey’s again?)
Television today is fiction disguised as news using “safety” words. One can say anything with a safety word or two at the beginning of a sentence.
Just tell a fellow employee that, “I heard from someone that it seems that so-and-so…” and you have the beginning of a tall and often told tale.
The Bible tells tall tales but with meanings behind each character and story. Focusing alone on the crazy cousin in the desert misses the fullness of his introducing Jesus to the world and then baptizing him just we do little babies every Sunday. His father is just another stubborn dad who later delivers an enduring prayer praising God. The speechless boyfriend turns out to be the one who is aware and sensitive to his inner thoughts and feelings and is right about them all. The old lady is the burning light that slowly ages until the flame is lit with peace and salvation. Nothing fictional about the Bible because it is full of facts that trigger the factual part of our lives with fiction.
Christmas is the fullness of fiction seeking to match our life’s facts. We bring those biblical characters to life each time we get out of bed. If hope is fiction then it is up to us to make it a fact. If peace is an illusion then it is up to us to make it happen. If God’s illusory kingdom is to be realized, well, it’s up to the living Christ within us. That’s a fact.