The suburban town of Bethlehem, New York had a “Merry Christmas” sign and a “Happy Hanukkah” sign removed from the busiest intersection in town.
Grinches in the town named for the birthplace of Jesus banned religious holiday signs so they “wouldn’t violate any laws or distract drivers.”
There’s more. This year, the town of Menominee, Michigan, took down the Nativity scene in their city park — a long-standing Christmas tradition — after “Freedom From Religion Foundation” complaints.
I so wish we could find three wise men and a camel. Heck, I’d settle for a smart camel.
Every radio station has defaulted to Christmas music. I’m surprised we haven’t lost that, too. I don’t particularly like Christmas music but my radio has an off switch. I don’t have to listen to it if I don’t want to.
I was raised in a family that was Quaker on one side, Presbyterian on the other. I may not be as organized now as I was when I reached the age of accountability and joined the Presbyterian church but I am still a Christian. And, of course, a WASP.
You don’t have to be either.
Today is the day Christians celebrate the birth of the Christ child and the meaning of Christianity. It was a pretty big day before the stock exchange took it over.
It doesn’t mean Do unto all the other religions, then cut out. Unless you are a Member of Congress. Or, sadly, one of too many “modern” Americans.
Here’s the thing. If you offer food to the monks on Vesak, Buddha’s Birthday, I will honor your commitment to the poor. If you celebrate Diwali, the Festival of Lights, I will honor with you the victory of Lord Ram over the demon-king Ravana. If you fast during Ramadan when the Qur’an was revealed to Mohammad, I will honor your patience and humility. If you celebrate the most solemn and important of Jewish holidays, Yom Kippur, I will honor your atonement and repentance. If you light the candles of Kwanzaa, I will help you honor your heritage. And if you are a lib’rul atheist, I will not proselytize.
That maybe the most important message.
Not one American soldier in Afghanistan, Australia, Bahrain, Belgium, Canada, Cuba, Egypt, Germany, Greece, Greenland, Guam, Honduras, Indian Ocean, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Netherlands, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, the United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, or the United States has forced any man, woman, or child to convert to Christianity at the point of a gun again this year.
You don’t have to be a Buddhist, a Hindu, Islamic, a Jew, a Kwanzaan celebrant, or an atheist. It is time, on this Christian holy day, to let Christians be Christians.
My right to impose my own beliefs stops at my property line (or the end of my nose when I’m out in public). The Bethlehem, NY, grinches’ right to idiocy should stop at pretty much the same place. It is time to stop accepting that “politically correct” credo and start honoring the true message of Christmas.
Scythian philosopher Anacharsis wrote in the 6th century BCE, “Wise men argue causes, and fools decide them.”
Away With the Manger wasn’t sung quite so loudly this year. Menominee restored the nativity scene to the park because it’s a First Amendment right. After all, if I can get up on my soapbox and decry the crooks in Washington, then Washington (or Menominee, this time) cannot discriminate against another citizen who climbs a soapbox to preach his or her religious faith. In both cases the content is protected speech.
I’m off to pass on my Santa hat to Jake and Liam.
This column originally appeared on Christmas Day, 2008. It required very little updating.