Saturday, December 18, 2004
The Christmas Thing
Obviously I don't celebrate Christmas, but I'm secure enough in my identity that if someone says "Merry Christmas" or if I see a Nativity scene it doesn't freak me out. Far from it. I think it's rather pleasant, people actually being nice (although that asshole who was tailgating me, flashing his brights and flipping the bird to me at 75mph on I-93 on Thursday should get prostate trouble) for a change, and it's a welcome respite from the usual grind of the year. I'm secure enough in my kids' identity to not worry that they'll be proselytized. They get a solid religious education, and I think there's the interesting observation. Most of the people who squawk about Christmas carols and Nativity scenes are the types who received very little, if any, religious education. If you ask your average frummie about Christmas, the reaction you'll get will likely be along the lines of "So? Let them enjoy". That's the way I look at things. And if that happens to mean religious themed carols and Nativity scenes and the like, fine. If my kids have questions, their religious school teachers and I can handle them and explain the way we view and do things.
I'll admit to a low tolerance for Christmas music when it's overplayed, but if it's truly classic stuff, I'll take a listen. Including stuff like "The Little Drummer Boy", even with the religious theme. It's not as if Hanukkah has such great toetappers. It's really a sense of perspective. Hanukkah is a minor holiday whereas Christmas is, next to Easter, most important for Christians. I have a couple of very close friends who are very pious Evangelical Christians, and if anything, our relationships over the holidays increases our bonds, because they understand the importance and significance of all religious holidays and what it means in their faith. We share a huge mutual respect for each others' traditions, and I would never deny them or their loved ones the chance to celebrate in their manner, wherever and whenever they want.
There's of course the old joke about a Jewish Christmas celebration in the Old Country, "we hid in the cellar until it was over", and of course I think some of the people who make geshreis over the whole religious holiday celebration thing have never forgotten Zayde's tales of the Cossacks, but I think most of the people who look to stop religious celebrations are merely attention whores or are far-left indoctrinated (the types who attend Unitarian services because they think the local Reconstructionist shul is filled with reactionaries). As Shatner said so memorably, "Get a life".
Somewhat related, this week I happened to catch Scarborough Country and caught the exchange between Shmuley and Bill Donohue. The irony of Obergruppenfuhrer Buchanan "moderating" the exchange didn't escape me (look, sil il marche comme une canard, and see Safire for his opinion of Pat). The transcript can be found here, but of course I have to point out the money quote:
BOTEACH: I‘m amazed that we‘ve made this a discussion about secular Jews. I have got to tell you that Bill Donahue, who I otherwise love and so respect, ought to be ashamed of himself, the way he‘s spoken about secular Jews hating Christians. That is a bunch of crap, OK?
DONAHUE: Who‘s making the movies? Who‘s making the movies?
BOTEACH: That is a bunch of crap. (CROSSTALK)
BOTEACH: Stop the anti-Semitic garbage, OK? (CROSSTALK)
DONAHUE: Who‘s making the movies? The Irishmen?
There's a joke floating around at the moment which tells of three synagogues infested with squirrels, and the punchline has the Reform temple making the squirrels members, therefore they wouldn't see the squirrels except on Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur. I would bet that most of the quote unquote landsleit in Hollywood don't see the inside of a temple except on those days, if at all, unless they put up a stained glass window in memory of Bubbie (for the photo op, of course).
That doesn't of course excuse Donahue. He's another attention whore who sees red when anything doesn't agree with his weltanschaung. He's very good at getting himself into the New York Post whenever such an item pops up, especially around Mr. Gibson's epic. I had a long discussion with my evangelical friends about the movie when it came out, they were mightily moved by the film, but they were concerned about my feelings. I told them my feelings were very simple, that if this was something that brings them closer to God, more power to you. On a sheer historical basis, I pointed out that the film was based on Anne Emmerich's quote unquote visions, and not on the historical record in the Gospels. I'd venture that Rabbi Boteach (who I dislike because he's a bit too showbiz, hanging out with Mr. Jackson is enough to slash credibility with me) knows the New Testament a bit better than Mr. Donahue, who I doubt ever attended divinity school (there are plenty of frummies who take comparative religion courses, and as I've previously mentioned, I have a close frummie friend who teaches at a Jesuit-run school). The Rabbi was able to cite chapter and verse, if you read the transcript.