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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Don't blame the ACLU or me we didn't close the megachurches

Yes I know; you're sick of this subject.  Me too.  But here I go...

I'm a New York Jew; a life long Democrat and a card carrying member of the ACLU.  Much of the time I'm very disappointed in the Democratic party, but at this moment it's better than the alternative.  I don't believe in all of the ACLU's causes, but I believe that everybody has a right to be represented.

But when I read blogs that blame the ACLU and/or minority groups for taking Christ out of Christmas, I have to say that as a Jew I, and most Jews, want you to celebrate Christmas.   On Christmas Jews traditionally went to the movies and ate Chinese food.  We think it would be good if you spent time in church or with your family; as we liked it when the theaters weren't packed.

In the 80's my friends practicing Catholics wanted to go to the Limelight on Christmas Eve after Midnight Mass.  I was beyond shocked. The Limelight was (is?) a disco in a former Catholic Church.  It sounded blasphemous to me.  It felt like eating pork on Yom Kippur.  We went; and I did have a life changing experience.

I don't think I believe in G-d but I respect people of any religion who truly believe.  If I were to feel that I was in any way denying you the ability to pray, I would feel that I have failed as both a person and a person who does worship The First Amendment.  I don't care about the manger in the courthouse.  But understand something else.  I care greatly that church and state stay separate.

Before the news of the mega churches closing I wrote a post in my personal blog about the Christmas/holiday season mess.  One of the comments was from a Jewish blogger, Neil, who is usually very witty and tres lite.  He really struck a chord; couldn't stop thinking about his comment and asked for permission to quote him.

Frankly, I think one of the things that makes our country so great is that the majority religion has tried so hard to make minorities feel comfortable. Where else have Jews and others been made to feel as equals and as comfortable with Christian holidays? Certainly not in many European countries where you are considered Jewish first, then a citizen of that country.

New York is not the rest of the country. I think it would be nice to bring back some of the religiosity to Christmas in big cities, so it isn’t such a consumerized holiday. Thank you, Christians, for being so good to the rest of us. You can now celebrate Christmas a little more openly.

However, things are different in smaller cities and towns around the country. Those places have a habit of mixing up religion and public policy. It is places like those where I don’t think it appropriate for the public sector to promote religion symbolism and ideology.

Here is where I want to delete most of what I wrote before Neil's comment.  It feels too silly.  As Jews we do feel grateful to the Christians in this country for allowing us to be full citizens.  We're grateful because our great grandparents weren't, usually, allowed to own land, have a profession or be citizens of their towns. They were allowed to be conscripted into the Czars army so they could wipe out Jewish villages. We're grateful that they left and came to this remarkable country. 

As a child I would ask my father why they didn't do anything about the camps.  "We didn't know."  After Viet Nam, I understood.  But Roosevelt, the people's hero, had evidence of the camps, and our country did nothing.  Nor did Roosevelt bomb the train tracks leading to them.

When boats of refuges came here, we turned them away, or didn't let them near here, knowing that we were dooming them to death.  After the war we took people who had been in concentration camps and put them in displaced persons camps.  We had strict quotas on the number of refuges let in here

Yet we were still grateful because we who were here, and those of us yet to be born were afforded the opportunity to be full citizens.  When we bought houses we remembered our ancestors who weren't allowed to.  It still amazes me and I'm basically third generation; but I heard so many stories and met so many people with numbers on their arms.  I have never taken being free for granted.  You accept us as we have never before been accepted in modern history. 

