Thursday, December 20, 2007

Is Christmas Over Yet?

I hate to say this, but the Christmas season feels interminably long and ill-willed this year. Every night, Bill O'Reilly pollutes the airwaves with his noxious, illogical rants about his imaginary War on Christmas. Bill apparently believes that every American should celebrate Christmas the good old-fashioned traditional American Christian way, regardless of whether they are actually Christians. At the very least, they should pleasantly greet everyone they meet with the correct greeting, "Merry Christmas," rather than the less specific term that covers all bases and offends none (except for Religious Right wackos like Bill), "Happy Holidays."

Well, in the true spirit of O'Reilly, ten thugs attacked four Jewish men on a New York City subway last week. Their offense: they responded, "Happy Hanukkah," when other riders wished them a "Merry Christmas." The Jewish men were defended by, the mother of all ironies, a Muslim college student. I ask you, who acted more like Jesus Christ in this situation? Which Christmas spirit would you rather be surrounded by, Bill O'Reilly's, the subway thugs, or the Muslim guy who was more of a good Samaritan than any of the alleged Christians on that train?

And then there's an endless stream of controversies over nativity displays on government property. At least one of these conflicts gets national media coverage every single day, without fail. You can set your watch by it. Since the USA is a nation founded on the principle of freedom of religion (and is not a "Christian nation" as the right-wingnuts would like us to believe), non-Christian groups are also exercising their rights to erect public displays that honor their beliefs and dignitaries. Needless to say, any displays of the non-Christian variety are being vociferously opposed by good Christians.

And then there were the Naughty and Nice lists that rated stores according to whether they advertised for the Christmas season or just for holidays in general. Call me odd, but I think the money and time squandered compiling and publicizing those lists would have been better spent doing something else like, oh, I dunno, maybe feeding and sheltering the homeless, stuff like that.

Every year without fail, Christians yell loudly about how the true meaning of the season gets lost in a sea of commercialism. And they have a point. Christmas should not be about how much money people spend or whether they got the gifts they really wanted. It should be about bringing people closer together and closer to their God. Unfortunately, such features are not prominent this Christmas season. Christians ought to think long and hard about the part they've played in making this a season of misery and strife rather than love and joy. I'm certain of one thing: an awful lot of the stuff that is being done in Jesus' name is bringing shame rather than honor to him. And Christians have only themselves to blame for that.


Barbara said...

Why can't people just enjoy the season and celebrate it in the way they want to, or not celebrate it if they don't want to? We have Muslim friends who totally repect our faith, and we theirs. At Christmas time, they buy us a small "token" gift and wish us a Merry Christmas. We, in turn, acknowledge their religious holidays and Ramadan. All Faiths need to learn more tolerance of each others' beliefs and Faiths.

It always amazes me to go to the school celebrations at this time of year. Living in such a culterally diverse area, the public schools are filled with different Faiths and beliefs. The other night we were at the "holiday" celebration. They called it the world tour where different stations were set up to showcase each Faith represented in the school. The band played Christmas music, hanakah music, and music from the other Faiths. The kids weren't offended at this. They embraced it. They are all walking this path together, and can do it successfully ... so where does it all go wrong? When do we become intolerant and start becoming threatened by each other's Faiths?

Dave said...

I concur Barb. Regretfully people with political, ratings and comercialism agendas push agendas upon others. Too many get caught up in the romanticized version of Christmas. As I noted last year in a blog, Christmas ceased being a religious celebration long ago. It has evolved into a cultural event that still retains some religious trappings. O’Reilly is one who needs to get a life and cease pandering his spin (it is strange that in the “no spin zone” he puts a heavy spin on this issue he would never allow politicians to do on their issues).

It is ironic that in the season of peace and joy there is such fear, anger and intolerance.

Joanne said...

I have a saying that I stress over and over to those where I have "influence". It states "Your actions are so loud, I can't hear what you're saying". My God is a God of love and acceptance. It is up to us to live that example so that when we speak, people will hear what we say. I agree Evie, it is emabarrasing as a Christian to think that love is "preached", yet hatred and intolerance is shown. It's no wonder we have a world where there is such great strife. I believe that when we meet our maker face to face, we will be held accountable.

Catharine said...

Intolerance is taught, whether done through outspoken words and deeds or by passive aggressive attitude. Children are understanding and tolerant when they are little. As part of the grade two curriculum we study the major celebrations (Christmas, Hannukka, Diwali, Ramadan, Kwanzaa and Chinese New Year). Each celebration is very rich in its traditions and meaningful in its origin. I have a ball celebrating each one in my classroom.