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CHRISTMAS UNDER SIEGE???


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Fox News Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly have been screeching all week about how "Christmas is under siege" by the "secularists". Some of the stories they've flogged have been about how Target has banned the Salvation Army from their private property, Nativity Scenes being banned from public/government property, children not allowed to sing Christmas songs that contain references to God, Jesus or Christmas in public schools and Macy's alleged banning of the greeting Merry Christmas in their stores and on their signage.

 

Also, on similar note, on tonight's MSNBC's Scarborough Country (with Pat Buchanan filling in for the ailing-bad-back Joe), there was a discussion regarding the teaching of Intelligent Design alongside the teaching of Evolution in science classes in public schools. How long of a course would Intelligent Design be? God did it ALL in 7 days...end of story...LOL!

 

I believe in God, consider myself to be spiritual--not religious, but my beliefs aren't dependent upon having a Nativity Scene at City Hall. Earlier this evening, I took my 2 year-old godson to see a really nice Nativity Scene that State Auto Insurance puts up every year at their headquarters downtown. I don't understand the necessity of having religious displays on public/government property when people are free to celebrate Christmas with religious-themed displays on their private property, whether it's at their homes, churches or businesses.

 

Separation of Church and State? Is there really such a thing? Nowhere in the Constitution are these words found. The first of the First Amendment's two religion clauses reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion ... .” Note that the clause is absolute. It allows no law. It is also noteworthy that the clause forbids more than the establishment of religion by the government. It forbids even laws respecting an establishment of religion. The establishment clause sets up a line of demarcation between the functions and operations of the institutions of religion and government in our society. It does so because the framers of the First Amendment recognized that when the roles of the government and religion are intertwined, the result too often has been bloodshed or oppression.

 

Some people have argued that the Establishment Clause is ONLY about "freedom of religion" and should NOT be interpreted to also be "freedom FROM religion". What do you think?

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FRANK RICH

2004: The Year of 'The Passion'

By FRANK RICH

 

Published: December 19, 2004

 

 

WILL it be the Jews' fault if "The Passion of the Christ," ignored by the Golden Globes this week, comes up empty in the Oscar nominations next month? Why, of course.

 

"Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular," William Donohue, president of the Catholic League, explained in a colloquy on the subject recently convened by Pat Buchanan on MSNBC. "It's not a secret, O.K.?" Mr. Donohue continued. "And I'm not afraid to say it. That's why they hate this movie. It's about Jesus Christ, and it's about truth." After the show's token (and conservative) Jewish panelist, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, pointed out that "Michael Moore is certainly not a Jew" and that Scorsese, Coppola and Lucas are not "Jewish names," Mr. Donohue responded: "I like Harvey Weinstein. How's that? Harvey Weinstein is my friend."

 

 

How's that? Not quite good enough. Surely Mr. Donohue knows that decorum in these situations requires that he cite a Jew as one of his "best friends," not merely a friend. For shame.

 

 

As we close the books on 2004, and not a moment too soon, it's clear that, as far as the culture goes, this year belonged to Mel Gibson's mammoth hit. Its prurient and interminable wallow in the Crucifixion, to the point where Jesus' actual teachings become mere passing footnotes to the sumptuously depicted mutilation of his flesh, is as representative of our time as "Godspell" was of terminal-stage hippiedom 30 years ago. The Gibson conflation of religion with violence reflects the universal order of the day — whether the verbal fisticuffs of the culture war within America, as exemplified by Mr. Donohue's rant on national television or, far more lethally, the savagery of the actual war that radical Islam brought to our doorstep on 9/11.

