One Jew’s Christmas

 

 

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

           

 

 

Ready Left, Ready Right, Ready on the Christmas Firing Line

It’s that time of year when fundamentalist Christians exercise their stupid muscles by declaring there’s a War on Christmas, Commanding Generalissimo Bill O’Reilly presiding.

For a group of people who regularly brag about their strength and moral superiority, these people are some of the most self-righteous, creme brulee-spined I’ve ever seen. In their headlong rush to see imagined slights behind every scotch pine, they – as they quite often do – forget several pertinent facts.

Christians make up 70-80% of the American population, yet they are so offended by people saying Happy Holidays they boycott any business bold enough to challenge their God’s alleged right to drive everyone else from the manger on the public square.

This seems a bit odd since their claim to rightness rests on their Big Kahuna, a force so powerful He can smite those who quibble with him like squashing a bug or a Muslim underfoot. If He’s so offended, why don’t Christians celebrate the annual cleansing of heathens by hell-fire, brimstone, and 50% off sales at Macy’s instead of Christmas? Where the hell is the perpetual lightning storm they keep predicting will come?

Their position on this is that Christmas is their holiday and that since they are the predominate religion – let’s call this the “American is a Christian Nation” gambit – no one has the right to say Happy Holidays, even if by ‘holidays’ they mean multiple Christian holidays.

More Christian Holidays Than You Can Swing Incense At

But here’s the thing. The American calendar allocates more days to Christians than any other religion. Of course, you have the Big 3 religious holidays – Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. You also have – depending on the year – roughly 52 Sundays a year, and if you’re Catholic a similar number of Long John Silver’s Fridays. When you throw in minor Christiancentric days, like Ash Wednesday, Fat Tuesday, Palm Sunday, and all the lesser Saint, crab feed, and spaghetti dinner days , most of the days already belong to Christians. They get 364 days a year to hog all the food and fellowship and have crab boils, spaghetti dinners, bean dinners, and bingo.

If they had their way, Jews, Muslims, Wiccans and all the other religious and irreligious would get bupkis, including having Christmas and Thanksgiving as a plain old day off , “NO TIME OFF FOR YOU! Make a hole, manger coming through! Stop stealing my tax money you heathen!”

I guess someone has to work the Black Friday, 3 am doorbuster shift at Walmart, because Christian Conspicuous Consumption day seems to be popular – some might even say holy – with the Jesus sect.

Commandment 11 – thou shalt buy a 51-inch plasma HD-TV marked down 50%.

Even if the common fundamentalist complaint that there is  unwarranted government interference in their lives, the rest of us could make the same argument.

Christians are free to pray, celebrate, sing hymns, and have as many cheesy midnight Christmas Eve pageants as they like. Besides, BONUS, it keeps the little Christian whelps off the street where they may run across a stray socialist bully who will beat them like a rug.

Christians Already Rule the Roost
Christians already rule the roost. They are the predominate faith of the country, as they point out with the frequency of parrots on truth serum. All the rest of use ask is that we can call a holiday a holiday.

Look my fine biblical friends, if being able to squat on the taxpayer-funded public square is so evil, why don’t the majority Christian legislators rise up against the Goliath atheists and Ramadan-celebrating Muslims and smite the Constitutional law  – that document to which these Americans pledge fealty only second than they do to the Bible.

Even as an atheist I could care less whether Christians return an innocent pleasantry like “Happy Holidays” with a rude punch in the pickle and a reminder that, “It’s Christmas dammit you scummy heathen” – so long as the pickle they’re punching isn’t mine.

I don’t begrudge them “In God we Trust”, because a buck is a buck…and when you throw into the collection plate it’s prelabeled so God can tell it’s his.

I don’t even care if you pray in school. All I ask is that you do it quietly on your own time because tuition is getting too damned expensive and, as you like to remind me, it’s time to root out fraud and inefficiency from America’s educational system – sort of a no deity left behind thing.

