Happy Holidays? No, Merry Christmas!

David C. Stolinsky, M.D.
Monday, Dec. 23, 2002

This year it seems that fewer people wish one another "Merry Christmas." Instead, in an effort not to give offense, they say "Happy Holidays."

Obviously, Christmas means the most to Christians, who make up the large majority of Americans. Yet non-Christians can also enjoy the beauty of the season, and they can honor the holiday without observing it – unless they are eager to take offense.

I spent my early years in a small North Dakota town where my family were the only Jews. The Christmas lights and caroling at school didn’t bother me in the least. On the contrary, I enjoyed this happy time.

Later we moved to San Francisco, where my public high school had an annual Christmas program. Because it was organized by a Catholic priest, I came to love the Latin words to "Adeste Fideles." Although there were many non-Christian students like me, nobody complained. Those who did not wish to attend could go to the library, so there was no compulsion – only enjoyment of the beautiful program.

My parents explained that this wasn’t our holiday, but it was the holiday of most Americans, so I learned to honor it without observing it. My parents grounded me in my religion, so they had no fear that seeing a holly wreath or hearing "Silent Night" could cause me emotional distress. In fact, they would have found that idea laughable.

I learned that there is nothing wrong with being different – that going along with the group is not always required. That is, I learned that my worth derived from what I did as an individual, and not from mere membership in a group.

And I learned that being different didn’t mean I was better or worse than anyone else, just different. This lesson helped me avoid the pitfalls of the teen years. Perhaps it made me a bit of a loner, too, but at least I didn’t believe that belonging to some clique or "in" group would mean anything in the long run.

Equally important, I learned not to be easily offended. When someone wished me "Merry Christmas," I replied with the same words. It wasn’t my holiday – so what? A colleague wished that my day would be merry. How could that offend me? Why should people take offense at greetings or decorations for a holiday they don’t happen to celebrate? What could be offensive about pretty decorations and good wishes?

What really is offensive is objecting to these beneficial things. If I were in France, I would expect most people to celebrate Bastille Day. And if France were attacked, I would be amazed if many people did not display the French flag and voice patriotic feelings. I would be a fool to expect otherwise, and an ingrate to take offense.

Why is it that some Americans take offense when Christmas lights are hung, or when people display the flag after the worst terrorist attack in our history? What offends people often reveals more about them than about the event that offends them.

The ease with which people take offense today is a manifestation of childish narcissism and intolerance: Why should I adapt to all the people around me? No, I insist that they adapt to me.

When infants are hungry, they want to eat now. As children grow older, they learn to wait until the meal is ready. They realize, however reluctantly, that the world doesn’t revolve around them. They begin to accept that other people have needs and wants as strong and as legitimate as their own.

But narcissists remain in an emotionally infantile stage. They expect 288 million Americans to adapt to them. They don’t like colored lights? Go to court and have them extinguished. They don’t like Santa Claus? Have the school board kick him out.

They don’t like the word "Christmas" because it denotes the birth of Christ? Insist that "holiday" be substituted. But this year, Hanukkah and Ramadan occurred before Christmas. So what holiday is it? Millard Fillmore’s birthday?

Worse yet, for "Christmas" substitute "winter holiday." Instead of the birth of Jesus, celebrate the winter solstice. Of course, the position of the sun imposes no moral obligations on us – which may be the real reason for the change.

What about the "wall of separation" between church and state? Few know that Jefferson, the author of that phrase, felt it was his duty to attend Sunday religious services when he was president – which were held in the Capitol Building at public expense.

Advocates of the "wall of separation" were strangely silent when liberal clergy came to the White House and "laid hands" on President Clinton to empower him to resist impeachment. But imagine the uproar if conservative clergy came to the White House and prayed for President Bush to have power to resist the Democrats.

The advocates remain silent when schools teach kids about the "Holy" Koran and the "Prophet" Muhammad. But imagine the uproar if schools taught about the "Holy" Bible, the "Prophet" Moses, or the "Messiah" Jesus.

Require college freshmen to read the Koran? Use taxpayer money to fund a PBS program glorifying Islam? Teach school kids a radical environmentalist agenda that resembles pagan worship of trees and rocks? No problem. But the Ten Commandments in front of a courthouse? A Nativity scene on a city hall lawn? Santa Claus or carols in schools? Christmas vacation instead of "winter break"? Never!

Apparently the "wall" has a door that opens only to the left.

Similarly, some people feel uncomfortable when flags appear everywhere and signs proclaim "God bless America." They fob off their own feelings onto foreign visitors, who couldn’t care less. They demand greater "sensitivity" and "tolerance."

What about sensitivity and tolerance for the deepest beliefs and feelings of the majority? What about some appreciation for the charitable work done at this season, and for the Salvation Army Santas ringing their bells and collecting donations in their kettles?

And what about gratitude? Our country, whose freedom and abundance we enjoy, was founded by Christians who used the Bible as one of their principal guides. Instead of the eagle, Ben Franklin proposed for our Great Seal the following:

Moses standing on the shore, and extending his hand over the sea, thereby causing the same to overwhelm Pharaoh who is sitting in an open chariot, a crown on his head and a sword in his hand. Rays from a pillar of fire in the clouds reaching to Moses, to express that he acts by command of the Deity. Motto, "Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God."

And what was Jefferson’s proposal for the Seal? "The Children of Israel in the wilderness, led by a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night." Are we to believe that Franklin and Jefferson didn’t understand the "wall," but the ACLU knows better?

Wisely, the Founders provided that no one sect would be allowed to predominate. They established a secular government for a religious people. But now, some would distort freedom of religion into freedom from religion. They take offense at anything that does not accord with their own beliefs – or lack of belief. They insist that the nation revolve around them.

Specifically, they believe that moral principles can be handed down from one generation to another without any Source for these principles. This belief requires a leap of faith just as much as does a religious belief.

There is no historical basis for the assumption that a purely secular society can retain its moral principles over the generations. In fact, Western Europe seems to be proving precisely the opposite. Yet we are betting everything we have that this assumption is correct. Is this a wise bet?

Is there too much happiness in the world? Is there a shortage of sadness and grief? Does hearing "Joy to the world" really cause a problem?

Is there too much friendship in the world? Is there a deficiency of hatred and strife? Does "Peace on earth, good will toward men" really sound oppressive?

Is there too much tolerance in the world? Is there a lack of egocentric intolerance masquerading as "tolerance"? Is there a lack of narcissistic insensitivity disguised as "sensitivity"? Do we really need more people insisting, "All of you must adapt to me"?

Is there too much moral courage in the world? Do we need more cowardice in the face of a noisy minority of ingrates?

Is there too much fellowship in the world? Is there a dearth of hostility and ill will? Does a hearty "Merry Christmas!" really give offense?

Is there too much light in the world? Is there a scarcity of darkness and gloom? Do pretty lights really cause distress?

A wise man said that it is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness. But what would he have thought of those who curse the candle?

Dr. Stolinsky writes on political and social issues. He may be contacted at dcstolinsky@prodigy.net

Editor’s note:
Now we know: "Why the Left Hates America"

 

found this article written on dec 23, 2002, on newsmax.com

Advertisements