Saturday, December 18, 2004

Seasonal confusion, hard feelings, and so on.

Evidently the struggle over who gets to define the solsticial holiday continues. The Bureaucratic Mind, confronted with competing claims, tends to retreat to blanket negativity . . . and is then accused of promoting "secularism."

Punditry ranges from ramblings about "druids" to curmudgeonly rants like this one from Charles Krauthammer in the Washington Post, muttering that everyone should "just leave Christmas alone." (Registration required.)
To insist that the overwhelming majority of this country stifle its religious impulses in public so that minorities can feel "comfortable" not only understandably enrages the majority but commits two sins. The first is profound ungenerosity toward a majority of fellow citizens who have shown such generosity of spirit toward minority religions.

He is right about one thing: no one has a constitutional right not to be made to "feel uncomfortable." But in my experience, while some Pagans might feel that Christmas is "shoved down their throats," others are more likely to take the approach of Asatru blogger Robin Runesinger and "take back Yule," enjoying the Pagan roots of the whole celebration, from the fir tree to Santa's possible relationship to Odin the shaman god.

Even a novelist whose main qualification is that she wrote a thriller about Catholics versus "The Goddess" (and guess whose side she was on?) gets to pontificate on the reason for the season. (Registration required.)

Regardless of how we feel, I am afraid that the impulse to bureaucratic blandness is winning. Rather than think deeply about American tradition, as Krauthammer suggests, mayors, school principals, and the like are more likely to forbid anything that looks "religious."

And some Christians are able to talk out of both sides of their mouths: America, they say, is a "Christian nation," yet somehow these Christians are the victims, no less, of secularism (whatever that is), the so-called liberal media, the Hollywood film industry, and so on.

Yet the admittedly Christian bloggers at GetReligion remind us that Christmas used to be a low-key holiday, when it was celebrated at all. (Seventeenth-century Puritans banned its observance when they could.)

Lucky for us Pagans, trees are religious symbols, as are five-pointed stars.

PS: Why newspapers make online readers is pointless to me. Protect your privacy and get an instant login and password from BugMeNot. Thanks to Wildhunt for a couple of the links above.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The thing I find scariest about Krauthammer's piece is this:

The first is profound ungenerosity toward a majority of fellow citizens who have shown such generosity of spirit toward minority religions.So "minority religions" only exist in the US on the sufference of the majority, who may turn "ungenerous" at any time, and exert the tyranny of their majority? That's really scary. Bye bye First Amedment.

3:50 PM  
Blogger Chas S. Clifton said...

Krauthammer's column is not based on the First Amendment, and, as with you, any weakening of it would worry me quite a lot. But let's assume that he is right about "generosity of spirit." (We know that there are excepts to this generosity.)

As a Pagan polytheist, I can be generous too--and more than that, inclusive. Does the town of Rye, Colo., where I was driving last night, want to put an illuminated five-pointed star on the mountainside? Fine. Five-pointed stars are meaningful to me too. (Ditto Castle Rock, Colo., which puts a star on the formation for which it is named.)

Does the town of CaƱon City, Colo., where I once lived, want to erect--or permit the Lions Club or whoever actually does the work-- an illuminated star and larger-than-life painted plywood figures of three astrologers and/or Platonic philosophers on camels up on a hillside? I am fine with astrologers on camelback too.

Where Krauthammer and I agree is that the Bureaucratic Mind tends to react blindly. Bureaucrats think, "It's too complex to sort out these competing claims, so let's just ban everything." And then some Christians begin to complain that they are being victimized, as they see it.

Should Pagans react more as he claims that the Orthodox Jews do? That is a question that we could discuss.

11:10 AM  
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5:01 PM  

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