Sunday, December 25, 2011

Sincere Holiday Well-Wishing

Apparently, 'tis the season to be offended.  I'm told that if I wish someone a "Merry Christmas", I'm being offensive because maybe they don't celebrate Christmas.  But the back-lash to this idea has reached the point where people express offense because they aren't wished a Merry Christmas.  They are actively offended by wishes of "Season's Greetings" or "Happy Holidays".  They bemoan the removal of Christ from Christmas.  Twice this holiday season I've received particularly belligerent well wishes of "Merry Christmas! (Yes, I said "Christmas" because Jesus is the reason for the season and if you don't like it you can stick it!)" -- well, I'm sure you get the picture.

Really, I understand the sentiments behind both sides of the issue.  People don't like religion crammed down their throats, and people feel defensive of their own beliefs.  I do understand the implied connection to the larger issues of separation of church and state, as well.  The government is supported by and serves all of us, and shouldn't be seen as promoting any religion.  But let's be reasonable.  Is hearing "Merry Christmas" or merely being exposed to the celebration really grounds to take offense?  Outside of state-sponsored institutions and programs, do we really have a right to be free from exposure to the dominant culture?  Do we really have a "right" to not be wished well?  Truly, when most people say "Merry Christmas" that's exactly what they are doing.  They are not splashing holy water on you or trying to convert you.  "Merry Christmas" from the mouths of the vast majority is simply the Thanksgiving-to-New Year equivalent of "Haveaniceday", though I suspect it's usually a bit more sincere.

On the other hand, no matter how washed in the blood of Jesus you are, if you live in America you live in a largely pluralistic society.  Sure, there are far more (nominal) Christians than any other religion (or lack thereof) in the country, but we do live in a world where different points of view abound.  If you want to wish the world a Merry Christmas, I say have at it, but why not let other people express their greetings as they see fit for whatever reasons they see fit.  If I wish you "Happy Holidays" why not take that with the same grace you'd expect me to take your "Merry Christmas"?  Why assume that I'm being held hostage by some sort of "political correctness"?  Maybe I'm being sensitive to others' feelings, or maybe I don't believe in Jesus, but I want to participate in the "Season", which after all is as much a hodgepodge of pagan ritual and various pre-Christian winter festival customs as it is anything directly stemming from Christianity.  (Even most Christian scholars agree, for instance, that Christ was not born in December.)  But I digress.  My point is it shouldn't matter one way or the other.  Celebrate as you see fit, and if you want to wish others well, do so sincerely, but let others do the same.  And if you don't feel like wishing others well, well don't.  But why take needless offense at someone else's good intentions?

There are surely more important battles to be fought over freedom of (and from) religion.  The "Merry Christmas" battle is a monumentally stupid one on both sides.  It does nothing to pursued or promote a better world but only spreads the "circle the wagons" mentality on either camp.  Let there be Peace on Earth, and let's all be free to express that wish however we see fit.

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