Saturday, December 26, 2009

Jews Celebrating Christmas

There's been a video making the rounds that I watched with Shiksa Girlfriend:

Short version: Secular woman from immigrant Chinese family celebrates Christmas and says its symbols, especially a Christmas tree are meaningful to her. Her (not very religious) Jewish boyfriend says Christmas is a religious Christian holiday and he would never feel comfortable having one in his home. The woman says she has agreed to raise Jewish kids, but feels like she's getting the short end of the stick. The letter ends with each of them claiming emotional heartbreak.

Prudence first tries to split the difference, acknowledging that the woman and man are basically articulating the two split identities Christmas has come to occupy in the American consciousness. But she then says that the boyfriend has a "truer understanding of the meaning of the day" and that the fact that he doesn't want to participate in watering down the holiday is a "sign of respect." She concludes by saying that the girlfriend should celebrate Christmas with her family but not try to force her holiday on her boyfriend.

Gila at My Shrapnel thinks this is a great response:

I fully expected a PC response about how her boyfriend should open up to the wonders of a secular Christmas--the general line fed to us by the media. I was pleasantly surprised by her response. She gets it. Christmas is a Christian religious holiday. And if you want Jewish kids, you raise them in a Jewish house--celebrating Jewish religious holidays.

There is also the issue of disrespect to Christians. Having had a few devout Christian friends over the years, and having spent a year living with a very devout Christian, I cannot help but think that if I were Christian I would find this practice of non-Christians appropriating Christmas as a non-religious holiday a bit offensive. Think about it. Christmas is the the day in which believers celebrate the birth of Christ and the birth of their faith, a new era and so on. This is one of the holiest days in the Christian calendar, no? How can it possibly be respectful to effectively say "Yeah, well, I think your religion and your version of G-d is so much bullshit, but hey, I'll take the tree. And the gifts."

I think the problem here is that both Prudence and Gila are insisting on viewing Christmas through explicitly religious lenses as a way to rationalize non-Christian discomfort with the holiday. It would be one thing if the woman was a devout Christian. But she's not, she's explicitly coming from a secular perspective. For her Christmas isn't about Jesus, it's about family. What's really disrespectful is lecturing her on what Christmas is "really about," or pretending that the important thing here is not offending imaginary Baptists somewhere (which, going out on a limb, I'm going to say the Jewish boyfriend probably doesn't care about, either). What she cares about is wanting the boyfriend to participate in her family's ritual, which happens to not have (from her POV) a very religious context.

A better and more honest conversation, IMO, (and I say this as someone whose Jewish family has put out stockings on Christmas going back four generations) would be for the boyfriend to acknowledge that, particularly when one is a secular-ish Jew, part of your identity is created and shaped as much as by things you don't do as by thing you do do. This is why even though my father introduced my mother (also Jewish) to his family's stockings tradition many years ago, he still balks at having a tree (this year he finally broke down and bought Christmas lights, but rather than buying some plant-like thing to put them on, festooned them across the mantle-piece instead). My father knows that no one in our family thinks Christmas is about Jesus, but a tree is still a red line for him-- as it is for me. This has recently been in my thoughts because Shiksa Girlfriend has mentioned that in the event we wind up spitting out some mini-Yids, her parents would want them to celebrate Christmas in at least some capacity. Yet, interestingly, this was said in the same breath as her dramatically declaring that she had no intention of lying to them about Santa Claus and saying that personally, she liked Hanukkah a lot more than Christmas anyway. As we can see, holidays, symbols and identity issues are hardly clear-cut.

I am thankful that in my childhood I had the opportunity to participate in and celebrate other people's Christmases-- helping my godparents buy and decorate their tree, going to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day parties, etc., but I would not feel comfortable going that last step and putting a tree in my home. I feel comfortable including elements of both, but I don't want to negate that last bit of different-ness or separate-ness. I like that separateness and like that it helps me remember who I am. Having a tree would feel like I was erasing that.

IMO, my feelings about a Christmas tree are not connected with the idea that Christmas is ALWAYS, or exclusively, a religious Christian holiday. I am well aware that it means different things to different people-- including my secular Shiksa Girlfriend (and the girlfriend in the video letter). And in that capacity, I can find ways for wiggle room and ways that I feel comfortable participating. But I am also reflective enough to recognize that despite the fact that Christmas can be interpreted in different ways, a tree still makes me uncomfortable, because it is not one of my family's traditions, and not one I particularly want to include in my home. I think that's a good enough reason for the boyfriend to not want to do it-- though the possibility of compromise should still exist (and if neither are interested in doing so, this may be a warning sign about further issues to come).

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Tyranny of the Majority

Why do I keep carping on Christmas in the public square? I guess it's because I think that America benefits tremendously by keeping religion separate from government. There are middle grounds, such as trying to honor and include people's religious culture and heritage. Where things get dicey is where the culture of the majority is allowed to dominate others, or even push them out of the public view entirely. People with these viewpoints are the kind that get up in arms at suggestions that America is not a Christian country. They're also the same folks that feel entitled to dictate to Americans everywhere that Christian symbols and holidays, should be given exalted status and treatment over any others. A lot of times they will misrepresent our own history to do so, often shamelessly.

In my view, this is where such attitudes lead:
The Moldovan Orthodox Church on Wednesday blamed the local Jewish community for the recent rally in which a public menorah was torn down and a cross was put in its place.
During the December 13th incident, dozens of people led by an Orthodox priest smashed a menorah in Moldova's capital Chisinau, using hammers and iron bars to remove the candelabra during Hanukkah.
...the church said in a statement, "We believe that this unpleasant incident in the center of the capital could have been avoided if the menorah had been placed near a memorial for victims of the Holocaust."
The church said it opposed the form of the protest, and that it respects "the feelings and belief of other cults that are legally registered on the territory of the Republic of Moldova, and expects a similar attitude from their side," according to the report.
"At the same time," the statement continued, "we think it inappropriate to put a symbol of the Jewish cult in a public place connected to the history and faith of our people, especially because Chanukah is classified by the cult books of Judaism as a 'holiday of blessing' that symbolizes the victory of Jews over non-Jews."

There you have it. Christians taking back the public square, fully justified, no doubt, in their view that Moldova is a Christian nation. They even have the nerve to blame it on the Jews being provocative by not keeping their symbol in "the right place." Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't this a slightly more aggressive version of what people on Fox News, World Net Daily and Stand For Christmas are calling for?

Let's be clear: I do not believe that most Christians in America are violent. But I do think that there is a danger in believing that numerical superiority translates to the right to exert/claim cultural dominance or control. The beauty of America is that it does not explicitly "belong" to any one group. I see and hear some Christians in the blogosphere and media who feel like America is uniquely "theirs" and who think that an aggressive form of cultural Christianity should be determining government policy and be trickling down to all sorts of everyday activities, be it advertising or education. I can see their perspective-- it's what they believe, after all-- but that doesn't mean I agree with it one bit.