 

 

"The Passion" is a one-size-fits-all touchstone, it seems. It didn't just excite and anger a lot of moviegoers in our own country but also broke box-office records abroad, including in the Middle East. Most Arab governments censor films that depict prophets (Jesus included), even banning recent benign Hollywood products like the Jim Carrey vehicle "Bruce Almighty" and the animated musical "Prince of Egypt." But an exception was made for Mr. Gibson's blood fest nearly everywhere. It was seen in Egypt, Syria and Jordan. Among the satisfied customers last spring was Yasser Arafat, who called the film "moving and historical" — a thumb's up that has not, to my knowledge, yet surfaced in the film's low-key Oscar campaign.

 

 

Arafat's animus was clear enough; an aide said at the time that he likened Jesus' suffering, as depicted in "The Passion," to that of the Palestinians at the hands of Israel. Our domestic culture war over religion is not so easily explained.

 

 

You'd think peace might reign in a nation where there is so much unanimity of faith. In Newsweek's "Birth of Jesus" holiday cover article — not to be confused with Time's competing "Secrets of the Nativity" cover — a poll found that 84 percent of American adults call themselves Christian, 82 percent see Jesus as the son of God, and 79 percent believe in the Virgin Birth. Though by a far slimmer margin, the presidential election reinstalled a chief executive who ostentatiously invokes a Christian Almighty. As for "The Passion of the Christ," it achieved the monetary landslide of a $370 million domestic gross (second only to the cartoon saviors Shrek and Spider-Man).

 

 

Yet if you watch the news and listen to certain politicians, especially since Election Day, you'll hear an ever-growing drumbeat that Christianity is under siege in America. Like Mr. Gibson, the international movie star who portrayed himself as a powerless martyr to a shadowy anti- Christian conspiracy in the run-up to the release of "The Passion," his fellow travelers on the right detect a sinister plot — of secularists, "secular Jews" and "elites" — out to destroy the religion followed by more than four out of every five Americans.

 

 

In the latest and most bizarre twist on this theme, even Christmas is now said to be a target of the anti-Christian mob. "Are we going to abolish the word Christmas?" asked Newt Gingrich, warning that "it absolutely can happen here." Among those courageously leading the fight to save the holiday from its enemies is Bill O'Reilly, who has taken to calling the Anti-Defamation League "an extremist group" and put the threat this way: "Remember, more than 90 percent of American homes celebrate Christmas. But the small minority that is trying to impose its will on the majority is so vicious, so dishonest — and has to be dealt with."

 

 

If more than 90 percent of American households celebrate Christmas, you have to wonder why the guy is whining. The only evidence of what Pat Buchanan has called Christmas-season "hate crimes against Christianity" consists of a few ridiculous and isolated incidents, like the banishment of a religious float from a parade in Denver and of religious songs from a high school band concert in New Jersey. (In scale, this is nothing compared with the refusal of the world's largest retailer, Wal- Mart, to stock George Carlin's new best seller, "When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops?," whose cover depicts its author at the Last Supper.) Yet the hysteria is being pumped up daily by Fox News, newspapers like The New York Post and The Washington Times, and Web sites like savemerrychristmas.org. Mr. O'Reilly and Jerry Falwell have gone so far as to name Michael Bloomberg an anti-Christmas conspirator because the mayor referred to the Christmas tree as a "holiday tree" in the lighting ceremony at Rockefeller Center.

 

 

What is this about? How can those in this country's overwhelming religious majority maintain that they are victims in a fiery battle with forces of darkness? It is certainly not about actual victimization. Christmas is as pervasive as it has ever been in America, where it wasn't even declared a federal holiday until after the Civil War. What's really going on here is yet another example of a post-Election-Day winner-takes-all power grab by the "moral values" brigade. As Mr. Gibson shrewdly contrived his own crucifixion all the way to the bank, trumping up nonexistent threats to his movie to hype it, so the creation of imagined enemies and exaggerated threats to Christianity by "moral values" mongers of the right has its own secular purpose. The idea is to intimidate and marginalize anyone who objects to their efforts to impose the most conservative of Christian dogma on public policy. If you're against their views, you don't have a differing opinion — you're anti-Christian (even if you are a Christian).

