By some means, unbeknownst to Bruce or myself, someone hijacked our original web-site on blogspot and deleted most of our posts. Fortunately, I archived nearly all of my posts (in text format), thus having text versions of the hundred or so posts I wrote when we were over there. When I read Bruce’s Christmas post, I recalled that I had written a post wishing our readers a Merry Christmas back in 2004, so revise it in order to wish our readers the Merriest of Christmases, even as I, the one offering the wishes, do not celebrate the holiday because of my Jewish faith.
Please note that I did not save the links in the original post, so have had to recover them as best I could. Without further ado, my post of December 21, 2004 revised.
Back in 2004, when my governor Arnold Schwarzenegger lit what most of us (including Jews) know as a Christmas tree. Some reporters sensed a controversy because his Democratic predecessor had called the decorated evergreen a “holiday tree.”
You see, that politically correct Democrat, like too many in our society, strove to eliminate all references to religion in public ceremonies and holiday displays. They seem to think that the Constitution has created some sort of wall of separation between church and state. Unfortunately, that expression (“wall of separation“) comes not from the U.S. Constitution, but from a letter of Thomas Jefferson. The actual text of the First Amendment reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” (quoting only the first part of the amendment referencing religion).
And frankly, this Jewish writer just doesn’t see how calling a decorated evergreen tree a “Christmas Tree” represents the establishment of religion. And yet, so many over at the ACLU get their panties all in a bundle every time someone tries to put a religious symbol on public property.
Now this wave of political correctness has spread beyond the public square. Some corporations train their employees to say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”
Indeed, a few of my friends worry that they might be offending me if they wish me a “Merry Christmas.” Those very individuals, some of them devout Christians, are touched when I wish them “Happy New Year” at Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year). Back in 2004, I lit the Chanuka candles for my mostly non-Jewish class of mythology students. They appreciated that I had shared this religious ritual with them.
I appreciate their sensitivity, but why should I be offended by a Christian’s sharing his or her joy in celebrating their religious holiday when they appreciate me sharing my joy in mine?
I understand that if someone wishes me a “Merry Christmas,” they speak from their heart, wanting to share the spirit of this festival (sacred to them) with me. So, I welcome their good Christmas wishes, even when expressed to me, a Jew.
I welcome religious expression because it often (yet, alas, not always) tends to humanize us. In the Jewish World Review, Rabbi Mitchell Wohlberg wrote:
let’s put the “Ch” back into Chanukah! And, yes, let Christians put Christ back into Christmas. Let us not attempt to secularize our religions, or to blur our religious differences. Let us learn to respect each other’s religion. Then there will truly be “peace on earth and goodwill toward all men” … and women as well!
He’s right. Let’s learn to respect each other’s religions. We can’t do that by secularizing religious holidays. Nor by eliminating all references to sacred traditions in the public square. Let us share the joys of our tradition and use them to build bridges of understanding.
Indeed, the great Peggy Noonan thinks this might even help the Democrats, writing:
Stop the war on religious expression in America. Have Terry McAuliffe come forward and announce that the Democratic Party knows that a small group of radicals continue to try to “scrub” such holidays as Christmas from the public square. They do this while citing the Constitution, but the Constitution does not say it is wrong or impolite to say “Merry Christmas” or illegal to have a crèche in the public square. The Constitution says we have freedom of religion, not from religion. Have Terry McAuliffe announce that from here on in the Democratic Party is on the side of those who want religion in the public square, and the Ten Commandments on the courthouse wall for that matter. Then he should put up a big sign that says “Merry Christmas” on the sidewalk in front of the Democratic National Committee Headquarters on South Capitol Street. The Democratic Party should put itself on the side of Christmas, and Hanukkah, and the fact of transcendent faith.
Read the whole article and delight in Peggy’s wisdom and writing.
I’m glad my Governor “renamed” the state’s “holiday tree” and called it what it has long been called, “a Christmas tree” (a week before attending a Menorah lighting ceremony). We should welcome public displays of religion in our society and as Rabbi Wohlberg suggested, use them as means to respect each other.
And from this Jewish American, Merry Christmas to all our readers.