Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Ebenezer Scrooge: A Social Prophet Ahead of His Time

In the March 1, '07 issue of Booklist, p 41, Will Manley (a gift from the editorial gods) advocates for "The Resurrection of Ebenezer Scrooge". Manley wrote this column back around the holiday season pursuant to his writing schedule. Fed up with the "excesses of the season", he finally decided to oppose it:
"This year I said no to Christmas altogether, totally and completely. I didn't go to any parties, didn't string up any lights, didn't send out a single card, didn't give a single gift, didn't send a single thank-you card for gifts received, and I sure as hell didn't put up a damn tree."
Manley is a Christian ("albeit flawed", he admits), and thinks Jesus' rampage against the money-lenders -- "the only time in the Gospels where Christ showed even the hint of a violent nature", he emphasizes -- serves as an indictment on modern credit-card consumerism.

Safe to say that Manley's acquaintances didn't appreciate his open attitude. Some thought he was sick, depressed, even terminal. ("That's right, a whole bunch of people thought I was going to die.") But they all called him a scrooge, and it's this epithet which prompted an article on the subject. Manley thinks Ebenezer Scrooge is "the greatest literary character of all time, bar none", and sets the the record straight by doing what all good biblical exegetes do -- going back to the original text:
"If only people were to stop watching all the hokey movies based on Dickens' Christmas Carol and start reading the book itself. Scrooge did not proactively 'scrooge' anybody. Cratchitt was free to seek employment elsewhere. The fact that he couldn't find another job gives you a pretty good indication about his lack of job skills. Also, Scrooge didn't exactly call up talk radio and start broadcasting his opinions about Christmas. It was his nephew, Fred, and those two dorks from the United Fund who proactively approached Scrooge at his place of business during working hours. He didn't seek them out, but when they interrupted him at work, he was honest about his views. He wasn't a hypocrite like so many others on the subject of Christmas. Blame him for his honesty, but don't blame him for going out of his way to ruin anyone's holiday. Third, Scrooge was not insensitive to the poor. His view that the poor are ultimately the responsibility of government was both enlightened and progressive -- certainly ahead of his time. Even the most rock-ribbed Republican would agree with his argument that, in a civilized society, government should make provisions to solve the problems of poverty. In that sense, Scrooge was a social prophet."
Beautiful, Will. I'm going to remember this come next December.


Anonymous Jacob Levine said...

Thanks for this, Loren. I too have grown tired of the holiday season - and of the way poor Scrooge gets a bum rap.

Anonymous Darrell said...

I realize Manley isn't a biblical scholar, but it should be pointed out that Jesus wasn't targeting commercialism or consumerism in his rampage against the money-changers.

Blogger Loren Rosson III said...

I agree. Jesus was mad about social injustices more than a supposed crass commercialism. It might be worth devoting a blogpost to what the "den of robbers" passage means.


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