Many of the residents of Jesusland seem to have a bit of an attitude this Christmas season. I notice people saying that they are sick and tired of hearing the phrase "Happy Holidays" as opposed to "Merry Christmas". These same people assert that we ought to know the true reason for why we even have Christmas; Avoiding the very word Christmas is the same as being bullied by the proponents of secularism.
People in Jesusland have worn t-shirts admonishing people to not be afraid to say "Merry Christmas"-- as though they might possibly be persecuted or lose their jobs for keeping Christmas Christian. They make angry Facebook posts and tweets condemning anyone who says "Happy Holidays" in place of the mandatory phrasing for this time of year.
I submit today that people who share that sentiment wrongly believe that Christians should own the holiday season. I believe that such people unwittingly feel entitled to more rights than others. They assert there is a "war" on Christmas without realizing the irony of their words.
Let me explain.
My daughter comes home from school earlier this week (based on the time of this post) saying that Hanukkah is Israel's way of celebrating Christmas.
No. That's just not true about Hanukkah. But, this bit of misinformation shows how Christianity gradually absorbs so many non-Christian traditions over the centuries. Perhaps the teachers are unwittingly imposing their Christian bias onto others. But purposefully or not, they are slowly assimilating a Jewish celebration that has nothing to do with Christmas at all. As a rule of thumb, Jews simply do not accept Jesus as the Messiah. Christmas in it's most strict religious form is counter to mainstream Jewish belief; Didn't you learn anything in Sunday School?
Why would an Reformed Jew celebrate Christmas, then? I think it's safe to say that they only celebrate Christmas for as far as the gift giving and the decorations go. You know-- just to enjoy the holiday spirit of giving and such. Can you blame any Jewish parents who might not want their children to feel left out when all their Gentile classmates and friends rave on and on about how the baby Jesus-- um . . . I mean Santa Clause-- er . . . I mean . . . their parents left tons of toys and gadgets for them under their Christmas trees?
Judaism is a good example of why greeting others with the phrase "Happy Holidays" as opposed to the phrase "Merry Christmas" is, in my opinion, simply being sensitive to others. But, just as I feel offended that someone would mandate that I only greet others with "Merry Christmas", I don't want to suggest that the greeting in and of itself is inappropriate for this time of year, either. Like Thomas Jefferson said, "But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg". And quite frankly as an atheist, I feel that way when people greet me with "Merry Christmas". I don't mind the greeting and I even reply in kind. But, for people to get an attitude because you don't say it . . . I begin to wonder if they even understand why freedom of religion is so special and important at all.
With much attitude, I hear people insist that Jesus is the reason for the season as they decorate their "Christmas" trees and plan to buy their "Christmas" gifts. No harm in having a Christmas tree or buying gifts. Hell, I have a Christmas tree up in my home and I'm an atheist for crying out loud! I just got back from Christmas shopping before starting on this post. But, the difference: I'm willing to accept the fact that a Christmas tree ain't got shit to do with Jesus; and if a Jew can buy Christmas gifts, so can an atheist. But more importantly, consider how this season as a whole seems to come more from the Yule festivals of the Winter Solstice. Think of how Christianizing other cultures has overshadowed so many festivals and traditions over the centuries and made them Christian. Don't believe Christians ever assimilated other traditions? It's happening now as evidenced by my daughter coming home and calling Hanukkah the "Jewish Christmas".
The sort of Christians who demand that we all use the phrase "Merry Christmas" feel entitled whether they realize it or not. And worse, when such people don't get their entitlement, they claim to be bullied by everyone else. It's as if Christians of this sort feel their rights are being stepped on if they cannot make everyone else participate in their Christian activities. Take prayer in school, for example. The law is not telling Christians that they cannot pray. The law is telling them that they cannot have teachers lead the class into prayer and mandate that each child takes on prayer. Would a Christian parent want a Muslim teacher mandating that their child prays towards Mecca daily?
But, the law does protect the right for children of any faith to gather together before or after school (or even during the activity period within the school day) and pray to their hear's content so long as the activity is student initiated. Also, no one can be forced to participate against their will, either. Our children still have that precious right because of freedom of religion (and freedom from it, too). Yet, certain Christians feel that if they cannot make your child pray in school, you are stepping on their rights. That's a sense of entitlement. That's the same reason why certain Christians feel they own the Yuletide traditions all to themselves; they feel entitled.
And with all of this assimilation and entitlement going on, how can Christians honestly assert there is a "war" on Christmas? There is no war. People are merely tired of being assimilated.
Case in point: the office manager at my place of employment sent out a mass e-mail spreading the notion that Christians need to stand up against the secular bombardment upon their faith. In her thinking, she's got 100% support within the office and can send her message out in total confidence. Of course she won't be reprimanded or fired for circulating that e-mail to everyone in the office. Who in the world would object?
Never mind that the e-mail was a partially forged message attributed to Ben Stein. If integrity is so important to Christian faith, why go around spreading an e-mail that falsely attributes words to someone? I know we make mistakes, but I can't count how many e-mail messages I have received that spread fables in the place of truth only to make a an often unfair point.
Below, I'll share a portion of the e-mail I received. This portion below really was delivered in a commentary by Ben Stein back in the year 2005. But, it's being circulated as though he stated this during the 2012 Christmas season and extra paragraphs were added on by other authors. The message as a whole is made to look like it was signed as coming from Stein even though only a potion of the message in circulation comes from his original commentary:
I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees, Christmas trees... I don't feel threatened.. I don't feel discriminated against.. That's what they are, Christmas trees.
It doesn't bother me a bit when people say, 'Merry Christmas' to me. I don't think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn't bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu . If people want a crèche, it's just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away.
I don't like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don't think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from, that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can't find it in the Constitution and I don't like it being shoved down my throat...
Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship celebrities and we aren't allowed to worship God as we understand Him? I guess that's a sign that I'm getting old, too. But there are a lot of us who are wondering where these celebrities came from and where the America we knew went to.
Again-- my office manager can send this around the office with total confidence and not worry about losing her job. She can take for granted that she's sending this e-mail to an office full of supportive people who are undoubtedly in her corner and share this sentiment of entitlement.
However, should I talk too loudly about my atheism from behind my cubical wall, I feel that I could realistically put my employment status in jeopardy.
So then, tell me; who exactly has the upper hand in this supposed "war" on Christmas?
Look-- I don't feel pushed around when someone greets me with "Happy Holidays". I don't even feel pushed around when someone greets me with "Merry Christmas".
But, I do feel pushed around when I'm slapped in the face with a sentiment that basically and angrily says, "Merry Christmas-- damn it.". I'd rather be greeted with the infamous, "Bah! Humbug."
So much for making the Season bright with "Christmas" cheer.