The True Message of Christ is St. Francis, Not Televangelists

The Prince of King God was born on top of where animals eat

“The Nativity” by Sandro Botticelli (1473–1475)

As so many of us are familiar, Jesus was born in a manger. Around barn animals. Trying to picture it, it had to be pretty dirty in there. Mary and Joseph rush in and find a comfortable spot on what was essentially the equivalent of a cow’s feeding trough.

You know… the Lord?

The person who Christians don’t even like referring to as a man — to most of the Western world he is the literal Son of God.

The Prince of King God was born on top of where animals eat.

As I understand it, everything on the level of form is symbolic, meaning that every detail (especially) of Jesus’s life was symbolic of higher truths. In this monumental chapter of his life (his birth), there is a startling lack of emphasis on materialism — a startling lack of emphasis on wealth and our perceived notions of societal stature.

The Matthean author quotes Christ in his most famous sermon:

The great Saint Francis of Assisi was very closely tied to Jesus’s teachings of non-attachment to wealth. Emphasizing humility, getting to the core of humanity and the true teaching, he was so unconcerned with material gain that his monastic order was and is almost entirely associated around the vow of poverty.

“Saint Francis of Assisi” by Elayne La Porta (2011)

And during his day, 13th century Italy, these sentiments had already been forgotten by Christian communities.

One Christmas St. Francis visited a wealthy church that had gold-plated everything, with pews full of immaculately-dressed, pompous Italian aristocrats. He got so disgusted by the extravagance that he left the service and brought back in dozens of barn animals in an attempt to remind them of the true nature of Jesus’s birth, creating a chaotic scene that first shocked and angered the churchgoers. Francis then got up and preached to them about Jesus’s overwhelming embrace of the poor and his non-attachment to material wealth. Over the course of his passionate sermon they were left in remorseful reflection.

This story tells me two things:

To not fall into the trap of “prosperity theology”, a type of contemporary Christianity adequately conned by televangelists that encourages incorporating spirituality with opulent material gain.

From CNN, “This televangelist is asking his followers to buy him a $54 million private jet” (May 30, 2018):

Duplantis, Jim Bakker, Peter Popoff and many other Pentecostal & Charismatic Christian leaders would be well-served to flip back through those red letters.

But secondarily, that Christmas incident in medieval Italy means there is still hope for the true message. While society can quickly lose touch with the original sparks of Divine Love, as the centuries come and go, we are reignited by a wide range of teachers and mystics.

Further reading:

Film & religion degrees, festival docs, and now Facebook. Trying to be present in every moment — not looking good so far. []