Part of the dilemma is I think it is particularly hard for a majority group to understand how important issues of symbolism, protection and dignity are for minorities. Religious minorities in America benefit tremendously through maintaining the separation of church and state, and in ensuring that they are never made to be second-class citizens. Yes, it is possible for a state with an official religion to be benevolent towards minorities-- but that's not the same thing as a state with no official religion, with no religious preference, where ALL religious groups are on equal footing-- at least on paper. That is what is at stake.

For another perspective (and from a fellow Jew, no less), we can go to my old friend Idiot McGoo. Sorry, that's former-rabbi Idiot McGoo:

"If you can't stand the words Merry Christmas, you don't have a right to live on this earth, because that means that you're rejecting the whole idea of loving your fellow human being, of celebrating the most beautiful qualities of a person. The most beautiful qualities of a person are the qualities of Christmas."

Which qualities, exactly? Goodwill towards men?

WND's Newest Pet Jew

I don't know whether Jackie Mason was unavailable or Dennis Prager was too busy patting himself on the back, but apparently WND felt the need to get themselves another Jew to talk about how America is uber-great, we are totally a Christian nation, and would someone please go burn plant a giant Christmas tree on their lawn, please. Enter Mr. Barry Farber.

Barry first came across my radar back in October, when he announced, to no one in particular, that America may have been declining, but that it was still super-duper awesome:

Who, from professor to peasant, is able to name another country that ever amassed more power and abused it less than America? Or, amassed more wealth and distributed it more fairly? What other country was ever attacked, then rallied and destroyed the aggressors and, instead of the traditional rape and plunder, rewarded its attackers with rehabilitation and democracy? And what country ever won a war and wound up with less territory than when the war began? After spending much blood and treasure ejecting the Japanese from the Philippines, America gave the Philippines independence.
Wow, listening to Barry, you'd never know about America's dismal conduct in Latin America or, yes, Asia. (Funny how we gave the Philippines independence after WWII but kicked Spain out almost 40 years earlier-- what took so long, Barry?)

Without America, no democracy would have been possible anywhere. Surely that claim will make some want to gag, but, please, when you get your breath back, give us your scenario as to how democracy might have survived without America; bearing in mind the behavior of another empire that recently declined – namely, the Communist.

Got that? America is responsible for democracy even existing in the 21st century. You all owe us, big time.

Barry concluded this brilliant piece by telling the world they were so culturally bankrupt that if we disappeared they would pine even for our trashiest celebrities.

The following warning is offered respectfully to the world: You will miss us. Who will forge and give backbone to your NATOs to restrain aggressors? Who will lead the fight against the 12th-century passions of jihad? Mark my words – you will even miss our Britney Spears and our Paris Hilton. You don't have a history, you don't have a tradition, you don't have a hope, you don't have a clue of how to make acceptable conditions prevail over so much of the earth's surface without America.
So there, suckers.

With such a dramatic beginning, you can see how I wasn't expecting much from ol' Barry. But I misjudged him, because Barry soon decided that he really wasn't going to be able to out-America-is-awesome Dennis Prager, so he was going to need a new shtick: WND's friendliest Jew.

Wait, friendlier and more of a suck-up than even Monsieur Dennis? You be the judge:

In this business, there are phrase-makers and word-choosers. And most of us flit back and forth and do a little of each. A few paragraphs down from here a sentence will appear that sounds like a phrase made by a Jewish politician courting American Christian voters. It is nothing of the kind. Every word is carefully chosen. You don't have to be Jewish to write this, but it does help take the edge off.

Off to a great start...

Are you surprised Hitler's allies protected the Jews? Almost all of them did! Jews who managed to get into the Italian zone of occupation were protected. Unfortunately, the Italians only occupied the French Riviera and the western part of what was then Yugoslavia. The Japanese, believe it or not, had a pre-war plan to bring 1 million German Jews to safety in Japan. The outbreak of war limited the rescue to 50,000. They lived unmolested in Japan all through the war. Franco's Spain used its pro-German neutrality to save tens of thousands of Jewish lives.

Um, Barry, you're full of crap. While individual citizens of allied states may have protected Jews, many governments actively supported the Nazis' genocide. Vichy France was a German ally. It showed its loyalty by deporting Jews by the millions to certain death. Hungary, Croatia, Ukraine, Latvia, Estonia and Belarus all formed their own Waffen SS units to support the Nazis and serve as concentration camp guards. While Italy did protect Jews in some areas (particularly lands it had conquered) from being gassed, it also passed its own version of the Nuremburg Laws stripping them of rights and citizenship, deported some of its own Jewish citizens to death camps and even constructed a concentration camp, Risera di San Sabba, which killed an estimated 3,000 people, many of them Jews. To your credit, Japan did save a lot of Jews, as did Spain (though, as you said, it was neutral, not an ally, so I'm not sure how this proves your thesis).

Now, we're almost down to the line that sounds like Jewish sucking-up to Christians. You're free to call it that – but I dare you to deny its validity.

Oh goody gumdrops, can't wait.

We Jews have had many enemies and many friends. But the best friend the Jew has ever had in 5,000 years of history is the American Christian. Here, now, is "the line": If it weren't for the American Christian, there would be no state of Israel and no Jew alive, except those who successfully masqueraded as something else.

Based ON WHAT?

What gives me the right to say that? America was the "swing vote" that won World War II. When America entered the war, Britain and the Soviet Union were two elephants dangling over a cliff with their tails tied to the same daisy. America's un-bomb-able industrial complex, the Arsenal of Democracy, supplied and energized the effort of our embattled allies. America's entry against Germany and Japan turned tired blood into sparkling burgundy.

The American military was 97 percent non-Jewish, because the American population was 97 percent non-Jewish. If all those Christian American men had not gone uncomplainingly to fight Hitler, the Jews of Kansas City and everyplace else would have suffered the fate of the Jews of Warsaw, Prague, Budapest, Zagreb; you get it.

Let's backtrack. Barry is essentially saying the following:

A- If America hadn't entered the war that the Nazis would have won.
B- America's population is overwhelmingly Christian.
C- Therefore, without American Christians, no Jews would exist.

The problem with this is that the central premise is flawed. Barry, unsurprisingly, credits America with "turning the tide." To a large degree, this is uncontested by historians. However that doesn't mean that without America the Allies would have necessarily lost. Furthermore, the fact that America is mostly Christian does not mean that Christianity or Christian identity were the primary motivators driving Americans-- or anyone else, for that matter-- to fight in WWII. Correlation is not causation. You might as well say, "Without American men, no Jews would exist," or, "without American rifles or planes (or boats!), no Jews would exist." (That would have the bonus of actually make slightly more sense.)

Barry is selecting a totally random factoid from history and extrapolating it so far it loses any meaning or context. It's also particularly bone-headed given that before (and after) World War Two, you still had plenty of Christian idiots trying to discriminate against Jews, in part based on their religious beliefs (Jews couldn't be citizens in many of the original 13 colonies, for instance). American Christianity's views on Jews have been a double-edged sword. On balance, Christians in America have treated us fairly well-- but that doesn't mean that everything's been a bed of roses, or that we specifically have Christianity to thank for improving Christian-Jewish relations.

