Is the Christmas story about homelessness or evil government?

I am pleased that the Conservative party has come up with more ideas for tackling homelessness, and understand their media savvy in launching them at Christmas.

However, as I have to remind people at this time of year, the Christian story is not about homelessness as the media implies. The Bible is quite clear. There was a hotel shortage in Bethlehem on that important night, brought about by the government’s insistence that everyone returned to their town or city of origin to register for some great new ID system, to be followed of course by some new tax.

It is typical of evil governments down the years that they think nothing of the convenience of their citizens. Poor Mary had to travel around the time of her confinement, just to satisfy some power mad government that could not be bothered to register her in Nazareth where we assume Joseph had a home, but required her to go somewhere else. I am sure the last thing Joseph wanted with a pregnant Mary and all the extra bills fatherhood would bring was to down his carpenters tools and travel to Bethlehem just to register and pay a tax.

As it turns out this was just the start of the evil of this barbarous regime. Hearing of the birth, their combination of insecurity, malevolence and incompetence made them decide to put all new born boys to the sword, forcing Mary and Joseph to flee. Is it, I wonder, because of the Roman influence that this ancient government escapes with such a mild press, when we should be condemning its brutal actions?

Wouldn’t it be a good celebration of the spirit of Christmas if instead our present government pledged not to carry on with new costly and inconvenient ID schemes, or extra taxes? That would show just how different it was, and show it had understood the true Christmas story of how good triumphed over evil, with the escape of Jesus.

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6 Comments

  1. rugfish
    Posted December 24, 2008 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    I am heartily sorry for the people of Iceland who have had no part in the devastating crash experienced there and around the world. Many thousands of Icelandic families are contemplating cancelling Christmas, leaving their country and “sending the keys back” to the lender for their homes. A report of the situation there in today’s Financial Times, HERE highlights the very personal result of moving an economy from that of a mixed economy of production, manufacturing to one built on financial services, investments and speculative profits, which can only really be described as completely devastating for Iceland.

    Iceland, officially the Republic of Iceland, is an island country located in the North Atlantic Ocean between mainland Europe and Greenland. It has a population of about 320,000 and a total area of 103,000 km². That’s about the size of a large English town like Coventry.

    Iceland is volcanically and geologically active on a large scale and is defined in its landscape by geezers and volcanic activity, sand fields, mountains and glaciers, and many big glacial rivers flow to the sea through the lowlands. It is warmed by the Gulf Stream and Iceland’s temperate climate provides a habitable environment and much in the way of nature.

    Iceland has some of the world’s highest levels of economic and civil freedoms. In 2007, Iceland was ranked as the most developed country in the world by the United Nations Human Development Index. It was also the fourth most productive country per capita, and one of the most egalitarian, as rated by the Gini coefficient. Icelanders have a rich culture and heritage, such as cuisine and poetry, and its medieval Icelandic Sagas are internationally renowned. Iceland is a member of the UN, NATO, EFTA, EEA and OECD, but not of the European Union.

    Until the twentieth century, the Icelandic population relied on fisheries and agriculture, and was from 1262 to 1918, a part of the Norwegian and later the Danish monarchies. In the twentieth century, Iceland’s economy and welfare system developed quickly. In recent decades, Iceland implemented free trade in the European Economic Area and diversified from its historic fishing industry to new economic fields mainly in internet based financial services which have collapsed on an unprecedented global scale.

    As thousands of Icelandic folk who previously enjoyed the obvious benefits of being at or near the top income level per capita, now stand in line for charitable handouts this Christmas, they are cutting back through necessity on miscellaneous items such as wide screen Plasma TV’s and other non-essentials which will continue to devastate retailers. Their lack of sales will have yet further knock on affects to harm the Icelandic economy, and the Financial Times report gives a reality check that describes the real circumstances being suffered by many Iceland folk and their families which can only be described as one of extreme hardship.

    Sarah O’Connor in Reykjavik says;

    On the ground floor of one of Reykjavik’s gleaming office buildings, a well-dressed crowd shuffles and waits. Tinny Christmas songs blare from a small hi-fi by the door.

