Updated: Jan 3, 2021
Per Wikipedia, “Humanism is a philosophy or a way of thinking about the world. Humanism is a set of ethics or ideas about how people should live and act. People who hold this set of ethics are called humanists. Humanists prefer critical thinking and evidence (rationalism and empiricism) over acceptance of dogma or superstition.”
So is this a good thing or a bad thing?
Though humanism first drew from the philosophers of ancient Greece and Rome during our modern renaissance period, we are entering a time of cultural humanism now that is affecting western civilization as never before. Even western capitalism is now finding itself in the grips of post-modern humanism as a guiding ethic. This ethic privileges human rights and human relations in ways that provide, among other things, education and healthcare for all. Social policy under humanism favors wealth redistribution and equal rights to early childhood education through university, a living wage, affordable nutrition, and equal access to such healthcare services as dental, vision, addiction and behavioral therapies.
So is this a good ethic or a bad ethic?
Humanism aims at social responsibility and a morality of inclusion that lifts the lowly and brings human outcasts into the mainstream, believing that each person is special and has a gift that contributes to our greater society. Humanism also holds that international justice and peace are practical as well as ideal. It promotes a social morality that seeks to protect people from all military and political violence. It even promotes more open international borders and racial and gender equality alongside religious tolerance. It attends to the morality of providing clean drinking water to every man, woman, and child in every continent.
So is this a good morality or a bad immorality?
The biblical Gospel of Mark tells of the time Jesus was informed by his disciples of their opposition to an exorcist casting out demons in Jesus’s name, because the man was not an actual follower of Jesus. Perhaps you remember how Jesus reacted to this news.
“Whoever is not against us is for us. For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward” (Mark 9:40-41).
Why would Jesus say such a thing?
Why would Jesus, if one is to seriously accept the writings of John’s Gospel, claim to also be speaking for God? Or claim to be revealing to humanity what God was truly like? Is Jesus really the great I AM?
Or, for that matter, why would Jesus espouse the love of neighbor as self by saying that it was like the very love the Jewish Shema requires for God? Or why would Matthew’s Gospel include that time when Jesus likened those who cared for the least, last, and lost as having, therefore, cared for him without even intending such?
Granted, Matthew and Luke both write of a specific instance where Jesus said “whoever is not for me is against me,” but in that context those who were thus against him were the religious leaders who accused him of being demonic and casting out demons by the power of Beelzebub. But the implicit question there is why were the Pharisees against Jesus when even other do-gooder imposters like that exorcist in Mark 9 not against him?
“Whoever is not against us is for us.”
Could that suggest that God is also a humanist?
Maybe the God of Christmas, who so loved the world that he came in the flesh to reveal what inclusive love for all looks like, was really letting us all in on a little secret. And maybe the secret is that God loves humans so much that there’s literally nothing he wouldn’t do for us, even if the religious authorities were against his doing so.
Maybe God is so altruistic in his own agape love for humanity that he doesn’t exactly care who gets the credit for loving humanity. Maybe God’s not all that concerned with why we love our neighbor as ourselves so long as we actually do so. Maybe God’s not all that religious. Not all that dogmatic. Not all that patriotic when it comes to national defense and military deterrence. Not all that worried about secular government or secular education, secular hospitals, or secular wells that draw clean drinking water for his children to drink. Or about democratic socialism for the common good. Maybe the words “secular humanism” do not scare or anger God. Maybe the God of Christmas isn’t all that upset with even the secular toys for tots and coats for kids. Maybe God isn't against tiny children brought into our nation without proper paperwork by parents seeking a better and safer life for them. Maybe God actually was a tiny "human" child himself brought into another nation without proper paperwork by parents seeking a better and safer life for him.
Is it possible that this, too, is the Christmas story?
Is God a humanist?