Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Celebrating the Holidays Without Controversy

According to Dr. Paul Irwin " as we read stories of controversy regarding displays of Nativity scenes and Christmas trees such as the controversy through the years over the airing of the trailer for "Nativity" at the Christkindlmarket in Chicago. As one who has studied the Bible for many years, I find this debate troubling. The American Bible Society believes that we must celebrate the rights of Americans to hold diverse opinions and not to stifle them."

Over the course of a year, we each celebrate historical observations, only some of which have any real religious associations. Some visit renaissance fairs, and others participate in highland games, while a few suit up and reenact Civil War battles. Why, then, are Nativity scenes regarded as objectionable? Why is the appearance of a menorah deemed inappropriate?

Nativity scenes depict Jesus' birth as described in the Bible. The Bible is rife with messages and stories of tolerance, which even most avowed atheists concede to be the case.

Regardless of affiliation or spiritual beliefs, the Bible is among our most treasured historical texts. To that end, the birth of Jesus Christ is a significant historical event. American values and biblical beliefs are closely aligned and not something that is foreign to our culture. We have to welcome the diversity of views that different faith traditions bring to America.

I believe that it is always better for us to listen, talk and reason rather than use inflammatory rhetoric in instances where overt displays of religious significance become a public issue. If it means thinking through the value of such displays and taking the time to be reasonable about inclusion rather than exclusion, then let us reason together.

In addition to making a Nativity Scene – which provides hope and inspiration to millions of people – a political "hot potato," we have become afraid to wish people Merry Christmas, replacing it instead with the generic and politically-correct "Happy Holidays."

Christmas commemorates the birth of Jesus. Hanukkah celebrates the rededication of the Jerusalem Temple by a Festival of Lights.

While some people do not celebrate Christmas, it is wrong to think that collectively Americans have found it offensive to wish people a Merry Christmas. I firmly believe that "Merry Christmas" should be seen for what it is: A wish for happiness on the anniversary of the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ. And it's a pleasant way to greet someone in December, too.


Lisa Marie Michels said...

aahhhh, can you feel my sigh of relief. I sure can. Somebody gets it! Thank you, Susan! It was beginning to feel like I was the only one who believed in an "inclusion instead of exclusion" mentality. God seems to be giving me numerous signs today that everything is going to be ok. Thank you!

Burl Barer said...

It took me many years to overcome my fear of, and disdain for Christians who, for love of Jesus, beat me on Easter, established real estate covenants forbidding people to sell homes to people of my faith, built golf courses and swimming pools where my family was not welcome, and even the local Elks club had a "No Jews Allowed Policy." Public schools in those days compelled me to participate in Christian observances, sing "Christ our savior is born" when that was,to me, a forced violation of my religious beliefs,heritage and principles. I was thrilled when the wall between Church and State was reinforced and my children were freed from this vain and presumptive religious coercion by people who believed that we were going to burn in hell...face it, if you believe God Himself is going to kill/burn/torture/torment a certain group of people, you have sufficiently demonized them to where whatever bad you do to them is nothing more than the answer to the question "What would Jesus Do?" Having a token Chanukah song in the Christmas program is not separation of Church and State. The insensitivity and crudeness exhibited towards my religious heritage by Christians, especially considering that Judaism was the matrix from which Christianity emerged, poisoned me with an unfortunate prejudice against Christianity that was only overcome with great effort,continually reminding myself that it is not Jesus' fault that his so-called followers didn't follow his teachings (all of which are pure Judaism), but instead were devoted to a religion ABOUT Jesus rather than the words He said...words He insisted were not his own,but of the One who sent Him.
While Christmas has become a pleasant secular celebration of elves and santa and family unity, it is all well and good...and I celebrate Christmas with my Christian relatives..despite them not returning the favor on Ridvan (the Holiest Festival of the Faith in which my children were raised)but you are not doing anyone a favor by having the city government,school board, or other non-religious entity put social pressure on religious minorities to celebrate the birthday of a "Lord" or "savior" when the very concept may be antithetical to the core teachings of their own treasured heritage.
So, I wish you Happy Holiday -- whatever Holiday brings you and your family joy, unity peace hope and faith. Please extend to others who's memories of "Merry Christmas' are anything but merry the same warm honest wish of a Happy Holiday...whatever and whenever that holiday may be.
ps: If you have never had a traditional Norwegian Christmas, you are missing out on wonderful traditions and spectacular food! Because it is special to you and yours, I pray it is,this year, the most special for you that it has ever been.

Melissa Pepper said...

Merry Christmas Susan!

Anonymous said...

Many abuses have occurred thru out history by all faiths when extremists have used that faith as a weapon. Not to mention the atrocities that were committed by those of no faith,(Hitler committed genecide in the name ofnothing but hate). Read the teachings of Jesus and you will find only words of peace. Unfortunately those with hearts filled with hate will use any excuse to harm others and will search the scriptures for words to twist into weapons.

Anonymous said...

Susan, where is your source for the quotes from Dr. Irwin? My understanding is that he is no longer with the American Bible Society.

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