So go ahead and grumble about your persecution. Say Merry Christmas, even on Independence Day if you want. Truthfully, I don’t care. I’m more secure in my atheism than you appear to be in your Christianity. I love you as I would my brother, even though I don’t subscribe to the book advising so therein. But sometimes brothers need a little cuff behind the ear and some tough love. So here it is:

For Christ’s sake, er, goodness sake, stop you incessant whining about an imagined etymological affront. It’s peanuts beside a guy dragging a cross around, wearing rose bush thorns on his head, and telling the nitwits pounding 10-pennies into his palms, “Here, let me help you with that.”

Merry Christmas!

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

 

 

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A Christmas linkfest

Merry Christmas to MyDD readers who are celebrating the holiday today.

And if you're Jewish like me, remember that Jesus was an important Jewish theologian and reformer.

Here are some holiday links for you.

On the real meaning of Christmas:

A Christmas prayer from pastordan.

Carnacki shares a true story and treasured family memory.

John Lennon sings "Happy Christmas (War Is Over)."

greywolfe359 reflects on Light in the Darkness.

noweasels offers Christmas wishes and memories of small-town Christmas pageants.

Some less-happy Christmas stories:

Millions of children grow up in poverty, and even if they are relatively comfortable as adults, they never forget those feelings of economic insecurity. Last year chuckles1 shared his memories of "The year we stole a Christmas tree." (The piece is still relevant, even though the presidential campaign angle is obsolete.)

Expatyank lives in Britain, where unemployment and other economic problems are causing the retail sector to implode during what should be the busiest shopping week of the year.

For history buffs:

Daily Kos' resident historian Unitary Moonbat talks about how Christmas has been celebrated throughout the centuries.

Remember, the Puritans felt Christmas"incited moral degeneracy and so they declared war on the Christmas holiday by passing laws against it in Scotland and England, later in Massachusetts [...]"

Other useful Christmas links:

Asinus Asinum Fricat is a chef and native of France. He shares some memories of Christmas in Provence, including recipes for traditional desserts.

The same diarist is a veteran restaurant owner and operator, and offers a Christmas proposal for entrepreneurs out there. It's about how to set up and run a low-cost restaurant that "will thrive in this severe economic downturn."

A conservative blogger offers some Christmas cooking and sewing ideas (the muffins look truly decadent).

Daily Kos commenters had lots of good suggestions to add to my list of no-clutter holiday gift ideas.

Eddie C posted a fun photo diary on Christmas in New York City.

Christmas humor:

JeffLieber wrote a funny piece from the perspective of Joseph: I've just discovered my wife has been unfaithful.

Asinus Asinum Fricat offers a selection of Christmas jokes (some are Australian and "saucy"). Be sure to read the comments, where many people posted additional Christmas humor. I added a Jewish Christmas joke.

Christmas music:

What do you prefer? Old-fashioned cheesy, like Bing Crosby and Tony Bennett? Childhood favorites like the Charlie Brown Christmas album? Hip adult options like Diana Krall's jazzy Christmas music?

Deoliver47 shares a bunch of Christmas music videos.

We mostly listen to Chanukah music, but I do enjoy Oy to the World: A Klezmer Christmas.

Share holiday cheer or other thoughts in the comments.

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BREAKING: Santa Presumed Lost Over Bering Sea

Crossposted at the always intelligent and irreverent Motley Moose.

The US Air Force, NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command), and Pentagon sources confirm that Santa's Sleigh was lost from radar screens at 2,300 feet, somewhere over the western Bering Sea, after tracking a steep descent. Aviation experts said that if the descent continued at that rate, Holiday celebrations around the globe would likely turn somber this year.

Photobucket

Governor Sarah Palin (R - AK), has declared a state of emergency and insists that every available resource would be dedicated to the search and rescue effort. At a press conference with Gov. Palin, which included an odd ceremony in which a large caliber rifle was boiled then buried in her back yard, the Governor said, "We think Putin raised his head up over there in Russia, under the umbrella of job creation, also Maverick".

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Diaries

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