Friday, November 25, 2005

... um... uh... happy holidays, I think...

Target stores decided to ban Salvation Army bell ringers, while UPS drivers complained to a free-speech group that they have been told not to wish people a "Merry Christmas."

Major corporations are barring religious music from cubicles and renaming the office Christmas bash the "end of the year" party.

In California, a group called the Committee to Save Merry Christmas is boycotting Macy's and its corporate parent, Federated Department Stores, accusing them of replacing "Merry Christmas" signs with ones wishing shoppers "Seasons Greetings" or "Happy Holidays."

The mayor of Somerville, Mass., apologized after a news release mistakenly referred to the Dec. 21 City Holiday Party as a "Christmas Party."

In Terrebonne Parish, La., an organization is petitioning to add "Merry Christmas" to the red-lighted "Seasons Greetings" sign on the main government building and is selling yard signs that read, "We believe in God. Merry Christmas."

A Raleigh, N.C., church recently paid $7,600 for a full-page newspaper ad urging Christians to spend their money only with merchants who include the greeting "Merry Christmas" in ads and displays.

In Kansas, The Wichita Eagle ran a correction for a notice that mistakenly referred to the Community Tree at the Winterfest celebration as a "Christmas Tree."

It's presently happening across the nation this season, as it did last season; the ongoing battle and tussel over separation of church and state. And, at stake, the collective spirit of faith, hope and charity for all.

Just as a bit of background for the text that lies ahead (from my limited research), did you know the term "separation of church and state" is not to be found in the Constitution of the United States? It was first used by Thomas Jefferson in a letter to the Danbury Baptist in 1801, when he responded to their concerns about the state involvement in religion. Jefferson's letter had nothing to say about limiting public religious expression, but dealt with government's interference in the public expression of faith. And yet, this term has come to the forefront of the American political and business scene... the battle broils on...

Over the years, I've had friends of various religious beliefs wish me well within the context of their celebrations of Hanukkah, Ramadan, Kwanzaa and Chinese New Year. Because of my religious and personal upbringing, I've been unfamiliar with many of these holidays and celebrations. So a number of years ago I decided that if I'm going to be given well-wishes, I best research the premise and origin of such holidays/celebrations. And what I discovered didn't surprise me. At the very core and commonality of each of these holidays/celebrations (including Christmas)? Redemption, hope, salvation, charity, and gratitude. And it's these concepts, practices and beliefs that are at the very core of any positive and healthy lifestyle.

And before I go any further, please don't misconstrue Our Morning Walk today; within the context of today's Walk, I don't intend to take a religious high ground or intend to spark a theological debate. Do I think there is a national plot to remove every reference to Christianity in the Christmas season? In my opinion, there are pockets of social animosity, but to me it's simply a plot of greed. Businesses nationwide have peddle their wares throughout this season (and so many other seasons and holidays as well) and are simply looking to squeeze out the next quarterly profit. And if that means changing their marketing to simply promote "Season's Greetings" or "Happy Holidays," then so be it.

My only personal comments on this subject are these (and are not directed at you personally):

  • Be proud and immerse yourself in your heritage and religious belief. Let it spark a flame of compassion and hope in your life and actions. At the same time, know that other religious holidays and practices do not have to be silenced for yours to continue.
  • If you're not pleased or comfortable with this marketing approach of any business, don't patronize the business. It would seem in our society that our "vote" begins with our dollars.
  • Explore the core values and principles of religious celebrations other than yours. You will be pleasantly surprised at how so many diverse religious celebrations speak to the betterment of the human soul along Life's journey.
  • Always remain steadfast in the expression of your being and beliefs, with the intent of that expression not to belittle another's existence but to celebrate the existence of your life and your faith.

And one finally thought, again not directed at you personally, but something to think about and share with others:

If someone wishes you to "have a nice day," you rarely, if ever, respond, "How dare you wish me such a thing! I'm not a believer in nice days, so keep the sentiment to yourself!" You and I know the greeter wishes only the best for us and we accept the wish in the spirit it was intended. Similarly this season, regardless of your religious beliefs, I encourage you to see past the controversy that is so neatly wrapped with the phrase "separation of church and state" and accept all wishes this season in the spirit they are intended. Wishes of personal redemption from any form of despair, wishes of everlasting hope, wishes of glorious salvation from a personal life void of compassion, wishes of unending charity and brethrenhood, and wishes for a life that is steeped in gratitude. I don't know about you, but these are wishes and greetings of which I can't get enough. There seems to be more than enough room in this life for personal redemption, hope, salvation, charity and gratitude - don't you think?

In this spirit, I wish you glorious Hanukkah, Ramadan, Kwanzaa, Chinese New Year, and Merry Christmas moments in your life.