It all started a couple days ago. At least I realized it a couple days ago. A story broke locally that has now made national news. SeaTac, the local airport, decided to remove it's Christmas trees. Except they had never called them Christmas trees- they called them "holiday trees". They decided to remove them because a local Rabbi had complained that there were Christian symbols up, and therefore there should be Jewish symbols. He demanded a large Menorah as well, and if one wasn't put up, he'd sue the airport. (Though, to be clear, he never requested the removal of the trees.) The airport decided that, if they gave in to this request, they would then have to celebrate every single holiday, even if it was like the Zorastrians and had only 200 members in the continental U.S. (I know this to be true because I once sat next to a member of the community on the plane.)
The list of fallacies presented here rather boggles the mind. In the first place, calling them holiday trees is just silly. Everyone knows what the holiday is. It is equally silly to argue that you'd have to celebrate every minor religion. Let's just be honest. Celebrating the major religions would be polite and make your patrons happy. Just cover the five big ones in your area- Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. If there's another major one in your particular constituency (a word I use as it seems like SeaTac is running for office), then honor them too.
Thirdly, I'm sorry, but Hanukkuh isn't a big celebration for Jews around the world. It's a rather minor one. It celebrates the oil lasting for an extra eight days in the temple. This oil represented the eternal flame of God's Spirit. It's one of those aspects that is most in contention between Christians and Jews. But it's never been a big holiday for Jews, like Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur. Not until American Jews saw a need to have something during Christmas. So to demand an equally large celebration for Jews at this time is equivalent to saying that Jews need to conform their celebratory calendar to that of the Christians. It's an insult towards Jews. A way to truly honor them would be to celebrate their true high holy days when they do occur.
The fourth point is the most important. What we're talking about is two Christmases here. They both have the same name. One is attached to Christianity, and it's point is to honor the birth of Jesus, the man who was God. The other one is attached to shopping, and is to honor Santa Claus, the man who acts like a god. The trees? They have nothing to do with the Christian version. Sure, I'll give that Luther retold their symbology to suggest that their evergreen nature represented eternal life. But this was a taking of originally pagan celebrations, rather typical of Christian approaches- retell the pagan forms with new meaning. But it doesn't inherently hold that meaning, like a creche does. It is simply a pretty tree. If we are going to say we should remove the trees because they are part of a religion, well, coloured lights represent the light of God to Christians. I understand that probably wasn't their intended original meaning, but Christians have reframed the meaning. I think all Christmas lights should be removed. Christmas trees are no more Christian than is shopping at Christmas time. Perhaps that also should be banned. Now there's a fine idea.
Once it was clear there wasn't going to be a suit, they returned the trees. And then, if you want to put up religious elements, like a Mennorah, I think that's great too. Let's also put up a Christian symbol, like a creche. Or else leave it only secular symobls, like trees. But don't insult my religion by claiming that a symbol like a tree represents it.
I wasn't going to mention this whole controversy. But then, one after another, other events came to the forefont. AOL has a wonderful system, alone of the IM providers, whereby you can listen to music or news through their pop-up. I have long enjoyed them. I thought it might be nice, now that Christmas time is here, to listen to Christmas music as well. But the station kept on playing these moder rock versions. There's just something not complete when it's Christina Aguilera singing about the holidays. I thought, not to worry, in their seven holiday channels, one of them is dedicated to "Oldies Holiday". That must be the one.
I never knew there were so many secular Christmas songs! One after the other, with not a single song about Jesus, the orignal meaning of the season. Now, you can listen to Christian music online, like at AccuRadio, which has one channel devoted to a Christian Christmas. But one of the largest providers of internet music, AOL, has chosen to remove any religious connection to this holiday. Don't get me wrong. I enjoy Jingle Bells and White Christmas. I'd just like to listen to some Silent Night and Joy to the World as well.
Now the TV ads are filled with references to a "new holiday tradition", as it's being billed. There are reeated ads for a horror movie, Black Christmas, about a man killing off sorority girls on Christmas night. The ads are so gruesome you have to look away and turn the sound off during the ad- or better yet, change the channel. It's set to open Christmas Day. I'm not speaking against horror movies in general, but rather the timing. I ask you, what kind of person decides to celebrate Christmas Day by going to a horror movie? My guess? A few million people, on opening day alone.
Everywhere businesses are now insisting on wishing a "Happy Holidays" rather than "Merry Christmas", the always honorable Wal-Mart being the most notorious recent example. It is with deep chagrin that I now realize I am on the same side of the aisle as Bill O'Reilly of Fox News. But honestly, wherever you look in America, it's beginning to feel alot like...nothing to do with Christmas. It does seem as if there is a concerted regular effort to remove the Christian meaning of it all. I wouldn't say it's purposeful, or some vast conspiracy- it could easily be something far more subliminal. But again and again, the meaning of this season is driven into us. It's not about the birth of Jesus, about the Creator of the universe merging with His creation, about helping us to become divine, or the beginnings of the story of the ultimate act of sacrifice. It's not even a message about humility and debasement, choosing to give up the trappings of divinity to be born in a smelly stable and live on the run as illegal immigrants. No, today the meaning of the season is to celebrate the high holy rituals: shop, pursue happiness, celebrate Santa Claus, and get more gifts. And the best way to do that is more shopping. After all, it's the best defense against terrorism. And now, the best way to worship Jesus. Just don't mention His name. He might get offended.