Occasionally, a Jewish member of my audience will challenge me and say, "Wait a minute. Those American soldiers didn't go to war to save the Jews." I didn't say they did. However, in fighting for America, American Christians made possible the state of Israel and Jewish survival!

... Like every other member of the Allied coalition?
Merry Christmas!
You're a moron.

Last but still stupid, Barry's newest cup o'dreck.

It's been half a century since Jewish organizations started trying to ban Christmas carols in classrooms and nativity displays of model shepherds and oriental kings on the courthouse lawn. And I still get the same urge I got then to tell them to throw away their wet blanket and let Christmas be.

Oh good, an opinion, how refreshingly original.

Short version of boring anecdote: Barry grew up as the only Jewish kid in a small town in North Carolina. He was regularly tasked with singing the Latin solo in Ave Maria. He thinks this was totally awesome.

It didn't hurt a bit. Not one of us forfeited a smidgen of our own faith. We Jewish kids in all the other schools in town met and caucused weekly at Hebrew school, and none of us felt alienated or diminished by the exercise joining our Christian friends and neighbors at the happiest moment of their religious year.

Mazel Tov, Barry, you felt included instead of included. I'm happy for you. But the central argument is that celebrating the holiday should be a private matter for people to do in a more appropriate context, like home or church, not pushing it into the public square. Whether you personally get bothered or not is beyond the point.

There's no record of any Jewish child in our community switching creeds due to Hanukkah-shame.

Also irrelevant. Two for two!

The ones trying to protect Jewish children from Christmas use words like "isolation" and "humiliation" to describe the condition of the Jewish child "subjected" to celebrating Christians. As my immigrant grandparents would have phrased it as they were learning English, "On me, they shouldn't depend."

Wow, Yiddish grandparent humor. How fresh. Here, let me try: Your argument's so facockta it makes my kop plotz.

Christmas to a Jewish boy in public school in North Carolina back then was fragrant, dreamy, enticing, beautiful and enviable in the pleasant sense. There was no feeling of anything being forced down our throats, but rather of something exceedingly pleasant being offered to our lips, nostrils and hearts. We didn't feel like tolerated onlookers. We felt like honored guests at a spiritual Super Bowl of our friends and neighbors.

And it's great that your experience in Nowheresville was so pleasant, Barry, but it's like having a black guy say that he didn't mind attending a segregated school. Schools should not be endorsing a religious point of view. Neither should the government. Culture is something else-- but if we're talking culture, we need to include other cultures as well besides just the majority. And no matter how fuzzy Barry may feel about his North Carolina Christmases, the people I see on Fox and over at Stand for Christmas don't seem like they want to invite Jews or others to be "honored guests" at an inclusive holiday for all. They seem like angry cultural autocrats that want things to be their way or the highway.

Forgive me if that doesn't make me feel all that honored.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

GAP Pisses Off Angry Christians; Apocalypse Presumably Forthcoming

More from "Stand Up for Christmas"-- this time, looking at the GAP ads that have so many people annoyed/outraged. The only really sane comment is this one:

-The new commercial is VERY offensive, not just to those who celebrate Christmas, but also to those who celebrate any of the other holidays they list. "Do whatever you wanaka??" By implying that these holidays are interchangeable, GAP is devaluing them ALL.

Though I can't disagree that GAP's ads have been positively inane and bordering on trivializing/insulting, some of these writers take it a little too far:

- Their adds offend me - Christmas is lumped into all of the other "winter celebrations" like Kwanza, Hanukkah, winter solstice... Not to mention the suggestive poses that these teenagers/young adults are in! Are you kidding me? Until they quit boycotting Christmas, I will keep boycotting them!

- GAP, I find your latest TV commercial offensive. Comparing Christmas and Hanukkah with winter solstice, the made up sixties holiday Kwanzaa, and eighty-sixing it (ignoring, do-nothing) shows your contempt for the real holiday. The federally recognized holiday celebrates CHRISTMAS (THE BIRTH OF JESUS CHRIST) and no other holiday. A VAST MAJORITY OF PEOPLE BUY GIFTS FOR CHRISTMAS to remember and show love for their friends and family as the wise men honored the Christ child that first Christmas. I will not step in a GAP (or GAP affiliated) store because of your contempt.

- [re: the commercial] Go with what is fun, popular, be you, believe in anything you "Wanaka." But what does ANY of this have to do with Christ? On my calendar, December 25th is STILL listed as "Christmas" so without "Christ" we have no reason for a holiday. ...

Brilliant. And without "Vale", we don't have a reason for Valentine's Day, so make sure you spend that one hanging out somehwere with a low elevation place, or God will smite you... I'm looking at you, Denver.

- I was appalled by this year's attempt at a Christmas TV ad. While attempting to please everyone and offend no one, it has had the opposite effect. Celebrating "whatever" and doing "what you want" are purely an example of today's worldly values. I feel for the Christian employees at GAP; I wouldn't want to work there. If I had the money to spend at places like GAP (which I don't), I wouldn't shop there either.

- Time to liberate? Only Jesus can set us free. Jesus is THE way. You cannot "86" that rule. I will not be shopping at Gap or affiliated stores. This commercial reflects an anti-Christ heart attitude. Oh Lord, send us your revival ...keep us "One Nation Under God!"

We also had some American history experts step in to remind us of America's origins, lest you had forgotten:

- The original holiday celebrated in this country is Christmas. No one mention of this holiday with all the others rattled off was stated in the Gap's first holiday commercial. No one has the right to remove Christmas from our country or our vocabulary!

- Just saw the new Gap commercial. I am so disappointed that I will not be shopping at Gap or her sister stores again until they have a change of heart. I don't understand why they can't just say Merry Christmas, accept my money, and end it there. I don't expect them to have a live nativity outside their store or give out tracts with each purchase. Just celebrate the holiday America has always celebrated, Christmas, and keep your mouths shut!!

The Christmas cheer... it burns!

Apparently some people were particularly angered because the ad mentioned "Solstice":

- Their Holiday commercial was very offensive with the message celebrate what ever you feel like. Including Solstice. I dont plan on ever shopping there unless they change their message.

- When the GAP new 'holiday' ad was first aired I listened carefully to the lyrics. Since when was Christmas time a place for retailers to mention Wiccan and other NonChristian 'religions'? Mentioning celebrating the Solstice turned me AWAY from GAP. I'm telling everyone I know about this too.

- Just heard about Gap deciding against Christmas. They are comparing Christmas to cults and witchcraft and encouraging folks to celebrate the "holiday" in whatever manner they see fit. Come on, Gap, take a stand for what is RIGHT - you benefit from our Christmas dollars for Christmas gifts. Because of their stand on Christmas, I won't be buying anything from Gap this year. Come on Gap! Celebrate Christmas! Jesus died for EVERYONE!

- I will NOT buy anything else from GAP (which I am a HUGE fan of). By ignoring Christmas and offering "Happy Solstice," a WICCAN witch-warlock acknowledged dedicated day, they have GROSSLY OFFENDED not only ME but the MAJORITY of Americans. I will get the word out to others as well.

I look forward to getting that chain email soon.

