Friday, December 10, 2010

Response to a Blog Post on Patheos

In response to Nate Adams' recent article on Patheos, "Don't Let the Grinch Steal Christmas," I was inspired to pen (OK, type) the following. I originally posted this to my Facebook page but realized that it was a bit long for that brief quote-loving medium. And so I have placed it here: I've also taken the opportunity to do a bit of editing for style and grammar.
Nate: well written, even if I don't entirely agree with you.  I am 100% behind your idea that we should celebrate Christmas with numerous religious displays. I would be thrilled to see Jewish, Islamic and Hindu holidays receive recognition at the public square, along with Pagan celebrations of Yuletide and Zoroastrian tributes to Nawruz. And I'd even be happy to see a shrine to Free Thought, Secularism and Atheism alongside all these.

The problem is that in many American towns and cities Christianity is the de facto standard. People in these communities see America as a Christian nation and look askance at those who do not share their beliefs. Christmas celebrations become yet another way of ostracizing those who don't follow the majority beliefs. (Ask some of your Jewish colleagues, particularly those who grew up in a town where they were among the only Jews in the area, about their Christmas memories). I don't have any objection to a Creche if others have no objection to my Vodou-inspired shrine to St. Nicholas or my friend's shrine to Odin. The problem is that many people do.

Many places have found it easier to avoid the numerous problems altogether by limiting or banning religious imagery in the name of keeping Church and State separate. Litigation is expensive and most municipalities would rather avoid it if possible.  (This, of course, does not necessarily apply to showboating politicians or attention-seekers on either side of the argument). I agree that there is an issue of tolerance here and that the public square should be open to any displays of public religious feeling (within reason, of course) rather than to none. But as we all know, law and politics are both arts of the possible. What we have right now may be the best we can get in our current polarized and hot-tempered climate.