We have a saying around here regarding people or animals who steadfastly claim their territory, “pissing on the perimeter.” This is something any pet owner will know from male cats on their car tires, or dogs insisting on marking a certain bush every single walk.
This behavior doesn’t seem to be exclusive to just animals, because if this year’s brand of “war on Christmas” is anything to judge, zealous Christians are marking their territory, and once again, it’s on the retail front.
I work retail on occasion, and I say, “Have a great holidays!” and, thus far, I haven’t been bitten back at. However, I have heard, before I get to that point, customers coming in saying, “Imma be politically incorrect and say Merry Christmas, whether anyone likes it or not!”
Then, last night, I was at a meeting for the kids, and one of the moms said, “Well, we say Merry Christmas in our house,” in response to my Happy Holidays.
Here’s the thing: When it’s Easter, it’s Happy Easter. Why? Because there’s nothing else, save Passover, at times, running concurrently with Easter. The same isn’t even close to being true with December. Hanukkah is currently ongoing, Kwanzaa is practiced during this time, as is Winter Solstice, and Bodhi Day is celebrated by Buddhists on December 8th. Pancha Ganapati celebrates Lord Ganesh from December 21 to 25 in Hinduism. And Paganism celebrates Yule from late December until early January. This is a time of reflection and celebration for many, many people. The American trend over the last few years of claiming this time of year only for their celebration is self-centered and narrow-minded. And ignorant.
It used to be that we embraced learning about and seeing the traditions of other cultures. And, to be fair, I do believe the majority of people in the US are still that open-minded and open-hearted. But for the vocal shrinking minority, the more desperate they see the straits of their religion getting, the louder and more angry they have gotten.
I’ve already written about the false war on Christmas, and how clear it is, with the overwhelming amount of lights and decorations that there clearly isn’t one. But it’s not about fewer Christmas decorations, it’s about having to share (a Christian value, I was told). Moving a Nativity scene over a little so there’s room for a Menorah. Or scooting both over for the Pagans. They’re so insecure about the ability of their faith to take hold of the “on the fencers” that they cannot abide by the suggestion that there is anything else, any other valid life paradigm to consider. If they are “tolerant” then “false prophets” gain a foothold. It’s not just a war on Christmas, it’s a war all year long to them. Any suggestion of another philosophy is Satan himself attempting to convince people that America is not a Christian nation (which it isn’t).
When I see someone who is so firm in the insistence that it is Christmas, and nothing else, I see someone who is uneducated about what America is, and what religion is. I see someone who is afraid. I see someone who is angry. The data is clear–churches are closing their doors, even with tax-exempt status, they can’t afford to stay open. There’s one in my town alone, but I’m betting that a simple Trulia search in your area will turn up a former church that is on the market, to be repurposed for something else. If you don’t attend church at all, you can still find plenty of friends. You’re no longer an outcast.
Because people refuse to band together to chastise people, by and large, for what’s in their hearts anymore. Because we are now so intermixed, that there are gay teachers in our schools, gay families in our neighborhoods, Muslims who are friends with our kids at school. And atheists (or Secular Buddhists, like myself, which is, essentially, the same thing). And for every person who refuses to turn their backs on a fellow human being who they see as a good person, because they don’t live the same way, those who DO sit in judgment get more angry, more desperate and louder.
So, I said to the woman at the meeting, “We’re Buddhists, so for us, it’s Happy Holidays.” I saw the surprise in her eyes, because I think she assumed that, like she had been told, most everyone is a Christian. Certainly not someone she’s met via volunteering. But now she knows, and I can only hope that she is thinking outside of that box. Because we do celebrate the holidays in our house, and our celebrations are no less valid than yours. This time of year belongs to everybody, and get your back up if you like, but that’s the reality, and I will not cower in shame or hide because it makes your tradition feel better.