- I could have tolerated Hannakuh and Kwanzaa. But solstice, really? By attempting to please all, you alienate most. Congratulations.

You "could have" tolerated those other ones, though. How big of you.

- The new TV commercial by the GAP still refuses to mention Christmas and finishes with Happy Holidays. I do not find this acceptable anymore. Only Merry Christmas is an acceptable response this time of year.

There you have it, in black and white. The ONLY acceptable thing to say is Merry Christmas. It's like the post from yesterday where the customer was dictating from on high what the details of the store's display should be. I wonder if some Christians perceive secular/non-Christian activists who want exclusively Christian displays changed as being this obnoxious and controlling?

But wait, GAP is fighting back... kind of:

[*Special note by Focus Action staff: This comment below is shared because we feel it serves as a worthy reminder to our readers to maintain common courtesy even as we stand for our values in the public square. Thank you for the comment.] -- "I'm a manager at a Gap store. As a Christian I feel condemned by reading some of your comments. We're allowed to say Merry Christmas. Please understand that Gap is a business not a church and we have Jews, Muslims, Atheists, and Christians who come into our store. I cannot assume everyone are Christians. The Sunday "church crowd" that comes in is so much more rude and mean than any other time of the week. Please use courtesy and know that you are a representation of Christ even when you shop. Please be nice, retail workers need Christ too!"

Oy. Apparently tis the season to perform a homemade lobotomy. Or maybe I can hibernate until spring.

A History of Lawlessness

R. Harry at Emes-ve-Emunah has a question following the sentencing of the Spinka Rebbe:

Are Chasidim more prone to fraud against the government than other religious Jews? Is it common in their circles? According to this document it is not only common but generational.

I just received and read a copy of the US attorney’s sentencing recommendations for the Spinka Rebbe. It seems pretty clear that the type of thing that the Spinka Rebbe was found guilty of is a fairly common and widespread practice among other Chasidic groups.

...It is very apparent that they see nothing wrong with cheating the government in this way. That it is so widely done is a shameful black mark all of Jewry. This is an almost unprecedented Chilul HaShem in scope and size. I am embarrassed and ashamed that those who pride themselves on being the most religious among us are so deeply involved in governmental fraud.

Looking at the question from a historical perspective, I have a couple of thoughts. First, although I think it is unfair to categorize Jewish crime as a specifically Hasidic issue, it is interesting to look at the origins of the Hasidic movement insofar as they might inform Hasidic self-perceptions when it comes to dina malchuta dina. The Baal Shem Tov and his followers were rebelling against the authority of their day. Initially this was just against the rabbinical establishment, but it soon spread beyond that as the rabbis attempted to bring the secular authorities, particularly in Russia, in on their side. As the Hasidim struggled to sustain their movement against both religious and state opposition, I assume they also must have had to develop a mentality of doing "whatever it took" to keep themselves going, whether it followed "the law" or not.

To a large degree, this is not really surprising; this approach has been part of Jewish thought for millenia: if you outlaw practicing Judaism than the Jews who practice it become outlaws. There are many stories about noble Jews defying laws to practice their faith. While these characters and their actions are often characterized as brave role models, they also contain a core value which condones, or even encourages, defying authority when that authority is seen as illegitimate. You see similar dynamics when Jews start getting drafted into the Russian Army- people doing everything they can to get out of it, providing Jewish access and services to Jewish recruits despite Russian law, etc. None of this actions are objectively bad, but they provide another precedent where secular law is superseded by Jewish law. The "Jewish rebel" phenomenon happens over and over again: The Kotzker and Gerrer rebbes on the run from the Russian Army, the pre-State Zionists gathering arms and policing their own communities rather than relying on apathetic and untrustworthy government forces, etc. There is a long Jewish history of bending or breaking the law when Jewish leaders feel that it is necessary.

So, when push comes to shove, plenty of Jews have shown, again and again, that just because the law says something doesn't mean they intend to follow it. To a certain degree this a good thing; it shows an independence of thought and conscience and a skepticism of government and law that, given the precarious Jewish treatment at the hand of governments throughout history, is perhaps only healthy and natural. Government and law shouldn't be put up on a pedestal. We should always question potentially immoral laws and follow our consciences.

The problem, though, is that this reasoning, if stretched, can also be used to justify almost any illegal action-- if the community feels persecuted, if they feel they "really need" to do something to help themselves (i.e., steal or cheat), if they perceive the government or the government agency as being antisemitic, anti-Orthodox, anti-whatever. This danger is compounded in cases where the rank-and-file have been educated to view only their own leaders and community as legitimate, and where secular law is seen as, at best, not terribly important, and at worst, irrelevant. This is an issue that affects Hasidim, Mitnagdim, and even Religious Zionists in Israel. Have some leaders who teach that the government is illegitimate and that its laws are unfair or unimportant, and you have a perfect system in which the law will be systematically ignored or broken. If your primary loyalty and values are to God, your religious leader, and your community, NOT to the state, not to the larger area where you live, not to the rule or law or to your fellow citizens, then you basically have no civic background in which you can really value law. The sad part as it relates to Mafdalim in Israel is that you have groups of people who have previously been the most patriotic and the most committed to helping the state who are now feeling persecuted and disenfranchised and (some of whom) are in the process of turning away from it and actively disobeying its laws.

So no, it's not just a Hasidic problem. It's not even an exclusively Orthodox problem. All sorts of Jews engage in illegal activities, and as recently as World War Two (and certainly World War One) you still had secular Jews in Europe whose Jewish identity may contributed to the feeling that "goyishe" laws did not apply to them. I would attribute this in part to the sense that they were not represented in their countries' governments, not treated as citizens, or explicitly discriminated against. In short, they were disenfranchised and alienated from their countries, and therefore saw no reason to follow their laws.

The question is what has changed since. In Western democracies, Jews do have a voice. They are treated equally. They can succeed financially and politically. In Israel, Jews can participate in just about any sphere of activity they chose. But within some sectors of Orthodox Judaism, you still see a very dramatic sense of "us and them." They do not feel like they are part of the state-- any state. And that is where you see a cultural and even political association with breaking the law-- where Jewishness itself becomes a rationale for why the law doesn't apply.

Dina malchuta dina... Unless you're Jewish and don't feel like it. In which case, never mind.

Pat Robertson's Math Incompetence

"The vast majority of American people like Merry Christmas! It is a Christmas occasion... Yes, the holidays... we do have Thanksgiving, but we've had Thanksgiving... If my Jewish friends want to celebrate Hanukkah, you know I just learned what Hanukkah means... It means "They rested 25." It has to do with the fight against the Maccabees. After the battle they rested- 'Hanu'. And then 'Khah'- on the 25th day, they went to Jerusalem. I mean, it's a nice holiday, but it's relatively recent."

- Pat Robertson

Ok, so first off, Pat's claim about the "true meaning of Hanukkah" is just a midrash. Hanukkah is actually a word in of itself, meaning dedication. You know, because they're dedicating the Temple? I know, it's so straightforward it's hard to believe.

