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by WALTER BRASCH

I am a Jew.

I don’t mind receiving Christmas cards or being wished a “Merry Christmas” from friends, clerks, or even in junk mail trying to sell me something no sane person should ever buy. My wife and I even send Christmas cards, with messages of peace and joy, to our friends who are Christians or who we don’t know their religion.

I like Christmas music and Christmas carolers, even if some have voices that crack now and then, perhaps from the cold.

At home, from as early as I could remember, my family bought and decorated a Christmas tree, and gave gifts to each other and our friends. Usually we put a Star of David on the tree, undoubtedly an act of heresy for many Jews and Christians. We learned about Christmas—and about Chanukah, the “feast of lights,” an eight day celebration of joy and remembrance of the rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem at a time when it seemed as if a miracle had saved the Jews from darkness during the Maccabean revolt in the second century BCE.

This year, my wife and I have a two-foot tall cypress tree, decorated with angels and small LED lights, a gift from a devout Christian. We weren’t offended by the gift; we accepted it and displayed it on a table in our dining room in the spirit of friendship. In Spring, we’ll plant the tree in our backyard and hope it grows strong and tall, giving us shade and oxygen, perhaps serving as a sanctuary for birds, squirrels, and other wildlife.

What I do mind is the pomposity of some of the religious right who deliberately accost me, often with an arrogant sneer on their lips, to order me to accept their “well wishes” of  a “Merry Christmas.” Their implication is “Merry Christmas—or else!” It’s their way of saying their religion is the one correct religion, that all others are wrong.

The problem is that although I am secure in my beliefs and try to understand and tolerate other beliefs, the extreme right is neither secure nor does it tolerate difference or dissent.

Right wing commentators at Fox News are in their final week of what has become a holiday tradition of claiming there is a “War on Christmas.” The lies and distortions told by these Shepherds of Deceit, and parroted by their unchallenging flock of followers, proves that at least in this manufactured war, truth is the first victim.

 The Far-Right-But-Usually-Wrong claim that godless liberals are out to destroy Christmas, and point to numerous examples, giving some facts but never the truth.  

They are furious that many stores wish their customers a “Happy Holiday” and not a “Merry Christmas,” unable to understand that sensitivity to all persons’ religions isn’t some kind of heresy. The ultra-right American Family Association even posts lists of stores that are open on Christmas, have their clerks wish customers a “Happy Holiday,” and don’t celebrate Christmas the way they believe it should be celebrated. (Of course, the AFA doesn’t attack its close ally, the NRA, which on its website wishes everyone “Happy Holidays.”)

Because of their own ignorance, they have no concept of why public schools may teach about Christmas or even have students sing carols but can’t put manger scenes on the front lawn. Nevertheless, the Extremists of Ignorance and Intolerance parade the Constitution as their own personal shield, without having read the document and its analyses, commentaries, and judicial opinions that define it, and can’t understand there is a strict separation of church and state. The Founding Fathers, especially Franklin and Jefferson, were clear about that. They were also clear that this is a nation where a majority of its people professes to be Christians, but it is not a “Christian nation.” There is a distinct difference.

The ultra-right—some of whom stanchly believe Barack Obama is not only a Muslim but wasn’t even born in the U.S—follow the guiding star of Fox to wrongly claim that the President Obama hates Christianity so much that he won’t even put up a Christmas tree but calls it a “holiday tree.” Perhaps they were too busy imbibing the bigotry in their mugs to know that the President and his family helped light the National Christmas Tree near the White House, wished Americans a “Merry Christmas,” and even told a bit about what Christians believe is a divine birth.

When confronted by facts, these fundamentalists point out that the Puritans, the ones who fled England for religious freedom, demanded adherence to a strict code of Protestant principles—and if it was good enough for the first American “citizens,” it’s good enough for the rest of us. What they never learned, obviously, is that the Puritans banned Christmas celebrations, declaring them to be pagan festivals.

If the Fox pundits, leading their sheep into the abyss of ignorance in a counter-attack in a war that doesn’t exist, would take a few moments to think before blathering inanities, they might realize that the man they worship was called “the Prince of Peace” not the “General of War.”

[Walter Braschis an award-winning syndicated columnist and multimedia producer. His latest book is the mystery novel, Before the First Snow.]

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Comment Preferences

  •  These people (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    IowaBiologist

    are soooo threatened by differences. They get all hysterical if somebody has made life choices different from theirs, e.g., by being lbgt or remaining single or not procreating. They're compelled to denigrate, to build themselves up.

    Well, I left a religion, one to which I had real family and cultural ties, because of its sanctioned intolerance and the in-group, out-group mentality it promoted. I clean walked away in my late teens, and haven't looked back. There are numberless people just like me, and these literalistic religions are constantly worried about attrition. While I can't base it on anything scientific, I believe the appeal of this heavy-handed, one-size-fits-all style of belief may be shrinking.

    You'll never get anything other than "Happy Solstice" out of me.

    It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

    by karmsy on Thu Dec 22, 2011 at 08:30:43 AM PST

  •  A few years ago, SBC made a deal to not (0+ / 0-)

    try to convert Jews any more but I note that many individual churches continue their efforts to proselytize.  For these groups, the ultimate "Promised Land" is Israel where they have hopes of converting the entire population

  •  I grew up in a Jewish community (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    IowaBiologist

    I was raised Catholic (I am now Lutheran) but my friends and I celebrated all the holidays together.  My Jewish friends joined us Christmas caroling, I helped light the menorah. What religion we practiced mattered no more than what style of clothes we wore. It was just a part of who we are.

