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Disheartened by editorial

December 21, 2012
Shepherdstown Chronicle

I was disheartened by your editorial "The Holiday is Called Christmas." I am not a person of faith, and, surprise, I am not at war with Christmas, Christianity or any other religion and its holidays.

I love gifts. I feel happy when I get a gift. I feel happy giving gifts. I love Christmas carols. And decorations and yule logs. I can't say that I'm jumping with joy over how commercial Christmas and so many of our holidays have gotten. I'm bewildered why more people aren't.

When someone says "Merry Christmas," I usually return the same. As I do with "Happy Hanukkah" and "Happy Kwanza." It is nice to be greeted in a friendly way. I am happy with whatever words are used. If I speak first and I am not aware of the religion of the person I am greeting, I usually say, "Happy Holiday." Why not?

I receive a variety of cards in December: "Season's Greetings." "Happy Holiday." Some have religious themes. I enjoy all the cards I get. That my friends are thinking of me and wishing me well fills me with great joy. Why in the world would I take offense if I opened a card and found a reference to the birth of Christ?

When I look at the lights people decorate their homes with in December, unless I see a Menorah, I assume they are Christmas lights. I assume that at least some of the people living in these homes are Christians. Why assume? Because I decorate my home for Christmas and I am not a Christian. I celebrate Christmas as a holiday of hope. Some people find hope in a divinity, others find it elsewhere.

I guess a lighted Menorah is a Hanukkah light.

If a store has a "Holiday Sale," I don't think it has anything to do with being politically correct. It has to do with moving product, making money. If a business thought they'd sell more things calling their sale a "Christmas Sale," my guess is that's what they'd call it.

So there is no war on Christmas. Good heavens, the only people I know who are talking about a war on Christmas are those who think there is one. There ain't.

What I think the Constitution requires is that no religion be given special treatment. Courts have established that if a public school allows students to form clubs (math club, history club, French club) and permits these clubs to use school facilities than students can form a Bible Study Club. Also a Humanist Club. Hooray.

The courts have also determined that in public schools a valedictorian, for whom faith is an important part of her life, can talk about her faith at graduation during her valedictory. However, the graduation ceremony cannot begin and end with a prayer. I think this is reasonable, equitable and fair.

Students can pray in public schools. "Dear God help me pass this test." "Thank you Jesus for being able to attend a free public school." "Praise be to Allah for all my wonderful teachers." They just can't force other people to pray with them.

Public high schools can and do teach courses on the history of religion and comparative religion. They just can't proselytize.

I have attended Protestant and Catholic funerals, Christian and Jewish marriages. I attended a Bar Mitzvah. Participated in a full Seder where I was invited to read some of the liturgy. It meant a lot to me that my friends thought enough of me to invite me to participate in ceremonies that are important to them. I respect their religious beliefs. I expect them to show me the same respect. They do.

So, if you're getting upset, angry, sad or fearful that atheists are trying to rain on your holiday, relax. We aren't. Many of us celebrate Christmas, in our own way. We also celebrate everyone's right to practice their religion without interference or support from the government.

I wish my Christian friends a very Merry Christmas. And much happiness during this holiday season. I hope 2013 treats you and your loved ones with kindness and good fortune.

And lest I forget, happy solstice.

Austin Porter

Shepherdstown

 
 

 

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