Happy Solstice to those of us who celebrate the changing of the seasons.
Original is stored safely on my hard drive and several other places. All rights reserved.
I've been watching with some amusement the two plus camps of people involved in the so-called War on Christmas now for several years. Quite frankly, I don't care if a store employee says "Merry Christmas " or "Happy Holidays" to me in accordance with the instructions of their employer. I have the option of patronizing or boycotting a store in accordance with my wishes if I so choose. I remember some folks expressing outrage at the "Happy Holidays" greeting being offered at places of business instead of "Merry Christmas." Now on FOX news there is outrage of a different sort. Although some businesses are returning to "Merry Christmas" as the greeting of choice, I've heard at least one commentator wanting to know if the person delivering the salutation "really means it." In other words, if that person is not saved, the good wishes are meaningless or unacceptable. Arrrrgh.
On a personal level, if someone says "Merry Christmas" to me, that does not diminish or threaten my personhood in any manner. The individual who is wishing me a "Merry Christmas," whether a friend or retail worker, is not hoping that I get shot up in a parking lot, maimed by roving bands of atheists out to do violence, or tortured by an English teacher for substandard sentence structure. I do not require validation of my beliefs or my unbeliefs. And I would much rather those who do celebrate Christmas-- whether as a Christian or in a secular manner-- simply wish me a Merry Christmas. I would hope that they don't get bent if I wish them a Happy Solstice in reply. And if they do, well there is nothing for that. I will continue to be who I am. Part of the risk of allowing freedom of speech is that any of us are bound to run into some that offends our sensibilities, or perhaps deeply disturbs our inner cores. While allowing freedom of speech in public discourse is a risky endeavor, curtailing freedom of speech in the public arena is worse. I'm willing to risk being offended in order to continue to be able to express my self in the manner to which I as an American have become quite accustomed. I love having freedom of speech. I will not willingly give it up.
Once we get into public schools and public spaces, the issue gets a bit more complicated. Public schools ideally should not be sponsoring nor even be giving the appearance of sponsoring prayer or specific religious viewpoints. Even among Christians, there are specific doctrinal differences. And so when the question of allowing things like teachers to witness about their beliefs to a captive audience of kids, the question must arise of "What are these people telling my kids and why do I think it's okay for them to do so even in the name of Christianity?" Parents get to address religious questions with their children. Even the most Christian of Christian teachers in a public school system don't. The other problem with school employees getting tangled up with religious affairs on school property has to do more with the nature of kids. Kids bully other kids. Kids mock other kids for not believing as they do. This mocking worsens when there is someone of authority endorsing religion in the public school classroom. The magazine put out by Barry Lynn's outfit, Americans United, tells about things that have happened to kids in public schools who are not Christians. I remember myself in sixth grade having a classmate whose parents were atheists. She was being brought up in an atheist household. The rest of us were aghast to discover that this girl did not cotton to any creation myths. We were believers in Genesis because our parents were. This girl was not. We kept asking her about God, insisting in our own juvenile ways that there must be a First Cause. She consistently countered our arguments with evolutionary science. We were a small class in a small school. The bullying did not happen there. But it has in other places as late as the year 2011.
I believe that my tax money should not go toward the erection or maintenance of any sort of religious stuff on government or public property. Nativity scenes-- forget about it. Let churches display them on church property if they wish. I don't want a nativity scene gracing City Hall. Even if other religions are represented along side the nativity scene, I don't want any of that stuff at my City Hall either. I live in my town. My tax dollars should not go toward any of that sort of thing, period. I do not want to live in a town that refers to itself as Christian. I want to live in a regular town whose mayor has the sense to know that religion should be a private matter and that displays of religious expression (such as a Nativity scene) is best done on property held by religious individuals or congregations.
Furthermore, I believe the government should get out of the marriage business. Let those who marry in religious settings call themselves married. Let those who marry in front of a judge call themselves partnered. Both the marriage and the partnership should come with the same legal rights, protections, and responsibilities. Each religious body-- just as they do today-- can decide who they wish to marry or not marry in accordance with their religious beliefs and traditions. A judge would not get to do so. Any two competent adults who present themselves to a judge should be granted a civil partnership, once state requirements for the license are met. To those who dislike the idea of two non-heterosexual people living together and loving each other, I offer the old famous re-joiner: Don't care for gay marriage? Then don't marry one. And let me endeavor to put to rest the idea that if gay civil partnerships and gay marriages are allowed, that people will be stampeding in with their sheep, goats, and cows. The sheep in Schoharie County have much more to fear from their heterosexual owners than from a random non-heterosexual individual who is currently denied the dignity of public recognition of their love. The laws on the books which currently make beastiality a crime will still exist when non-heterosexual partnerships and marriages are allowed throughout the land.
Anyone else having any thoughts?
sapphoq is itching for a coffee