Sunday, December 18
Sunday, December 18, 2005
A letter writer in the local paper feigns surprise, shock and dismay (or is being very dramatic) at the paper's mention of the retirement of the Colby "holiday tree". More than the loss of the tree itself, it is the paper's lack of "backbone", that celebrated bone in conservative lore, that upsets him. He asks "what in the world is a holiday tree anyway?" I imagine it's a tree one keeps for a holiday, like Christmas or whatever pagan celebrations the Christmas tree is derived from originally.
Speaking of, I wonder what the writer would say about the prophet Jeremiah's Biblical condemnation of the practice of cutting down and decorating trees? Of course, it's the spirit of Christmas and not Saturnalia being celebrated today, and what Jeremiah considered a vain pagan practice is now acceptable to Christians, presumably because it comes with a spirit of humility, goodwill and peace that contrasts with the materialism and cynicism of the "unsaved". But if the use of Christmas trees in Christian celebrations doesn't offend the writer, why on earth would a secular greeting with no pagan overtones (and with the word "holy" as its root) offend his sensibilities so deeply?
The letter writer asks, "You folks ever heard of the First Amendment?" Pretty ironic in a letter condemning the use of an alternative greeting by companies that serve a multifaith audience. Christmas coincides with several religious holidays, and even atheists enjoy Santa Claus, shopping for presents at the mall, and holiday trees. Stores accept everyone's credit card regardless of religious belief or disbelief, and it would be a shame if that were the only tolerance shown this season. It's our freedom of speech and religion that allows Jews, Muslims, the Herald, and even shopping malls to use greetings other than the ones preferred by Christians. If a Jewish store owner says, "Happy Chanukah" will the writer be offended that it's not a Christian greeting? Will he boycott Muslim-owned stores that don't pay homage to his version of monotheism? Or is the "war on Christmas" more about marginalizing anyone who isn't a conservative Christian in American politics? I'll make religious conservatives a deal: I won't be offended if you say "Merry Christmas", if you agree not to be offended when I don't.