 

 

The power of this minority within the Christian majority comes from its exaggerated claims on the Bush election victory. It is enhanced further by a news culture, especially on television, that gives the Mel Gibson wing of Christianity more say than other Christian voices and that usually ignores minority religions altogether. This is not just a Fox phenomenon. Something is off when NBC's "Meet the Press" and ABC's "This Week," mainstream TV shows both, invite religious leaders to discuss "values" in the aftermath of the election and limit that discussion to all-male panels composed exclusively of either evangelical ministers or politicians with pseudo-spiritual credentials. Does Mr. Falwell, who after 9/11 blamed Al Qaeda's attack partly on "the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians," speak for any sizable group of American Christians? Does the Rev. Al Sharpton, booked on TV as a "balance" to Mr. Falwell, do so either? Mr. Sharpton doesn't even have a congregation; like Mr. Falwell, he is a politician first, a religious leader second (or maybe fourth or fifth).

 

 

Gary Bauer and James Dobson are also secular political figures, not religious leaders, yet they are more frequently called upon to play them on television than actual clergy are. "It's theological correctness," says the Rev. Debra Haffner, a Unitarian Universalist minister who directs a national interfaith group, the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice and Healing, and is one of the rare progressive religious voices to get any TV time. She detects an overall "understanding" in the media that religion "is one voice — fundamentalist." That understanding may have little to do with the beliefs of television news producers — or even the beliefs of fundamentalists themselves — and more to do with the raw, secular political power that the press has attributed to "values" crusaders since the election. "There is the belief that the conservative view won, and the media are more interested in winners," says Frances Kissling, president of Catholics for a Free Choice.

 

 

Even more important than inflated notions of the fundamentalists' power may be their entertainment value. As Ms. Kissling points out, the 50 million Americans who belong to progressive religious organizations are rarely represented on television because "progressive religious leaders are so tolerant that they don't make good TV." The Rev. Bob Chase of the United Church of Christ agrees: "We're not exciting guests." His church's recent ad trumpeting its inclusion of gay couples was rejected by the same networks that routinely give a forum to the far more dramatic anti-gay views of Mr. Falwell. Ms. Kissling laments that contemporary progressive Christians lack an intellectual star to rival Reinhold Niebuhr or William Sloane Coffin, but adds that today "Jesus Christ would have a tough time getting covered by TV if he didn't get arrested."

 

 

This paradigm is everywhere in our news culture. When Jon Stewart went on CNN's "Crossfire" to demand that its hosts stop "hurting America" by turning news and political debate into a form of pro wrestling, it may have sounded a bit hyperbolic. "Crossfire" is an aging show that few watch. But his broader point holds up: it's all crossfire now. In the electronic news sphere where most Americans live much of the time, anyone who refuses to engage in combat is quickly sent packing as a bore.

 

 

Toss the issue of religion into that 24/7 wrestling match, as into any conflict in human history, and the incendiary possibilities are limitless. When even phenomena as innocuous as Oscar nominations or the lighting of a Christmas tree can be inflated into divisive religious warfare, it's only a matter of time before someone uncovers an anti-Christian plot in "White Christmas." It avoids any mention of religion and it was, as William Donohue might be the first to point out, written by a secular Jew.

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Jeff:

 

I had read the Frank Rich piece you posted, just before signing onto the Message Center, and I'm glad you posted it here. Frank Rich is "spot on" with what he says.