Yes Pat, there have been various half-baked allegorical interpretations of the name over the years, as per the longstanding rabbinical tradition of being bored while studying and having nothing better to do than pull random explanations out of your butt, but so what? Stop giving your goyishe audience barely digested or understood tidbits about Judaism. We'd just as soon you not mention us. Really, we won't mind.

Incidentally, while Pat is correct that Hanukkah has only recently become a MAJOR Jewish holiday, the celebration itself has been around for almost 2,000 years. It's mentioned in Josephus' Book of Antiquities and the Gospel of John, as well as the Books of Maccabees and the Talmud. Compare that with American Thanksgiving, which has been gracing our calendars and making for awkward school faculty meetings for only a scant few hundred years. And you're saying Hanukkah is recent?


Hat-tip: Media Matters.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Pick Your Battles

One of Abbot Yid's favorite aphorisms (right after "Life Sucks, Then You Die") is "Pick Your Battles." Growing up, this meant that I was not supposed to threaten to run away if asked to clean my room, or contemplate circulating petitions to protest too much homework at school.

Clearly, however, someone who hasn't heard of this is Dr. Samuel Blumenfeld, over at WND. Because he's really mad about something. What might that something be? Let's find out:

It seems that the United States Postal Service is so anxious to prove that the United States is no longer a Christian nation, that it has produced a whole bunch of stamps for the "Holiday Season" that puts Christianity in its place – as a minority faith among several other faiths. They are so anxious to be politically correct that – who knows? – the USPS might someday be called the United Nations Postal Service.

Got that? Dr. Sam is mad about STAMPS. Stamps that dare to point out that Christianity is not the only religion on earth, much less in the US. Those devious, fact-observing bastards.

They've issued stamps for Secular Humanists, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, two Islamic holidays and, lastly, Christmas. Sorry, Buddhists, no stamps for you, at least not yet. Back in the old days, the Christmas stamp was the only stamp issued for Christmas, the joyous festival that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ all over the globe.

Now, of course, Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights, just happens to coincide with the Christmas season, so the Hanukkah stamp pictured with a menorah seems appropriate. After all, Jesus was Jewish.

Wow, lucky us! It's a good thing, too, since apparently connections to Jesus are the only things that "earn" you a stamp. Take that, Sikhs!

But the secular stamps deny the existence of God altogether. To atheists and Secular Humanists, this time of year is celebrated as the Winter Solstice.

Really? I thought Pagans celebrated Solstice, and secular humanists celebrated... not much?

Yet the four secular stamps issued by the USPS have a definite Christmas flavor about them: a reindeer, a snowman, a ginger cookie and a toy soldier. The reindeer reminds us of Santa Claus' delivery system. The ginger cookie and toy soldier remind us of the gifts children enjoy at Christmas.

Now you're trying to have it both ways. First we hear about how Christmas is about Christ, not secular crap like cookies and Santa. Now when the Post Office acts accordingly, you get pissy. Also, who is defining these as "Secular?"

Nevertheless, these secular themes seem to be acceptable to the administrators of our anti-Christian public schools where the time-old traditional greeting, Merry Christmas, and all of those lovely Christmas carols are now forbidden.

Lovely like school prayer was lovely? It's easy for the majority culture to bitch about how there's nothing wrong with pushing their culture on other people. Really easy. Instead of bemoaning the lovely carols, why don't you ask members of minority groups how they feel about them?

The Kwanzaa stamp depicts an African family dressed in tribal costume. Apparently, African-Americans want to remember and honor their noble heritage. The word Kwanzaa means "firstfruit" in Swahili. The weeklong festival was created by Ron Karenga, a black nationalist who considered Christmas to be a white man's holiday. It is celebrated from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1 each year. So actually, African-American children can celebrate both Christmas and Kwanzaa and get double gifts!

Those greedy children! Incidentally, you can celebrate any holiday you want, Dr. Sam. What's your point? Oodles of Jews celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah.

Blah Blah Blah... Dr. Sam is mad G.W. Bush issued a Kwanzaa greeting in 2004... says the "African" principles Karenga came up with, particularly "cooperative economics and collective work" are code words for Socialism... Now he's bringing up Karenga's prison term, apparently for the benefit of any readers who have never Googled Kwanzaa before... (all three of them).

Wait, what's this? Ooh, Dr. Sam is going after the Islamic stamps now. Way to take on an unpopular target, oh brave one!

The Muslim stamp, with its stylized Arabic calligraphy, was ironically first issued on Sept. 1, 2001, just ten days before Islamic terrorists flew two airliners into the Twin Towers in New York and an airliner into the Pentagon, killing about 3,000 people in just a few hours. I wonder how many of the victims who jumped from the upper floors of the Twin Towers would have appreciated the Postal Service's magnanimous tribute to the religion that caused their deaths.

Nice, there's certainly nothing loaded or exploitational about that ridiculous statement. Hey, Dr. Sam, tons of horrible things have happened to Jews on Easter for hundreds of years, yet I don't think you'll be hearing about us protesting Easter stamps anytime soon. Just saying. Besides, are you suggesting that terrorism in the name of a religion should disqualify that religion's holidays from getting a stamp? How might you go about enforcing this standard across the board?

The letters EID on the stamp mean festival, and the stamp commemorates two Islamic festivals: the end of Ramadan and the willingness of the Prophet Abraham to sacrifice his son Ishmael. Of course, in the Bible it is Isaac, born of Sarah, who was going to be sacrificed, not Ishmael, born of Hagar. But that's just a minor point of difference between biblical religion and the Quran.

Also totally irrelevant to your larger rant about stamps. But then again, so was your bitching about Kwanzaa being a fake holiday.

The last thing the USPS would want to get involved in is a theological dispute. After all, according to the multicultural philosophy that now governs all of our secular cultural thinking, all religious faiths are equally true, which means they are also all equally false. A nation that adheres to that kind of insanity is no longer a nation. It's just a very large crowd of people who don't know what to believe in. So if they believe in nothing, what is there to defend?

Oh cry me a river. What exactly is the alternative, doctor? It's not the government's place, least of all the Post Office, to decide which holidays or religions are true. The Post Office sends your mail, often barely getting that right. Determining religious truth is a bit above their pay grade. Also, "no longer a nation?" Based on what?

Reading this crap is enough to make me want to abolish the Post Office altogether. You know what, that's it, Dr. Sam. You've officially lost your post office privileges. From now on if you want to send mail, you can draw on your own damn stamp.

Incidentally, for the legion fans of Dr. Sam, you'll be happy yo know the illustrious writer has penned other gems of wisdom, such as this ode to Easter from last year. Money-quote:

Actually, there are three calendars intertwined in the American calendar: the Protestant, Catholic and Jewish. But there is one holiday in which the three calendars converge: Easter.

Wow, it just fills me with such a warm feeling... must be all the blood shooting out of my nose.

Tis the season to be Entitled

A while back, I was having a discussion with some colleagues about the "Culture Wars" that pop up every now and again in the news (the springboard was the Mojave cross on which Pat Boone so brilliantly missed the point). Some of my fellow teachers were saying that a lot of the craziness and cultural exclusion/supremacy is promoted by retailers. I added that some retailers have been leaning secular the past few years, but then they get attacked for it. Case in point: Lowe's had the audacity to sell "holiday trees" (then, "family trees") and Fox News exploded. So the problem is actually on two fronts- some stores are pushing Christmas everything because they think it will boost sales, and when others go the other direction to reach out to secular or non-Christian customers, they get gored by the Christian right for "selling out" Christmas.

