To start out with I don’t believe celebrating Christmas is actually a sin. However I do believe that having Christmas as a federal holiday is a sin. This is clearly a trespass on the principle of separation of church and state, and technically shouldn’t be allowed. However any time ideas are presented to remove Christmas from government and even more so from the social arena there is a backlash of proclaimed religious intolerance and/or over-tolerance from the Christian community. The protests held by Christians however are not wholly unfounded because by reducing their ability to express themselves we trespass upon their rights. Looking at this situation though we can see the cracks in our political system when it comes to tolerance in all environments of our country and we can see the causes of many rifts in our country.
To set up an idea of how bad this situation can get watch this video (be forewarned it is horrendously biased but I still find it hilarious) from the The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
Now obviously that video clip was #1: Childish at times, and #2: Completely biased against Fox News and what it sees as a major political outrage. However it does raise some questions in my mind about how we as a society should tolerate religion, and how can we expect religions to tolerate others.
To start with let us look back upon the history of Christmas as a federal holiday. It was proclaimed as a federal holiday in 1870 under the presidency of Ulysses S. Grant. During this time in America there wasn’t a strong sense of tolerance of other religions obviously. Christianity was the de facto religion of America, and everything else was tolerated but never given a fair voice in government. Looking at Christmas from a Procedural standpoint (we learned about this when we talked about Socrates at the beginning of class: Lecture 9/13) Christmas should not be a federal holiday because it is a religious holiday, and the government should not support one religion over any others due to the separation of Church and State.
That is all well and good if we hadn’t made Christmas a federal holiday to begin with, but to eliminate it now could be seen as an attack upon Christians in America. Most of us I believe would say that Christians need to suck it up and do what’s best for the country by staying quiet, and accepting that X-mas as a federal holiday was a bad idea to begin with. However we know that this scenario is not likely to play out. Christians, and almost every religion for that matter, do not like to give up ground to allow room for others because it is counter intuitive to their goal. Their goal to expand.
It is every pious man’s job to spread his religion and the truth of God so that others may one day see the glory of Heaven. That, somewhat, is a main principle of Christians. To limit a holiday they have used for the past 2,000 years to recruit new members (I apologize if I make it sound Christianity is using Christmas as bait to get people into a pyramid scheme) would be a complete repression of their inner motives (which are benign), and could also be seen as repressing their rights. At the same time how can we give precedence to Christianity over the other major religions in our country? Why aren’t Chanukah, Ramadan, or Vesak (Buddha’s Birthday) federal holidays as well?
It is a tricky question, but at the same time I believe there is a clear answer here. The answer is that in principle Christmas should not be a holiday. However to turn this over, in our society, we would need the majority of the country to elect representatives to overturn this federal holiday.This would require Christian voters sympathetic to the cause. Yet this is highly impossible because Christianity is a belief, and the government only has power over will.
In lecture 9/27 slide 12 there is a picture that I believe represents a point that I am trying to make here. Our government, though it may no longer want Christmas as a federal holiday, doesn’t have the power to overturn Christian beliefs that will keep it there. The reading for 9/27 was John Locke’s a letter concerning toleration. In his letter Locke presses the idea that the government can control will, but it cannot control belief. That the government has the power of force, but not persuasion. That the government can make you follow the laws you voted for, but can’t make you vote for a certain law. And since our government can’t force Christians to vote too remove Christmas as a religious holiday it looks like it will stay.
This is the real point of my blog. Christianity, and every religion for that matter, has more power over people than the government. Now there are exceptions, but when asked whether people should follow the laws of their government or their god they will probably choose their religion.
This creates many problems in society bigger than just having Christmas as a holiday. Recently at Lake Orion High School in Michigan there has been an outbreak of suicides due to bullying. In a response to this and other suicides due to bullying the state of Michigan passed an anti-bullying law. However certain members of the Michigan Senate have added parts to the bill to allow religious or moral reasoning to permit bullying in a sense. This was brought up in an earlier post that I think was well written and you should read it (and comment upon it) here.
Similarly we read a post made earlier on in the year on almost the same subject as the one before. We all seemed to have the same opinion on this post and I doubt our views have changed that much. This post talks about Mill and his arguments for free speech, but there is one problem we get from this. Mill never explained to us what the protocol should be when one person’s free speech harmed another person’s freedoms.
This is where the Christmas ordeal becomes a bigger problem. Christians claim that they should be able to have Santa appear in schools and call parades in December Christmas parades, but what if these actions made people of other faiths feel like their holiday was being persecuted against because it didn’t receive the same attention. On a more serious note can we allow Christians publicly speak out against homosexuals? Wouldn’t a homosexual person’s rights be trespassed upon if we allowed this to happen, and wouldn’t we be persecuting the Christian’s freedom of speech because of their religion?
There are a thousand different cases of this with different persecutors, and different groups of who is persecuted. It is just that no one we have read has given us a clear cut answer in their theories as to how to handle these situations. We can’t be a country that persecutes people upon their religious beliefs because, hell, that is what our country was founded upon in some way. At the same time we don’t want to allow intolerance that infringes upon people’s rights.
Many people in the class (and excuse me for making assumptions) would just like to say “Just have the Christians deal with it. they are hurting others with their intolerance and slander which is illegal in this country .” However we need to look at an important fact about this whole argument. Religion, too many of us, is a contingent fact about who we are. This means that many times we don’t really choose our religion because we are born into one and the religion of our parents becomes our own because we know no other life.
So how can we as a society ask people to put their faith in god (which should undoubtedly be stronger then faith in government will ever be) on the back burner so that other religions (which all religions compete against in a way), and the rights of other who aren’t of their religion?
I don’t truly believe we can. Yet I would like to know your opinions. I started out with the fact that Christmas shouldn’t be a federal holiday because that is a political sin. But to remove it from the federal holiday list would be persecuting Christianity by taking away their power. This led to how do we tolerate Christianity, and other religions’ power over people . Which ended up with the realization that many times we are faced with choosing one person or groups’ rights over another. So how would you handle this? Would you give precedence to freedom of speech and the right of Christians to say whatever they believed because it is their faith, and to have their own personal federal holiday? Or would you side upon protecting people’s right not to be slandered, and not allow Christians their domination of the holiday season?