 

We have a radio station in Jersey, FM101.5, whose hate radio jocks have been playing this "Christmas under siege" tune for several weeks now. You have to wonder if all the histrionics about this sudden "issue of global importance" was orchestrated, or just another sign of the "dittohead mentality" that runs deep among the right wingers. For all the rhetoric about saving Christmas from the secularists, the reality is that Christmas was hijacked long ago by the rampant materialists, who made the great salesman Santa Claus much more important than the child in a manger. In reality, this new red herring is really just a thinly veiled ploy to play the anti-semitic tune again. The real fact is that there is no current attack on Christmas, other than that launched years ago by those who have pretty much purged it of real religious content and made it the grand altar of buying, spending and consuming in the name of the true American god of materialism. Rather hard to believe that Jesus, who lived an earthly life of poverty, would want to have much to do with Santa at the Shopping Mall passing out discount coupons for "20% off selected merchandise" sales. I'd further venture to say that I doubt Jesus would be pleased to have his birthday used as a political football to demonize Jews, especially since he was Jewish.

 

A few weeks back, the Carton & Rossi hate radio team, also known as "The Jersey Guys", told a story of a service station that was selling DVD's of the beheading of Nicholas Berg. They said, "we all know who runs those service stations.....brown people." Then they began to refer to "towelheads", and carefully ramped up the rhetoric to say that "something ought to be done about it". Never mind the fact that the turban wearing folks are Sikhs, not Muslims. Never mind the fact that a Sikh was killed after 911 in Texas because some rednecks thought he was a Muslim. These guys just keep spewing their ignorant hatred for the sake of what? Where is Michael Powell and the FCC when it comes to this stuff? Nowhere to be found, of course. They're much too busy worrying about titties on TV.

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A real Christian responds to the complaints of the Krischun Reich

 

Christians too easily offended[/font size]

 

Linda Campbell - Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

 

It's heck being a Christian in America these days, when insults and ostracism confront us daily.

 

Target Corp. has stopped letting Salvation Army bell-ringers put a guilt trip on harried shoppers so they'll drop spare change into the familiar red kettles.

 

''Newsweek'' and ''Time'' are running cover stories critically examining the biblical stories about Jesus' birth.

 

Should I also take it as an unmistakable message of hostility that CBS recently pre-empted my favorite show (''Joan of Arcadia,'' in which the central character regularly converses with God) to air the secular winter-holiday fluff of ''Frosty the Snowman''?

 

So many slights, so little time.

 

But I wonder: Why are we so easily offended?

 

Didn't Christ himself teach us about turning the other cheek and practicing our faith in substantive ways without attracting undue attention?

 

But a group called the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights believes it's necessary to ask thousands of companies to display a ''religion-friendly'' decal so that Christians can know immediately where they and their money aren't welcome.

 

Not that there've been any reports of stores checking faith at the door or restaurants sporting signs saying, ''Christians not served here.''

 

The American Family Association and like-minded groups believe that it's necessary to boycott Target stores for not making it simple for Christmas spenders to do for others.

 

Not that it matters, apparently, that Target Corp. gives $2 million a week to community projects and supports St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis.

 

If Christianity has fallen into such disfavor, why was President Bush recently invoking Advent's message of hope while a pair of Brownie Scouts lit the National Christmas Tree to open the Pageant of Peace, an annual display on the Ellipse?

 

In Vietnam recently, Mennonites have been hounded by both authorities and their neighbors for holding prayer services not sanctioned by the government, according to the civil rights group Freedom House.

 

The U.S. State Department reported this year that Christian-based schools in Brunei can't teach Christianity; in China, members of unregistered Protestant and Catholic groups have been intimidated, harassed and detained; and in Cuba, some evangelical denominations were evicted from their places of worship.

 

Yet in this country there's moaning that Nativity scenes can't move from their revered places in our churches to city parks.

 

How many of our Sunday Advent wreath lightings were forced into basement secrecy for fear that snoops would alert the authorities?

 

How many churchgoers bypass the collection basket so that federal agents won't knock down their doors with accusations that they've been aiding terrorists masquerading as religious charities?

 

When some Roman Catholic bishops arrogantly took on politicians over their votes on explosive issues, did Congress outlaw the church?

 

When Pat Robertson started a ''prayer offensive'' to oust decrepit liberal members of the Supreme Court, did Justice Antonin Scalia send federal marshals out to shut off his mike?

