It's Not About Food
Tradition

"Merry Christmas"

While the thought of Mike Huckabee as president of the United States horrifies me, I tend to side with him on this "merry christmas" thing.  Not that I'm interested in emphasizing it as a religious holiday -- I just don't think there's anything wrong with acknowledging the fact that it comes out of the Christian tradition which is a significant part of our cultural heritage.  One can acknowledge the facts of history without making the leap to proclaiming that this means that we are "a Christian nation."

I was interested to hear a story on NPR in the last day or two about a move in the UK on the part of some government minister to encourage schools to have Christmas programs and Christmas displays.   The move is being opposed, of course, by some who are concerned about offending Muslim sensibilities, but it is being supported by some Islamic leaders who are concerned that the move to ban such things, presumably on behalf of those tender Muslim sensibilities, creates a backlash effect by implying that the newer british are trying to eliminate all vestiges of the older traditions that so many hold dear.

Despite what some evangelicals worry about, you can celebrate Hallowe'en without declaring yourself a devotee of Wicca, and you can take a loved one out for dinner on Valentine's day without invoking the spirit of some early Christian martyr.  It becomes tedious to point out that the roots of the Christmas holiday are many and various and have as many pagan antecedents as Christian.   Or to try to remind people that what we think of as the trappings of the "traditional" Christmas celebration are barely a century and a quarter old.  When people bemoan (at every holiday) that it's not celebrated "the way it used to be" it only means that it's not celebrated the way that it was when they were children -- but when they were children it was not celebrated the way that it was when their parents were children either.  Traditions evolve endlessly.  Nothing is static.

In the early 21st century we are still struggling with the notion of what it means to have a true multicultural society.  When Barbara Martinez-Jitner came to speak a couple of months ago, we had a dinner discussion with a group of students from the lecture series committee.  I suggested that part of the challenge that we, as a nation, face is working through what actually binds us as a nation.  The American experiment is unique in that it was the first attempt to build a nation on an idea, rather than on ethnicity.  It remains an open question as to whether or not such a thing can actually work.  Much of the hostility over immigration (legal or illegal) comes from those who identify the nation with a set of particular traditions and histories which are rooted in particular ethnicities.  But the idea of the United States, the idea of freedom and tolerance and openness clashes with the notion that to "be an American" you must embrace and accept certain traditions and ways of being that are part of the cultural history of what have been the dominant ethnicities.   The principles on which the country was founded can be as vibrantly expressed in Spanish as in English.

The tribal impulse among people is strong.   Whether a devotion to the ideas in the Declaration and the Constitution will be stronger in the long run remains the central challenge that we face.

Those who insist that we must completely secularize the holiday to the point of not even saying the word "Christmas" are as much a threat to the triumph of democracy as those who are determined that the only acceptable way to celebrate the holiday is as a religious festival.   Tolerance and acceptance are more complicated than that.

Whatever path we choose, some sensibilities will be offended.  But if we are true to the idea of America, then our goal needs to be not to attempt to eliminate everything that might offend somebody somewhere sometime, but to grow as a nation and as individuals to be able to embrace and accept all of those differences without feeling that our own individual slant on it all is threatened.

It's a tall order.  I still don't know if we can do it.  In this particularly hysterical political season I'm not as hopeful as I would like to be.  But, Don Quixote that I am, it still seems to me to be well worth trying.


 

Comments

Marcus

This is a rich post, so I'll just respond to a few of its points.

"Happy holidays" does have a cloyingly PC tinge; I grew up saying "Merry Christmas" to everyone.

But I also grew up among an almost exclusively Christian population. Going to college was my first serious encounter with people of other faiths. So now "happy holidays" feels inclusive to me, although it does run the risk of being patronizing.

In many other respects I'll challenge PC dogma as much as anyone else; political correctness often becomes a means of using code words rather than engaging in honest conversations. But here, for whatever reason, "happy holidays" feels appropriate.

That doesn't mean that Mike Huckabee's saying "Merry Christmas" is a big deal. What is of concern is his Christmas commercial's explicit mention of the birth of Christ. Yes, it's a free country--he can say it. But this is tribal language that implicitly demonizes Mormons and anyone else who is not an evangelical, all for the sake of votes in Iowa. That's certainly not the type of person I want as President.

Ron Krueger

I think this would come under who ever has not sinned cast the first stone. Do you become this involved with all of your church members? While what this woman did may be a sin, it is disgraceful what you and your church have done.

Ron Krueger

POSTED: Monday, December 15, 2008

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A divorced Jacksonville woman said her former church has threatened to "go public with her sins" and tell the congregation about her sexual relationship with her new boyfriend.

Rebecca Hancock said harassment from Grace Community Church in Mandarin over her sex life caused her to leave, but she said that didn't put an end to the problem. She said she received a letter from the church's elders telling her the church plans to make her personal life very public.

"I'm basically run out. I'm the church harlot," Hancock said.

The 49-year-old said she has been dating a man for a while and she said members of the congregation at Grace Community Church haven't been happy about the relationship.

"Because I have a boyfriend that I'm involved with … to not be married to that person is a sin," Hancock said.

She said the issue caused her to leave the church. However, she said the church has not let go of her.

The letter Hancock received from the church states that because she has refused to end her sexual relationship with her boyfriend, "you leave us with no other choice but to carry out the commands of the Lord Jesus Christ" … "In accordance with Matthew 18:17 we intend to 'tell it to the church.'"

"On January 4, my sins will be told to the church, publicly, with my children sitting in the church and my friends," Hancock said.

The pastor of Grace Community Church, Dr. T. Scott Christmas, told Channel 4 he had no comment.

Pastors with whom Channel 4 spoke on Monday said announcing a sin to a congregation is not abnormal. They said it's written in the Bible to punish sinners who continue to sin.

The difference in Hancock's case is that she has left the church, and the pastors said that's is usually where punishment ends.

Despite the church's letter stating its biblical backing, Hancock said she has backed out of the church and they should leave her alone because she is no longer a member.

"I am a Christian, and that will never change. My relationship with Jesus has to do with me and Jesus, and he knows my heart," Hancock said.

The book of Matthew does have three steps that the church talked about in taking action against a member who is in sin.

Hancock said she is now attending a different church, and said she is planning to send a letter to Grace Community Church to make sure it's understood that she no longer a member.

Copyright 2008 by News4Jax.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. http://www.news4jax.com/news/18286355/det ail.html#-

Lynn

It appears Mr. Krueger Googled "T.Scott Christmas", and without bothering to read any of Scott's essays on this blog (T.Scott), most particularly this post from a year ago, Mr. Krueger has taken the opportunity to blast the pastor of Grace Community Church in Mandarin Florida. The pastor's name? Dr. T. Scott Christmas.

It appears that Mr. Krueger may know how to search the Web; he just doesn't know how to read the information once he finds it. What a classic example of "information illiteracy".

The guy took a lot of time to post his opinion of Dr. Christmas. I hope he feels better now. But as Gilda Radner's Emily Litella would say..."nevermind".

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