It is Christmas season! And since it snowed a bit last night it is also “beginning to look a lot like Christmas.” I love Christmas–the food, the music, the gatherings…all of it! I do prefer to wait until after Thanksgiving to start listening to Christmas music, though, and I must confess it bugs me to see Christmas “stuff” out in the stores as soon as they clear out the Halloween stuff.
Unfortunately, we live in a culture that often neglects or even blatantly refuses to acknowledge the true meaning of Christmas. You may recall the post from a few weeks ago in which I discussed the letter I had received from the Anti-Defamation League. That is one example of the attempts of many in our country to remove any reference to God or Jesus Christ from the public sphere. (By the way, I received a letter back from the ADL in response to my letter. It was very short: “A letter regarding the December holidays was inadvertently sent to you last week. This letter was intended for public schools. We apologize for any inconvenience.”) I never expected any response at all, but the response includes further evidence of my point: the continued use of “December holidays,” for example, and the refusal to acknowledge that perhaps the “guidelines” provided in the original letter are absurd even for public schools. Not that I would expect otherwise from the ADL.
We also hear every year about stores that instruct their personnel to use “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” when speaking to customers. An acquaintance of mine was recently up in arms over what she considers the foolishness of some people refusing to shop at a store that won’t say “Merry Christmas.” Her position was that with the economy in the shape that it is in right now it is ridiculous to draw lines over something so silly. She went on to say that she does not find “Happy Holidays” offensive anyway, so people should just get over it.
Now, believe it or not, I opted to stay out of the discussion and keep my thoughts to myself. (Aren’t you impressed?) Of course, I am now going to lay out my position for all the world to see! (I have high expectations for the readership of this blog, huh?) I do not find “Happy Holidays” offensive, either. If someone says that to me, or sends me a card that contains that wording, I am not going to be offended or get upset. What does offend me is when any organization, institution or person establishes a policy that it will not, and its employees cannot, say/print/display “Merry Christmas.”
Why do I find this offensive? Because it is just one example of the intolerance of those who love to wave the banner of tolerance. If you look up the definition of “tolerance” you will find something similar to this definition provided by dictionary.com: “a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one’s own; freedom from bigotry; a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward opinions and practices that differ from one’s own.” The idea of tolerance has tremendous popularity today, and yet those who yell the loudest in favor of tolerance are the same ones who are so adamantly intolerant of Christianity. Do I think everyone in the United States has to celebrate Christmas? Nope. But do I think that real tolerance would include respecting the right of any individual to say “Merry Christmas” to any other individual? Absolutely.
I do not have a problem with a school–public or private–teaching its students about other December holidays. After all, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa are holidays celebrated by other people, and they have the same right to celebrate those holidays as I have to celebrate Christmas. I do have a problem with any person or organization saying that a school (or other government entity) cannot teach Christmas, have a Christmas party, display Christmas decorations, or even use the word “Christmas.” (This actually leads to a very interesting discussion about the prescience of the Federalists and the unintended consequences of the Anti-federalists’ insistence on the addition of a Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution, but I will reserve that discussion for another day).
So many of those who champion tolerance want tolerance only for their views. They want people to be able to say anything they want, so long as it isn’t the message of the Bible. They want a clear separation between the public square and any religious influence, failing to grasp that an attempt to eliminate all reference to God or Christianity is itself the imposition of a religion.
Anyway, I am starting to get carried away, so I better get off of my soap box now. It’s starting to get depressing anyway! Over the next six or seven entries I am going to take a different look at the Christmas story in Luke 2. I am going to point out the things that can interfere with the true message and meaning of Christmas, and then look at what we can learn from the shepherds. So stay tuned… And Merry Christmas!