From left, Bob Yugi Festa, Bishop R.W. Harris and Marie McNair.

From left, Bob Yugi Festa, Bishop R.W. Harris and Marie McNair. Credit: Barbara Hagan, Debbie Egan-Chin, Rebecca McNair

During the holidays a flurry of new and old movies seeks to capture the spirit of the season. This week’s clergy discuss cinematic adaptations of classic stories that resonate with their religious beliefs.

 

BOB YUGI FESTA


Zen practitioner

 

In “A Christmas Carol,” a 1951 movie based on Charles Dickens’ 1843 novella, the main character, Scrooge, is a cynical money lender who has lost touch with his inner moral sense. He is redeemed by his dead partner, Jacob Marley, and three spirits — Christmas Past, Present and Future — in one night. Buddhists believe we are born with a moral sense rooted in our nature as persons, and our propensity to form attachments to things, experiences and people is what clouds that moral sense. Scrooge’s moral sense was clouded by his attachment to money, so he caused many of the people in his life anguish. His clerk, Bob Cratchit, is underpaid, so he has a problem taking care of his family and his son, Tiny Tim, who is suffering from an undisclosed malady that will eventually kill him. The spirits show Scrooge what his attachment to money is doing to him and the people in his life. This is very much as Pema Chödrön, my favorite Tibetan Buddhist nun, would say: “Start where you are.” One can’t make any changes in one’s life until one recognizes what needs to change. Often, we ignore our bad habits and keep repeating our hurtful behavior even when it leads us to impugn our moral sense.

 

BISHOP R. W. HARRIS

Grace Cathedral International, Uniondale,
and Chaplain, Nassau County Police

 

One of the key messages in movies based upon “A Christmas Carol” is never to write people off permanently — even if they are incarcerated, they can still find redemption within. Be careful of our influences in people’s lives, we want a positive effect. People are often impacted by relationships that shape and mold their lives. Be mindful that hurting others affects their emotional and spiritual development. Refrain from being critical of the Ebenezer Scrooges in our lives before examining our roles in their behavior. In the Bible, the word “ebenezer” refers to the stone of help raised by Samuel to subdue the Philistines (I Samuel 7). Ebenezer Scrooge could not raise his stone of help until he was visited by three ghosts: Christmas Past, Present and Future. Samuel had only one visit by God at Mizpah. We all should be rejoicing that this December, we don’t need a visitation by three ghosts but one God, through the Holy Ghost, that brings us help to change. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). He is always loving and good, no matter how people and things shift around us. God is always consistent.

 

MARIE MCNAIR

Secretary, Regional Bahá’í Council
of the Northeastern States

  

There are holiday movies with interesting messages, and my favorite is “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” because its message resonates with the beliefs of the Bahá’í Faith.

Several concepts particularly stand out to me because they align with our purpose in life. The first is the idea that we should look for the good in everyone.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the eldest son of our faith’s founder, said that if someone has 10 good qualities and one bad, look at the 10 good qualities. He also said that if someone has 10 bad qualities and one good one, focus on the good quality and ignore the bad qualities.

Another “Grinch” message is the importance of achieving balance between the material and spiritual aspects of life so that materialism does not consume us and draw us away from striving to strengthen our spiritual virtues. The movie also highlights the importance of kindness — how being unkind can affect someone adversely, but also how an act of kindness can bring about transformation in those receiving it. Ultimately, it shows how true happiness results when spiritual principles are translated into action.

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