Got an e-mail today from a friend who sent me what is an excerpt from something that Ben Stein said on the CBS morning commentary several years ago. This is not the first time I’ve been sent this diatribe and it won’t be the last. It talks about the “War on Christmas” and how he, as a Jew, does not mind Christmas trees and other accoutrements of Christmas.
I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, be jeweled trees Christmas trees. I don’t feel threatened. I don’t feel discriminated against. That’s what they are: Christmas trees.
It doesn’t bother me a bit when people say, ‘Merry Christmas’ to me. I don’t think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn’t bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu . If people want a creche, it’s just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away.
I don’t like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don’t think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can’t find it in the Constitution and I don’t like it being shoved down my throat.
Okay, here’s the problem, there is no “War on Christmas.” This problem, this confrontation is completely made up. You and I have been able to celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or whatever holiday we want to celebrate, in what ever way we wanted to celebrate it, as long as it didn’t involve injuring another person or infringing on another person’s rights. I’ve been able to place a 10 foot tree or a 20 foot tree in my house and I’ve been able to place as many lights or few lights as I wanted to on it. I’ve been able to top the tree with a star or a cross or actually put nothing on top of the tree without a peep from a neighbor’s. Now, if I wanted to sacrifice my neighbor’s dog or his cat that would pose a problem.
This phony “War on Christmas” is sponsored by the same people who tried to convince us that we live in a “Christian nation“. If we investigate our early documents, we should be able to see some evidence of this “Christian nation.” If we look at the Declaration of Independence which was drafted in July of 1776 will find the following opening paragraph –
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
The very next paragraph begins with the phrase — we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights… well, there you have it. In the first two paragraphs has mentioned God twice in the Declaration of Independence. I agree. That is true that God is mentioned twice. I also agree that the Declaration of Independence is one of our founding documents but it is not the one that guides our system of government. Instead, this is a letter to the King of England.
As I go further with this discussion, I think it is important to point out that many of our founding fathers were very religious men. They were thoughtful and well educated men. So, I’m not saying that the men that wrote these documents did not have their own religious beliefs because many of the men did.
The first document that was drafted to organize the behavior of the United States of America was called the Articles of Confederation. The articles of Confederation was also drafted in 1776. It should be noted that this was drafted after the Declaration of Independence. The articles of Confederation is the fore father of our Constitution. In the 13th article, you can find the line – And Whereas it hath pleased the Great Governor of the World to incline the hearts of the legislatures we respectively represent in Congress, to approve of, and to authorize us to ratify the said Articles of Confederation and perpetual Union. This is also clearly a reference to God.
The articles of Confederation had several problems and several flaws. The relationships between the states were not well defined. The Articles went out of their way to weaken the central government. This was a reaction to the tyranny of King George. In 1787, our founders were older and wiser. They had the experience of trying to fight and fund a war with England. Because of this and other factors, the Articles of Confederation were scrapped and a new document was drawn up. The U.S. Constitution. When one reads the United States Constitution, one should note that it is a beautifully elegant document. The framers thought of a lot of the problems that we’ve seen over the last 220 years. They developed a system of checks and balances. Remarkably, the phrase “the great Governor,” “God,” or “Supreme Being,” cannot be found anywhere in the document. In article 6, we find the religious clause and it states, “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”
At the time that the US Constitution was drafted 11 of the 13 original states had religious tests to hold office. These religious tests were written into the state constitutions. When one examines all of these different religious tests it becomes clear why the Constitution was written the way it was. Rhode Island, a very liberal state and religiously open, required that you could only be a Protestant in order to hold office. In Pennsylvania, not only did you need to be a Protestant but you also had to believe in the “divine inspiration of the old and new Testaments.” Just think about how many good Americans would be excluded from office today with these religious tests.
As every high school student knows, the Federalist papers were written by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay in order to explain and convince the New York delegation to ratify the Constitution. James Madison argues in Federalist paper #10 that religious decrees cannot lead men to “cooperate for their common good.” Instead, he explains it causes men to hate each other and disposes them “to vex and oppress each other.” As we look around the world today, outside of the Vatican, look at the religious states. Are these places of free thought where men and women are able to converse, learn and grow? Think of Saudi Arabia or the Sudan when you think of a “religious state.” Today, according to the Associated Press, “A British teacher has been arrested in Sudan for allegedly insulting Islam by naming a teddy bear Mohammed, taken as a reference to Islam’s prophet and founder.” Based on religious teachings a court in Saudi Arabia increase a sentence of a 19-year-old rape victim because she “attempt(ed) to aggravate an influence the judiciary through the media.”
All of this discussion brings me back to the “War on Christmas.” This idea was thought up in right wing think tank like the Cato Institute or American Enterprise Institute. This war on Christmas was injected into our culture to distract people away from the real issues. I can track this war on Christmas back to 2004. What was going on in 2004 that these right wing think tanks wouldn’t want us to focus on? Iraq. The disaster that is Iraq. Our soldiers dying in Iraq. Wages that are stagnant. No job growth. Ongoing environmental disaster. The lack of education in our schools. Afghanistan is being held together with glue and chewing gum. North Korea and Iran increasing their nuclear capabilities under the Bush administration. Jobs going overseas in the name of more profits. Did I mention Iraq?
Our government can not support one religion over another. This means state or local government also. If a store wants to display whatever, they can. Most stores are realizing that some Americans can be offended by religious displays. It is that store’s decision to remove or alter the display if they want. Our tax dollars can not promote one religion or religious display over another. Period. Most American’s understand that their relationship with God doesn’t depend on what a store displays. It depends on how well you adhere to the word of your God.
My religious book, the Bible, tells me to love God above all else and to love my neighbor. It warns against idol worship. So, I’m trying to love my neighbor (Democrat or Republican or Independent, quiet or loud, intelligent or challenged, truthful or those that believe in truthiness.) All of them.
Happy Holidays and have a very Merry Christmas (I’m not a state or city, although I’m getting fatter and may need my own zip code soon.)