December 9, 2005

Holiday Hogwash

The religious right is now targeting school "holiday" programs which it thinks discriminate against Christmas. According to this StarTribune article, an Orlando, Florida group called the "LIberty Counsel" (endorsed by Jerry Falwell), claims that the holiday programs have the children singing the religious songs of other faiths, but exclude Christianity.

. . .The Liberty Counsel is concerned about the elementary school's elimination of Christian songs, while keeping songs about Hanukkah and Kwanzaa . . ."They're celebrating other holidays but eliminating the core of the holiday we're celebrating,'' [Mat Staver, president of the Liberty Counsel] said. "It is quite permissible to sing all of the great Christian songs of Christmas as well as singing 'Frosty the Snowman' and Hanukkah songs. But when they pick and choose only the secular or non-Christmas songs, it shows a bias and discrimination."

This comment demonstrates how ignorant these folks are about other religions. The Liberty Counsel seems to think that schools are recognizing Chanukah and Kwaanza while ignoring Christmas. The truth is that the Chanukah songs are just as secular as the Christmas songs. If you know anything at all about Chanukah, then you'll know that "I Have a Little Dreidel" and the other so-called Chanukah songs, are about as religious as "Frosty the Snowman." As I pointed out in a post last year, Chanukah isn't a particularly religious holiday to begin with. As for Kwanzaa, it isn't a religious holiday at all. It's cultural celebration intended to promote unity and pride in the African American community . Schools haven't been discriminating against one religion in favor of others. Rather, they have simply secularized the entire season.

Even our dear president, the darling of the religious right, is not immune from criticism about his failure to adequately express his Christian faith. Apparently, he sent out greeting cards that said, "happy holidays" rather than "merry Christmas." Although I don't consider Mr. Bush to be among the most intelligent leaders we've ever had, he (or his advisors, anyway), are apparently smart enough to know that not everyone he was sending these cards to celebrates Christmas. Regardless of how important Christmas is to you personally, why would you wish someone a merry Christmas if you know they don't celebrate that holiday? That would kind of defeat the purpose of a greeting card. Would someone please explain that to these people? Apparently they think that the purpose of a greeting card is to make a statement about your own faith, rather than sending good wishes to someone else. Even though the vast majority of recipients for the president's cards probably do celebrate Christmas, I think he can be forgiven if he preferred to send more generic good wishes to all rather than offend some or try to send different cards to different people. These people need to get real. If the president really cared about them as individuals, he would write them a personal note, anyway.

As for the "Christmas tree" vs. "holiday tree" controversy, I actually agree with the Christmas tree camp on this one, but probably not for the same reasons. Personally, I resent the suggestion that by calling it a "holiday tree" you can make what is traditionally a Christian symbol a secular one. It's like the government thinks that by calling it a holiday tree they can fool themselves into believing they are not putting a giant symbol of a Christian holiday on their front lawn. Yeah, I know Christmas trees aren't technically religious symbols, may have originally had pagan origins, blah blah blah, but the fact is, they are associated with Christmas and everyone knows it. So let's call a spade a spade. As a non-Christian, I don't find it at all offensive to call a Christmas tree a Christmas tree. I don't even really care if the supposedly secular government wants to publicly celebrate a Christian holiday. I just don't like them trying to pretend that's not what they're doing.

Posted by ldfs at December 9, 2005 8:32 AM