I’m never a big fan of anything that begins with, “The war on….” fill in the blank.
Even Mother Teresa, when asked if she would go to an anti-war demonstration, answered, “No, but I"ll go if you have a march for peace.” It’s with this caveat that I wade into the “War on Christmas.”?
The United States is pretty clear about the First Amendment, and by now the brilliant minds of the United States Supreme Court have for the most part sorted out the difference between Santa and the Nativity Scene, and a Menorah, and, well, fill in your favorite religious – I mean HOLIDAY – symbol. But every Christmas, I mean HOLIDAY, season, the usual supects of know-nothing knuckleheads make their feelings and prejudices known. ?
Item: Chelmsford, Massachusetts. The local elementary school is having a HOLIDAY sale, but banned Christmas, Chanukah or religious items. A producer for Fox News went to find out why, and was told something about lawsuits. He even reported that candy cane sales were banned. I guess it’s just a slippery slope: First candy canes, then pumpkin pie, and who knows where it will lead, perhaps fruitcakes are next on the hit list.
Item: When I was a kid we always visited the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. No more. In case you didn’t notice, it’s now The Tree at Rockefeller Center. Just any old tree. Only it’s 76 feet tall, and it’s covered in Christmas lights. Well, just don’t call them Christmas lights.
Item: In Amelia, Ohio, they cancelled the Christmas parade, worried about a First Amendment challenge. Imagine Santa getting served a summons! I’m not sure when the founders wrote the Establishment clause (“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”) that they had this in mind. Many who argue against Christmas or Chanukah “mentions” often say that atheist children would feel excluded. Hmmm. Lets think about this. If you’re Christian and you walk by a Menorah, do you ever feel excluded? Maybe. If you’re Jewish, and are surrounded by Christian trees, do you feel alienated? Possibly. But it’s also possible that you welcome a wealth of religious symbols. And you will be surprised to know that my favorite solution to the “War on Christmas” can be found in that wacky, left wing state of Texas. ?
The Texas State Board of Education is deciding on a proposal that sixth-graders learn about at least one religious holiday from each of the five world’s major religions. So far so good. In fact, an excellent idea. But even Texas turns to political correctness and loses me too. Right now the kids learn about Christmas and Easter, Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah and Ramadan. The new instructions from the Board of Education add the Hindu Holiday of Diwali. Fair enough, the more the merrier I say. But get this: To make room for Diwali, they remove Christmas and Rosh Hashanah. The idea: that each religion has its major holiday represented, and that means Christmas and Rosh Hashanah must go. One activist said including more Christian and Jewish Holidays “merely reflects the cultural makeup of the people making the laws.” In other words, don’t expect Christmas and Rosh Hashanah to get high priority in places like Saudi Arabia.?
I’m a firm believer in the separation of church and state, but I also would not mind seeing all religions or ethnicities represented in displays, including the African American celebration of Kwanzaa. And don’t forget a presentation for non-believers. Far from somehow “brainwashing” or offending, I think it would be great if we all found out what Diwali is all about. And maybe Christians can learn from Jews, and Jews can learn from Muslims and Muslims can learn from Hindis, and all could learn the atheist point of view.
And maybe then I can take my kids to see the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, and the Menorah on 57th Street and not feel guilty if we call them by their real names. ??