 

Indeed, a 10 p.m. channel surf one evening this week turned up religious programming on five stations, plus contemporary Christian and gospel tunes on a pair of music channels.

 

Perhaps instead of imagining oppression, we should envision solutions.

 

Why not use those blast e-mails to solicit donations that will help replace the $8.9 million that the red kettles typically raise outside Target stores?

 

Why not redirect energies toward writing a check to the nearest homeless shelter, food bank or other service that clothes, houses and otherwise comforts the needy?

 

Protests and chest-beating and indignant news releases might feel empowering as political tools.

 

But if religion's influence comes from spreading peace, justice, mercy and love, don't we wield more power by devoting our time, our money and our hearts to directly serving others in ways that can make a difference in individual lives?

 

> Linda P. Campbell is a Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist. Her column appears occasionally.

 

http://www.ajc.com/print/content/epaper/editions/tuesday/opinion_14eb29fb008c311800ff.html

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RE: Merry C-Word

 

The Pandering Purveyor of Propaganda, O'LIElly, is boo-hooing on his show tonight saying that that LA Times has "defamed" him with this editorial...lol

 

December 21, 2004

 

EDITORIAL

 

L.A. Times

 

Merry C-Word

 

We like to think we're pretty gutsy on this page. We say what we think, we don't mince words, and darn the consequences. But saying some things apparently takes special courage. There is a campaign going on this holiday season, among lovers of freedom on the right, to defeat the enormously powerful forces that are trying to prevent us from saying Merry … Merry … uh, Merry … well, you know. It's an "anti-Christmas jihad," Fox News' Bill O'Reilly says.

 

Who are these powerful forces? The liberal media, of course. And then, as William Donohue, president of the Catholic League, explained on MSNBC, there are the "secular Jews" who "control Hollywood" and "hate Christianity." These secular Jews of his imagination are a strange breed. They allow characters like Donohue to make poisonous accusations against them on the very media they control, but will stop at nothing to prevent ordinary Christians from saying "Merry Christmas" (there, we said it!) at the mall.

 

Despite its official-sounding name, the Catholic League has no connection with the Catholic Church. Donohue is a reliable sound-bite artist for TV bookers who need a Catholic with a hair-trigger sense of grievance. But he is no more a representative of American Catholics than other professional paranoids who go around objecting to "Merry Christmas" are representative of American Jews or Muslims.

 

The American culture of victimization needs and nurtures people and controversies like this. You're nobody in this country — the richest and among the freest in the history of the world — unless somebody is trying to oppress you. "I kvetch, therefore I am."

 

If the people who run Hollywood hate Christmas, they hate it all the way to the box office. Christmas is huge for Hollywood, this year as always, and there is no lack of pious seasonal sentiments. Watching "Finding John Christmas" ("a heartwarming holiday drama," according to CBS) or the Walt Disney World Christmas Day parade (on ABC, hosted by Regis Philbin) may not be Christmas as Bill O'Reilly celebrates it — no doubt alone with his Bible when he is not out washing the feet of the poor. But it is Christmas, American style.

 

O'Reilly has said the alleged secularists want to "cancel Christmas" because they "fear … the philosophy of Jesus." Believe us: Hollywood does not want to cancel Christmas. And no one needs lectures, this year especially, from Bill O'Reilly about the teachings of Jesus.

 

The crusaders do have a few good stories to tell. For example, how about that town decorating a conifer in front of City Hall, only to call it "the community tree"? Or school districts banning Christmas carols? Or the department store that changes its official greeting to "Happy Holidays." As reported by Eric Boehlert on Salon.com, many of these tales get twisted in the retelling. "You're not allowed to say Merry Christmas in many department stores," declared Tony Snow of Fox News, calling this nonexistent ban "an attack on Christianity."

 

Some of the de-Christmasification stories are true, and absurd. To the extent that cultural Christian Soldiers are griping about some overzealous corporate and government bureaucrats expunging Christmas, they have a point.

