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?

1 comment:

The Truffle said...

I agree that separation of relgion and state is good for both. BTW, I'm back at Blogger. For now, anyways.