Thursday, December 17, 2009

It's Not What You Think

"Well, there’s a war on Christmas, it’s under attack
But this year America’s taking it back."

These are some lyrics from one of my most favorite shows in the whole world: Stephen Colbert's Christmas special from 2008, titled "The Greatest Gift of All."

If you're not familiar with Stephen Colbert and his daily comedy show on Comedy Central, he does a fake news show, a la "Daily Show" and does so in his manufactured Bill O'Reilley-esque, pseudo-conservative persona. He plays a character in which he satirizes the conservative media. In my opinion, he is one of the funniest people around. And one of the smartest.

The lyrics above ring incredibly true for me. Not true in the sense that there is actually a war on Christmas. But true in that some people really seem to believe that liberals are out to destroy Christmas, and in turn, Christianity.

Now, I can't deny that there probably are some crazy, extreme left-wingers that would indeed love to see the demise of both Christmas and Christianity. But those such individuals are in a vastly small minority. This evil plot wouldn't even be on the radar for most liberals. And as challenging as it may be to believe, many liberals ARE Christians. I am one of them.

I remember several years ago when I first heard the phrase, "War on Christmas," and listened as some media types asserted that there was a swelling threat to the dear, old traditions of our beloved Christmas. I distinctly remember saying, "Huh?!"

I had never heard anything like this before and felt an intense level of befuddlement over the notion that people were "out to get" Christmas. Call me naive, but I don't get it. Call me even more naive, but I actually thought that this paranoia had died down in the last couple years. When to my surprise, I heard Bill O'Reilley and Glen Beck talking about it again this year.

I don't know how many people are actually in line with this concern. It may mostly just be some of the people that I see on tv. I doubt most Christians would be that fearful over a systematic overthrow of this important holiday. I hope so at least.

Now, if there were real and deliberate actions taken to eliminate a private citizen's choice to celebrate the birth of Jesus and/or to believe in the Christian faith, I would be first in line to oppose. And I would feel the same if it was another religion's beliefs and holidays. If I am going to demand that MY beliefs be accepted, I MUST demand the same rights for those of differing beliefs. But the fact is, this threat does not exist.

It is that same fear that drives this that causes people to feel like their country is being taken away. Who is it that is really and truly taking away all of these things from people? Honestly, I would like to hear what people think about that, because I just don't understand it. I don't understand why people feel that parts of themselves are so easy to apprehend. I don't want to simply dismiss people that feel this way (I'm not sure that I always succeed). But I would like for one of them to calmly give me a specific answer as to how this thievery is being accomplished.

There are no laws stating that a person cannot believe or celebrate as they choose in their own private homes. The one way in which I can see a change is in the public arena, such as schools. It is true that some schools no longer allow any holiday celebrations that are exclusively Christmas-centric. Some have abolished carols and nativities. This is different even from when I was in grade school. I admit that I could feel a little sadness over this, but I do not feel any animosity. I have to accept that things are different now. Things cannot stay the same forever. Nor should they.

I have had to adapt to these changes in my own personal life. I married a Jewish man. He is not religiously Jewish, but does like to get in touch with his cultural roots. I never in a million years expected to marry outside of my religion. It was not something I was ever against. I just simply never thought about it. I expected to be like everyone else in my family and in my small town, and marry someone that came from a very similar background.

As things many times go, life took an unexpected turn, and I fell in love with someone that grew up oppositely from me in many ways. He was Jewish; I was Christian. He was from the Bronx; I was from a small town. But we are much more alike than we are different. We are the same at our cores. And surprisingly, manage to hold most of the same beliefs, though I am "religious" and he is not.

Being with Kevin forced me to open up to new perspectives and to realize that no matter where you are or who you are with, you are still you and still hold your own beliefs. No one can take that away. While I never want to lose the core of who I am, I also don't ever want to stay the same forever. Things change, and so must I.

America is more and more moving further away from the homogenous WASP world most of us grew up with. There are more families of other cultures and religions than ever before. And in order to provide true equality we must all adapt to the shifting nature. And sometimes that means not getting to have public organizations and settings be the same as we have been used to. This sometimes means that OUR beliefs do not get to control the ways of all. Other beliefs must now be treated as equals to our own.

I know it's not an easy adjustment. It is difficult to say good-bye to the things we have known since childhood. And it's quite natural to feel some melancholy over the changes. But it is inevitable. What about the people that believe in a different God, or no God at all? What about the things they have been used to? Do you think that they want exactly what we want -- to find contentment knowing that they have the freedom to believe and live as they choose, to find comfort in seeing their beliefs reflected equally in government, schools, etc.? They are just as deserving as we are to receive all that.

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