 

It's nonsense, however, to suggest that Christmas finds itself on some endangered-holiday list. The United States is not a Christian nation, but it is a majority-Christian society and a predominantly Christian culture. The Constitution forbids us as a nation to "establish" one religion over others (or, in the view of some, including this editorial page, to establish religion itself over nonbelief). But even the government must sometimes bend to social reality. Christmas will always be an official holiday, and the eight days of Hanukkah will never be. And members of minority faiths will always have to accommodate to the majority-Christian culture more than that culture can accommodate to them.

 

That's not so terrible, is it? The important thing is religious freedom, which we all enjoy. Muslims in the United States enjoy more freedom to practice their religion as they see fit than they would in some officially Muslim countries. Members of minority religions who chafe at every small reminder of their minority status are oversensitive.

 

Members of the majority culture who chafe at every small accommodation of the minority's sensitivity are oversensitive too. But people in the media, in government and in churches who are encouraging majority resentments are worse than oversensitive. They are, in a word, thugs. Accommodations to minority sensitivity, even when excessive or silly, pose no serious threat to Christianity or to its overwhelming dominance of American culture. To suggest that dark forces are succeeding in killing off Christmas is so spectacularly at odds with reality that minority paranoia starts to seem justified.

 

Why are these allegations of a war against Christianity coming up now? Not only is there no such war on Christianity going on, the balance between minority accommodation of the majority culture and majority accommodation of minority sensitivities hasn't even shifted in favor of the minority.

 

The real explanation is close to the opposite: The majority is feeling its oats. Or, more accurately, a few would-be cultural commissars think this is the moment for the majority to feel its oats. It's part of the agenda coming out of the last election. They don't think they're losing the culture war. They think they're winning, and it's time to go on the offensive.

 

Our festive season wish for 2005 is less sensitivity all around. "Merry Christmas" is not a sentiment that needs to be guarded against, and neither is "Happy Holidays." We wish our readers both.

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Peace on Earth?

Not with this season's Christmas wars.

 

By E. J. Dionne Jr.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004; Page A25

 

When I encounter fellow Christians during these days of comfort and joy, I wish them a Merry Christmas. When I encounter Jewish friends, I wish them Happy Hanukah. And when I encounter people whose religious beliefs are unknown to me, I wish them Happy Holidays. Does this make me a Christian sellout? Or does it make me an authentic Christian?

 

The Christmas wars seem hotter this year. Listening to conservative talk shows and watching the lawsuits fly around, you'd think there's a conspiracy to block celebrations of the birth of Jesus Christ. Politicians who speak of "the holidays" instead of "Christmas" now face angry Christian protests. What's happening?

 

Partly this is an old fight that reflects our First Amendment's dueling religion clauses. One warns against government entanglement with religion. The other guarantees its free exercise.

 

Many of our fights over religious freedom pit those who fear government meddling with faith against those who worry that isolating government from religion interferes with its free exercise. That's the civilized version of the argument. The Christmas confrontations are particularly prickly because they come down to competing struggles for respect. Some Christians see the broader culture as unremittingly hostile to their faith and wonder why it's easier to celebrate Santa, Rudolph and the Grinch than to sing praise to Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

 

Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and nonbelievers, meanwhile, insist that government should not push the faith of the majority into the faces of those who do not share it.

 

This second view is now being dismissed as "political correctness," an increasingly meaningless phrase invoked to attack any point of view that conflicts with conservative preferences. If respecting the rights of religious minorities is "political correctness," that makes Thomas Jefferson and the First Amendment "politically correct."

 

It has been said that the definition of a liberal is someone so open-minded that he can't take his own side in an argument. But some arguments are, by their very nature, illiberal because each side demands that we ignore the legitimate claims being made by the other. Talk shows love such debates -- the Christmas one is a classic -- because everybody gets really mad without resolving anything.

