At this time of year it is customary to share greetings of happiness and best wishes for the New Year. These greetings are based on the Christian tradition of celebrating the birth of the Prince of Peace. Peace and harmony are at the heart of all religions. Unfortunately these sentiments are often lost in our everyday lives, even during this time of year.
One of the ways we destroy harmony is through environmental degradation – the destruction of our land and the pollution of the air and water. We know that global warming is a reality but many choose to deny the human contribution to that warming. Exxon-Mobil in its own research in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s clearly showed that fossil fuels would cause an increase in the earth’s temperature, yet chose publicly to take every action to deny their own conclusions. Exxon-Mobil retorts that this claim is a distortion of their research and public policy. 
In a letter  about our world, Pope Francis emphasized that we have a responsibility to take care of each other and everything in the world. Yet we are largely responsible for the environmental degradation that exists all over the world. We too have contributed to the global warming. All of our human actions have caused disharmony with adverse effects especially on the poor. We are heading for global suicide, he said on his recent flight back from Africa. 
Another disruption of peace and harmony is terrorism. News of the Paris shootings received widespread media coverage and attention by millions of listeners. While members of ISIS were the perpetrators, it is grossly wrong to suspect all Muslims, as many are doing, including presidential candidates.
That is demonizing a whole group of people for the actions of a few. The setting for these acts have been mostly on foreign soil, and so most think terrorism is done by foreigners but we have our own brand of terrorism right here in this country under the name of mass shootings. A mass shooting is any incident in which four or more people are killed or injured by gunshot. So far there have been 365 such mass shootings in the United States this year, ahead of the total in 2013 and 2014. The same day there was the mass shooting in San Bernardino there was one in Savannah, Georgia, which hardly made the news. These mass shootings are the American version of terrorism and must be called that. The mass shooting at San Bernardino is now officially an act of terrorism, but only because the two perpetrators had pledged allegiance to ISIS.
The shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado has not been labelled terrorism and so is ignored. As if this didn’t happen, the GOP Senate recently passed a ban on funding Planned Parenthood. It is almost as if they support that terrorist act.
Another factor contributing to disharmony is fear which has been shamefully promoted by our leaders, especially after 9/11/01. As a result, fear clutches the hearts of so many people that it is nearly impossible to arrive at reasonable solutions or courses of action in the face of these mass shootings and other problems. It would be well for us to remember the words of President Franklin Roosevelt, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
Another cause of disharmony is the extreme ideological stance that guides so many people who are unwilling to compromise. They see compromise as a sign of weakness. They defend their positions as if they have been given to them directly by God.
A subset of these extreme ideologies is the voice of the National Rifle Association (NRA). All the leadership can see is their right to own arms, disregarding the consequences of so many arms that are easily available. When ideology stands in the way of human compassion, it is extreme and must be challenged. The NRA represents such a view. After the recent shootings in San Bernardino, a spokesman for the NRA said that California has the toughest gun laws in the country and they didn’t prevent these shootings.  The implication is we don’t need more laws. But the NRA offered nothing to stop the shootings except urging people to have more guns.
Another subset of extreme ideologies is religious fundamentalism, which occurs in all the major religions. Any religion, which preaches and practices intolerance, hatred, and/or murder is not authentic and should be curtailed. Authentic religion is about helping each other in need. “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” 
These are real concerns in the midst of our good cheers and well wishes. Let’s rise above the fears and ideologies so that we can work towards peace and harmony in our country and world. This work begins with you and me in our everyday living
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
 Bill McKibben, “Exxon's climate lie: 'No corporation has ever done anything this big or bad' October 14, 2015. “ http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/oct/14/exxons-climate-lie-change-global-warming
 “ExxonMobil’s commitment to climate science”, October 15, 2015
 Joshua J. McElwee, “Francis: World close to suicide over climate change:, NCROnline, Nov. 30, 2015. http://ncronline.org/news/vatican/francis-world-close-suicide-over-climate-change
 Chris Cox, “No, Mr. President, the NRA is not to blame: Chris Cox”, USA Today, December 3, 2015. http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2015/12/03/no-mr-president-nra-not-blame-san-bernardino-column/76748608/
Chris Cox is the executive director of the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action.
 New American Bible, “Letter of James” 1:26.