Saturday, December 17, 2005

Happy Holidays, Dammit!

I wonder if people who live in the United States feel that it is appropriate to become militant about Christmas. We have long held great pride that our country has been the land where anyone from anywhere can come to seek refuge or to find opportunity. However, we have a backlash of fundamentalist evangelical Christian pride that seems to go against the embracing of diversity that we claim as our own. How do you feel about it?

If you are Christian, celebrating Christmas is your right, by all means. However, this whole thing about boycotting stores that “aren’t Christian enough” is getting a little out of hand, in my opinion. This morning on CNN, there was a report of a couple of people from New York State that operate a Christian Bookstore and who are selling “Merry Christmas” bracelets (for whose financial benefit?). I actually like that idea, because it is discrete and allows you to seek out others wearing a bracelet without having to drag the rest of the community into it all. If the proceeds are used exclusively to help the needy, then I would even go so far as to endorse the program. The freedom to practice your religion is a right under our Constitution. We just need an amendment to allow freedom from religion as well, so that we are not forced to accept someone else’s religion as our own.

If we are going to live up to our image as a land of tolerance and refuge, then shouldn’t we seek to make this holiday season as inclusive of everyone as possible? Do we really want to live in a theocratic society where people require you to adhere to their faith, either through government control or by financial and economic pressure? What if you are Jewish or Islamic or Buddhist or the victim of theocracy such as gays or lesbians often are, or the victim of any other religious tradition? Wouldn’t it be a threatening thing to you to find that you can’t go anywhere in this country without having to feign or ignore faith to a religious symbol that isn’t your own just to get into the doors of a courthouse or a Target store? How would a Christian feel to be forced to hear an Islamic sermon just to get into the store where they wish to shop?

A few years ago, I learned that the Salvation Army had secretly met to define a method of denying gays and lesbians access to employment and benefits in their system. When I heard this news, I found it annoying as a thicket of briars to walk past those bell-ringers to get into a store in December. Gays and Lesbians were not Christian enough as decided by the management of this Christian-based agency. Where does that kind of judgment stop? Casting the first stone is not a recommended approach when you are discriminating. We saw how far ideological superiority can be taken on numerous occasions in the 20th Century, from Nazi Germany to the many cases of ethnic cleansing in the Balkans and in African and Asian countries.

If we wish to put “Christ” back in Christmas, we should start with the refusal to buy into the gift-giving hysteria that sweeps our country from September until December. Rather than buying gadgets and fashions that do not fill the emptiness within, people should be giving to those who are less fortunate than they are. If you read Christ’s message, that would be much more appropriate, wouldn’t it? If someone honestly wished Christ a "Happy Holiday", do you think He would have sarcastically responded with a snippy “It’s Merry Christmas, you heathen!” I think He would have simply said “Thank you” and would have felt good that someone had shared love with Him. Isn’t that the intent after all? In fact, Christ would have likely been happiest to know that we embraced others of all cultures.

So, by saying “Happy Holidays”, we honor the soul in the other body rather than feeding our own arrogance or fear. It honors those who celebrate differently. It means that you do not have to know a person’s orientation before approaching them with love to share your greetings. Rather than saying “Happy Channukah!”, “Happy Kwaanza”, “Happy Winter Solstice” or whatever other potential holiday that I may have forgotten to utter or can't spell, I can convey my goodwill toward men (and women) of all faiths and belief systems by saying “Happy Holidays”.

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4 Comments:

Blogger Zha K said...

Right on, Ron. This year seems particularly hysterical. How has a group of faiths that happen to commemorate events at around the same time connect with the great gods of Capitalism and Consumerism, along with their vedas, the Credit Card Companies? Don't get it, just don't get it.

12/18/2005 09:16:00 PM  
Blogger Laurie said...

Love it, love it, love it. This may be the best written post I've seen yet on the subject.

Years ago, I managed a small bookstore in Burlington. One day a women opened the door and asked, "Do you sell new age books here?"

"Yes, we do!" I said merrily.

"Well, I ain't shopping here!" she yelled and walked on.

I was stunned into silence by these ill manners, but one of my customers piped up loudly, "Okay by us!"

12/19/2005 11:28:00 AM  
Anonymous terrilynn said...

Wonderful post, Ron. I have long thought that many many of the acts committed in Jesus' name would cause him to react in a manner that would make the clearing of the temple look like a walk on the beach.

Laurie, you made me laugh.

12/19/2005 05:48:00 PM  
Blogger Nelson Clemente said...

Exactly.

Christmas, or shall I say the holiday season (or any other holiday/event/custom) differs in significance amid the diversity of the people we share this planet with. Let us keep it that way!

-Nel

12/20/2005 02:53:00 AM  

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