    Also, I have a Muslim girl in my class.  At the beginning of the month I spoke to her mother about the coming holiday season. (I had a Jehovah's Witness one year.  That child had to removed from the class for birthday parties- and I had to come up with other activities for him to do while the kids participated in generic holiday crafts.)

    So I asked the Muslim mother her thoughts in allowing her child to participate in Christmas and Hannukah activities. (We celebrated Ramadan by exploring the stages of the moon).

    Her response- "Oh yes.  We celebrate Christmas."

    "Really" I replied. Surprised.

    "You put up a tree.  Santa Claus comes.  Who's it hurting."

    That little girl was the first to hug "Santa" thoroughly embracing the holiday.

    As a Christian, I celebrate the birth of my savior.

    If others want to "put up a tree so Santa Claus can come"

    "Who's it hurting."

    Growing old is inevitable...Growing up is purely optional

    by grannycarol on Thu Dec 22, 2011 at 08:42:51 AM PST

  •  I'm in a band (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    IowaBiologist

    classic rock/ blues..  Our keyboard player is Jewish.  We've played a few Christmas parties, with some rocking versions of Christmas tunes, and everyone has a great time.

    We played a party on Tuesday night, everyone wished everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukah..  All was good, no one was offended..   This fake "war on Christmas" is so tiresome..

    "I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemely swear.."

    by cgvjelly on Thu Dec 22, 2011 at 09:09:43 AM PST

  •  Christmas should not be compulsory (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    IowaBiologist

    A few weeks ago a facebook friend (an alumnus of the same high school) posted one of those obnoxious "I am officially inviting all my family and friends to stop saying happy holidays" messages, and I was steamed until I found someone had already immediately commented below that they didn't see why people always saw fit this time of year to behave as if they were fighting the First Crusade.

    And for me, this just about says it. I tell other Christians Merry Christmas. I wish Jews, Muslims, Atheists and others Happy Holidays. I want to celebrate a holiday in which I find joy. But I don't want to compell others to join in those celebrations, or in any way constrain their conscience as to their choice of faith or no faith.

    "It's like we weren't made for this world, But I wouldn't really want to meet someone who was." --Of Montreal

    by andydoubtless on Thu Dec 22, 2011 at 09:48:09 AM PST

  •  Feels like a "war on Christmas" to me! (0+ / 0-)

    Only -- from my point of view both religious zealots and anti-religious zealots are trying to kill it.

    I don't subscribe to any organized religion.  I was raised Catholic -- but Christmas has always been about lights, trees, santa claus and presents for me.  When I tell somebody "merry Christmas" -- I have no religion to try to impose on them.

    I resent zealots trying to push the religious aspects of the Christmas traditions on me and I resent zealots who want me to keep Christmas to myself because of it's ties to religion.

    When I tell somebody "Merry Christmas" -- it does nothing to them.  As I mean it -- I might as well be saying "I hope you have a happy December."  I say "Merry Christmas" because I love celebrating it and saying those words is part of the celebration.  It's like a month (or so) long party -- with those words being part of what creates the party atmosphere.

    It strikes me as a control freak thing to try to stop people from saying something just because -- in your mind -- because of how you choose to see that thing -- it's offensive.

    If somebody wants to feel that seconds of life, their day, their month, their life is made miserable because I told them "Merry Christmas" -- that's a silly personal problem I'm not about to let bother me.  I'm not making them feel bad, disrespected, oppressed or anything else just by saying those words -- they're choosing to feel that way just because I refuse to let them dictate what I think, feel, do and say.  If that's how they want to feel about it -- I'm not a control freak -- I'm not going to try to stop them.

    Merry Christmas everybody -- but if you'd rather not be feel happy during the season some of us like to refer to as "Christmas" -- fine with me -- have your miserable Christmas season if that's what you want to do.

  •  Christmas is not a religious (0+ / 0-)

    holiday to me either. I celebrate it, but I am not a Christian.

    I'm so sorry if I'm alienating some of you/ YOUR WHOLE FUCKING CULTURE ALIENATES ME. Bikini Kill

    by pitbullgirl65 on Thu Dec 22, 2011 at 12:10:27 PM PST

  •  The War on the War on Christmas (0+ / 0-)

    (sung to the tune of "A Holly Jolly Christmas")

    It's the war on the war on Christmas
    It's the worst time of the year
    I don't know if they'll pitch the snow
    But it drains away the cheer.
    It's the war on the war on Christmas
    So when you walk down the street
    Say "Merry Christmas - or damn you!"
    Chide everyone you meet.

    Oh ho
    The Christian-o
    All up in your face
    Somebody waits for you
    To put you in your place.
    It's the war on the war on Christmas
    And in case you didn't hear
    Please by golly
    End the war on the war
    On Christmas this year!

    FOX News: For entertainment purposes only. Not to be confused with actual news broadcasting.

    by IowaBiologist on Thu Dec 22, 2011 at 03:08:18 PM PST

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