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Doris writes a weekly column for LaGaceta, the nation's only trilingual newspaper, which has pages in English, Spanish, and Italian.  Begun in 1922 for Tampa's immigrant community, it continues to thrive more than a century later.  Her column is titled "In Context," as it aims to put contemporary issues in the context of the past.


I was moving around in computer files, trying to find a good idea for a Christmas column, and thinking how badly I need to re-sort files and put documents in their proper folder. Filing has been the bane of my life, both in paper and in e-versions. I love it when everything is nice and neat and easily located, but somehow things don’t stay in the right place for long. Anyone have an intern who can help?

And I was interrupted just now by the cat, who is freaking out at a doorbell that rings when no one is there. She hates strangers – and even people she sees on a regular basis – so her ears are upwards now because the doorbell rings every few minutes to tell us its battery is dying. Like that saves battery power. Once again, who makes things these days? Do they not have any sense? And now the cat is hiding in a file drawer that happened to be open. If I were less aware and closed it, she might thoroughly regret that secrecy.

So I didn’t find any columns for Christmas, probably as a result of my big computer crash of last spring. I do remember one that I titled “Where Were Joseph’s Cousins?” I recall it especially because I had an interesting conversation with my old friend Liana Fernandez Fox about cousins. Along those lines, several people have responded to my query about Spanish people eating grapes on New Year’s Eve, and some told me that they enjoyed the Reformation Day column and my related family history. I appreciate your thoughts on any and all. Keep them coming.

Although I didn’t find a column written expressly for Christmas, I did find a document that I had written for a friend in 2007. That was a decade ago, amazingly enough, and Dubya still was president. This friend and her husband were retired from the Air Force and living in Brandon. They belonged to one of its mega-churches and also were active Democrats – and she was bothered by how many of her church friends seemed to think that God is a registered Republican who opposes any form of feminism, as well as those of his children who are gay. So I sat down with the King James Bible I’ve had since I was a teenager and sent this to her.


On Self-Righteousness:

“Judge not, lest ye be judged.” Matthew 7:1

“Condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned; Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven.” Luke 6:37

“He that is without sin, let him cast the first stone.” John 8:7

“If ye do not forgive, neither will your father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.” Mark 11:25

“Be ye therefore merciful, even as your Father also is merciful.” Luke 6:37

On Pride, National or Otherwise:

“The meek shall inherit the earth.” Matthew 5:5

“Whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased, and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.” Matthew 23:12

On Self-Interested Leaders:

“Beware of the scribes, which love to go in long clothing, and love salutations in the marketplace and the chief seats…at feasts, [but] devour widow’s houses, and for a pretense, make long prayers.” Mark 12:38-40

“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” Matthew 7:15

On Public Prayer:

“When thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray…in the streets, that they might be seen… But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut the door, pray to thy Father in secret; and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do; for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.” Matthew 6:5-7

On “Welfare” and “Benefits:”

“Go and sell that which thou has, and give it to the poor.” Matthew, 19:21

“Give to every man that asketh of thee.” Luke 7:30

“Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Mark 12:31

“I was hungry, and ye gave me meat… I was a stranger, and ye took me in… I was in prison, and ye visited me.” Matthew 25:35-36

“Blessed be ye poor, for yours is the kingdom of God… But woe unto you that are rich! For ye have received your consolation.” Luke 6:21-24

On Separation of Church and State:

“Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.” Matthew 22:21

On War:

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” Matthew 5:9

“Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you.” Luke 7:26-27


I remember once when we were teenagers, and my older brother was babysitting our young nephew and nieces. They refused to go to sleep, and he shouted, “I’m laying down the law – and no gospel!” I’m not sure they understand, but I did. The gospel is redemptive in a way that the law is not. If you look carefully above, you’ll see that all of the quotes come from the gospel, which formally is the first four chapters of the New Testament. They are full of forgiveness and second chances, and Christians (both Protestant and Catholic) believe that the New Testament overrides the Old.

The Old Testament is much more legalistic – see especially Leviticus – and much more judgmental, with Jehovah regularly smiting both the enemies of Israel and many Israelis, too. See especially the wives and children of Job and other patriarchs, who often perished because of the faults of the guy at the top. Most of the 39 books of the Old Testament are about law, even when it seems arbitrary, unjust, and lacking in mercy. The New Testament, on the other hand, praises mercy and forgiveness, while condemning those who condemn.

Granted, it gets a bit more litigious in those chapters attributed to St. Paul and his converts who never actually knew Jesus, but Paul was a Roman with an upper-class background quite different from the simple fishermen and other disciples with whom Jesus spent his time. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (one of several “Johns”) were with him on a daily basis, and because of that, the gospels they wrote give more attention to Jesus’ concern for the poor and the oppressed.

So please remember at Christmas that the baby who is the reason for the season was homeless. His parents not only were poor but also friendless -- and that doubtless was because the pregnant but unwed Mary appeared to be an immoral woman. Joseph was “of the house and lineage of David” -- Israel’s greatest king -- yet no one in his family deemed the young couple worthy of acceptance. So, especially at Christmas, judge not. Make peace. Love one another. But also watch for those wolves in sheep’s clothing. They are out there.


Doris Weatherford writes a weekly column for La Gaceta, the nation's only trilingual newspaper. With pages in Spanish, Italian, and English, it has been published in Tampa since 1922.
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