“Peace on earth, good will to men.”
It’s from one of my favorite Christmas carols, “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear,” and in writing the poem/song, Edmund Sears used a variation of the words of the angels as they announced Jesus’ birth to the shepherds in the fields.
There is apparently an ongoing argument about the exact translation of the original text. According to some, it should be “on earth, peace to men of good will;” others insist it should be “on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
Does it make a difference? Well, yes, it does. The words of the song are a blessing, offering peace and good will to everyone. “Peace to men of good will” narrows the field a bit.
And when you offer peace only to “those on whom his favor rests” — well, I don’t imagine all of us would even agree on whom that actually is.
And that is, I guess, the question at the very heart of my unrest this holiday season.
Let me pause here for a minute to note that, yes, I understand I am talking about the words of a Christian Christmas carol, taken from the words attributed to angels in the Christian Bible. And I understand most clearly that this is the holiday season, that not everyone is Christian, not everyone celebrates Christmas and that not everyone even believes in any kind of god, in any religion or denomination.
But surely everyone — at least, most everyone — would like to have a little peace and good will?
These days, it seems that the “powers that be,” whoever they are in your neck of the woods, want to reserve the peace and good will for only a select few. They only offer the best for a very select few on whom favor rests.
Congress hasn’t managed to pass any legislation worth noting except for a tax scam that takes from the poor to give to the rich, and that undermines health care for those who need it most.
The man in the Oval Office keeps bleating on about building walls to keep out people whose skin is a different color, who follow a different religion or who speak a different language. At the same time, he’s wasting time and taxpayer dollars playing golf, calling people insulting names and counting the bodies at events where he speaks.
The Texas Legislature this year certainly had no good will for the LGBT community. They painted an especially large target on the backs of our transgender brothers and sisters, trying to, in essence, ban them from public life by banning them from public restrooms.
Preachers of all religions and denominations constantly declare that only they have God’s ear, that only they hear God’s voice, that only they are worthy of his favor. Want examples? Look no further than Joel Osteen in Houston, who closed the doors of his megachurch — not to mention his mansion — to the refugees fleeing Hurricane Harvey’s floodwaters. And here in Dallas, Robert Jeffress over at First Baptist Church continues to confound and dismay with his never-ending stream of bigotry.
They make no bones about on whom their favor rests.
There has been no peace on earth this year — from the bombing at the Ariana Grande concert last May in Manchester, England to the mass shooting at the Harvest Music Festival Oct. 1 in Las Vegas.
A list of terrorist attacks in 2017, compiled online at StoryMaps.esri.com — beginning with a bombing Jan. 1 by Islamic State in Istanbul that killed 39 all the way to a bombing today (Wednesday, Dec. 20) by Islamic State in Baghdad that killed one — includes 93 attacks this year that killed 458 people.
And that’s not even beginning to count attacks like the shooting in Las Vegas, which claimed 58 lives and the title as the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history, and the Nov. 5 shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, in which 26 were killed.
No peace. No goodwill.
And yet, I still have hope.
I think back to the Texas Legislature’s regular session when lawmakers of good conscience on both sides of the partisan aisle took a stand and said no to anti-transgender hate in the form of a bathroom bill, and I have hope. Not only did we fend off that discrimination in the regular session, we did it again in special session.
I think back to Election Day in November, when transgender candidates were elected to office not just at the local level, but at the state level, around the country. And I have hope. I think back just a couple of weeks, to Dec.12 and the special election in Alabama, where Doug Jones beat Roy Moore and years of ingrained partisan politics. And I have hope.
Perhaps there is a shortage of peace and good will on the world stage, in our politics and in our religions. But I know that I still have hope; I know that others still have hope.
And I believe that with enough hope and enough hard work, we really can, one day, find that peace on earth and good will to all of us.
Tammye Nash is managing editor of the Dallas Voice. She is also a proud member of The Resistance