A buddy of mine, Natalie, has written a great response to an irate letterwriter in the Las Vegas Sun, which is to be published this sunday in her local paper, and I have reprinted this with her permission.
Her reply struck a nerve with me since I do have friends and family members of many faiths and cultures. I have also recieved many chain emails from the "Keep Christ in Christmas" camp, which I generally do not past on, for the reasons Natalie has so elequently expressed below.
(link to the letter mentioned below:
I would like to reply to the letter published December 10, 2009 regarding elimination of Christmas activities in public institutions.
I am a rather devout Catholic; I would like nothing better than for everyone to believe as I do, but the simple fact is they do not. Some have no spiritual beliefs at all. I certainly believe in freedom of religion, but I also believe in freedom from religion.
My view of this type of thing is to put ourselves into the shoes of others. Suppose the Taliban got their wish and conquered this country? Would we like to be forced to wear burkas, among other dogma of the Muslim faith? My guess would be no. Ms. Goodin says this country was founded on Christian values. That may have been the original plan, but it became a country that conquered its native citizens, and forced them to either conform or live separately from the general population. How Christian is that? Not very.
I don't need to see schools, courtrooms, etc. decorated for Christian holidays. The malls and such do more than enough of that, anyway. I wear my crucifix and medals, which indicate my faith, but I respect the faith (or lack thereof) of other people.
I don't believe any taxpayer should have to pay for decorations, celebrations, etc. of something they do not even support. I firmly believe church and state simply must be separate, and the situation in Afghanistan is a shining example of why.
So yes, I say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" to strangers, because I think to assume they share my faith is arrogant and rude. There are quite a few Jewish folks as well. Anyone can see my religious jewelry, and often reply "Merry Christmas" to me. As much as some would like to think so, Christianity is not the center of everyone's universe; I wish that it were, but it isn't, so I accept that others have the freedom to believe as they see fit.
Nobody can take Christ out of your life but the individual him/herself. However, we have no right to force Him into the lives of others. Christ always practiced what He preached. Remember that He consorted with the poor, the filthy and the faithless, without judgment, without proselytizing. He reached others by example, and they made their choices accordingly. So "showing" that you're Christian isn't only wearing the symbols, and trying to push your beliefs on everyone else verbally, or with public displays. It's doing good things for others; it's behaving as Christ would, and I feel certain that He wouldn't mind our not doing Christmas pageants, putting garland on the capitol buildings, or nativity scenes in the park. He would rather see you, me, and everyone treating each other with respect and kindness.
THAT is the very best Christmas display.
Natalie Cantrell Larkowski