    As numbers are called out one by one, people file into the next room where rudimentary shelves are filled with free tins, fish, clothes, books and wrapping paper.

    Some 2,500 people have applied for Christmas relief packages from Iceland’s three main charities in recent weeks, a 30 per cent rise on last year, as growing numbers of the middle class lose their jobs in the wake of Iceland’s banking collapse.

    Jon Omar Gunnarsson, a pastor at Hallgrimskirkja, Reykjavik’s main church, says applications to the Church Aid group have doubled.

    “It’s mostly middle class people who have all these obligations, mortgages that are going up, many are losing their jobs … they just can’t carry the burden alone,” he says.

    Iceland is still reverberating after its economy crumpled in October in the face of global financial turmoil.

    Inflation and interest rates are both at 18 per cent as the country struggles to shore up its currency, which plunged after its three banks collapsed. It has borrowed $10bn from the International Monetary Fund and others which it needs to repay, meaning taxes are rising even as recession deepens.

    The charities believe more people need help but are too ashamed to ask.

    “We should just forget about Christmas, just cancel it,” says Sigridur, 57, waiting for her number to be called.

    “My husband lost his job, I don’t have one either – I am recovering from cancer. We cannot even pay for the house.”

    Sigridur and her husband are considering moving to Norway where there are jobs in construction. “We would just post the house key back to the bank.”

    Asa, 44, will give her children Christmas presents provided by charity this year. “You have to take off your pride,” she says. “It’s very difficult to do it.

    “There will be a lot of people who leave this country, just go away. Think of the future here for the children. When they are 95 they will still be paying for this.”

    Although growing, the number of people needing food aid is still small. Many of those who have lost their jobs will continue to get paid until February. The government, which owns the three main banks, has promised mortgage holidays for people who cannot meet repayments. But even those who have not been badly hit are changing their lifestyles. This Christmas, people are giving each other books, home-made trinkets and practical presents such as warm socks.

    Last year’s must-haves, flat screen televisions and games consoles, are on the list of things people here call “so 2007”.

    For many, Christmas brings a welcome distraction from the crisis. But others find it impossible to get into the seasonal spirit.

    Sitting in an old fisherman’s cafe by the port, Orn Svavarsson shakes with rage. He sold his health food business three years ago when he was 54 and, like many of his countrymen, put the money into the stock market. It has been wiped out.

    “The Icelandic people are too lazy,” he says. “Why don’t we go to the airport and block it until we get answers?

    “For the first time in my life I have sympathy with the Bolsheviks; with the French revolutionaries who put up the guillotine.”

    I can sympathise much with Orn Svavarsson’s sentiments, for his whole working life has been ruined and him left penniless as a result of being taken in by the money men who gave the impression that an economy can be sustained by money made through money, and credit. He, like many millions of others, fell for the illusion perpetrated by the money men, that life is wonderful on credit, whilst failing to see the effects of making money from money simply means wherever someone gains another loses. Yet, the issuance of capital and credit means there can never be an end to it because the interest on the capital doesn’t exist !

    Think about it, the bank borrows capital and loans it to you.
    It charges interest, but that interest wasn’t ‘issued’.
    In Iceland’s case, take a tray of Cod as an example.
    I give you a tray of Cod and you agree to give me two back, but you don’t fish for Cod, I do. You eat the Cod and then ask for more so you can pay me back ‘some of the Cod’ and when you eat that I can loan you some more. Perhaps your sons and daughters want some Cod from me too?

    So what’s the answer to this, or is there an answer?
    Will Iceland be the first or the last to fall?

    I doubt it.
    People are generally switched on to the illusion now and if they’re not then they soon will be. Many have already ‘globally decided’ for instance not to buy new cars? The US, UK and French Governments have decided to ‘bailout’ auto manufacturers, but a simple question is posed here in asking who will buy the cars they make? What if they don’t buy the cars? Well in the UK alone there are reputedly over 820,000 jobs reliant on the auto industry and another 3 million in America. It’s 3 times the population of Iceland of employees just in the UK Auto Industry alone in manufacturing, parts, sales, maintenance and a whole host of other retailers such as Halfords and others which all have jobs riding on the continuing remit of a car industry which has little or no customers and can only regain trade through ‘credit’. ( Keeping the illusion running ), and otherwise buying up lots of raw materials from other countries which rely on selling them to us and to America and to France and to Germany and to Italy and Spain, etc etc.

