Merry Christmas! With those two words, I probably offended 19 percent of my readers. That is, if CSU is proportional to the results of a 2008 Gallup poll, which found that 81 percent of the U.S. population affiliates themselves with some branch of Christianity.
Frankly, I find it rude to take offense when someone wishes you well. In other words, I’m offended that some people take offense to “Merry Christmas.” It’s a selfish display of ultra-sensitivity that has no place during such a festive season.
Similarly, I’m not offended when somebody wishes me a happy Hannukah, Kwanzaa, Diwali, Eid ul-Fitr or even Chrismahanukwanzakah.
It’s difficult to understand how this particular time of the year has transformed from a celebration to a clash of cultures and rampant, shameless commercialism. Every year, some say that a “War on Christmas” is being waged while others say Christianity is unfairly imposed on others through the use of trees, stars and red and green color schemes.
To me, it’s just another example of how petty and ridiculous our squabbling can become.
Now, it’s easy to start playing the blame game at this point. Usually, I prefer to place the blame on unbridled political correctness, but there is more to the issue here. We have two separate forces adding fuel to the fire, each watching the other’s efforts to keep it burning and escalating their own efforts to match.
The core of the issue, however, lies in the U.S. Constitution, and if both sides could settle down, they may realize that their fire is consuming the very pages upon which it is written.
The section in question is the First Amendment, particularly its “Establishment Clause” and “Free Exercise Clause.” It reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
Now, I think this section of the Constitution is pretty clear, but most political pundits would disagree with me. It may be difficult to believe, but our elected officials tend to skew documents such as the Constitution to fit their own agenda. But that’s beside the point.
The American Civil Liberties Union likes to mix the Establishment Clause with Thomas Jefferson’s well-known “separation of church and state” quote in an attempt to ban any government institution from displaying religious decorations on government property.
What they fail to understand, however, is that the First Amendment merely states that government cannot impose a national religion. It can be argued that government officials such as Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden, who holds an annual politically incorrect Christmas party, may be promoting particular religions, but that is in no way unconstitutional.
As long as our officials are not burdening individuals or organizations (through taxes, imprisonment or other behavior-deterring methods) on the basis of religious belief, they have broken no law.
On the other side, those who declare that war has been waged on Christmas are just plain paranoid. Suppose that such a war exists. What do those who celebrate Christmas have to fear? Even if their nativity scenes are banned, it does not deny them the right to practice their religion.
When Bill O’Reilly rants that Christmas is in danger of extinction, he erroneously equates symbols to practice. Displaying three old guys, a couple of farm animals and a little baby in swaddling cloth is not essential in practicing Christianity, just as minarets atop mosques are not essential in practicing Islam.
So what’s the solution? If you find yourself inexplicably offended by the sight of a Star of David, a menorah, a Christmas tree or lights that emit red or green hues, keep it to yourself. Celebrate your own holiday without attempting to trample others.
Conversely, if you find yourself inexplicably offended when your favorite retailer decides to rename their plastic evergreens from Christmas trees to “Holiday trees,” just don’t buy one. No need to make a ruckus, because taking your dollars elsewhere will send a clear message. You’ll likely hear an apology from the CEO after he realizes sales have declined.
And if somebody wishes you well, thank them. Have a Merry Christmas, CSU, and I’ll see you in the spring.
Josh Phillips is a senior business administration major. His column appears Tuesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.