Saturday, December 24, 2005

How do you spend Christmas?

I know another Christmas post. Bored yet? It'll be over soon!

I was thinking today about a conversation I had years ago when I worked at a university that let us have a couple of days off around Christmas. The workers there and I were sitting at lunch talking about using our time off. Most of us were at least nominally Christian and were talking about presents and shopping and some were spending time with family. One woman was excited to see relatives she hadn't seen in awhile. Another was worried about the relatives that would be at her parent's house that year and the hassle of the holidays.

One of our collegues was Jewish and we knew that, so we just asked how she was spending her time off. She said quite simply, Well as you know, she was Jewish so she didn't celebrate Christmas so she and another Jewish woman thought they would go and visit kids in the oncology ward at the local children's hospital and see if they needed anything or just wanted to visit.

She wasn't trying to be ironic but I remember sitting there thinking what a perfect way to celebrate the spirit of the season and her phrasing was that "I'm Jewish, so I don't celebrate." I wonder what wonderful things would happen if we all decided to "not celebrate"?

Thursday, December 22, 2005

To Merry Christmas or Not?

This may be a long post but there’s much to say.

I was at my second job today, which entails selling books for one of our nation’s major retailers. A woman came in and asked for the most recently published book. I’m not certain which that is but referred her to our bestseller list. She happened to notice the book entitle the War on Christmas. She began to talk about how that was such a horrible thing going on in our country.

I have a couple of comments, that my bookseller self could not explain to her.

First, although my blog takes many notions from Buddhism, I am not strictly a Buddhist. I have been a pagan, but craved the intellectual, thought provoking words that Buddhism provided. I was raised Lutheran but Christianity never quite spoke to me the way paganism did. So I am a little of everything. I don’t have a problem with that as all traditions have beauty in their teachings and studying each helps one understand the others in greater depths.

I digress.

I am offended by the idea that retailers should have to say Merry Christmas as a Christian. To say that we are taking away the Christmas out of the holiday because your local retail employee wishes you a happy holiday instead of Merry Christmas is absurd. Shopping is not what Christmas is about. Do I really have to explain that one? So why do the employees selling people stuff, even though they may know they are most likely out Christmas shopping have to wish people a Merry Christmas? Is it so that corporate America can remind people that to show their devotion to a certain religion they should spend more money?

I’ll say it again: Christmas is not about shopping. Therefore, what your retail or grocery store clerk wishes you or doesn’t wish you shouldn’t matter.

I am offended by the idea that retailers should say Merry Christmas as a non-Christian. After all, who says that I celebrate? If I’m a store clerk and I’m celebrating the Winter Solstice but not Christmas, so I have to say Merry Christmas? Where is my freedom of religion? Just because my religion isn’t quite so popular does not make it any less valid than yours. Happy Chanukah. Happy Kwanza. Happy Solstice. Happy Festivus.

Finally, it’s Ken Grandlund’s fault that I started this. His blog has a great essay on hope and fear. It made me think that this so called War on Christmas is yet another way to spread fear. What an ironic coup. Christmas is the holiday about peace and love, which leaves no room for fear. This season, Christians are afraid that the invisible other wishes to take their faith from them (as if such a thing would be possible) and those who are not Christian are afraid that they won’t be allowed to worship as they choose either.

It’s time to remember that we can act from our fear or we can act from hope and love. This is the season of hope and love and peace. There shouldn’t be room for fear

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Sit for Change

Sit For Change brings together the practice of meditation with the promotion of peace, compassion and respect for human dignity.

Check out their website. The 10 day marathon meditation--join in as much as you'd like or sponsor someone who is sitting--begins today (Dec. 21, 2005) and goes through New Years.

I have not officially joined their meditation at this time so am not soliciting donations for myself. I just found out about their site yesterday and it's a bit fast for me to join up with things like that! They do have a general donation fund on their site.

Happy Solstice-

Monday, December 19, 2005

Why spy on peace activists?

I've been reading about the NSA doing illegal wiretaps on the citizens of the United States at the behest of the White House. One group targetted were peace activists. Well, of course I have something to say as this could include my phone.

First, a note to any NSA agents assigned to my phone: I'm sorry I don't have more exciting phone calls.

Second, why spy on peace activists? Peace activists may not like what the president is doing. We don't agree. We might be stand out with signs in protest. We vote, typically against administrations who take us into war. We educate people about why peace is a better choice. Most peace activists want peace.

In general most peace activists are not trying to forcably take down the government of their country. They are not selling military secrets, even if they happen to know some. This does not, in general, promote peace.

Everyone is asking the questions about the constitutionality of this move. Everyone is asking how far will this administration go chipping away at our rights as citizens. The final question I want to have addressed is: is this administration and our government so out of touch with concept of peace that they are even afraid of those of us who talk about it?