Friday, December 9, 2011

Ebenezer Christian and the Three Christmas Spirits, Chapter 3

     At this writing, Christmas is only two weeks away. In 2002, a few weeks after Christmas, I wrote this novella as a reaction against the way Christmas has become a racket. Many of the worst offenders are professing Christians who have bought into the Christmas racket and are contributing to the world's problems by participating in that racket.
     Being busy for the church is not the same thing as being active for the Lord. We need to reconnect with the world, and we need to rethink Christmas.
     Over the next two weeks, I intend to post each of the fourteen chapters and addendum to Ebenezer Christian and the Three Christmas Spirits. The following is Chapter Three.  For the Table of Contents to Ebenezer Christian and the Three Christmas Spirits, click here.

Chapter Three
Another Uncomfortable Encounter
     Ebenezer Christian was barely ten paces closer to Stewart's Department store when he was accosted by a half dozen or so middle-aged men and women carrying protest signs and handing out brochures. The signs bore such messages as, "STOP FINANCING SLAVERY!" and, "DON'T BUY SLAVE LABOR GOODS!"
     He'd seen those bomb-throwers before. They were members of the local chapter of some outfit that he had heard was a hate group—at least it was convenient to think of them as a hate group. Ebenezer Christian was particularly incensed that they shamelessly were spreading their brand of poison during the Christmas season: a time of peace, comfort, and joy.
     As Ebenezer Christian approached Stewart’s Department store, one of them—a heavy-set man with salt-and-pepper hair and a beard—shoved a brochure at him. "This store sells items made by slave labor," the man said almost mechanically. "If you buy these products, you're supporting slavery."
     Before the man could say another word, Ebenezer Christian exploded, "It's Christmas Eve! Doesn't the birth of Jesus Christ mean anything to you? Are you so lacking in decency that you can't love your enemies even at this time of year? At last, sir, have you no shame?"
     Dr. Salt-and-pepper was about to say something, but another protester stepped forward. A little older than the bearded man, he was bald, with his remaining hair parted low enough on the side of his head that he could brush some of it across his baldness. Mr. Baldy haltingly drawled to Ebenezer Christian, "Did you know that Jesus quoted the book of Isaiah more than any other book in the Holy Scriptures?"
     "Isaiah spoke of proclaiming liberty to the captive. It's not just a good idea; it's a commandment."
     A short, (shall we say?) overly-buxom protester, who had been quietly holding a sign suddenly chirped, "People in slave labor camps can't have a merry Christmas." Ms. Plump smiled a little sheepishly and fell silent.
     A petite, sign-wielding protester with too much make-up and hair brushed back in a severe style was the next one to speak. "Not only that," she snapped with an air of superiority, "but it's illegal to import slave labor goods. It's allowed, anyway because the countries where they're made happen to be major trading partners!"
     Ebenezer Christian shot back, "I can't believe our government would allow anything like that! This is America! "Where do you get your information?"
     Miss Uppity glanced at Dr. Salt-and-pepper, who assumed the air of a college professor commencing a lecture. "According to Section Three-oh-seven B of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930," he confidently began, sounding more like a tape recording than a human being, "goods, wares and articles that are manufactured, mined or assembled, wholly or in part, by compulsory labor may not be imported into the United States."
     "Well, 1930 was a long time ago. I wouldn't think that a law that old would still be on the books. Besides, you said the law used the words `compulsory labor.’ That's not the same thing as slave labor."
     "It's still on the books; and, although not all compulsory labor is slave labor, all slave labor is compulsory," Dr. Salt-and-pepper said. Boy, is he brainwashed, thought Ebenezer Christian. That fanatic has an answer for everything, and all his answers sound pre-recorded!
     If Ebenezer Christian were a gambler, we'd say that he still had an ace up his sleeve. "Well, uh," he fumbled, "you haven't shown me any proof that there's such a law as that. Do you have a copy of it I could take home and read?" He stressed that last phrase in order to give himself an excuse to avoid discussing the matter any further.
     Dr. Salt-and-pepper brandished a small sheet of paper from his coat pocket and handed it to Ebenezer Christian. "This is a copy of Section 307(b)," he smiled. "For the rest of the act, you can call it up on the Internet address at the bottom of the page. For further information about Patriots' Dream—our organization—you may e-mail us, phone us or see our web page. The information is on the back of this sheet." Dr. Salt-and-pepper was smiling more broadly. For the first time since the encounter, Ebenezer Christian also was smiling because this meant he could escape.
     Ebenezer Christian smiled again, wished the fanatical bomb-throwers a merry Christmas and hurried into Stewart's Department Store, straight to the nearest trash can. Before he could throw the bomb-throwers' printed matter away, he noticed yet another fanatic stationed at the trash can.
     This one was a lean, bespectacled man wearing a kepa—a Jewish skullcap. He was quietly fishing Patriots' Dream flyers out of the trash can, forming them into a neat stack to be handed out—again—to passersby. He caught Ebenezer Christian's eye, apparently aware of Christian's plans for the flyer. Rather than hand it to the man, indirectly helping the man spoil someone elses Christmas Eve, Ebenezer Christian folded it and placed it in his shirt pocket.
     "Don't expect me to join your outfit," Ebenezer Christian muttered. "I'm a Christian, and Christians shouldn't get involved in politics."
     Having achieved a sour enough mood to strangle someone, it now was time for Ebenezer Christian to play Santa Claus. He would get his beard curled, climb into his Santa suit and somehow have to spread Christmas cheer to hundreds of children for the next ten hours or more.

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