 

It shouldn't be hard to acknowledge that there is prejudice in some sectors of our society against those who hold traditionalist, evangelical or fundamentalist religious views. The familiarity of such phrases as "yahoos," "hypocritical Puritans" and "Bible thumpers" is evidence of such prejudice.

 

There is something defective about a religious tolerance open to every expression of religion except for the faith of those who believe most passionately. One can oppose the political views of religious conservatives and still understand why they are tired of being called names.

 

But such respect cannot come at the expense of the rights of those who are not Christian. At the personal level: What in the world is "Christian" about insisting on saying "Merry Christmas" to a devout Jew or Hindu who might reasonably view the statement as a sign of disrespect? At the level of government: Is it really "Christian" for a religious majority to press its advantage over religious minorities, including nonbelievers?

 

Personally, I am partial to seasonal celebrations that acknowledge our religious diversity by allowing traditions to express themselves in their integrity. This is better than allowing only a commercial Christmas mush that satisfies no one except the retailers. Trying to delete every form of religious expression from the public square leads to foolishness. But one thing is even more foolish: for the religious majority to feel "oppressed" by a public etiquette designed to honor the rights of those outside its ranks.

 

An Orthodox Jewish friend attended this year's Hanukah party at the White House. My friend appreciated President Bush's gesture to his community and was surprised and pleased when the military band struck up the old Hanukah song "Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel." You wonder if the talk-show hosts and conservative direct-mail guys will now attack the president for being "politically correct."

 

The great Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr wrote that "the chief source of man's inhumanity to man seems to be the tribal limits of his sense of obligation to other men." I fear that in these Christmas debates, Christians are behaving not as Christians but as a tribe: "We will pound them if they get in the way of our customs and rituals."

 

Tribal behavior is antithetical to the spirit of peace and good will. In this season, we ought to be taking the most expansive possible view of our obligations to others.

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Unfortunately, those "tribes" are people with the same mentality that brought us the Crusades, the Inquisition and the Holocaust. It's a very small leap from despising what's different to wanting to destroy it.

 

The utter lack of civics education in the U.S. means that few average citizens understand the meaning of the First Amendment anymore. It means that our system of government is secular, and that the GOVERNMENT cannot establish any religion as an official faith, or do anything to favor one faith over another. The similarly utter ignorance of history means that average citizens these days don't remember that many of the original colonies were founded as refuges for followers of different Christian denominations (Puritans in Massachusetts, Baptists in Rhode Island, Quakers in Pennsylvania, Catholics in Maryland, etc.). The founders couldn't pull all the separate colonies into a single nation if they favored one sect over the other. That's why they created a secular government and and a non-establishment clause in the Bill of Rights. However, the First Amendment applies only to government. Private individuals and businesses can do as they will, as long as they don't discriminate against others on the basis of religion, which is a violation of many federal and state laws.

 

As for "Happy Holidays," it's not a matter of political correctness. It's a matter of common courtesy, something that's also in great lack in contemporary American society. Why would you FORCE an unwelcome religious greeting on someone who doesn't believe as you do? People who respect other people and understand that the U.S. is a plural society (as it has been ever since it was founded) don't force their beliefs on others. To understand that this was an essential value for the founders of the U.S. one only has to read the famous letter from George Washington to the members of the Touro Synagogue in Newport, R.I., in which the Father of Our Nation reveals himself to be both (gasp!) a liberal and enlightened man :

 

To the Hebrew Congregation in Newport Rhode Island.

 

Gentleman.

 

While I receive, with much satisfaction, your Address replete with expressions of affection and esteem; I rejoice in the opportunity of assuring you, that I shall always retain a grateful remembrance of the cordial welcome I experienced in my visit to Newport, from all classes of Citizens.

 

The reflection on the days of difficulty and danger which are past is rendered the more sweet, from a consciousness that they are succeeded by days of uncommon prosperity and security. If we have wisdom to make the best use of the advantages with which we are now favored, we cannot fail, under the just administration of a good Government, to become a great and happy people.

