Our first year in Thailand on Christmas morning, the old Thai lady from two doors down came up to me, sang a verse of “Happy Birthday”, and handed me a wrapped gift. (It was the only song of celebration in english that she knew.) I was amused because it was the recognized birthday of Jesus, not me. Thailand is a country that is 96% Buddhist and they give gifts at year’s end as so many cultures have done throughout history. This phenomenon, and all year-end holiday rituals that we practice as “Christmas” predate Christianity.
People come together to live in a society for their mutual benefit and as such a spirit of giving and helpfulness ought to be the norm, not something that we zero in on once each year. The bell ringers that so annoy me in front of stores will not be there after Christmas and I am thankful for that. The Salvation Army is an anti-gay organization that I refuse to recognize and I am not gay but rather generally intolerant of hate. I don’t support charitable organizations because too much of the money collected goes toward infrastructure rather than helping the intended; I do, however, help real people directly as life presents them to me.
I think of people going to a Star Trek convention. I don’t believe in Star Trek but a lot of fun ideas, Communist ideas, came from this fiction and I don’t get upset if I see people participating or dressing up in their silly outfits and even decorating things in a Star Trek theme. It does no harm.
Similarly I don’t believe in god, but there are a lot of fun ideas from the bible, Communist ideas, and I don’t get upset if I see people participating or dressing up in their silly outfits and even decorating things in a religious theme. It does no harm.
There used to be harm. Back in England when there was a change of monarch to a Protestant then all Catholics were coerced to convert or die. And then when a Catholic became monarch then all the Protestants were coerced to convert or die. There was much bloodshed over this and it was all due to a state sponsored religion. This is why in the USA we have a separation of church and state, it came from that horror in England and our forefathers wanted to protect against it.
When I see the above graphic about America being a Christian Nation, I become afraid. Theocracy is a horrible evil even when, as in England, that theocracy is based on Christianity. America is a nation that grants religious freedom and was specifically designed to not be what the graphic claims it to be regardless of the majority’s practice.
What are you saying when you say “Merry Christmas” to a Jew or a Muslim or a Hindu or a Buddhist or an atheist? Your message of “I am different than you and I belong to a powerful majority of which you do not belong” can be easily be taken as a threat. It does not insult but it does exclude, it does pressure. People want to be included, not shown how they are separate. People do not want to feel threatened by a group that is so much bigger and more powerful and evangelically aggressive than they.
There is a war and it is not a War on Christmas. It is The War of Christmas. It is an attack on non-Christians. It needs to stop.
If I pass you on the street during this year ending time I will greet you as I would at any other time. I will smile and wish you well. If you are in need and I can help I will do so. I will not wish you a happy holiday or anything of the sort. Generosity and good will should be practiced year round. Genuine good will toward all suggests that we treat each other well and not be concerned with all this holiday nonsense as a separate time of year.
Every day is a day of sharing and good will and inclusion. Make it so.