"Good will and peace on earth," the Christmas angels sang, while Mary rejoiced that "God has brought down the mighty from their thrones, and lifted up the poor, and sent the rich away empty handed."
Some 30 years later, Mary's son stood before a council in Jerusalem who were about to condemn him to a Roman cross, telling them they soon would see "the son of man coming with the clouds of heaven" to bring God's righteous kingdom to all the earth, a rule in which justice and mercy would prevail, and tears would be wiped from every face, and sorrow and shame and sin — and even poverty and war and death — would be no more.
Nearly 2,000 years later, we enter the year 2019 asking, "Where is that righteous rule, that wonderful new world promised by so many of the great religions and faiths of the earth?" All around our globe, we see the rich growing ever richer while the poor grow poorer. We see rampant injustice, inequality and selfishness on the rise as the powerful consolidate and institutionalize their greed, no matter how harmful that may be to others.
Meanwhile, we realize that even the great religions of the world have had their problems and their failings. Christianity must bear the reproach of allowing African slavery and the decimation of Native Americans and the European Holocaust. Hinduism bears the stigma of its cruel and despicable caste system. Islam bears the onus of being too fanatical, too warlike and too violent. All the great faiths of the earth have had their shortcomings, including their shameful suppression of women and of gays.
Perhaps the only hope for us now is a different kind "fundamentalism," one that puts all its emphasis on the basic insistence of so many of our prophets that justice must be for everyone, especially for the powerless.
A great prophet of our own, an American prophet, once stated that government should be "of the people, by the people, and for the people" — not of, by, and for the special interests of the wealthy and the privileged.
Perhaps it is time for us in America to revise our pledge of allegiance to the flag so that every time we say it, we will be reminded that a just and equitable nation cannot exist without government that really is "of, by, and for" the people.