 

The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.

 

It would be inconsistent with the frankness of my character not to avow that I am pleased with your favorable opinion of my Administration, and fervent wishes for my felicity. May the children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and figtree, and there shall be none to make him afraid. May the father of all mercies scatter light and not darkness in our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in his own due time and way everlastingly happy.

 

G. Washington

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Now Tri, that's a bit of an overstatement... The American (Protestant) Christian Right certainly did not bring us the Inquisition, the Crusades, nor the Holocaust. The first two, of course, were brought on by the Catholic Church. The Third by one demented yet very charismatic soul whose mind had been warped by centuries of stereotypes.

We sometimes feel that the sins of our own brethren are the world's worst, simply because they are the most embarrassing to us personally. But believe me, there's been no race put upon this earth that does not have some blood upon it's hands. There have been leaders outside the Western World whose exploits make the Holocaust look like a day at the County Fair.

Certainly, the US Christian Right needs to be held accountable for what it does, but let's not go overboard!

 

La Trix

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>Now Tri, that's a bit of an overstatement... The American

>(Protestant) Christian Right certainly did not bring us the

>Inquisition, the Crusades, nor the Holocaust.

 

No, it didn't. At least not yet. However, the American Protestant Church (mainstream division) did give us slavery, anti-sodomy laws, segregation, etc.

 

However, my point (evidently poorly made if a perspicacious reader like La Trix missed it) wasn't to single out American right-wing Protestantism. It was to highlight the MENTALITY behind the "anti-Christmas" rhetoric, which is coming from both ultra-conservative Protestants AND Catholics, like the vile character who fronts the so-called "Catholic League." It's that conviction of being the sole possessors of a truth that everyone else must believe for their own good, whether they want to believe it or not, that leads to crusades, inquisitions and holocausts, and it's a small leap from hating what's different to wanting to exterminate it.

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Tri, I am certainly not as profound or as thoughtful in my repsonses, but Ithink we must have been raised by the same types of parents. Because I usually agree with you completely. Perhaps we can spend a little time down in Rio. Tchau.

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RE: Ancient Protestants?

 

>Question: IF slavery existed in ancient times & the

>Reformation began in 1517 in Wittenberg, how did the

>Protestants "invent" or "give it" to us?

 

Protestants may not have invented or given slavery to us, but they certainly used their Christian Bible to help perpetuate it.

 

Slavery is not an institution which developed by itself. Many Southern Christians used the Bible as their justification of slavery right up until it was outlawed.

 

In the book of Genesis, chapter 9, Noah's youngest son Ham saw the nakedness of his father and had him covered, by his brothers. Noah then cursed Ham to be a servant to his brothers forever, Genesis 9:25-26 "Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers". This is known to be the first act of slavery; which people argue is sanctioned by God.

 

Many interpret Ham's curse as placed upon people of darker skin color, Africans more specifically. The argument is that since Ham's descendants were to be slaves forever and Africans were already slaves and inferior then they should remain in slavery.

Europeans during the 18th Century justified slavery based upon the Bible and ancient Greek practices. This defense is known as "The Pro-Slavery Argument" which stated that slavery was an institution ordained by God. This argument was used as a defense against the abolitionists charging them with acting against God's will.

 

(Genesis 9:25-27)

"Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers. He also said, 'Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem! May Canaan be the slave of Shem. May God extend the territory of Japheth; may Japeth live in the tents of Shem and may Canaan be his slave.

 

(Ephesians 6:5)

"Slaves, obey your human masters with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ."

 

(Colassians 3:22)

"Slaves, obey your human masters in everything; don't work only while being watched, in order to please men, but work wholeheartedly, fearing the Lord."

 

(Titus 2:9 )

"Slaves are to be submissive to their masters in everything, and to be well-pleasing, not talking back ."

 

(1 Peter 2:18)

"Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the cruel. "

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