Separation of church and state is built into our Constitution.  If you understand the history of Jews in America, you will understand why we care so much about The First Amendment.  It's not just a symbol of our freedom, but a tool that is used to preserve every Americans right to keep church and state separate.  Here are two quotes by Fran Quigley, Executive Director, Indiana Civil Liberties Union

For example, the Alliance Defense Fund celebrates the season with an "It's OK to say Merry Christmas" campaign, implying that the ACLU has challenged such holiday greetings. (As part of the effort, you can get a pamphlet and two Christmas pins for $29.)
The website WorldNetDaily touts a book claiming "a thorough and virulent anti-Christmas campaign is being waged today by liberal activists and ACLU fanatics." The site's magazine has suggested there will be ACLU efforts to remove "In God We Trust" from U.S. currency, fire military chaplains, and expunge all references to God in America's founding documents. (Learn more for just $19.95 . . .

Of course, there is no "Merry Christmas" lawsuit, nor is there any ACLU litigation about U.S. currency, military chaplains, etc. But the facts are not important to these groups, because their real message is this: By protecting the freedom of Muslims, Jews, and other non-Christians through preventing government entanglement with religion, the ACLU is somehow infringing on the rights of those with majority religious beliefs

Many of us are fully assimilated; marry outside our religion; feel and look WASPier than the biggest WASP.  But there's always one moment when something happens that reminds us that other people view us as different.  I know that most people are rational; that most people don't believe this.  (Did a Google "ACLU" "Christmas" search and this was the number one document.

According to ACLU "Christmas haters" everyting refering to Christ inpublic has to go. But try as they might, they can't take the spirit out of Christmas, something this group is in dire need of. Boy talk about selfishness

Yes let's talk about being selfish; selfish is the same woman saying the following. 

The Constitution can be read front to back, sideways, upside down, and nowhere does it read there needs to be a separation of church and state. Good grief! The framers would have been very dense or dumber than a box of rocks, to put separation of church and state in the most "intentionally" misunderstood document, and then proceeded to have a nation built on God and in every aspect of their lives

Good grief, indeed.  If this is true then I have to not only be grateful to you, but bow down to your religious superiority, and that is where I draw the line. 

Just understand that we're not your problem.  You are.  If a person can find G-d in a concentration camp, any American can find G-d anywhere.  It's up to you to put Christ back in Christmas, not us. 

I could never celebrate Christmas as a secular holiday.  Why?  It is the symbolic observation of Christ's birthday no matter how you look at it.  But selfishly I want you to celebrate it so that I can see the trees, lights, decorations and even go to some Christmas parties.  That's right; Christmas parties at peoples homes.  Every other year my friends make an Italian feast in their Tudor house in Forest Hills Gardens, a picture perfect Ives & Currier Christmas community.  It's wonderful, but I will never have a Christmas dinner in my apartment.

Merry Christmas; Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Winter Solistice. I will call this season whatever you want me to call it as long as The First Amendment remains intact.  And I will always be grateful to the USA for allowing my family to live as full citizens for over a century.  Grateful but I will never feel less an American than you do.  And I thank G-d for organizations like the ACLU that make sure I will always be a full American.

Crossposted at www.courtingdestiny.com

Posted by Pia Savage at 12:01 AM in Current Affairs, Politics, Religion, Right Wing Nut, Weblogs | Permalink


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Excellent post! So well put and so non-confrontational... But effective...

Posted by: truelies | Dec 14, 2005 3:35:46 AM

Very well put!

Posted by: The Bastard | Dec 14, 2005 6:23:53 AM

pia, that was great. If you love story book style Tudor homes that are decorated this time of year, you'd have fun driving around Land, McKinley and Curtis Parks here in Sacramento. You obviously love this country very much. Thanks for pointing out what your commentator had written as well.

You made me feel like James Carville during Will Farrell's debate speech in the movie "Old School", from the movie:

Dean Pritchard: Ladies and Gentleman, please welcome, the co-host of CNN's Crossfire, famed political consultant, the raging Cajun, Mr. James Carville

James Carville: Thank you, Thank you Dean Pritchard. It's an honor and a pleasure to be here sir.

Dean Pritchard: Topic number one. What is your position on the role of government in supporting innovation in the field of biotechnology?

James Carville: Well Dean, I'm… I'm glad that you asked that question...

