Sunday, December 22, 2013

Rudolph's Dad was a Total Shit

I was born in 1964, two weeks before Christmas. That was the year the classic motion animated version of Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer showed up, in color, on network television.   There’s been a lot of debate this holiday season with regard to tolerance, respect, the right to free speech, and what the Bible really teaches us about who get’s to judge others.  Not the least of this debate has been the humble “Who am I to judge” comments made by Pope Francis juxtaposed with the arrogant self-righteous comments made by Phil Robertson the Patriarch on Duck Dynasty.   My family decided to watch Rudolph last night...get back to basics... instead of our other holiday favorites, The Grinch, Christmas Vacation, Elf, or a Christmas Story. It took a bit of teamwork to search the Verizon catalog, then to bring up our Google TV box to search NetFlix, before simply searching on YouTube and finding a link to the full version of the Christmas classic.  Not at our fingertips yet, but since my family only had a B&W TV in 1964, watching the classic on YouTube, on demand, on a 55” plasma flat screen, is still pretty amazing.  BTW, you can find the version here on YouTube if you want to watch the whole thing on your computer and save the 10 minute or so delay it took us to search for it in the various cloud locations.

Bottom-line up front.  Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer had a shit dad who had an even douchier boss. Donner was Rudolph’s proud dad. But just after Rudolph was born and his wife points out that Rudolph has a shiny nose, Donner declares, “Shiny, I’d even say it glows”.  Then Rudolph's mom say’s, I guess we'll simply  have to overlook it. Donner immediately replies,  “How can you overlook that?  His beak blinks like a blinking beacon.”  

Santa then enters their home with a deep “Ho-Ho-Ho” and meets Rudolph for the first time.  He sees his shiny nose and declares in a manner fit for a Will Ferrell character, “Great bouncing icebergs” and Donner, extremely nervous and a bit embarrassed at the moment says, “I’m sure it will stop as soon as he grows up...” Then Santa says, “Well let’s hope so if he want’s to make the sleigh-team someday.”

He does this just before singing the classic, “I’m the King of Ding-A-Ling”.  Yes Santa, you are the grand King of the Dingalings for your rush to  judgement on Rudolph and his difference.  And it only goes downhill from there.  Comet, who represents responsible adults everywhere, cannot stomach the red nose, and even though Rudolph demonstrates a superior ability to fly early on, because of his difference from the others, Comet bans Rudolph from all further the Reindeer Games and set’s a “stellar example” for his class by getting all of his student’s to agree and to continue mocking Rudolph.  Of course the King of the Dingalings, the great White Santa, steps forward and declares,  and I quote. “Donner, you should be ashamed of yourself, what a pity, he had a nice takeoff too”.  I’m going to stick to Rudolph for the purposes of this blog. But remember, there is a lot more going on in this holiday classic.  You’ve got the Abominable Snowman running around, the elf who want’s to be a dentist, and of course the whole island of misfit toy thing.  A lot of very subtle statements about difference, and judgement, and getting along.

As we all know, in the end, Rudolph, with his nose so bright, saves Christmas.  When asked by Santa, “Won't you guide my sleigh tonight?”, Rudolph, despite being ostracized and his lifetime of heckling steps up, and tells Santa, “It will be an honor”.  Not to be outdone, by his own embarrassment of a son, Donner tries to take credit for Rudolph’s nose when he realizes that Rudolph will be the hero.  He says,  “I knew that nose would be useful someday, I knew it all along”.  Rudolf should have instead, told them all to “get bent”. Looking back, that would have been a much better ending to this holiday classic.  These days Rudolph probably would have picked up a AR-15 and gone on a holiday shooting spree had he been bullied as ruthlessly as he was in this story. Rudolph did not.  Instead Rudolph proudly stepped up and displayed a character worthy of his inheritance, a place in history.

If I seem bitter this holiday season, I am not.  I am forever thankful for the blessings in my life which I owe to my one source, whose birthday we are in the midst of celebrating.  I am also so blessed by my wife and daughter who constantly bring down my ego and remind me that it is truly the meek who will inherit the earth. But what exactly does it be meek.  Meek certainly means humble, and I’ve certainly been humbled this year... But meek doesn’t entirely mean humble. In the ancient Greek, there is a word for humble, and that’s not the word that was translated into meek.  Also, the modern definitions of meek are too passive, to weak, to easy to be understood as a pushover to truly believe that the meek shall be the ones to inherit the earth.  During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus was clearly referring to something else, something other than, well, modern meekness.  Another possibility is gentle. Meek individuals will almost certainly be of a gentle nature.  As abominable as the Snowman was his gentle side ultimately emerged.  But digging even further, some Biblical scholars who abhor admitting that Jesus could allow for the weak, gentle, or humble to inherit the earth push a definition of meek that is all but, not meek.  A bridled horse fit’s this classic definition.   A horse is strong, but the strength of that horse has been broken, tamed, and channeled into service.  I’ll buy it that the meek have strength...but I don’t buy that Jesus meant that the meek are His broken servants.    Rather, the meek have strength in their character. They must be strong in the face of ridicule.  Followers may have the strength to pull, but do they also have the strength to lead particularly in the face of ridicule?

Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth”.  The meek must be humble, gentle, strong, and able to lead.  Jesus, of course, is the King-of-Kings and in my mind, the King-of-Meek.  Could he be anything but? Pope Francis has revealed to us this year, that he too, understands who it is that will inherit the earth and embodies the very essence of the meek. Phil Robertson and his followers are not meek.  They may be strong, but only as followers.  They are not humble, they are not gentle, and they cannot lead. That leaves us with Rudolph...and his true nature.  Humble, gentle, strong, and able to lead.  Up until the storm, eight reindeer were enough to pull Santa’s sleigh.  Strength was sufficient.  But what about in a storm, in the fog, in the dark of night?  Strength is not enough. Eight reindeer are not enough. Rudolph, who was humiliated, who was ridiculed, who was ostracized by his people, turned the other cheek for the greater good of Christmas.  “It will be an honor, Santa”, is what he said.  Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.  How they shouted out with glee. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.  You’ll go down in history”.  Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer inherited the world and his place in history.