Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Away in a Manger

As a kid I would listen raptly as the priest on the altar told the story of the first Christmas. You have to admit that Catholics have the best stories. Popular favorites like the loaves and the fishes, the prodigal son, the wedding feast at Cana, and bringing Lazarus back to life always held my attention, and do to this day. But for me, the best story in the Catholic faith revolves around the holy family and the birth of Christ. The story has something for everybody: wise men from the East richly dressed and riding exotic camels in search of the boy king; astrological mystery in the form of a star to guide them; a treacherous politician (Herod) pretending to want the child found so he could worship him when, like all lying politicians he meant to do harm; archangels, shepherds, animals, and something we can all relate to...hotels fully booked around the holidays.

The story has been told in many forms. Besides the written word, we have glorious music (Away in a Manger, The First Noel, What Child is This); there are beautiful artistic recreations such as Rembrandt's Adoration of the Shepherds, Giotto's Scenes from the Life of Christ, and Raphael's The Holy Family; and of course one of the most valued and still practiced traditions in Christianity...the manger or creche displays in private homes and, until recently, public places. Within the past ten years or so, public displays of the manger, or even things that are not overtly religious, like Christmas trees, have come under attack from those who profess to be offended by them. They cite the constitutional principle of separation of church and state as their justification.

The framers of the constitution were a pretty sharp bunch and the idea of having a "national religion" flew in the face of one of the reasons America was founded...religious freedom. Their instinct were right on this issue, however, I think they would be appalled to see how it was being wielded by morons who live to pee in other people's punch bowls. While we don't advocate a national religion in our constitution, we do champion religious tolerance. A Christmas tree or a manger display in front of town hall hurts nobody, especially if 90% of the townspeople want it there. But what do we do? We let the minority and their hired gun lawyers steamroll us so that the tail wags the dog.

Every year the editorial pages of our newspapers publish letters on this debate. Most of the letters from non-Christians seem to be in favor of live and let live. There are a few who are so horribly offended by these symbols they they can't rest until they are taken down. Why should my celebrating my holiday offend you? If you had a religious tradition for celebrating your Jewish, Moslem, or Buddhist holidays, I certainly wouldn't be bothered if you wanted some symbolic public display of your holiday. I would wish you happy whatever and hope you had a wonderful day. We are becoming too compliant with the wishes of a vocal minority in this country, whether it's the way we celebrate our holidays or some of the other pet causes of the politically correct. Isn't there enough stuff in the world to justify our indignation without whining about my Christmas tree?

To anyone patient enough to have read this through, and in the spirit of tolerance for all faiths, I wish you peace in your life. May whatever God you pray to bring you and your family health, happiness and prosperity. As for me, I plan to have a very Merry Christmas.


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3 comments:

Joseph Del Broccolo said...

MERRY CHRISTMAS, AND AMEN!

Joseph Del Broccolo said...

and screw the ACLU!

The Whiner said...

I like that this is a balanced point of view; we can all celebrate our holidays, which is what religious freedom is about. My theory on people who are horribly offended by holiday celebrations and whine about it clearly have too much time on their hands.