Frank: Uhhh... Actually, I'd like to jump in and take that one Jimmy, If you don't mind.

James Carville: Have at it, Hoss.

Frank: [Frank takes a drink of water, makes a funny face and grunts] Recent research has shown that empirical evidence for globalization of corporate innovation is very limited and as a corollary the market for technologies is shrinking. As a world leader, it's important for America to provide systematic research grants for our scientists. I believe strongly there will always be a need for us to have a well articulated innovation policy with emphasis on human resource development. Thank you.

Frank: [Frank grunts, makes a face and goes limp]
[audience applauds]

Frank: What happened? I blacked out

Dean Pritchard: That was interesting. ha ha. Thank you very much. And, uh, your rebuttal… Mr. Carville.

James Carville: Oh... It... We... have no response. That was perfect.

Frank: That's the way you do it! That's the way you debate!

Posted by: steve | Dec 14, 2005 10:18:31 AM

Nice post, pia! I've been intrigued by this subject of late, as well. I keep hearing about a "war" on Christmas, on which I have one thought: Lunacy. Crap. BS. (OK, three thoughts.)

Of course, the response from them would likely be some platitude that suggests they're not interested in having others "bow down" to them. However, the guts of the politics they so proudly sport ultimately belie those platitudes, showing their true feelings.

Posted by: Evan | Dec 14, 2005 2:54:11 PM

The media has a serious case of myopic tunnel vision. Unfortunately the conservatives like Bill O'Reilly has co-opted this disease for their own benefit. They have proclaimed that they are under siege in an all out War on Christmas. I am surprised that Bill O'Reilly didn't trademark the phrase "War on Christmas" so he could make some cash on the idea as well.

The strategy of the conservatives is to deflect all the bad news about the conservative heroes who have been far from living up to the Christian ideal. Tom DeLay, Scooter Libby, Karl Rove, Jack Abramoff, Bill Frist have all been on the skewer for basically cheating in the game of politics. The solution to this problem has been to shift the attention of the American people to another topic.

Posted by: Dr. Forbush | Dec 14, 2005 4:01:40 PM

Why is it, Dr. Forbush, that liberals think Bill O'Reilly is so important to conservatives? I don't watch or listen to the guy and I can think of quite a few others that don't care. On the flipside, I think more liberals are listening to Air America. We don't give a crap about these guys like Delay, Rove, etc. I think that is the majority of where your party's problems lie. The "assault" on Christmas has been perpetrated by more of the media than our political leaders. The Pope has a lot to do with that as well.

Posted by: steve | Dec 14, 2005 5:16:56 PM

That was an excellent post and a great piece of thinking to back it up. This made up "war on Christmas" is such a joke. No one I know wants to take Christmas away from anyone. Heck, I'm not religious in the least, and I like the spririt of the holidays (minus the credit card debt). I wish more people of a religious bent would actually pay attention to the message of Christmas - but that is another post for another day.

However, the other day something happened to make me think that maybe, just maybe, some of the more religious minded Christians have a point. I was watching TV and an add for KIA cars came on. They took a Christmas song (maybe Holly Jolly Christmas? or maybe it was Need A Little Christmas - I can't remember) and changed every reference to Christmas to Holliday. Even I was pissed off. It was blatant and bad. Your having a holiday sale, choose a differnt song. They had to rub in the fact it was an XMAS song but then were going to dilute it. It was the wrost of both worlds and fuel to a fire that doesn't need any.

I bet Bill O'Reilly paid them to do it.

Posted by: The Cranky Liberal | Dec 14, 2005 5:20:02 PM


Bill O'Reilly is not important to conservatives. He is a self-proclaimed "no spin zone." The problem isn't his appeal to the right, but is blatant effort to draw the mainstream moderates to his door through deception. He tells his audience that he is in the middle, but he is certainly to the right of the country on most issues. So, if you are to the right of Bill, then I'm sure you don't care about him, because he'd look like a pinko commie to you. But, the point of bringing up his name in this post is because he started the "War on Christmas."