    There’s another effect here I’d mention which I’ve just been discussing with my wife Karen, and that is the effect of the internet. The internet allows a person to shop in several places at one time, pay online and have the item delivered usually at a lower ‘online discount’ price, which obviously cuts out the need for transport, petrol usage, car parking fees, time, inconvenience, and of course PEOPLE. I can ‘SIT’ in Durham for instance and ‘SHOP’ in London with my mouse and so can anyone else with a PC so why do they NEED to travel to London with all the hassle and expense and known harm to the environment as a result of being stuck for hours in traffic?

    I do feel heartily sorry for the folk in Iceland and I hope they’ll feel likewise for people of all other nations when the next bubble bursts of internet shopping which will force many high street stores out of business, lose billions in tax revenues and local business taxes, lead to boarded up bankrupt retailers, mass unemployment and swingeing cuts in public services followed by higher taxes unless we all of us keep taking ‘credit’ and living in the illusion created by money men that no one loses in the game where everyone except the people in Iceland can be winners if they stay in the game. otherwise the only other solution is that we all ‘work’ for a living such as fishing and making our own toys for our kids rather than buying truck loads of unaffordable Chinese toys which we buy on credit in order to maintain the illusion that it can be Christmas everyday.

  2. Mark M
    Posted December 24, 2008 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    As evil as they are, even the Romans didn’t tax Joseph and Mary’s only choice of transport.

    I assume that the public transport links between Nazareth and Bethlehem were non-existant, much like the public transport between many of the north of england’s rural towns and villages. Thus, the soon-to-be-parents had only one choice, just as many people in the UK have only the car as a reasonable method of transport.

    Fortunately, the Romans didn’t tax over 63p per litre on the water needed to keep the donkey alive. Maybe if they had, Joseph and Mary would have given up on the whole idea of travelling altogether and we’d never have all the Christmas stories.

    And don’t even get me started on the donkey’s CO2 emissions….

  3. APL
    Posted December 24, 2008 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    JR: “Copnservative”

    Conservative?

    Just to wish you and your family a very happy Christmas.

    Rugfish: “Iceland”

    Yes, our government dealt ill with our allies and neighbours.

    I am heartily ashamed of this government.

  4. David B
    Posted December 25, 2008 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    So I wonder how many of the bankers, stockbrokers, estates agents, scions of the new economy will be going into manual labouring at a few bob above minimum wage? Jesus too was a carpenter. He could make stuff. And thats the problem here. We don’t make stuff. We hope to get rich quick. Our houses to be piggy banks. Let the Germans make our cars and the Chinese our toys. We’ll borrow from the Japanese and lend that interest free money to risky debtors, and in our hubris forget what wealth is. Meanwhile sell the ports to Arabs or Spaniards and even the breweries to Belgians or South Africans.

    Its coming home to roost now, our open free economy. I have no idea what to do about it. I suspect the opposition don’t have much idea either. I know the government haven’t a clue ( generally as well as specifically ).

    Still, merry christmas everyone.

  5. rugfish
    Posted December 26, 2008 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    Obviously you won’t be amongst them maggra2.

    http://domywife.com/community/maggra2

  6. rugfish
    Posted December 26, 2008 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    Further to my reply I was pleased to hear Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor give a message this Christmas when asked about his thoughts on today’s wealth driven society, ask; “Are we living in a way that’s not necessary for a decent human life”?

    Also, Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams has interestingly noted; “How terrible if globalisation evolves in an ethical vacuum”, and that trust has by and large deteriorated in society as a result of the economic crash. He also noted that the free market should have “moral purpose”.

    I think these messages should be heeded all of us when contemplating our future in 2009 and beyond.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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