One of my colleagues, Lena, a Jewish Soviet emigre, challenged me on this, and asked why people shouldn't be allowed to call a Christmas tree a Christmas tree, why it was necessary to change the name. She said that as a Jew she wasn't planning on buying one anyway, so why change it? I didn't get a chance to respond, but my thoughts at the time and since have been that a tree itself doesn't seem to be the point. You can call it whatever you want. But in the past few years there seem to be signs that various groups of people from different backgrounds enjoy having certain trappings of Christmas (or the Christmas season) in their homes without necessarily celebrating Christmas itself. I would assume that part of changing the name of the tree is to make it more appealing/palatable to those groups. I don't have a Christmas tree, either, and don't intend to get one anytime soon. However I can see how labeling it a holiday tree might make it more enticing for some people.

All of this is relevant, by the way, because it's a nice lead-in to this ridiculous campaign: as much as Bill O'Reilly likes to stir up trouble with his legions of mindless minions, it doesn't have quite the same punch as when the wholesome hordes of the Christian right get to articulate all the ways that they feel they are personally being discriminated against. Good thing Focus on the Family is here.

Shoppers fed up with stores swapping "Season's Greetings" and "Happy Holidays" for the more traditional "Merry Christmas" have a place to vent their frustrations this December and a resource for identifying those shops that still honor Jesus' birth as the reason for the season.

The Retailer Ratings system at provides an up-to-the-second summary of how customers have rated 29 of the nation's largest store chains – from American Eagle Outfitters to Wal-Mart – on their acknowledgment of Christmas.

"Millions upon millions in our nation deeply value the great truths of Christmas and the holiday's inspiring place in American life and culture," the website states. "We're asking you to decide which retailers are 'Christmas-friendly.' They want your patronage and your gift-shopping dollars, but do they openly recognize Christmas?"

The ratings system is a project of Focus on the Family and Focus on the Family Action.

In the past, Focus has created a shopping guide to rate retailers on their "Christmas-friendliness," but this year the organization has turned the ratings over to customers themselves.

"We're placing shoppers in the driver's seat," the website explains. "Through this site, customers can provide feedback directly to retailers and share their experiences with fellow shoppers!"

"There's nothing more effective than hearing from the customer," said Carrie Earll, director of issues analysis for Focus on the Family action. "The customer's always right."

Really? Let's take a look at some of the uber-entitled complaints on the site:

American Eagle:

- sad. this retailer wants to be part of the Christmas season but is unwilling to acknowledge Christ. The more blind retailers get, the less sales they'll make and it won't be for the economy, it will be wise and prudent shoppers who honor Christ as the reason for Christmas and will choose to not spend their money where Christ is not welcomed.

- Was wished a Happy Hanukkah as I left the store. When I stopped and explained I was Christian, the lady at the counter told me 'Happy Holidays!' This was very offensive!

Maybe a slight point here. Better way to do it would be to have a standard "Happy Holidays" greeting and then whip out Christmas if people get huffy. On the other hand, lady, welcome to the freaking club.

Toys R Us:

- I visited Babies R Us today. No mention was made of Christmas when checking out.

Maybe they were too busy, I don't know, checking you out?

- I did not see one thing that mentioned Christmas when I was at the store. I have been there several time over the last few days. IT is very disturbing.. profit millions off of one of the most sacred holidays of my faith and not mention Christmas.. SHAMEFUL!

What's really disturbing is bitching about people making millions off "your faith" while you continue to hand over your money like a zombie and support them in doing it, and then get miffed because they won't say the magic words. Is having a Christmas tree out front really the answer?

- the cashier said"happy holiday" I told him have a nice merry christmas. he still said happy holiday back to me so I said back to him have a nice merry christmas".

Yeah, that'll show him. Take that, you overworked, underpaid, bitched-at-all day Christmas-hating wage slave. Bastard.

Barnes & Noble:

- The in store gift wrappers said Happy Holidays to everyone as they entered the store and left the store instead of Merry Christmas.

How dare they not shove Christmas down the throat of every single one of their patrons? Ooh, the outrage!

- Website has HOLIDAY section,but no mention of Christmas, but do offer a gift card that says Merry Christmas. Looks like that want the sales but not willing to mention the real reason for the season!


Hang on... there are retail stores out there with nativity scenes? Really?

- Barnes & Noble offers a "Merry Christmas" gift card, but it has a picture of Santa Claus! The Happy Hannukah card has a Jewish religious symbol. I spoke with the Store Manager, and politely made my complaint. He gave me the corporate Customer Service tele number, which I will call. He told me he's not allowed to tell me what he thinks, but seemed sympathetic.

A "Jewish religious symbol," eh? Could this possibly be because there have not been 50+ years of American marketing resources poured into making a fun and child-friendly Hanukkah character (Or, incidentally, chocolate gelt that doesn't taste like wax)? I mean, who are we going to put on it, Judah Maccabee? No matter how much you Disney-fy the Hanukkah story, there's no one who's really all that cuddly. (Maybe we could have Lampy, the talking menorah?)

- "Season's Readings" and having ornaments isn't enough. It needs to say "stocking stuffers" or "Christmas gifts". I want to see the word "Christmas" on the website, not just on the books. It is great how there are 4 Christmas books listed underneath the words "Season's Readings", but I'd like it more if it had the word "Christmas" in the title. Thank you.

And the signs shall be two cubits by four cubits... and Santa Claus shall be crucified by Jesus, just to show who's boss... and if you don't like it, you can go back to where you came from!

Ok, I know what you're thinking-- maybe these people are just a bunch of malcontents. Is there anything they do like? Turns out, yes:

- In last Sunday's paper, it was one of only two retailers who had "Christmas" prominently displayed throughout the entire ad. They have a Christmas village set up inside the store (not a "holiday" or "winter" village), and it's an old-fashioned Christmas village where kids can get a free photo with Santa (who sends a letter to the child in the mail), lots of free games to play, and employees dressed as elves. I give this retailer the highest rating.

- I was recently in the Katy Mills Bass Pro Shop and they have a giant Christmas tree, are playing Christmas carrols and the greeters and employees either welcome you or tell you Merry Christmas.

- On black Friday the store in Lithonia Ga was playing Christmas music throughout the store. I noticed because it was actually an overtly Christian song that said Jesus Christ over and over! The sales ladies were very nice and it was a wonderful experience.

- As we shopped in this Michigan store, Christmas carols played over the PA system proclaiming the birth of Christ. What a refreshing atmosphere! We loved it! Thank you Cabela's!

- This store is very Christmas friendly. It is every where through out the store, everyone is friendly and children love the store. Everyone wishes you a Merry Christmas.

- Love the fact that the stores seem all about Christmas. Their Web site even has Christmas at least in 3 different areas and Santa pictured at the top. The employees say Merry Christmas to anyone that walks in the door.

