As we approach the solstice, the day of the year with least light, a report to you from on the ground in the deep, dark heart of the bible belt, where hysteria about people of a religious persuasion different than our owns appears to be reaching fever pitch as Christmas arrives:
I seldom listen to talk radio, except when Steve and I are driving long distances, or when he's doing shopping or business as I wait in the car. The latter happened Saturday. I got an earful, scrolling through stations.
A year ago when I tuned in to these stations, the big enemy was the gays — ungodly gay marriage, which needed to be resisted at all cost by good Christians, before it destroyed "natural" marriage and our Christian country.
Now, it's the Muslims — in spades. I flipped from channel to channel, hearing men — all white Christian men — screaming, "What people need to understand about Islam is that it's a demonic religion. They worship Satan!"
Or: "People don't realize that the goal of this religion of violence is to destroy all other religions. If we don't destroy Islam, Muslims will destroy us."
All this interlarded with Christmas carols on the same Christian radio stations, singing about the coming of the Prince of Peace into the world . . . .
Happy winter solstice, y'all. Happy light-dispelling-the-darkness-day to each of you today, no matter your faith stance or lack thereof. Religion or no religion, faith or no faith, the darkness that encroaches on our lives today will be dispelled only if we ourselves become lights to each other and to the world, sparking light in one another as we let our own small lights become flame.
The video: Philadelphia composer Melissa Dunphy explaining why the Advent antiphon of 21 December, "O oriens," has a particular significance to her as someone who grew up in the Christian tradition but now leans agnostic-atheist. The video is part of a Bach@7 Cantata Series produced by Choral Arts Philadelphia.