Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A Christian Nation?

Garrison Keillor writes a surprising article about non-Christians, who he says need to "get a life" or "work with it" if they are going to live in America, and if Christmas bothers them.

This is an issue I've considered many times, and I actually brought it up recently to a friend of mine. I was at some function, which escapes me at the moment, and pretty much every prominent Memphian was there. The occasion called for an invocation, and the Christian minister, an evangelical, not only concluded with "In Jesus' name we pray, Amen", he also inserted the gospel into the prayer with something like "and thank you for sending your Son to die on the cross for our sins".

Afterward I asked my friend if he noticed this. He said, "what do you mean noticed it? Its no different from what we hear in every other prayer." I said, "True, but do you know how many Jewish business owners were in the room? How do you think they felt as they heard this?" To which he said something like, "aw, they're used to it."

Well, perhaps. But this issue goes well beyond Christmas and Bill O'Reilly's claim that the holiday is being "hijacked" and that companies are forcing employees to say "Happy Holidays" rather than "Merry Christmas". (Which, true to BillOh, has been shown to be another of his lies.)

Anyway...Newsweek says over 80% of evangelicals favor prayer in public schools. That's an easy one, right? I mean, they will state plainly that, "we are a Christian nation, and taking prayer out of schools has led to increased violence and disengagement be students. But how would you feel if you were a Jewish taxpayer?

In the comments that follow the majority is definitely lashing out at Garrison for his "get over it approach". Here's just one excerpt of one letter (one letter of dozens so far):

Here's what Christmas meant for me as a kid: Being forced to sing religious carols at school while harboring a secret fear that God would punish me later for doing so; utter confusion at home about why we had a tree and presents and opened them Dec. 25 but couldn't call it "Christmas" (my family's well intentioned but very flawed way of trying to fit in); a profound sense of alienation and outsider status that followed me well into adulthood (not entirely due to Christmas, but never more obvious than around the holidays).

Public schools are publicly funded. Jewish and Muslim people are American citizens and they pay taxes. Both of these faiths hold as a base belief that there is only one God/Allah, and that belief or worship of any other is the most serious of all sins.

If Christians would stop and take an honest look at this fact, we might understand how a young Jewish girl could FEAR singing "Silent Night". Should her parents (or the ACLU on their behalf) keep quiet about their tax dollars being spent for this?

Now...I don't advocate a sweeping beaurocratic clamp down on Jesus at Christmas....of course not. The key here is common sense and respect for all Americans. If two of my direct reports are Jewish, and they have been listening to songs on the Muzak about the Christ child for days in a row....I should be respectful enough to change that in their environment if it causes discomfort.

You think you disagree with me? How would you like to go to work for a company that played audio tapes of Islamic morning and evening prayer? You would storm and stomp and say, "Thats fine in Saudi Arabia, but this is America!" And you would be right....and America is a country of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, no matter who you are.

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