- I love your store santas village is just the best thing i have ever seen a retailer do! My kids have something positive to do every weekend and FOR FREE! ...Just wanted you to know how great it is that you celebrate not only Christmas but families! You are to be congratulated for reaching out to the WHOLE family! [Whole Christian family?]

-My wife and I were in the Dundee, MI. store Nov.30 for less than an hour and we heard at least two religous Christmas songs that mentioned the name of Jesus!!! I thank God for this store and others like it that are not hindered by political correctness.

- The clerk that waited on me was nice and friendly and loved the fact that I was wearing a Christmas sweater. We discussed that we need to be mindful of this time of year. I for one am glad that I can voice my feelings about my savior Jesus Christ. It is his birthday that we're celebrating and not a holiday. God Bless and Merry Christmas.

- At checkout the clerk asked if I was ready for Christmas. I smiled and said, "No, but I'm just glad Jesus came. She responded, "...and that He is coming again." I agreed ...We then wished each other a Merry Christmas. I left smiling and looking for Christ's second Advent!

-There was a large table with Christmas books and also a large table with Bibles featured prominently in the front entrance of the store. Also, the Starbucks Coffee located in Barnes & Noble sells "Christmas Blend" coffee, not just "Holiday" Blend, which I really appreciate.

Wow, you guys really need to rethink your priorities. Like, a lot.

To be fair, there are a few decent ideas among the SFC crowd:

- It's CHRISTmas not Holliday. Come on. I am so sick of being aware of other religions to the point we are supposed to be ashamed of our own. Have a Hannukah section, have an Islamic section, but don't exclude the Christians.

Fair enough, except that there were also comments from some shoppers ranting that, come what may, they were going to wish "Merry Christmas" to every single clerk in every store they shopped in throughout the month of December (since removed from the website-- sneaky!)

Folks, I understand the retailers are annoying you. Fine. But don't take it out on-- and harass- the grunts. Shiksa Girlfriend works in retail (though this hopefully will be ending soon), and Christmas-time is the biggest pain in the butt of the year. It's exasperating enough to just get through your shift, field everybody's questions and problems, and try to check them out without screaming bloody murder at everyone. They don't need one more thing to worry about. If they say Happy Holidays, it probably has just as much to do with the fact that you're the 200-th customer they've had that morning and they just want you to leave as it does any actual convictions. Here's a secret: the clerks and cashiers don't want to be wished a Merry Christmas. They want a day off. If you're going to go apoplectic over store policies you dislike, at least have the courtesy to bitch at a manager.

Also, it's one thing to be annoyed if people won't wish you Merry Christmas, it's another to demand that stores turn their place of business into a church or Santa's Village. Sure, Christians shouldn't be alienated, but a lot of these people seem like they're just mad that they aren't being exclusively catered to and courted (superficially courted, I might add) as much as they would like. In the meantime, people openly celebrate their ignorance of other cultures and traditions (check out 2:50 mark in video). Maybe we could all benefit from being a little less catered to.

(On a personal note, I consciously try to NOT shop in retail stores, particularly in December. Most of the people on my list got used books, art supplies, or the odd-DVD. Amazon and Ebay are great, and you avoid having to deal with any of this Narishkeit. Of course, these people don't want to avoid being offended in the public square, they want to "take it back." Sounds real Merry.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Do Mine Ears Deceive Me?

"What's foolish about it is when you make a statement like that and the statement itself is subject to attack and everybody forgets the point you're making, and people are piling on you for a stupid, a-historical statement...there's no up-side to something like this..."

- Pat Buchanan slamming Harry Reid's hyperbolic speech from atop a very high horse, possibly a direct descendant of one of Nathan Bedford Forrest's.

Yeah, stupid a-historical statements are terrible and should be avoided at all costs!

Incidentally, Pat Buchanan... meet Pat Buchanan.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

What's Offensive? What's Inclusive?

When I was younger, I had an opportunity to visit Washington D.C. with some classmates from my high school. We were some of the only liberals in the hotel of 400 kids. We had some very interesting conversations with our peers. Some of them were informative-- the kids from Arkansas had never met a Jew, but to be fair I had never met a Baptist (of course, I knew a hell of a lot more about Protestantism, if not the Baptist movement specifically, than they did about Judaism, but hey). But at some point, we all hit a wall. For me, that wall came when we were discussing a monument. One of the Arkansas girls wanted to have it be a giant cross. I pointed out that the cross wasn't an inclusive symbol. She didn't know what I meant. I said that the cross was a specific symbol of Christianity. She said that for her, the cross just represented God. She and I were coming from radically different worldviews, and we were unable to reconcile them. It was a very frustrating encounter, like we were speaking different languages.

Many years later, enter the Mojave Cross.

The cross has been in the news for a while now, as have been the boneheaded comments of Justice Scalia, who can't understand why Jews or any other non-Christians would have a problem being buried under a giant cross. Background on the case is here. Personally I think transferring the land to another organization is a good compromise (similar to what San Francisco did with our giganto-cross atop Mt. Davidson in the 80s), though I also see the ACLU's point that it seems a bit like a cop-out to have a huge federal land preserve and then smack-dab in the middle have a tiny parcel of land conveniently given to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, as well as the concern that this is establishing a pattern of the government gerrymandering land ownership in controversial monument cases in order to keep them where they are.

But part of the real issue here does go back to the opinions of Scalia and folks like him:
JUSTICE SCALIA: The cross doesn't honor non-Christians who fought in the war? Is that -- is that --

MR. ELIASBERG: I believe that's actually correct.

JUSTICE SCALIA: Where does it say that?

MR. ELIASBERG: It doesn't say that, but a cross is the predominant symbol of Christianity and it signifies that Jesus is the son of God and died to redeem mankind for our sins, and I believe that's why the Jewish war veterans --

JUSTICE SCALIA: It's erected as a war memorial. I assume it is erected in honor of all of the war dead. It's the -- the cross is the -- is the most common symbol of -- of -- of the resting place of the dead, and it doesn't seem to me -- what would you have them erect? A cross -- some conglomerate of a cross, a Star of David, and you know, a Moslem half moon and star?

MR. ELIASBERG: Well, Justice Scalia, if I may go to your first point. The cross is the most common symbol of the resting place of Christians. I have been in Jewish cemeteries. There is never a cross on a tombstone of a Jew.


MR. ELIASBERG: So it is the most common symbol to honor Christians.

JUSTICE SCALIA: I don't think you can leap from that to the conclusion that the only war dead that that cross honors are the Christian war dead. I think that's an outrageous conclusion.

MR. ELIASBERG: Well, my -- the point of my -- point here is to say that there is a reason the Jewish war veterans came in and said we don't feel honored by this cross. This cross can't honor us because it is a religious symbol of another religion.
Another one who doesn't get the simple fact that crosses do not represent non-Christians is noted theologian and part-time crank, Pat Boone:

I've mentioned here before that each Veterans Day, Memorial Day and Independence Day, sometimes Thanksgiving Day as well, I make my way to the huge, beautiful Veterans' Cemetery in Westwood. I walk among the tens of thousands of markers and monuments, read the names and dates on many of them – out loud – and thank them for giving their very lives in the service of our country. I thank them for sacrificing their dreams, families and lives, so that we all might live ours.

