Christmas is a joyous holiday, and joyous people tend not to behave like Torquemada. By my rough calculation, 99.87 percent of Christians who say ?Merry Christmas? to people who aren?t Christian do so because they?re trying to be nice. And, by my equally rough calculation, 97.93 percent of people who take real offense when they?re on the receiving end of such Yuletide wishes are trying to be a pain in the ? uh, well, they?re trying to be a pain. Let?s put it this way. If you were in Morocco (and a non-Muslim) and someone said to you, ?Have a nice Ramadan,? you?d probably say thanks respectfully and leave it at that. But some people are aghast that, here at home, someone might say ?Merry Christmas? to them without first making sure they?re Christians.
You might ague this misses the point. The debate isn?t about the private sphere, but the public one. Separation of church and state, the First Amendment, blah, blah. Yeah, I know that argument. Who doesn?t at this point? But I just don?t have a lot of patience for it. This country had established state churches for generations after the First Amendment was ratified. So spare me the argument that its unconstitutional for the local rec center to sport a nativity scene out front and maybe a menorah in the window.
Closer to home, my wife works at the Department of Justice, where not even America?s most feared Christian, John Ashcroft, could successfully keep the Department of Justice from celebrating Gay Pride Month just downstairs from his office. But I?m supposed to buy that it would be outrageous for the DOJ to have a Christmas ? not holiday, but Christmas ? party one night after work?
Tolerance must be a two-way street. If minorities want the majority to be tolerant of them, minorities in turn need to tolerate at least some of the norms of the majority. Simply because there are more Christians than Jews or Muslims or atheists, doesn?t mean that Christians should always get the shaft. That said, Christians ? or at least the politically organized ones ? don?t do themselves any favors when they start talking like just another identity politics group. Christians seem to be complaining more this year than usual about the war on Christmas, even as they are finding more success. Arnold Schwarzenegger renamed the governor?s ?holiday tree? a Christmas tree. George Bush is the first president ever to include a quote from scripture on his Christmas card. Besides, once ?Merry Christmas? becomes a political statement, everyone loses.
So, everybody lighten up, it?s Christmas!