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MUNDANE DISTRACTIONS
War, what is it good for? 
20th-Dec-2005 12:29 am
Gotta say, I'm getting sick of this "War on Christmas" thing. Now, please keep in mind that I do like Christmas, I do celebrate Christmas, I'm just sick of hearing people complain about how it seems to be getting overlooked or people are trying to get rid of it or something. Christmas isn't going anywhere anytime soon folks, so calm down.

I think the biggest frustration for me in this thing is trying to understand WHICH Christmas we're talking about here. Are we talking about the celebrations that have foundations predating their adoption into Christianity? Are we talking about the Christmas that has specifically evolved in the history of the U.S.? Are we talking about the religious Christmas? Are we talking about the secular celebration? Or are we just talking about how people are using (or not using to be specific) the phrase "Merry Christmas"?

I've noticed that I am not seeing a lot of consistency between the people who are leading this fight against the supposed war.

Bill O'Reilly has gone as far as to deceive (by choice or accident) his viewers regarding a year old joke made on The Daily Show (see the response from The Daily Show here). Perhaps someone on O'Reilly's staff made an error when informing him that the clip was a year old? Or perhaps (and I hope it isn't the case) the clip was specifically "stored" from last year to be used this year to coincide with the release of John Gibson's book "The War on Christmas"? Regardless, I haven't heard about O'Reilly making a correction or apology regarding his incorrect assertion of when the segment was broadcast.

Now, am I going to say that there aren't people who are out to get Christmas removed from more public/secular places? Heck no. I'd be an idiot if I said that. However, I've noticed that a lot of these people who are trying to remove Christmas related concepts from school seem to be more oriented towards pulling anything with any kind of religious connection out of those arenas. Do they have an honest gripe? Perhaps. I guess it depends on where they live. If they're looked down upon or ridiculed just because they lack an attachment to a religion then the community they are in is going out of their way to help such an individual develop a distaste for religion. Don't be surprised when they attack back, and until recently history has shown the courts have been on the sides of those that feel "persecuted" for nothing more than not being religious (of course the courts are starting to show new behaviors now).

So again, which Christmas are we talking about here? I'm guessing we're talking about the one that is more "American" since most people don't like to talk about any possible pagan connections (read some history folks) regarding the holiday. So let me think about this Christmas as I have come to understand it.

It's about giving, right? Peace, love, goodwill towards others? Yeah, we're not doing that so much in regards to this "war." You wanna know what I think this is really coming down to? Some religious people lashing out because they don't have the personal strength to stand up for their principles. I really hate to inform you folks, but Christmas has been becoming more "secular" annually. I'm not religious and even I'm sick of it. Of course, it doesn't hurt me as I don't revel in the commercialism of the holiday, nor do I compromise my principles by shopping in places where I think they are turning their backs on my beliefs. So, are "religious" folks standing up for their beliefs? I guess it depends on how much money they have to spend.

There are two good examples of what I'm talking about here. One had to do with a case that was discussed in the Fox News special "Religion in America: Church & State." In the special they were talking about a town that had a vote on a cross being on their town seal. While supposedly the majority of people in the town supported the cross being on the seal, it didn't happen. The reason (which was reflected in voting NOT to have the cross on the town seal) supposedly is that the decision "was made because of money, not principle." Another example is from a news report just the other day about how some folks were demonstrating outside Wal-Mart because the store was using the phrase "Happy Holidays" and not including "Merry Christmas." In the report a man who was upset with Wal-Mart's policy was quoted as saying, "The bottom line is that they had what I needed at Wal-Mart, so I went to Wal-Mart to buy it." You can find the article here. Oh, and supposedly Wal-Mart has changed their policy to some degree so maybe that gentleman has been "forgiven" for his transgression.

So, when people who are supposed to kneel before God and Jesus Christ kneel more deeply to the almighty dollar what can they do? Lash out at everyone else. You know, the people who are "taking away" or "repressing" their beliefs by using the phrase "Happy holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" or listing every freaking holiday taking place at this time of year (and there are plenty more). Yeah, because that is what is going to save the religious and spiritual aspects of Christmas, attacking others. Sounds a lot like a crusade, and the last time a bunch of self proclaimed Christians had one of those the nonbelievers didn't come out feeling so good.

This all makes me reflect on a concept that Donald Miller touched on in his book "Blue Like Jazz." In the book he spoke of finding this realization that for as much as he was taught that Christians were supposed to emulate the idea of unconditional love, he found it simply wasn't the case. There was expectations of language, dress and even hygiene. I've had my own friends who have had to deal with these kinds of issues (being judged by those within their own churches), and it isn't easy for me to see. People who want to do nothing other than be with others while they worship being made to feel "less than." I'm used to feeling like that being an individual who doesn't connect with organized religion but considers himself spiritual, but I can't imagine what it is like for someone on the "inside" to feel judged in that fashion.

OK, so how does all of this break down? In my mind, it's simple. Here we go:
1 - Practice and emulate the spirit of the holiday that you are celebrating.
2 - If you know a store FORBIDS their employees from saying "Merry Christmas" and you find that offensive, DON'T SHOP THERE. Don't compromise your principles for the sake of saving a few dollars.
3 - If you know a store FORBIDS their employees from saying "Merry Christmas" and you find that offensive, DON'T WORK THERE. Don't compromise your principles for the sake of earning a few dollars if you can (I realize that some folks have a family to support, but if you compromise your principles you need to talk with the person in the mirror).
4 - If someone says "Happy Holidays" just thank them and go on your way. They may also be wishing you a happy new year with less words.
5 - Remember that what you practice and say in your home is infinitely more significant than what any store's policy is or what some person says about how others treat your holiday.

The U.S. is largely Christian folks, and Christmas is celebrated by religious, spiritual, agnostic and atheist (that's the secular part...or at least the pagan) people. It isn't in danger. I think religion is in danger on some levels (in some cases due to the choices of followers) and some folks want to see us fight on a shared celebration. Christmas shouldn't be something that people fight about, it's something they should unite about.

My Christmas wish? Don't use Christmas as a weapon. That goes for both "sides."
Contemplative
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