The vast majority of those monuments are crosses.

Yes, there are quite a few with Jewish stars on them. I've seen a few Muslim symbols and even one Buddhist circular one, very pretty.

I've seen no atheist markers.

Have you seen or read "Jarhead" by Anthony Swofford? He talks about fighting with military bureaucracy to get his religious status on his dogtags changed to "No Preference." How much do you want to bet this problem is older than 1991?

Since our colonial days, and through all our wars, the great majority of our fighting men and women marched into battle beneath our American flag and, whether it was visibly displayed or not, under a cross. It was, and is, a symbol of faith in God, a prayer for His protection and blessing and a fervent hope that He will somehow work on their behalf, to bring them home to their loved ones again.

Most did come home, some wounded, some maimed for life, but still alive. Too many did not. But those who lost their lives fighting for our country, and for our cherished freedoms, died believing that the loving God symbolized by that cross would welcome them into eternal habitations. Their families were comforted in that same belief, and if the body was returned home, it was lovingly laid to rest – under a cross.

Once again, Pat Boone uses his psychic medium skills to project, I mean, connect, with the beliefs of all dead American soldiers in the past 200 years, who, in a shocking a coincidence, happened to believe in things the exact same way that he does (loyal readers will recall that this is an ongoing problem for Pat).

Is there more? Of course there's more. Take it away, Pat. (Far, far away.)

I suspect that the young Jewish men and women in our military have had similar experiences, encouraged and strengthened, and finally comforted by the Star of David. Perhaps Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus as well, by their symbols. I have no idea what atheists do in these circumstances. There is obviously no religious symbol to feed hope or comfort loss. There is no expectation of reunion, or afterlife, or anything. There is only death – and nothing.

Pat, I've got news for you, you don't know squat about what Jews, Muslims, Buddhists or Hindus go through, either. If you'd bother to go ask them as opposed to having conversations with imaginary Buddhists in your head, you'd at least have half a leg to stand on. A strawman peg-leg, perhaps, but a leg nonetheless.

Perhaps that's why a growing number of atheists and the atheist-driven ACLU are so militantly and vehemently trying to remove all crosses from public life, off public buildings, out of sight and out of mind.

They have no God; they have no faith in anything except poor, fallible mankind, no intimation of another life beyond this short one. Really, they have only themselves, some transient experiences and a yawning grave ahead. And it makes them furious. Why should all those poor duped, ignorant people be able to smile through their tears, believe through their sacrifice and loss, even somehow be proud that the sadness had a "greater purpose"? Why should people who believe in "fairy tales and fantasy," as Bill Maher describes faith, be happy, when atheists aren't?

Hey, Pat's sounding more like Bill O'Reilly all the time- yes, those bitter atheists are jealous of us wise and noble and happy December-celebrants. Oh, how brilliant we all are, thanks to the magic of wholesome gift-giving at arbitrary calendar dates! God bless us, every one.

Ironically, they're marching under the same cross – but their goal is not to honor the faith it represents, but to destroy it. It has become the symbol of their quest, their obsession. Whenever they see a cross, they are encouraged ... to tear it down. To defame it. To declare that they are offended and that their "rights" are being limited or deprived. That the cross in public view – on government property anywhere they can see it – is a violation of the First Amendment.

Wonderful. So now atheists and Christians (and non-Christians? I can't tell) are all marching under a snazzy invisible cross. Creepy and confusing. Mazel tov. Hey, I guess this means all atheists should be buried under crosses, too. Score one for Pat!

The rabid ACLU often acts unilaterally, not waiting for a citizen even to raise an objection. Currently, their lawyers are even trying – in the Supreme Court– to have a war memorial cross in the Mojave National Preserve, far removed from the highway, taken down. It couldn't possibly "offend" anybody but a passing motorist, and it was erected 74 years ago as a memorial to young Americans who had given their lives to defend the very freedom the ACLU wants to abolish.

Again with the retconning. World War One was not fought to ensure giant crosses everywhere. And the Constitutional issue isn't over whether the Cross is readily visible, it's the fact that it's on government land. Incidentally, if you want to talk about unilateral, you might talk to Judge Roy Moore and mention the various Ten Commandment plaques and monuments he carries around in his truck. You know, the same Roy Moore that WND has been hailing as the best thing since sliced bread carrying the image of Jesus in it.

Here's the kicker. Check out Pat's take on the ACLU lawyer's exchange with Scalia:

Very interestingly, Peter Eliasberg, arguing before the Supreme Court to remove the Mojave cross, actually said, "A cross is the predominant symbol of Christianity, and it signifies that Jesus is the Son of God and died to redeem mankind." And this is his argument against it! This is what offends him, though nobody makes him affirm or even recognize it. Just the fact that somebody else believes it, and wants to symbolize that faith, repels him. He wants the Supreme Court, sworn to uphold the Constitution, to disallow the very freedom of expression the Constitution mandates – because he is offended by that expression.

It escapes him, and almost every atheist, that his atheism is a faith system, based on a belief there is no God, which he cannot prove – versus a belief in a Creator God (mentioned in our Declaration of Independence), for which evidence is everywhere. And he is determined that his faith system shall be ratified by the courts as if established by Congress – in effect, that Congress shall make a law respecting an establishment of religion!

A- Who says Eliasberg is an atheist, or personally offended by the Mojave Cross? He's a lawyer arguing a case for an organization and a plaintiff. It's not about him.

B- The issue is not that atheists are mad that Christians believe things, or even that they represent them. Name me a case of atheists trying to ban churches from having crosses on their steeple, or legislating what Christians can do in their own homes. You can't; it doesn't happen and there's no legal precedent to support it. What's problematic, potentially unconstitutional and yeah, arguably offensive is to shove civic Christianity in everyone's face, act as if it is THE national faith when there is none, and to give government authority and sanction to it. It's additionally offensive when people like Scalia and Boone argue that Christianity or its symbols are more "big-tent" than they really are. A non-Christian may choose to bring a Christmas tree into their home. Chances are they won't choose to be buried under a cross. It doesn't represent them, and it never has, and only someone totally incapable of or uninterested in understanding the perspective of a religious minority would argue that they think the symbols of the majority are appropriate ways to remember them. Only someone that isn't used to looking beyond their own nose would claim, "Crosses are the most common symbols for the resting place of the dead." Really? To whom?

"What would you have them do," Justice Scalia? How about burying them under a damned wooden flag? Or an eagle? Or a freaking map of the U.S.? An obelisk? A wall? Some statues? Or the various symbols of the armed services that are buried there? There are any number of NATIONAL or military symbols that do unite fallen servicemen, as opposed to a cross.

A cross is not a "bad" symbol. But it is a specific one, advocating or representing a specific faith. Scalia and Boone refuse to understand this. And, like many majority groups throughout history, rather than consider the fact that they simply may not understand the opposing point of view, they instead deny that it has any right to exist. Forget the cross. That's what's offensive to me.