by: Fr. Nicholas A. Marziani, Jr., D.Min.
I recently came across a rather troubling survey created to gauge in a quantifiable manner the growing sense of cultural alienation occurring in these dis-United States of America.
Called the PRRI “American Values” survey and conducted by the D.C. based Public Religion Research Institute, the study reports that “47% of Americans ‘feel like a stranger in their own country’.” Kind of reminds me of Moses in the book of Genesis who named a son born to him during his years of wandering in the desert, “Gershom”, meaning “stranger” since as he said, “I am a stranger in a strange land.”
Turns out that this sense of alienation is a multi-partisan phenomenon. About 60% of Republicans report that societal changes of the past decades have left them feeling flat about the state of things in the United States, whereas 42% Democrats indicate they agree. Overall about half of the country believes that things have changed for the better, and half say worse, pretty much a function – as to be expected – of whether one is progressive or conservative in disposition.
Accordingly prospects for the future are sharply divided between the two groups. What that augers for generations just being born and entering school remains to be seen. Will they concur with their elders, or like previous generations rebel against the predominant ethos of the world as they find it and forge head on a different course?
Certainly in the days of another Hebrew child, Yeshua, son of Mary and Joseph, the future looked dim and difficult, and alienation was a common state of consciousness as various groups vied for influence over a country ruled by a distant power, Rome.
The charm of a sweet, Victorian style Christmas was nowhere in the air of the Holy Land as the child ultimately destined to be regarded as the Messiah by billions of followers was born in very simple surroundings. He would grow to be alienated himself from many of his own people, like the prophets before him, and would become a stranger to the point of being executed by that dominant world power.
Hardly anyone at the time could clearly predict, however, that his abandonment of himself into the hands of his God would in time pull together a new people made of many persuasions and personalities, constituting a great, if often itself fractured, world religion.
For all of that its Creed, proclaimed every Sunday, promises a final reunion and reconciliation between all things, visible and invisible. It is that hope to which I and many other cleave during this Season of Lights.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, Fr. Nick