Posted by: Dr. Forbush | Dec 14, 2005 6:17:11 PM

Steve thank you for the lovely compliment and parable. Actually I do love this country very much. That's why it makes me nuts when idealogues of any type are in power or in the news constantly

Thanks everyone else also

Dr. Forbush I don't think Bill O'Reilly invented "the war on Christmas," though he certainly helped make it big

I have been watching it begin with some bemusement for many years

Then when blogging became very big, it exploded because people had instant access to vent or rant or whatever. It allowed people like the woman I quoted to say things with great authority, though the "good grief" type embelishments, thought process, and general tone of the writing made it easy to satirize.

Last year we who are more liberal and who don't care what our holidays are called as long as we get presents--that's just me--are more organized and are able to articulate our come backs with much more clarity.

Last year at this time I was new to the Internet and would be pounced on for saying that Jesus isn't everybody's Savior, and that the ACLU isn't a Commie organization--a fight I will not broach in this thread

Yes I have also learned how not to argue.

I am scared that for the first time in history The First Amendment will regress rather than broaden, but again I will have that argument with anybody after the holidays--and I say holidays because as somebody on Courting pointed out the week between Christmas and New Year is the week you say "happy holiday's" because it's really the only proper holiday greeting for that week

Posted by: pia | Dec 14, 2005 7:31:21 PM

Maybe I should have said "The War on Christmas 2005."

Posted by: Dr. Forbush | Dec 14, 2005 11:48:09 PM

I am sick and tired of the ramblings of a disturbed mind about the fake war on Xmas. Feh.

Posted by: Jack | Dec 14, 2005 11:50:16 PM

Dr. Forbush, you're right O'Reilly really did popularize another phony war

Jack, I will take that as a compliment as you obviously didn't read or misread my post which was very strongly in favor of Christmas

Posted by: pia | Dec 15, 2005 12:00:41 AM

Al I want to know is, what the fuck am I getting for X-mas?

I didn't see anyone complaining about the use of X-mas, now that is worse than "holiday", holiday at least derives its origins from "holy day".

X-mas puts an "X" right through Christ yet no one complained. Maybe we have this all wrong, maybe the radical right fundiefucks are more upset about "mas" not being there rather than the "Christ" not being there.

Happy "Mas" everyone!

Posted by: The Bastard | Dec 15, 2005 12:04:56 AM

That's good TB; I will add to my more inclusive holiday list. Thanks

Posted by: pia | Dec 15, 2005 12:08:32 AM

and don't forget my birthday!

Posted by: steve | Dec 15, 2005 1:40:59 AM

The "assault" on Christmas has been perpetrated by more of the media than our political leaders.

We know that the Bush administration has paid legitimate media figures to report stories in a way favorable to them.

We know that Fox News is owned by a major conservative contributor.

We know that Fox News is managed by a former advisor to the Nixon and Reagan White Houses, himself a staunch Republican.

I'd argue that the media and the political leaders are more closely related than the comment would seem to assume.

Yes, a few brainy Republicans out there might not like O'Reilly that his show and books are disturbingly popular and it's not leftists who are watching.

But on the whole, O'Reilly is *often* (not always) just another mouthpiece for the most absurd things the most absurd elements of the Republican Party want to say but can't. It's a way to appeal to the crazy base without having to have politicians do the dirty work.

Having O'Reilly on your side is no different than having Jerry Falwell endorse you during the primaries -- it's a blessing from the loons. And it's absolutely intentionally set up that way. Brilliant and insidious.

Posted by: Evan | Dec 15, 2005 11:31:39 AM

Great post Pia. Yeah, the "war on Christmas," riiight. Between WorldNetDaily and all the rightwing anti-ACLU blogs out there, there seem to be too many twisted, deluded people.

Posted by: Tom Harper | Dec 15, 2005 2:47:42 PM

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