圣诞节快乐

A Facebook friend of mine recently commented on her friend’s post. (Notice I didn’t say, “my friend on Facebook.” This is someone I have not seen or spoken to in 20 years but do count among my 200 besties on FB.) From what I gather, his children’s public school has replaced a Christmas/holiday/winter school concert with a “Peace on Earth” concert. The parents of this American suburb have reacted like
the school has cancelled Christmas all together. Forever. And ever. The outrage these good Christians feel is palpable. Not only are they not calling it a Christmas concert but the school administration also had the audacity to demand the children wear formal black and white attire! Mrs. Smith whined, “but my little Timmy was SOOOOO looking forward to wearing his Santa hat!” Mrs. Jones sassed, “I’ve never
followed rules before…not gonna start now. My kids are wearing all red and green! Who’s with me?” And it went on and on. And on. Seriously. Like 800 comments all putting into words the spirit of the season. F$#% that! How dare they! I have Jewish friends who are not offended by Christmas carols! I respect Muslims and all, but me and my kids are going to walk in singing “O Holy Night.” Let’s storm the Board of Ed meeting and give ’em hell!

Atta way Christians.

Little Timmy can wear his Santa hat to school for the entire month if he wants but not wearing it for 2 hours one night is going to destroy him? If it means that much to you to hear your kid butcher Silent Night, send them to Catholic school. And if your kid’s happiness rests on one concert, perhaps you should rethink how you convey the meaning of Christmas. Bah Humbug!

Normally, I would probably chalk up this brouhaha over the Peace on Earth Concert to Facebook ridiculousness but being in Shanghai for the beginning of this holiday season has got me thinking.

The Christians in China are not the majority but you’d never know it this time of year. The Chinese have embraced the glitz, glitter and materialism of Christmas in a way that would surely make the Chairman cringe. Storefronts are decorated with cheery “Merry Christmas” signs, the malls have been transformed into Santa’s playground and Christmas trees abound. Not only do people not seem to care, but they seem to LOVE it! They line up to take each other’s pictures in front of Santa’s sleigh. They stare happily into the twinkling lights. They point and chat about the garland hung up and down the escalators. No one seems to be up in arms claiming their freedom of speech has been compromised, their freedom of religion infringed upon. Oh wait. China is still a communist country. Perhaps this is the difference.
They are not used to being able to complain about welcoming a holiday very few of them actually celebrate so they go the other way and embrace it. They have been conditioned to happily accept whatever the government chooses to promote. But I don’t really think that’s what’s happening here. Part of the success of Christmas in Shanghai is that they have taken the religion out of the holiday. There are no images of baby Jesus, no mention of a cold manger, no songs claiming the miracle of a virgin birth. But I also think that maybe they are just a little more tolerant than self righteous American Christians. That’s right. I said it. I don’t think Americans are very tolerant. Even from our earliest days, Americans have been leaders in hypocritical reasoning. The Puritans, seeking religious tolerance, were decidedly intolerant of anyone who wasn’t a good Puritan. Ask Anne Hutchinson and Roger Williams.

Sure we pride ourselves on being the land of the free and the home of the brave. We love our First and Third Amendment rights. And I do believe, part of our “charm” as Americans is our passion. Our passion for our beliefs and the freedom express those beliefs. As long as everyone agrees with us. If you express a different opinion, we will berate you and call you offensive. We can do that because we have freedom of speech. We want to see Mary and Joseph and the Manger on our town green. We have the freedom to be Christian. If you are not Christian, just look away for the month. We’re not saying you have to believe. We respect Muslims and Jews but we don’t really want to hear what they have to say because we know Jesus was born on December 25 so let our kids sing the First Noel in school. It’s
freedom of speech!

What’s that? American Jews also have freedom of speech? Right. Of course. Well, just throw a dradle song in there and we’ll call it even.

What seems to be increasingly clear, is that Americans want it both ways. We want lots of government services but we don’t want to pay taxes. We want our kids to have great test scores but we don’t want them to be overworked. We want to make a million dollars but we don’t want to actually work for it! We want freedom of religion but we don’t want Muslims to be able to build a mosque just anywhere. We
don’t want to offend anyone but being politically correct is just so…silly (and tiresome). We want to harmlessly cheer “Merry Christmas” as long as we can be sure to keep the Christ in Christmas.

I don’t have any statistics to support what I’m about to say but how many people who celebrate Christmas would really consider themselves practicing Christians? And how many Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, are really offended by Merry Christmas signs and greetings? (Perhaps this is just my Northeastern elitism shining through. The Bible belt is still strong and proud.) But I am betting the answer to both these questions is not many. Is Christmas really about the birth of Jesus anymore? Isn’t it more about pictures with Santa at the mall and cutting a perfectly healthy tree down (only to throw it out weeks later) and office parties? I think Black Friday kidnapped the Christ in Christmas years ago. So does anyone really care if some suburban public Connecticut school that is 90% Christian has a Christmas concert? Probably not. But is that really embracing the Third Amendment?

So here’s what I think I can see more clearly now: you can’t have it both ways Americans. If you really cherish the freedoms you claim to love, shut up and dress your kid in black and white and try to remember that a little less hypocrisy and a little more tolerance can help us all enjoy peace on earth.

Merry Christmas!

We are headed home for the holidays so this is likely my last post of the year. Be back in Jan. Thanks for reading!

And please don’t send me hate mail if you disagree with what I’ve written. I only want to hear from you if you agree with me.

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