The talk of putting Christ back in Christmas usually mentions or implies that this is a Christian nation.
Following up on this, Father John Farley, a priest from Grand Junction, Colorado, used the words of comedian Stephen Colbert in a pre-Christmas church service.
The Colbert comment he quoted cuts through the rationalizations we often use in trimming Christ's message down to our size and life style and political outlook.
Colbert calls himself the most famous Catholic on TV. I don't know about that, but he is the first performer I saw on TV with an ashes-smudged forehead on the first day of Lent.
Yes, he can be a bit irreverent. But his words on our seeing ourselves as a Christian nation hit home:
"If this is gonna be a Christian nation that doesn't help the poor, either we've got to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we've got to acknowledge that he commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don't want to do it."
Ouch. Colbert is a comedian not a prophet and his comment is about the New Testament, but his statement stings us just as Old Testament prophets' messages stung people back then.
It's hard to listen to a truth-teller, hard to admit they are right. Speaking truth so directly, well, it's not polite. It's not politically correct. And it can be a royal pain.
But that's what prophets, and some comedians, do. They tell the truth we do our best to avoid.
Along with Father Farley, many prominent religious leaders including the pope agree with Colbert about serving the needy without condition, through private charitable contributions as well as public tax contributions.
Either/or won't do it. We need both. Just ask any private charity dependent on voluntary contributions. Public sector involvement is needed for a consistent 24/7/365 effort.
True, no program (public or private) is perfect. But then neither are we. We need periodic moral uplifting, even from a comedian.
(James Lein is a community columnist for The Minot Daily News)